America has always been known as the land of opportunity. For almost every one of us we can trace our lineage back to someone who left their homeland in a foreign country and braved a new life here. Just recently one local Crossroads resident took the step to becoming an American citizen. His story inspires many as to the opportunities that this country offers to those who want to work hard for a better way of life.
Jose P. Rodriguez came to this country from a little town called China in the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Jose and his wife Raquel married in 1973. Getting his legal residency through the American Consulate, Rodriguez came to Victoria. Before making Victoria their permanent home however, they spent a two years in California working in the fields, but Jose never liked it there and eventually they came back to Victoria. By this time, they had two sons, Tony and Jose. In 1976, he met up with his older brother Rufino, who worked for the city of Victoria and Rodriguez got a job working for the city in the water department. Rodriguez had a desire to make money and provide a better way of life for his growing family. During his time working for the city, Rodriguez would ask his boss for a raise every three months. He wanted to know what he could do to make more money. He worked a lot of over time and asked his boss to call him on the weekends if there was work to be done. He advanced to heavy equipment operator. Finally his boss told him he could not advance him in any more positions until he got his high school diploma. In 1991 with only a sixth grade education under his belt, Rodriguez spent many nights at the adult classes offered at Patti Welder improving his English and studying for the G. E. D. In 1992 he took the test and passed his high school equivalency. Six months later, the crew chief job came open at the city and Rodriguez got the job. He learned how to operate all the equipment and was very knowledgeable in many areas. For one whole year he worked 16 hours a day. He worked for the city for twenty-five years and retired in 2001 with the city begging him to stay. Even now, the city still calls him to ask questions about things such as water lines and more.
But it didn’t end there. Upon retiring with the city, Rodriguez started his own construction company. With one small dump truck and one back hoe, Jose and Raquel worked together to get the J&R Contracting Services off the ground. She would drive him to the job and pick him up afterward because they only had one vehicle. As time went on, the company grew and their children got involved as well. “All the time, he is really good and he believes in himself and I believe in him and I am behind him.” States Raquel about her husband. “She supports me a lot.” Comments Jose. “I worked for three years, no vacation…they support me a lot. They don’t complain.” J&R Contracting Services currently employs sixteen employees. The company specializes in site preparations, electrical and water lines for hotels and business all over the Crossroads area. Even the city of Victoria uses his services.
Jose and Raquel’s first goal was to get their children a good education and through the years they have made a way to help all their children achieve just that. Jose and Raquel told their children from the time they were little that they would work hard so that their children could go to college and get an education. All of their children are successful and three of their five children have college degrees. Their oldest son Tony has a degree in criminal justice, Jose is a chemical engineer and Roland got his education as an electrician. Jessica graduated from beauty college. Dago presides over the ever growing J&R Contracting Services along side his dad. Tony’s wife and sister Jessica also work for the company. In 2005, Rodriguez and his family purchased property on FM 236 and started a subdivision, Valle Vista. In addition to the contracting business, Raquel got her real estate license and started her own company. Many of the homes currently in the subdivision have been built by the family. Over the years, Jose and Raquel have encouraged their children to start their own businesses and pursue their dreams. The only thing they require is that their children give whatever they do one hundred percent and not do anything half way.
Last year, Jose decided to apply for his American citizenship. Raquel has been a citizen for eleven years. Raquel recalls pushing her husband to apply for his citizenship. After applying for citizenship, it took one year for the process to be done. He then was required to take a test in San Antonio. He was given the option to take the test in English or Spanish and Rodriguez chose to take the test in English. Three months later on March 31, 2017, Jose and Raquel went to Corpus Christi to take his oath to become an American citizen at the age of 67.
These days, Jose and Raquel have lived in a beautiful new home for the past five in their Valle Vista subdivision. They lived in a home in Victoria for 35 years before building this new home. Over their years there, they slowly added on to the old house while they lived in it. In this small house in Victoria, the Rodriguez family not only raised their own children but had family members live with them and get started in their life here. They helped over 40 or 50 people get on their feet; brothers, sisters, cousins and other family and friends were helped to get a start just like Jose’s brother helped him so many years ago. “We never forget how hard was our life.” Recalls Raquel. “If I can help somebody, I’m going to help.” Not only did they give others a place to live and work, they helped several people financially to get their legal residency papers. They helped them with a start and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. “This is why the Lord has blessed us.” States Raquel.
Retirement? Well, Jose has retired once already from the city. Every day he leaves at 6 am to go to the job site and Raquel jokingly states that Jose loves the machines better than her.
Family is very important the them. Each year, they enjoy vacations with their entire family to various locations around the country. They have come a long way from their humble beginnings. “We came to the United States with a big suitcase of dreams.” States Raquel. Their lives are an inspiration to those looking for a better way of life and a pursuit of the dreams of prosperity and happiness. “Anything is possible.” States Raquel, “But not at twenty percent.” “You have to work it one hundred percent”. Remarks Jose. “That’s all I recommend.” Jose and Raquel Rodriguez are living proof that America is still the land of opportunity if you are willing to dream big, work hard and help others along the way.
Story by Carolyn Mann Morehead