Armando Labra

labraWhile many of the Mexican families in Youngstown have been here for several generations, others have arrived more recently.  Armando Labra moved to the area in 1984, after spending a short period in Dallas.

He grew up in San Luis Potosi, the capital of state of San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico. His family lived in a small town outside of the city for a while, but moved into town when he was about 5.  His father worked for the highway department.  When Armando was 17, he decided to come to the United States in search of better economic opportunity.  As he explains, his father was not happy to see him go.

He did not speak much English when he arrived, which created a few difficulties, but Armando remembers people being generous and helping him out.

Armando came to Ohio to work as a farm laborer, first at a mushroom farm in North Lima and then at a fruit farm.  Working there changed his life, because the owner of the farm encouraged him to go to school.  After a few years, he tried going to Chicago to work in construction, and when that didn’t work out, his former boss brought him back to Greenford, OH.  He became a father figure for Armando.

After attending school at South Range for a year, Armando took the GED exam, passed, and went on to YSU.  He later trained as an airplane pilot, but the high cost of training kept him from fulfilling that dream.  Instead, he got a job at GM, where he’s been working ever since.

When he was living in North Lima, Armando became involved in the Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana, the Youngstown Mexican Club.  He served as its president for a few years and helped the Club reach out to younger people and more recent immigrants.

As Armando’s experiences with the Mexican Club suggest, Mexican identity often remains strong for 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants.  For his children, being Mexican continues to be an important part of their identity.

Yet he also recognizes that many Americans view Mexican immigrants as a problem today. He believes that those whose families have been in the US for several generations have an important role to play in speaking up for the Mexican community.

Read the full transcript of Armando’s interview.

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