Carlos Ramirez

Carlos Ramirez

Carlos Ramirez

Carlos Ramirez’s relatives arrived in the Mahoning Valley in the early 1900s, by chance more than choice. During the Mexican Revolution, his aunt and uncle fled their village in Michoacan state, crossing the border into Texas.  There and later in Oklahoma, they struggled as migrant workers until learning about better opportunities farther north.  Carlos’s aunt and uncle boarded a train, intending to look for work in Johnstown, Pennsylvania but mistakenly disembarked in Youngstown, Ohio. They were among the first Mexicans families in the area.

The eldest of eight siblings, Carlos was studying to become a teacher at a college in Morelia, Mexico when his parents moved the family to Youngstown in 1966.  He remained behind until he completed a year of service with the Mexican Army. After discharge, he secured the necessary documents and joined his family in Ohio in 1968.

Carlos had a great deal of difficulty learning English but he quickly found work at Penn Ohio Towel Supply in downtown Youngstown.  One year later, he secured a railroad job that offered better pay and benefits.  Carlos was eager to contribute financially to the family. His father also worked for the railroad while his mother had her hands full at home, raising eight children.  The family lived on Youngstown’s West Side and all the children except Carlos attended Chaney High School.

According to Carlos, the two main occasions that brought the Mexican community together were weddings and funerals.  He met his future wife during his first year in Ohio at, where else, a funeral.  Although she was also from Michoacan, the two had never met in Mexico.  They raised three children and stayed connected to Youngstown’s Mexican community mostly through food.  Carlos first sold platters of enchiladas and burritos as a fundraiser for the Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana.  In the 1980s, his wife operated a lunch stand in a food court located in downtown Youngstown. The family opened Casa Ramirez Mexican Restaurant in 1993.

Carlos believes strongly in higher education.  Both his daughters hold degrees from Youngstown State University, one in electrical engineering and the other in business administration. His son also attended YSU and is taking on increased responsibilities in restaurant operations.  The three children express their cultural heritage in differing degrees. In addition to the Youngstown Mexican Club, Carlos was also involved with OCCHA, the Hispanic American Civic and Cultural Organization.  He favors a more united Hispanic community that would also promote education as a key to advancement.

As more Mexican families move into the Mahoning Valley, some of whom may be undocumented, Carlos has great compassion for their struggles and their contributions.  He sees a need for services and a political solution for these immigrants.

The Ramirez family continues to balance assimilation into American culture with retention of their Mexican heritage.  Carlos maintains that learning English does not mean forgetting Spanish. When it comes to languages, more is always better.

To learn more, read the complete transcript of Esther Newman’s interview with Carlos Ramirez.

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