Ramiro Quirarte

When Ramiro Quirarte of Campbell, Ohio, reflects on his life, he credits his parents for placing him “in the hands of God.”  His journey from a small village in the Sonoran desert of Mexico to retirement from a steel mill in the Mahoning Valley is a story of hard work, family, and most of all, faith.

Ramiro was only fourteen years old when his father informed him that he would soon be joining his older brother to work in the United States.  Out of eight children from a poor rural region of northern Mexico, only Ramiro and his brother would leave home to look for “a better way to making a living.” Instructed to follow and obey his older brother, Ramiro crossed the border at Juarez and went to the American consulate to present his documents.  He gained entry to the United States for a minimum of six months.  He could not have predicted that he would stay more than sixty years.

Ramiro and his brother became migrant workers in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, but it was nearly impossible to get ahead.  After the first year, the brothers had seventy dollars between them.  A year later, they still had the same seventy dollars. Ramiro wanted to head north and try for an industrial job.

In 1948, the Quirartes arrived in Chicago, Illinois, completely unprepared for the bitter cold of the Windy City.  Ramiro landed a cleaning job at a bakery, but his brother became ill with pneumonia. Christmas in Chicago was an especially sad time for Ramiro.  Still, he continued to seek a “better way to make a living.”

Ramiro took a job as a water boy for the railroad and then became a brickmaker in Rockford, Illinois.  At the brick factory, he met a man headed for the plentiful jobs that western Pennsylvania offered at that time.  Ramiro wanted to go, but his brother, just recovered from pneumonia, wanted to live in a warmer climate.  Wishing Ramiro well, his brother bought a one-way ticket to California.  Ramiro followed the man from the brick factory to Farrell, Pennsylvania.  He was now eighteen years old and on his own.

The language barrier was Ramiro’s first obstacle to overcome. He faced another obstacle, racism, when he applied for a job at Sharon Steel Company. No other Mexicans worked there, but he got the job and stayed at that mill until it closed in 1993.

While working at the mill, he also met an “American lady” who became his wife.  They had been married for forty-nine years when she passed away a few years ago.  Alone again, Ramiro reconnected with his Catholic faith and with the Latin American community that is at the center of St. Rosa of Lima Church in Campbell, Ohio.

Ramiro sympathizes with the challenges immigrants face but he feels grateful to his parents and his adopted country for giving him the opportunity to better his life. For Ramiro Quirarte, Campbell, Ohio is “home, sweet home.”

Read the full transcript of Ramiro Quirarte’s conversation with Esther Newman.

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