People of the Catholic
Diocese of Dodge City
Great Bend family
By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
By day, he’s a supervisor at an oil company, and when he’s at home, he’s nothing short of an artist.
She’s a catechist; a Eucharistic minister; lector; and, like her husband, she sings in the St. Rose choir in Great Bend.
They are Armando and Irma Herrera, and they are blessed.
“God did a lot of good things for us,” Armando said from his Great Bend home. “We have our kids, and we are healthy. We appreciate God and all he has given us.”
Walking into their home, one can immediately see Armando’s artistry. He has completely refinished the living room, has run sheetrock on the ceiling, and placed large ceramic tiles across the floor.
The couple met in El Paso, Texas not long after emigrating from Juarez, Mexico. They moved to Great Bend 11 years ago and have three children, Alan, Julio and Israel.
When speaking to the Herreras -- and other immigrant families -- it’s not difficult to note two opposing forces at work: a longing for family and the traditions they left behind, versus a deep appreciation for the United States and the opportunities it offers.
He came here for the work, Armando said.
“In Mexico, even if you work too much – 12, 15 hours a day – you make very little money. It’s hard to live with that money.”
“Here we have a better lifestyle,” Irma added, “a better future for our kids.”
It’s not an easy decision, whether or not to leave home and travel to a foreign land. Armando left behind three brothers. Irma left behind her mother and brother. And what’s made it worse is that they have to look back on ever increasing violence at the hands of drug cartels ravaging their homeland.
The Mexico of their youth was a Mexico in which all the relatives – uncles and aunts, cousins, a world of grand kids – would meet at grandma’s house each weekend for fun, food and games.
“Our family had pigs,” Irma said with a grin. “All the cousins would come over, and we’d go play with the pigs. Now it’s different. Mexico has a lot of violence. The kids cannot play outside.”
During the interview with the SKR, the youngest boy, Alan, darted over to his mother to whisper something to her. Before he could say a word, his mother told him softly but sternly to say “excuse me.” The boy turned to the SKR, uttered “excuse me” and then whispered his message to his mother.
“Every Saturday or Sunday people would come together and have a big barbecue outside and play games,” Armando said, recalling his youth in Mexico. He explained that today “It’s very dangerous to drive on the highway in Mexico. People pull you over, and you don’t know who they are. If someone pulls up next to you at a stop sign, don’t ever respond if they say anything.”
Despite the violence, the Herreras noted when asked that there are things people of the United States could learn from the people of Mexico, such as the importance of family unity and the joy of coming together for celebration.
They miss their homeland, which is understandable. When asked what it is they most like about the United States, Armando said with gusto and without a moment’s hesitation, “I love the U.S.!”
“Me, too!” added Irma. “Here we have the opportunity to grow.”
“Everybody can live if you work,” said Armando, who admitted that he enjoys American football more than the soccer with which he grew up. “If someone doesn’t have a job, they can still live. In Mexico, you can’t get help from the government if you don’t have a job.”
Always at their side, leading and guiding every decision, every cut of the saw, is their faith.
“My grandma taught me how to pray the Rosary,” Irma said. “Here in Great Bend, I’ve learned more information about God. I think everybody needs to know more about God. In Dodge City, a priest said that he studied God for 40 years and still needs to know more.
“We are blessed because we know God.”