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Hispanic Man Says He’s Living the American Dream in Wood River Valley
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Thursday, October 21, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Carlos Hurtado says he would have had little opportunity to carve out a good life for himself and his family in Mexico, even though his father—a farmer and engineer--was mayor.

“I went to college to get a degree in economics, but things were difficult in Mexico,” said Hurtado, who grew up in a little town in the mountains of Michoacan.

“There was a lot of poverty and it was pretty unsafe because there were a lot of criminals and cartels had taken over,” he added. “When you’re young and try to start a family, you can’t get opportunities if you don’t have a connection. You’re probably going to work for someone on their farm, you’re usually just getting by.”

Frustrated by the lack of legitimate opportunities, Hurtado’s father moved his family to Los Angeles. Then, an old family friend invited Hurtado’s family to visit him in Bellevue where he was working as a landscape designer.

“We came and visited and this place was beautiful. We moved here in 2001—me, my wife and our two sons,” said Hurtado, who founded H Property Service 10 years ago. “And this is the best place in the world to have a family.”

Hurtado’s commitment to the Wood River Valley and his people earned him a place at a celebration this past week honoring Hispanics and Anglos who had contributed to the local celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. It was an honor he did not take lightly.

“I always want to be part of any Hispanic event,” said Hurtado, who donated time and money to a variety of endeavors, including sponsoring a car show and events at Kiwanis Park at Balmoral Apartments. “And it’s important for the Hispanic community to participate.”

Hurtado did not know how to speak or read English when he moved to the Wood River Valley. But he could read plans and so got a job working in construction.

“A co-worker said he would teach me one word a day—how to spell, write and speak it. He said in a week I was going to know seven words, then in a month 30 words. In six months, I knew enough words to know how to communicate.”

Hurtado became project manager for Grabher Construction. And, when its founder Elmar Graeber retired, Grabher challenged Hurtado to do out on his own. He did so, his H Property Service providing property management, janitorial services and commercial and residential housecleaning.

Having grown up speaking Spanish, Hurtado’s sons struggled in school. Still, his 22-year-old son is a partner in his business.

“He’s living the American dream,” Hurtado said.

 His 4- and 7-year-old daughters, however, grew up speaking only English and are at the same level in school as others for whom English is their first language.

“Although I wish they would speak more Spanish!” Hurtado quipped.

Hurtado coaches second and third grade co-ed soccer teams, which boast both Hispanic and non-Hispanic players.

“I’m trying to teach them that it doesn’t matter where you come from—all are equal. All can have the same opportunities,” he said.

There is a quiet element of the community that practices a subtle racism that seems to have intensified as the Hispanic population has grown to 13 percent of Idaho’s population, a 1.5 percent increase in the past 10 years, Hurtado said. But it’s small compared to other areas, such as the Magic Valley. The thing that would help most, he said, is immigration reform to bring those who are not legal out of hiding so they can take part in what the community has to offer.

“In the pandemic our people suffered less because we were working—we were cleaning hospitals, doing janitorial services,” he said. “It’s important that we live in a community that allows us to be part of it. Nothing has come easy—it’s been hard work. And we have to prove ourselves all the time. But that drives us.”

PARTICIPATION BUILDS

Herbert Romero who has long pushed members of the Hispanic and Latinx community to get involved in the community made a big road inroad this month when he not only became the president of the Kiwanis Club but enlisted members of the Hispanic and Latinx community in the effort.

“I am excited to do that,” said Irma Reigle.

Meanwhile, Crisis Hotline Director Tammy Davis insisted that Wood River High School senior Eduardo Escalera read the 2021 Presidential Proclamation that President Biden released on Sept. 14 in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month to demonstrate the importance of Hispanics in the community:

“During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize that Hispanic heritage is American heritage,” said President Bien in the full-page single-spaced proclamation. “We see it in every aspect of our national life: on our television and movie screens, in the music that moves our feet and in the foods we enjoy. We benefit from the many contributions of Hispanic scientists working in labs across the country to help us fight COVID-19 and the doctors and the nurses on the front lies caring for people’s health.

“Our nation is represented by Hispanic diplomats who share our values in countries all over the world and strengthened by military members and their families…Hispanic elected officials…and Hispanic teachers,” Escalera continued to read to those attending the celebration. “Our future will be shaped by Hispanic engineers who are working to develop new technology that will help us grasp our clean energy future by and by the skilled union workers who are going to build it…


 

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