Oscar Barrera oral history interview, 2018-05-12

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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SEAM PARK: My name is Seam Park and I am interviewing Oscar Barrera for We Love BuHi's Oral History Project. Today's date is May 12, 2018. And the interview being held at the GlobeHUB in Atlanta, Georgia. Oscar, welcome.

OSCAR BARRERA: Thank you.

PARK: We're excited to hear your stories. Let's start with some family background. Can you tell us about where you were born and when?

BARRERA: Sure, I was born in Mexico City, 1989.

PARK: And can you tell us about your childhood?

BARRERA: So, there's not much that I can really remember from Mexico City. It's mostly childhood memories after immigrating to the U.S. I only spent ten months in Mexico City to where my father was already in the United States since 1985. 1:00He was originally living in California and trying to raise enough money to eventually bring us over, which was -- I don't think it was initial plan. It wasn't until I was born that he decided to go back to Mexico City and bring us to the states.

PARK: So, when did your father immigrate to the states and did he go by himself?

BARRERA: Yeah, he did. He's from a state in Mexico called Guerrero, which is very agricultural. A lot of the families come from a little bit of money. Most of the work is done outside farming, raising animals, livestock, chickens and his father was very strict so a lot of work was done as a child for him. Since there was a little bit of money where he came from he first went to Mexico City. Initially, his goal was to become a boxer -- a famous boxer -- but that didn't 2:00go so well with my mother. You know, he would always come home with black eyes, busted lip and she was like, "You know what, this is not going to work. We need money." So, that's when he decided to immigrate to the U.S. by himself. In 1985, he was there for a couple of years. Things were rough, I guess, not enough money. Because he was by himself he had to spend money on food, the apartment. Money just wasn't -- He wasn't able to save enough money. Eventually, coming back for my older sister and myself and my mom.

PARK: Yeah. At what age did your father give up his boxing aspirations?

BARRERA: I think he might have been twenty, twenty-one. They were really young. They married really young. So, at that point he knew he just wasn't going to cut it out as a boxer.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: With a family.

3:00

PARK: So, let's talk about your parents some. Do you know when and how they met?

BARRERA: Yeah, they always like to share those stories with us. They met -- They both had to work very early, so they worked at a factory. I think it was Arrow -- the shirt company. So, they worked at the factory in Mexico. That's where they met. My father really liked my mother so they tell the story that she would -- or he would -- put candy bars in her desk every day, you know? Just drop by her desk and leave her a candy bar or chocolate and that's how he got her to finally eventually go out to the movies because my mom actually didn't like him at first. She said, you know -- She also came from a strict family so she knew that her father wouldn't approve of him, especially being from Guerrero.

PARK: And could you spell Guerrero?

BARRERA: G-u-e-r-r-e-r-o.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: So, she knew he wouldn't approve and it took them awhile for my mom to 4:00finally give him a chance to go on a date.

PARK: So, how many pieces of chocolate did your dad have to --

BARRERA: Knowing him, probably a lot. He says he really liked her. That he did it almost every day to get her attention.

PARK: So, how long did they date before they eventually got married?

BARRERA: That I don't have the -- But I'm pretty sure it was a while because her father was really strict. My father told a story when they got caught walking down the street in Mexico City holding hands and my grandfather told my mother, "Go home." And he told my dad, "Who are you? Why are you holding my daughter's hand?" But they weren't young. They were eighteen, nineteen around that time.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: And I don't know what happened after that, but as the story goes he eventually won over my grandfather and my grandmother and they love him now.

PARK: So, at what point in their relationship did your father decide to 5:00immigrate to the states and has your mom ever talked about how difficult it was for her to say goodbye to him?

BARRERA: I don't think the difficulty was in Mexico because we come from a big family. My father has two sisters, seven brothers. She has -- if I'm not -- five brothers and four sisters, so it's a pretty big family living in Mexico City. The difficulty wasn't there. It wasn't until we actually arrived here in Atlanta, you know, that she felt the hardships.

PARK: Did she miss him when he immigrated to the U.S.?

BARRERA: I believe so. I think so. I mean, I can't imagine her being without the person that she loved for even -- I think it might have been three years that he was gone.

6:00

PARK: Yeah. So, he was in the U.S. for a few years. Did he go the U.S. to meet someone he knew? Did he have any established relationships?

BARRERA: No, that's the amazing part of his -- I guess at that point in his life that he came alone. In his town where he was from you would hear stories of men who would cross the border and some were lucky enough to bring back money. Some just stayed there and you would never hear from them. And as he says, "Oh, no, so and so went and came back with a lot of money. Maybe we should all go?"

PARK: So, his decision to go to the states was to create a better, brighter future for his family? Or?

BARRERA: I think the first plan was to just bring enough money back to, hopefully, start something. I don't think the idea was for us to actually move 7:00to the U.S. at first. It wasn't until, you know, I guess, my sister and myself were born that he said, "You know what? Let's move to the U.S. and let's see what we make of it."

PARK: So, when he first got to the states, you said he ended up in California?

BARRERA: Yep, California.

PARK: What did he do there?

BARRERA: In California, I think, he did construction. He had a couple of -- He worked at a taqueria. He held a lot of jobs. It just wasn't enough money because at the same time he had to rent a room with a bunch of other men and just money wasn't coming in fast enough so the first try it wasn't as successful.

PARK: Yeah. Does he talk to you about those years?

BARRERA: Oh, yeah, especially he loves to talk about them with us. Kind of to get us, as kids, to value what we had and why we didn't have things. It's, um --

8:00

PARK: Is there a story that he seems to tell over and over about that time?

BARRERA: Oh, he has a lot of stories. Just, I think, if it's one story that he likes to tell it's basically how he didn't give up even though the money wasn't coming in he still went out to work every day -- whatever he could find.

PARK: So, he was in California for a few years and then he eventually made his way to Atlanta?

BARRERA: No, no, no. When the money wasn't coming in, my mother was like, "You know, it's not working. Just come back. The kids are getting older." She eventually missed him and she said, "You know, come back." He came back. He was there for a little bit and then he said, "You know what? Let's all go back together." And my mother said, "This time we're gonna save money. We're gonna figure out a way, but we're gonna save money and come back." And it was then 9:00that he said, "You know what? Not California. There's a lot of gangs there. The rent is expensive. There's not that many jobs. I heard of Atlanta, a place in Georgia. There's not a lot of Hispanics there but I hear -- " He says hears there's a lot of work. So, we immigrate to California. We lived there for a couple of months in Anaheim. And the story he likes to tell is that when we arrived he only had $100 and with those $100 he took us to Disney World or Disneyland.

PARK: Disneyland?

BARRERA: Disneyland in California. I have pictures of our time there and with those $100. That's all he had and he took us there kind of to show my mom, "The U.S. is great. Look."

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: And that's the story he likes to tell us over and over with those $100.

PARK: So, how old were you at the time?

BARRERA: Ten months, nine months?

10:00

PARK: Okay, so you don't remember?

BARRERA: Just from the pictures from when I see the pictures because my parents were -- They were great parents. I mean, they loved to capture -- Everywhere we went, "Hey, Oscar, turn around." And all I'd heard is [imitates camera shutter], and I'm like, "Uh." So, I feel like from all the pictures that we have. I mean, we have dozens and dozens of albums at home that -- I mean, I feel like I can remember what happened just because of the pictures that they collected over the years.

PARK: So, you guys were in Anaheim for a few months?

BARRERA: About a few months. I think close to three months maybe.

PARK: And then you made your way over to Atlanta --

BARRERA: To Atlanta, um-hmn.

PARK: And have your parents talked to you about what that experience was like moving from California to Atlanta?

BARRERA: Yeah, we moved -- Eventually we moved into -- With the three of -- my parents and her brother -- so, it was three adults now. I think that's why they 11:00were able to save up enough money in Anaheim that we moved to Atlanta. We moved into an apartment -- Cumberland Court Apartments in Chamblee. I might have a picture where, I mean, it's empty. It was empty for many months and the furniture that we did get we didn't buy. We found at maybe someone else was throwing away or a donation pile that -- It's funny, there's a story that I'll tell you later on where we thought back then -- I don't if, you know, Goodwill, if it's at Goodwill -- but there used to be these trailers where people would just drop stuff off and as an immigrant you don't know what it is. You've never seen this in your home, so you're thinking free stuff, you know? I guess, my parents would go and get -- That's how we started accumulate our furniture.

PARK: Yeah.

12:00

BARRERA: A table, the TV, the mattress. Eventually we started to build our little apartment.

PARK: That's great. So, how -- You were about a year at the time and how long was the family at Cumberland Court Apartments?

BARRERA: Oh, we lived there up until I was like six or seven. So, yeah, we have a lot of memories there. We started our story there from blank. We didn't have anything.

PARK: So, you remember living there.

BARRERA: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

PARK: What do you remember best about it?

BARRERA: I remember a lot. I mean, it was good times playing outside with thirty neighbors every single day. I mean, it was in a time where you could be three-years-old and your mom would let you just roam the neighborhood, you know? 13:00Now, I have a three-year-old, there's no way I would let her outside. It's a different time, you know? I think the kids were a little bit more street smarter back then. You would see three-year-olds, four-year-olds, just roaming the neighborhood and you know your kids were safe because there were thirty other kids with them.

PARK: And how old were your siblings at the time?

BARRERA: My sister, she -- we're two years apart -- so, she had to have been three.

PARK: Okay, so she was younger? Are you the oldest?

BARRERA: No, no. She's older than me.

PARK: Okay. So, how many siblings do you have?

BARRERA: I have four.

PARK: Four, okay. And can you give me their -- Where you are?

BARRERA: Well, we're all two years apart.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: So, my older sister, she's thirty-one and then I have another sister, Berlin, she's -- What is she now? Twenty-seven and the other one has just turned 14:00fifteen. And I also have a -- Sorry, it's like now that we're older the age -- What is she? How old is she? Twenty-five, maybe?

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: We're really close. Sorry, the ages just get me.

PARK: Oh, it's fine.

BARRERA: All I think about is my kid's age now.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: But, yeah, but we're all two years apart.

PARK: And how big was this apartment at Cumberland Court?

BARRERA: Just two bedrooms.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: And for a very long time, we actually just slept on the floor with, you know, three comforters for the cushion and we shared that room with my parents for many years. My uncle, I think, he slept in the other room. So, we spent a lot of time together. I think that's why we're so close now.

PARK: Yeah. So, your uncle had his own room in a two bedroom place.

15:00

BARRERA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was a teenager at the time at the time so I think, you know, they wanted to give him his space. He helped with the rent, as well. He also worked where my dad worked he worked. So, I think it was fair.

PARK: So --

BARRERA: He was my mother's younger brother.

PARK: Okay, so, how did your father and your uncle find work and what did they do?

BARRERA: So, for many years, from what I gathered, they worked at restaurants as dishwashers, cook's assistants. They worked in construction, landscaping to eventually settling in the restaurant industry. My father is a really hard worker. The way he says he started off as a dishwasher but eventually gained the trust of the chef to where the chef would sometimes leave them in charge and 16:00also teach them the recipes pretty much working his way up in each restaurant. He's worked in a couple of iconic restaurants here in Atlanta. They don't exist no more but he's worked at the Cheesecake Factory, he's worked at J Paul's, he's worked at California Pizza Kitchen, 103 West before it was just an event hall, and a couple others that I can't remember right now. But he worked really hard and coming up through the ranks and then kitchen.

PARK: Was there someone in his life who played a big role in giving him opportunities to learn more about the restaurant industry?

BARRERA: If he does, I don't think he's talked to us about it. I think it's just his work ethic kind of surprised his employers and maybe in his mind I'm pretty 17:00sure he has somebody that gave him those opportunities but he hasn't told me.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: But I'm pretty sure because of his work ethic his employers must have seen something in him and trusted him enough to let him, you know, rise up in the ranks in the kitchen.

PARK: And what's your mom doing during this time?

BARRERA: Babysitting and other people's children and us -- taking care of us. Like she said, you know, she came here to work any way that she could she raised money. Babysitting, taking care of other kids. That's how she made her money.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: I mean, at one point I could remember up to, like, six or seven kids in our tiny, little apartment.

PARK: So, you had like a miniature daycare in your apartment?

BARRERA: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, that was her way of helping my father to provide.

PARK: Yeah, and this is at Cumberland Court?

18:00

BARRERA: Cumberland Court, yes.

PARK: Yeah. So, after Cumberland Court where did you all end up?

BARRERA: We moved to Brookhaven Station.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: That is in, I think that might still be Shallowford Road?

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: Not too far from there, but I don't have too many memories there. All my memories are really at Cumberland Court. That's pretty much where I learned everything. I experienced everything. Pretty much all my childhood memories come from that area.

PARK: Yeah. Do you have memories of going to school at that age?

BARRERA: Yeah. We went to -- my older sister and myself -- we both went to Dresden Elementary.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: Many memories there on the bus -- on the bus home. Just playing after school. Yeah, we had a lot of memories there as kids.

19:00

PARK: So, you were essentially a native English speaker. Did you speak Spanish in the home?

BARRERA: Yes, we spoke Spanish primarily. I actually went through the ESOL Program.

PARK: Okay, great.

BARRERA: English, I guess I didn't catch on to English enough, you know? So, my teachers, at their recommendation, they were like place him in ESOL.

PARK: Me too. I'm an ESOL kid, as well.

BARRERA: Proud of it. Yeah, I think I struggled a little bit with numbers. Maybe sentences? So, I was placed in the ESOL program. My sister was also but she kind of graduated. She's smarter so she -- You know, school was easy for her.

PARK: Yeah, that's great. And where did you attend for middle school and high school?

BARRERA: At this time we, we actually -- Our feeder school was Sequoia, but my parents didn't want us to go to Sequoia. It was Henderson, you know, their 20:00choice. So, we went to Henderson. My sister went to Tucker High School. We both went to Lakeside High School.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: She did like a semester at Tucker High School.

PARK: Yeah, that's great. Looking back to your school years, is there a teacher that had a big influence on you?

BARRERA: I think -- I would say not a teacher but maybe my football coach. Yeah, I played football for Lakeside High School and his name was Coach Harris. He was really strict and hard on us, but not -- You know, as an adult you can see why and it's some of the values that I still have in myself, where I work. Some of the things I think back that he taught me that, I think, kind of shaped me into the man that I am today.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: Yeah, he was influential in my life

PARK: Is he still at Lakeside?

21:00

BARRERA: No, no, no. He retired my senior year. I think he's probably living the life now in Florida somewhere, probably. He deserved it.

PARK: Did you ever have a chance to tell Coach Harris how important of a figure he was in your life?

BARRERA: No, the last day he didn't really outright tell the football players that he was going retire. We kind of just heard it through other faculty, but I wanted to tell him, you know, how much, him being a coach to me was -- you know being Hispanic, being on the football team. He never singled me out. He always let me prove myself. He recognized that I was trying. That I never missed practice. So, I went to go knock, but maybe he might not even care so I just left and I never got to tell him.

PARK: So, you just mentioned that he didn't treat you any differently because you were Hispanic.

BARRERA: Right.

22:00

PARK: What was the demographics of Lakeside around that time and what was it like being a Hispanic student?

BARRERA: Lakeside, I think, primarily -- What was it? Mostly, you know, white students followed by African-American and then Asian and then a small group of Latinos. It was a good school. Like, I really enjoyed my four years there. The football -- I mean you really didn't see a lot of Hispanics in the football team as you would in Cross Keys when we played them where it was evident and, you know, they had a role. So, for me, at that time being the only Hispanic, I mean, I really felt included in his team. Anything -- I mean, he really -- As a freshman, there was a game that I wasn't able to go to. They won. I think they 23:00qualified maybe into the playoffs. He went and tracked me down and actually let me sign the game ball even though I wasn't there. I was only a freshman. You know, another person could have said, "You know, he didn't go to the game, why?" I guess he knew I was going to be part of the program for four years so that meant a lot to me. You know, being a freshman and being able to just being able to put my name on school history even though I didn't play. It felt -- You know, he was a great guy.

PARK: Well, that's great. He sounds like an amazing coach and mentor.

BARRERA: Yeah, he was a great guy.

PARK: Were your parents supportive of you playing football?

BARRERA: No, not at first. I think they wanted me to play soccer. But I was, you know, I grew up here so football and basketball was kind of the two sports that stuck out to me at a young age. Soccer -- I liked soccer, but I think primarily 24:00just basketball and football. I like soccer now, though, you know?

PARK: So, while you were at Lakeside, did you find yourself spending a lot of time with the other Latino students? Or was it -- Did all the different races mix pretty well?

BARRERA: All the races mixed pretty well, but I think naturally you kind of move towards like people like you where you feel comfortable. So, yeah, I think I was in the Latino crowd. You know, because I played football I had friends from all nationalities.

PARK: Yeah, that's great. So, once you graduated, what did you decide to do? Where'd you end up?

BARRERA: For me school was just kind of on a back burner for many years. I started out at Kennesaw State, but for some reason I've always wanted to work. I 25:00went after, you know, to work in internships and marketing and I just kind of wanted to bypass college and just go straight into working and into marketing and sales, but I knew that it wasn't going to happen. Eventually, I ended up at Georgia Gwinnett College. My sister, she graduated from Georgia State. My other sister, she's actually still working towards her degree. Both of them actually. So, I think at this time only me and my older sister are the ones who have graduated.

PARK: Yeah. So, tell me about your relationship with your siblings.

BARRERA: Oh, man, it's amazing. For many years when we were younger it was just us. We didn't have cousins and uncles. He had brothers here but they were all spread out throughout the U.S. And that, you know, our parents always taught us 26:00to be so close. When you see the pictures you can tell that we were really close. It's just how we were raised. It was just us for -- We went through good times. We went through bad. We experienced a lot. We experienced success, failure as a family. So --

PARK: Would you be willing to share some of the bad times and then we can then talk about the good times?

BARRERA: Yeah, so maybe not the bad, but I can really remember some of the struggles that we've had from having to wear hand-me-down clothes. We didn't know this at first, you know? We -- I've said this many times before that, you know, we didn't have the nicest clothes. We didn't have the nicest shoes, but we didn't know that because that's all we had and when I look at the pictures I get sad because, you know, my parents really tried. We didn't have everything, but if you look at the pictures we were really happy. So, it 27:00was a -- We struggled but, you know, we had a happy childhood.

PARK: Yeah. Were you parents involved in your lives?

BARRERA: Oh yeah.

PARK: Were they around?

BARRERA: Yeah, they worked a lot. I mean, they really worked a lot and -- But we didn't have a lot of money, but I mean, if you look at our albums we -- They made sure to take us out. We have a lot of pictures -- Stone Mountain Park, Whitewater, Six Flags, Lakeland. I mean, it's like how did you even find out about all these places? All you -- They worked a lot and we didn't have a lot of money. I mean, even though they did work a lot they somehow found a way to let us experience life.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: If it was even just going to the park or I have a lot of memories of 28:00just me and my mom heading to downtown on the MARTA and that was fun for me --

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: -- spending time with my mother.

PARK: What made her want to hop on MARTA and take you downtown?

BARRERA: Well, she comes from Mexico City. I mean, that's normal. You hop on the city and, you know -- You hop on the train and you're in the city. So, she went through a time where she missed her family and she was just sad. So, her method of coping with everything -- not being close to her sisters, her mom, her dad -- hop on MARTA to kind of distract herself. Just see the buildings and to just get her mind off of missing her family so much.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: We didn't have a car. We didn't have family here. We didn't have a support system.

PARK: So, do you have any vivid memories of going downtown and anything funny 29:00happen down there with the two of you?

BARRERA: No. All the memories I have is just me and her on the train. I'm pretty sure we got lost, but she wouldn't have told me. Here I am a child, how can I help her? I mean, eventually she learned how to ride and I mean, she would -- At just any moment, you know, we'd get the stroller, put me in and off to downtown. Can you imagine crossing Buford Highway with a stroller and then just making our way to MARTA?

PARK: Yeah. And how would she -- How did you know that she was missing home? Did she talk about it?

BARRERA: Yeah, she did. She did talk to us about it, you know, when we got older. We didn't know, I mean, she was a good mother. You know, he was 30:00babysitting other kids and still working, but eventually when we got older she did say, you know, it was hard. Kind of her way of telling us, look, you know, life wasn't easy and she wanted us to know that. And we're like, we saw it, we lived it too, but she wanted to kind of share her story with us that it was really difficult for her to move to an area where she didn't know anybody. I mean, at that time there weren't that many Hispanic families. Eventually, the wave did come but in the beginning there wasn't that many friends to lean on and so it was difficult for her.

PARK: So, what was her support network at the time?

BARRERA: I don't think she had one. Maybe the few letters that she got from her family that, you know, "I miss you or can't wait to see you again." Maybe that was it because we do have letters from our family members where, you know, they 31:00still remember I used to write to Cumberland Court to your mom. I remember. I think that was probably it.

PARK: Was there ever a time where the family was in really in a very difficult spot and someone whether it was a stranger or family member came to the rescue so to speak?

BARRERA: It's kind of difficult because if we ever did my parents did a good job of not bringing us into it. So, if there was only they would know. They did a really good job of sheltering us, you know? We didn't have money. We might have been going through it, but we had a happy childhood. We surely didn't know about it.

PARK: Yeah. Were there ever times where you and your sisters wanted something, wanted to do something, and you realized that your parents didn't have the means 32:00and how did they explain that to you guys?

BARRERA: We don't have money. No, no, it goes back to kind of we didn't know what else was out there besides Buford Highway. I mean, that's all we knew. We didn't know that all these themes existed outside of our neighborhood. I didn't know, I guess, whatever kid's brand shoes people wanted at that time. I mean, we were happy. I know this -- I have this funny story. Where the farmer's market is, there used to be a big semi, uh, like a trailer --

PARK: You're referring to the Buford Highway Farmer's Market?

BARRERA: Yeah, before it was a farmer's market. I can't remember what it was back then in the early '90s. We used to get our clothes -- We didn't know it was a donation otherwise we probably wouldn't have -- My parents probably thought it 33:00was just people throwing away stuff and we would go there and get our clothes from there and it's a funny story where eventually they would always say, "Don't get off, don't get off. Just stay in the stroller and we'll pick through the clothes." Eventually, I found a shirt that had a tiger paw on it. So, I was like, "You know, this looks cool. I want this." Like, I was so proud of my shirt and it's funny because I could read but I guess just because of the tiger paw -- it might have been a cougar paw -- it was so cool to me that I kind of bypassed the words which said Penn State Cheer Team -- or Cheer Squad. So, I have a story, I was standing in line and these two older kids were like, "Do you know what that means?" And I'm like, "No." And they're like, "Are you part of the cheer squad?" I'm like, "I don't know what that means." And they started 34:00laughing and eventually when I got older I was like, "Oh, my God, I was wearing a cheering squad shirt." They must have thought I was weird. But it was the coolest shirt for me. I have a lot of pictures wearing it.

PARK: So, you actually liked the shirt and you wore it a bunch.

BARRERA: Because of the paw. I didn't know what a cheer -- I mean, here I am, a kid from Buford Highway, what is a cheer squad?

PARK: Right.

BARRERA: We don't have that on Buford Highway. And it took a while for someone to point it out to me, "Hey, it's, uh, it might be a girl shirt."

PARK: Oh, how funny. So, you said that there was a period where you guys didn't have a car?

BARRERA: Yeah, we didn't have a car.

PARK: So, how did you all get around?

BARRERA: Just walking. Stroller, eventually my father did buy a car. I have got pictures of it, as well.

PARK: How old were you when the family got its first car?

35:00

BARRERA: I might have been, like, two or three maybe?

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: It took us awhile to get a car.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: But it was mainly my father's to get from -- Because he worked three jobs. So, I think he was only at home for like maybe a couple of hours to rest and then he'd be back at his second job and then work around the clock for many years.

PARK: So, can you describe his schedule around that time?

BARRERA: I mean, I rarely saw my father during the day. The only time I would see my father was on the weekends and then maybe if I got up to use the bathroom. At, like, midnight, he'd be home for three hours, you know? And I would see them having dinner and my father would bring back food from the restaurant to my mother and I would see them having dinner that late.

PARK: So, what time would he get up, where would he go and then where would he 36:00go next and then were would he go after that?

BARRERA: Yeah, so, I mean, I'm pretty sure he -- I mean, from what my mother tells me he -- I mean, he would come home at eleven, twelve o'clock at night, sleep for maybe three hours and be back at the restaurant as early as five or six o'clock and then if he did come during the day it was probably maybe at two o'clock in the afternoon. I don't really remember. His schedule -- I mean, he always worked a lot. It was -- I really can't remember which restaurants he alternated with, but he was always working from what I remember.

PARK: So, was there a point in time where his scheduled eased up and he had more time to spend with you all?

BARRERA: I think, maybe it was when he finally switched over -- We eventually we made friends with neighbors in the back. Their parents installed carpet. My 37:00father went with the parents to learn how to install carpet. Eventually that's when their scheduled eased up. I mean, they still got home maybe seven o'clock, eight o'clock, but it was a lot better than working around the clock.

PARK: And how old were you when he moved into that?

BARRERA: I want to say maybe four?

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: Around four?

PARK: So, as you got older, did his schedule continue improving?

BARRERA: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, yeah, things got a little bit better. You know, I got to see my father. Had breakfast with him, lunch. He would also take me to work as well when I was a kid. His father was strict on him, so he kind of wanted me to learn the value of a dollar. So, it's funny because I didn't start 38:00getting paid. You know, we have our business now. We have the bakery and then we have the Tortas Factory which is tortas and tacos on Buford Highway. I didn't start getting paid until I was eighteen. So, and I worked there for a while. So --

PARK: So, you said you started getting paid at eighteen?

BARRERA: At eighteen.

PARK: At what point did he start taking you to work?

BARRERA: Well, I mean, as a kid I was always with him. He kind of wanted me to kind of learn how to install carpet, as well, but he was just kind of showing me this is the value of a dollar. This is what people do every day to make it work because his father was hard on him he wasn't hard on my he was just wanting me to see, you know, this is what it takes. Eventually, you're gonna have to do this.

PARK: Did you enjoy going with him on those work trips?

BARRERA: At the beginning I did. Once I got older it was more like a punishment. 39:00Like if I did something during the week at school, he used it as a punishment so that's when it turned into like, "You know what? I don't like this anymore. Can I just stay home?"

PARK: So, when you say punishment, he would take you and put you to work?

BARRERA: Not like, it sounds bad when you say put you to work. But he would be like, "You know what? You're coming to work with me." And he would instruct me like this is how we do this, but I mean it's a kid trying to do a man's job. You don't -- You know, you can't -- You don't know what to do and I guess, eventually he wanted me to learn, but I just never learned.

PARK: So, what does your father do now?

BARRERA: He alternates between the restaurant and the bakery.

PARK: Okay, and which restaurant is this?

BARRERA: Tortas Factory.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: It's in the same plaza as the bakery.

PARK: Okay. Great. So, let's shift gears a little bit and talk about your 40:00memories of Buford Highway and growing up in this area. What are your earliest memories of Buford Highway?

BARRERA: As a child? Spending time at the flea market. I mean, I was four or five. You know, with the other kids we'd go down to the flea market, and go to the gas station, just playing soccer, playing in the tennis court. I mean, you had like a bunch of friends there. I mean, I just remember just having a lot of fun when I was a kid, you know? We didn't really need anything because you had thirty other kids. We lived next to another apartment. I can't remember the name now, but those kids would come over and play. So, I mean, it was basically just a really good childhood --

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: -- that I can remember.

41:00

PARK: So, where was this flea market?

BARRERA: Where it's -- I don't know if you know where the Bank of America is now?

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: Right across. It's a supermarket now, but it used to be a flea market there. Yeah, a lot of times I just went there.

PARK: I spent time there --

BARRERA: Yeah.

PARK: -- when it was a flea market, as well.

BARRERA: It's sad that it's not there no more, but things change.

PARK: So, what else do you remember about Buford Highway as a kid?

BARRERA: With my mother and my sisters, I mean, going to the supermarket called El Valufoods across that. Just, you know, here's my mother with like eight bags of groceries, milk, eggs, and three children because at that time my sister was already born, my youngest. I can just imagine her, you know, pushing the stroller across all three Buford Highway lanes and that's special to me because 42:00it was time I spent with mother.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: We didn't have a car and it's amazing to see what she did, what she went through to provide for us.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: She could have just said, "You know what, I can't go." But --

PARK: So, how long of a walk was it to get back home?

BARRERA: Maybe because it was us three and we had the stroller I would say about twenty minutes, twenty-five minutes maybe?

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: I mean the Cumberland Court apartments wasn't a far walk from Buford Highway. It was we -- I mean, our backyard was Buford Highway basically. So, I mean, at most it might have been thirty minutes walking, and that's because we would always stop to play. My mom was, you know -- If we found a playground on the way she would let us stop.

PARK: So, you said you mentioned -- You mentioned playing soccer and playgrounds, where were these fields and where was this playground?

BARRERA: Yeah, in Cumberland Court we had, I guess it was a tennis court, it 43:00might have been a pool at some point, but they covered it and turned it into like a flat surface and kids would play soccer there. There was a sandbox that might have been part of the pool at one point. They covered it with sand. Basically, that's where we did most of our playing as kids. Played soccer, rode our bikes there, tag --

PARK: Did you have a best friend growing up?

BARRERA: I might have had a couple and I don't really keep in contact with them, but I do -- I do, I do have a couple of pictures in here. I might still have them on Facebook.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: But, yeah, I had a couple. I think so.

PARK: So --

BARRERA: My sister, as well. I mean, she made a lot of good friends, too, that she still keeps in -- She still keeps in contact with them. She writes back to 44:00them and stuff.

PARK: So, at what point in time did you know that Buford Highway was a place you where could make a living?

BARRERA: It probably wasn't until I got older because you think about it, you know, you're a kid. Other people might say, "Well, they're from Buford Highway, they might not have much." But you don't know that. You don't feel that. So, I mean, I didn't notice until maybe I got older that you kind of see this is a place where immigrants come to make it. Then you start to notice, you know, you notice a lot of immigrants and you see a lot of shops and restaurants from all over the world.

45:00

PARK: Yeah, you mentioned going to some, like, a flea market and a Hispanic grocer. Were there businesses owned by people from other cultures that you went to often?

BARRERA: You know, I'll be honest, I can't really remember. I think at that time it might have been mainly Hispanic that owned that we visited. There was a restaurant not too far from the apartments that was -- It might have been Chinese. I mean, you could see them but you don't know, you know, as being from Mexico you've never seen those types of restaurants. So, and especially as a kid you wouldn't go inside them. You wouldn't know.

PARK: Yeah. So, growing up was there a go-to restaurant on Buford Highway that 46:00you and your family always went to?

BARRERA: Old Country Buffet, Pinetree Plaza. That was like the staple for every immigrant family. When we could afford it, we would go there. That was like our first.

PARK: And you liked it?

BARRERA: Oh, yeah. They had the best selection of everything. Cakes and desserts. Yeah, that was the spot.

PARK: But if you wanted really good, let's say Mexican food, where would you all go?

BARRERA: Home. I mean we didn't have money to have those luxuries to say, "Hey, you know, let's go to such and such place." It wasn't -- I mean, yeah, it was food at home. It wasn't really going out much.

PARK: Who was the cook at home?

BARRERA: Both my parents. To this day, they still both cook.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: Like if they make fish, one person seasons the salmon and the other person might make the vegetables and the mashed potatoes or something. But it's, 47:00you know, they both do it now.

PARK: What are some of your favorite meals that they would make for you?

BARRERA: As a kid?

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: I mean everything, I think, my mom she always tried to feed us healthy food. I mean, I love her cooking. Just rice and beans, steak, chicken. I mean, she really -- As a kid, she would feed me like adult portions. So, I mean, her food was good. I remember because we used to have these big glass plates that she would feed me and I would eat it up as a kid.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: Yeah, I mean I wouldn't complain. Pretty much everything that she made for me as a kid I loved.

PARK: If you had to ask your parents to make you just you one thing, what would it be?

BARRERA: I love my mom's lasagna, but she didn't learn to make it until later in 48:00life. At first it was just rice and beans. But when we kind of started to assimilate, she picked up on ribs and lasagna. So, her lasagna is pretty good. I love it.

PARK: Is there a traditional Mexican dish from Mexico City or Guerrero that you're fond of?

BARRERA: Sopes. She really makes some really good sopes.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: That's my favorite, my favorite dish from her.

PARK: And describe what that dish is.

BARRERA: It's like a fried tortilla where they put beans, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and then topping chicken or steak. And I mean, that's my favorite dish. I'll take that over anything.

PARK: Yeah?

BARRERA: Any day. Coming from her, yeah.

PARK: And is there a special recipe that you're aware of?

49:00

BARRERA: Oh, I wouldn't know. I think it's just love. Yeah, I think it's just love.

PARK: That's the best ingredient.

BARRERA: Yeah.

PARK: That's great. So, you had mentioned a bakery and a restaurant. Can you tell us about your businesses and how they came about?

BARRERA: Sure. We, my father was getting tired of working in carpet installing. It was a time, 2006, where the economy started to kind of slow down a bit. People just weren't working as much. I don't think the financial crisis had hit yet, but if there was any group of people that felt it, not the most but maybe at the beginning, it was immigrants.

PARK: And why do you say that?

BARRERA: I mean, well, it's most of the people. They don't have social security numbers to work. If there's no work coming in, I think, immigrants were the 50:00first people to get hit, you know? If people aren't, whose buys the houses? Americans do. If no one is buying houses, you know, we can't build them. For my father, when he installed carpet I remember he would have to go from company to company and at one point it just wasn't making any sense. He'd drive all the way to Carrollton to do, to get work and he'd come back with nothing and it just got to a point where, you know, he was like, "You know, this isn't working. People just aren't buying enough houses like they used to. They're not installing carpet. Oh, it's Spring break, let's take out the old carpet and put in new." It just wasn't working anymore. And he didn't want that schedule. He said he was getting tired and he eventually they started looking for a space to open a restaurant. We started looking in areas like Forsyth, Alpharetta, Roswell. We 51:00looked at some places here. When we were kids and it just didn't work out, but in 2006 my father was like, "You know what, this is -- I don't want to work in carpet anymore." So, he talks to us and he says "Look, your mother and I want to start a business." And we're like "Yeah, yeah, yeah, let's do it. What are we gonna do?" Like, my sister was very excited and they're like, "Look, we want to open a bakery." At that point and where we are now, there was no other bakery. He said, "You know, we want to open a bakery with good bread, good customer service for that area." So, he says, "Look we're gonna take our money and we're gonna open the bakery and if it's successful, then it's successful, but if it fails we'll start over." And my mother said, "It's not the first time that we'll 52:00start over but this time we'll do it together." And so we found that plaza, Power Plaza. It used to be, if I'm not mistaken, a Goodyear. They tore it down and eventually built a plaza and we started the bakery there. It was -- I remember it was really empty at first. We had a little selection of bread. I have pictures where it was just two deep.

PARK: Before we even get into the specifics of the breads, so it sounds like your parents really tried to sell you and your sisters on the [crosstalk, unintelligible] business?BARRERA: Yeah, because you think about it, they took their. Essentially, they're taking their savings and putting it towards the business. If it fails, it's "Hey guys this can happen." And we all said, "Yeah, 53:00like, we knew how serious it could be if we failed." I mean, we even talked about it my sisters and I, we were like we're all gonna have to start working and but I think we got caught up in like, you know, having a business that I guess it didn't matter because we had each other.

PARK: And did your parents approach you and your sisters and let you all know that we would like for you to work?

BARRERA: Yeah, they told us, they were like, "If we open this, we all need to work and we need to know that you guys are with us." And we said, "Yeah, we'll work."

PARK: Was there -- Did any of your sisters have any hesitation or were they all on board?

BARRERA: No, no, we were all on board. Yeah, we knew -- We all knew we had to pitch in.

PARK: Yeah, and how did your parents react to hearing that you guys were okay with that?

BARRERA: I think they got reassured because, you know, they can work, but you 54:00know it's not just a two person -- I mean, we were there at the beginning. I can remember we were there from like until twelve o'clock at night because we didn't know how to run a business. We didn't -- when we came to the States we didn't have a blueprint of how to make it in the U.S. It was just all done on the fly. It was just, you know, from my parents' hard work. So, they have -- My father's mother she ran like a little counter in their market. She sold Mexican food and his uncle had a bakery, but we didn't come from a family of business owners and, you know, rich people. So, I mean, we kind of all learned together. My mother's father owned a store in Mexico, but eventually things got rough and he didn't 55:00have it anymore. He sold bread on the street, but it wasn't -- You know, we didn't come here with a blueprint how to make it.

PARK: Yeah. So, tell me about how you guys landed on that spot on Buford Highway and what is the cross street?

BARRERA: Buford Highway and McElroy Road.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: I guess just from driving around, looking at different spaces that would work. My parents -- He was the first one to see the opportunity there. There was a lot of Hispanics in that area -- you know, the apartments, the houses, the school, Oakcliff, which was where a lot of Hispanics students would attend. We just saw the opportunity there. There was no other bakery as a threat. We all said, "If it works it's gonna work." And I think deep down they 56:00knew it was going to work because you don't open a business to sell mediocre food or mediocre product. You open it because you want to offer the best to your customers and, I mean, we even flyered all the apartments; we flyered all the townhouses, the houses. Whoever listened to us, "Hey, we're gonna open up a bakery on such and such date. Fresh bread. We're gonna bake it twice a day and family-owned." And you know the first couple of days we weren't sure that anyone was gonna come but eventually we started getting a small amount of customers.

PARK: Do you remember the day that the store opened?

BARRERA: Oh, yeah.

PARK: What was it like?

BARRERA: In the morning, you know, we were still in high school. So, we were thinking the whole day, "Oh, my God, are they okay? Are people even coming in?" 57:00So, me and my sister were just like I can't wait until the bell rings so that we can go and see and yeah, we got there and it was empty. Nobody -- I think people, we've been in business for about twelve years now, going on twelve, so we kind of know that -- especially with the Hispanic community -- the community won't support you until they kind of see everyone else supports you. So, it took us awhile to get customers. My parents, they kind of started introducing more products. We started to sell coffee. We started to sell little Mexican breakfast items -- tamales, gorditas -- to kind of get the people. We opened in the summer actually which is one of the slowest times for a bakery because in the summer no 58:00one wants to have hot coffee and bread. It's mostly for the winter. So, that was one of the toughest things to do to open a business in the summer, but we stuck it out and then we had a really good winter our first year. People really started to support us. The community really, really they sold into what we were buying and we were very lucky.

PARK: Was there ever a point in those first few months where the business was slow where everyone in the family looked at each other and said, "What are we doing?"

BARRERA: I'm sure it was like that, but like I said, my parents they've always sheltered us to not, you know what, it's not working here deal with it. Yourself, as well, I'm sure. Keep in mind also my father was still installing carpet. He didn't just completely -- So, it's funny because at that time the money that he was bringing in from carpeting was actually keeping the business 59:00running and he didn't leave it until it started. I think until a year-- My father's always been a hard worker. I mean, he also sold the bakery's tamales to the company where he worked. All the carpet installers would buy the tamales that my mom would make. It was only $50, but that was $50 towards the business to keep it going.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: And I mean, if there was any doubt, I think, they kind of did a good job of not letting us know. I mean, we did open in the summer so that's --

PARK: So, you talked about putting flyers all over local apartments. What else did you and your sisters do for the business early on to try and get it up and running?

BARRERA: I mean, you think about if there was Facebook or Instagram -- There 60:00wasn't -- I mean there might have been. I think Facebook existed maybe, but we didn't know. I mean, you didn't know how to use Facebook. We told our friends in high school, "Hey my parents, you know, they -- " Church, we told the church we attended, "We own a business we just opened selling Mexican bread. It's fresh baked twice a day." Just word of mouth and then when we were there after school we tried our best to give the best customer service. We don't have a lot to offer because we just opened, but we're gonna make sure they want to come back and that's kind of the role we played in the beginning.

PARK: So, who was the master baker and where did all these recipes come from?

BARRERA: My father. He got in contact with his family members in Mexico and said, "Hey, I need recipes. Can you please send them over?" And he got ahold of 61:00some recipes, but my father wasn't content so he kind of started experimenting. And then at that time we had enough to hire two bakers and between those two bakers and my parents, they kind of came up with the recipes that we use now. He has a book of all the recipes of like pretty much all the breads we make now.

PARK: Do you have any funny recipe stories? Just big failures?

BARRERA: Oh, yeah. When he started, bread would come out flat. Some of it would burn and we're just sitting there like, between me and my sisters we're like, "Dude, this is not gonna sell." But, you know, we didn't let him know that. We we're just like, "Yeah, it's good. We like it." But, you know, we learned through trial and error and, I mean, the bread we make now it's really good. You know, it's a product that we all feel proud to stand behind.

62:00

PARK: So, you would tell the parents the bread was good even when it wasn't?

BARRERA: When it wasn't, yeah. Yeah, it's some things that you do, you know?

PARK: Yeah. At what point in time did you and your family realize that this is gonna work? There're enough people showing up and this is a viable business?

BARRERA: It took us a while because, like I said, the Hispanic community, it takes them a while for someone to support your business because they want to see other people supported, but they're like, "Oh yeah, they might be good. Let's support it." I think one of the low periods was, we had a couple of customers who would come in and say, "You know what? I don't think you guys are gonna make it. You guys aren't going to sell enough. You guys are gonna be shut down within a couple of months." But we didn't listen to that.

PARK: Why did they feel the need to tell you that?

BARRERA: I have no idea. I think it just goes back to where they won't support 63:00you until they see other people support you. And we've never, you know, my mother she's actually the one who received that comment when she was alone while we were at school. And she always -- You know, my mom's not the type to like, "What did you say? Say it to my face, whatever." She tells a story where she says, "You know, when I received that comment, I said, 'You know what?' That's when I noticed, when I realized that we -- no matter what happened -- we weren't gonna give up." And she says, "Look," in her mind she said, "I'm gonna show you." And to this day she says she's still a customer. She came back and said, "You know what, I apologize." She's like, "I said that and it was a mistake." She's still a customer to this day.

PARK: Oh, how funny.

BARRERA: Yeah, and she supports and they're friends now.

PARK: Do you still have some of the original customers from '06 coming back to the bakery?

64:00

BARRERA: Oh yeah. Like, families -- They still continue to support us. They're kind of -- They're a big reason of why we opened the restaurant in the first place this year. We opened in December of 2017. They were one of the big reasons that we decided to go for another twelve years. They would always say, "You know, we love your bread. We love what you guys sell in the morning, but we kind of want something else. Why don't you guys sell food and some of the guys, the workers, some of them don't have families. Some of them don't have someone to cook for them." So, they would say, "You know what? Sell food. We'll come and buy it, like, sell food." And we we're like, "You kind of have to -- Whatever you're gonna do, make the space bigger. Ask the owner if we can make it bigger 65:00or -- " And we said, "You know what? Let's go for another twelve years." And we ended up opening the second restaurant. Oh well, it's a restaurant. So, I guess a second location?

PARK: Yeah, so, what's the name of the restaurant and where is it located?

BARRERA: Tortas Factory, which is on the same shopping plaza as the bakery.

PARK: Okay. And did you all have a similar family pow-wow about let's do this together?

BARRERA: Yeah, definitely because, I mean, with a restaurant it's like you're talking about a different monster. It's -- we employ close to twenty-five maybe, twenty-eight employees. So, it's, I mean, you're gonna need more human power. So, you know, it was like something serious. You know, "We're gonna do this but we need -- Now that you guys are adults, like, we really need you guys to step in whichever way you can." And it was pretty much the same huddle that, "You 66:00know what? If we do this, we need you guys commitment. We know you guys are in school or went to school and you kind of might want to do your own thing." But they're like, "We need to do this again." And we all agreed and we were like, "Yeah, how cool would it be to own a restaurant and, you know, have other people try the food that we've had for years?" So --

PARK: Where do these recipes come from?

BARRERA: My mom, my dad just kind of mixing everything that my dad learned at the restaurants, their recipes. I mean, we went through a lot of trial and error at the home. We made tacos, we made tortas. We all tried it. We all said this is gonna work. Maybe people might not want this or change this or add this. We went through, like, with the bakery, as well, I mean we made tamales, we made the bread at home, kind of to see if this is gonna work, this might not work. People 67:00might think that's not Mexican enough. So, we kind of went through trial and error at the home before we --

PARK: So, your test kitchen was the home?

BARRERA: It was the home. Um, hmn for a lot of our recipes.

PARK: Has -- Did anyone in the family come up with a recipe, a bakery item, or a restaurant item, that has turned out to be a big hit?

BARRERA: I think one of the items that a lot of people like -- it was made from our customers at the bakery -- we sell tortas. The customers would be like, "You know what? Give me a torta with everything." Which is egg, steak, chicken and ham. So, we brought that torta to the new place to kind of give them a shout-out to our customers, like, "You guys made this so -- " I think that's probably the only one that I can really sticks out to me is that torta that our customers made.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: So, we put it on our menu over there to kind of say, "Hey, this one's 68:00for you guys."

PARK: Yeah, and the restaurant opened, you said, last year?

BARRERA: December.

PARK: Oh, so it's still --

BARRERA: It's still new, yeah, yeah, we're still --

PARK: Five, six month old business.

BARRERA: Yeah.

PARK: How's it going so far?

BARRERA: Pretty good. Steady. We -- Those customers do support us. Essentially, it was made for them. Yeah, we're happy. We're all working there.

PARK: Yeah. So how do you all, as a family, divvy up responsibility over who works at which place and what hours?

BARRERA: It's kind of -- My parents did it to our strengths. My sister's a good cook. She works at the restaurant. I'm good at customer service so I help with the front, you know, the cashiers, I help them out. My sister, she doesn't really like to deal with people, so she runs errands for the bakery and she gets pretty much -- We do a lot of shopping at farmer's market. We get all our 69:00produce primarily from them.

PARK: That's Buford Highway's Farmer's Market.

BARRERA: Right. So, she is the errand person. She gets all the supplies that we need and brings them back and she'll share her time in the cash register, but not as much.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: And then my parents are primarily at the bakery because it's all our team members are there as early as 5:30 in the morning.

PARK: Wow. So, you mentioned two sisters. Is there a third sister?

BARRERA: There is.

PARK: Okay.

BARRERA: And we all help, yeah. The little one, she doesn't as much. She's only fifteen so we're pushing her to want to join us, but --

PARK: You are?

BARRERA: Yeah, yeah. Because she wants to be a chef and we're like, this is -- We didn't have this when we were kids. So, if you want to be a chef, this is where you should start. She's kind of like, maybe you might be right, but -- It will be up to her when she's ready to put on herself to say, 70:00"Okay, I want to help. Where can I start?"

PARK: So, you mentioned that the restaurant was started to really accommodate the customers, your loyal customers from the bakery, and earlier on you talked about in 2006, the recession was about to start, the construction work wasn't available.

BARRERA: Right.

PARK: What impact did that have on the demographics of Hispanics in that area? Did that change the number of people in the area or was there just turnover?

BARRERA: From what I can remember, we had a slow period. I do remember we did had a slow period during that time where a lot of our customers weren't working. 71:00Like, you could see it. I mean, you know, people weren't spending as much. They weren't going out as much, but one of the things we do remember was, you know, whatever little money or whatever money they did have they would come and buy, milk, eggs and bread from us. So, that was -- We remember that. I mean, our loyal customers are kind of what kept us from going under for that period of time. We did see it that there wasn't -- Not a lot of people were working. My father, eventually, had to leave in selling carpet because it wasn't working out anymore.

PARK: Yeah, so, were there ever circumstances where you had loyal customers and families who were regulars who just didn't have the money to afford some of the essentials? Do you ever remember encountering anything like that?

72:00

BARRERA: No, I think, you know, from what I see is that a lot of Hispanics are proud to where they might not ask for handouts. So, if they did, they didn't show it. I think it more was just keep it internally.

PARK: Yeah. So, when you reflect back from really the first time you experienced Buford Highway and your first memories of playing Frogger from the market back to your apartment complex to opening the restaurant to now having or opening the bakery to now having two different businesses, how do you feel about that?

BARRERA: Well, personally, me I feel like, you know, I feel like this wasn't supposed to happen. Essentially, it could happen to anyone. I mean, it's not 73:00like we came with a blueprint to how to be successful. You look back in how we started with wearing donated clothes to not having any money to -- I mean, you look back and you say, "Wow, you know, our family we made this happen." And you can't believe it because I mean, you know, we essentially we came to live a better life. But I mean, we don't come from a rich family. We don't -- We just didn't expect all this to happen. So, you think about it and it's really amazing how far we've come in that period of time.

PARK: Yeah, have you ever had an opportunity to sit back and reflect on it with your parents?

BARRERA: Yeah, every day. We talk about it every day and we're grateful for what, you know, for everything. We talk about it every day and I mean, we still 74:00live in the area.

PARK: Where are you all now? You don't have to give an address or anything. What part of Buford Highway?

BARRERA: We're still in Doraville.

PARK: Doraville. Okay.

BARRERA: We don't see ourselves moving anytime soon. We really enjoy the area.

PARK: Yeah, and how would you describe the area now compared to from when you were a kid? How has it changed?

BARRERA: I didn't really spend too much time in that area of Doraville. Our side was mainly Chamblee. I can't really make the, I guess, the difference, but from what I see now it's amazing. I mean, there's so much stuff going on in Doraville now. It's amazing that you have movies being filmed in Doraville. You have just so much money coming into Doraville. Like, they're trying to make it more 75:00beautiful, I guess, that's some of the things that I see now.

PARK: And Buford Highway, in particular, what have you seen change in the area?

BARRERA: The businesses. I mean, in my photo album you'll see McDonalds, you'll see some of the bigger retail stores that are no longer there -- the K-Mart. What was there? You know, the more Americanized supermarkets. They're not there anymore. You just -- I mean, all the restaurants that we have now just from really like every nationality that you can think of, they are all on Buford Highway.

PARK: Yeah. The people who come to Buford Highway, have you noticed any changes there?

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BARRERA: It's still the same people -- hardworking people.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: Looking to get their piece of the American dream.

PARK: Yeah. Do you --

BARRERA: Still the same. It doesn't change. Like what I've noticed in the apartments that are directly behind us, you know, a family will get there, they get their money and they move out. They might go somewhere else and what I've noticed was the same thing is that they're all looking for the same thing -- their piece of the American dream. It doesn't change.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: They all want the same. To provide for their children.

PARK: Yeah, and do you have any children yourself?

BARRERA: I do. I have three.

PARK: Oh, three?

BARRERA: Mm, hmm.

PARK: And how old are they?

BARRERA: Three, my daughter, my son is two and then I have a three-month-old.

PARK: Oh, my goodness.

BARRERA: Yeah, so, busy house.

PARK: Well, that's great. What are your aspirations for them?

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BARRERA: I think I want them -- I do want them -- You know, I have to place the same amount of, you know, strictness that my parents placed on me because, you know, my parents said, you know -- My parents said, "You know, we don't have a lot of money but we do want you to go to college. We want you to be somebody." And I feel like I owe it to them, to my children, to do the same, you know? "You guys have to work hard and go to college, be somebody." And you know, show my parents -- although they're my parents -- show them, you know, that we're thankful for everything that they did for us. Because, essentially, it's all gonna trickle down, you know, because of my parents. So, it's kind of a way for us to give back and say thank you for what you did. We could have stayed in Mexico City and who knows what we would have been doing now?

PARK: Yeah, what do you think you would be doing if you were in Mexico City today?

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BARRERA: I have no idea. No idea. It could really be positive or negative. You don't know.

PARK: And you still have family in Mexico City.

BARRERA: We do. Ninety percent of our family is still there.

PARK: Do you ever go back and interact with them?

BARRERA: Yeah, we just went back last year and yeah. Yeah, it's amazing. Obviously, here we don't have a lot of family. We do have a couple -- We do have family now. Some of them eventually immigrated here and they've established, but having your grandparents, your cousins, your uncles, it's amazing. It's some of the things that we don't experience here every day. So, when we went it was all love.

PARK: And your dad is still thanking them for the recipes?

BARRERA: He hasn't had a chance to go back because they are so busy, but eventually they want to go back and see their parents. They haven't seen their parents in quite a while.

PARK: Wow.

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BARRERA: Yeah it's -- I want to say over twenty years?

PARK: Oh, my goodness. Do they miss them?

BARRERA: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, a lot. That's probably one of the things they want to do most.

PARK: Yeah, and do they have a chance to talk to them on the phone?

BARRERA: Yeah, they do.

PARK: Or FaceTime?

BARRERA: No, no, not FaceTime. It's kind of sad because they don't want to see them like that unless it's in person. I think it would be too hard on them. They haven't seen them in years. So, it wouldn't be the same.

PARK: Yeah, how do your parents describe their parents?

BARRERA: Sadly, my father's parents passed away. His father passed away when he was younger. His mother just passed away recently. So, from my father, I know, he said his parents were strict but it's only because, you know, they didn't 80:00have a lot so it was kind of you have to do things right the first time, you know? But he's thankful for everything that they taught him. They taught him how to work hard, how to think smart, how to think outside the box, how to make it. And my mother's parents, I mean, I know them personally, and she's always talking about how they're also hardworking, as well. They are very loving grandparents. I mean, when we went -- although we weren't raised there -- I mean, they were very loving to us. My children love them too.

PARK: Yeah. How did your -- How'd your dad handle hearing that your grandmother had passed?

BARRERA: He took it hard because you think about it, he was here and he couldn't do anything. He hadn't seen her in probably over twenty years. He didn't get to say what he wanted to say, you know, before.

PARK: Yeah.

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BARRERA: So, it was really hard on him.

PARK: What do you think he would have said to her?

BARRERA: I have no idea.

PARK: Yeah?

BARRERA: I have no idea. I think it would be hard to explain. It's probably just a conversation for them two.

PARK: Well, that's great. You've talked a lot about your parents and the amazing impact they've had on your life and your sisters' lives and we talked about your old football coach.

BARRERA: I think my sisters also have a person that kind of stuck out to them, but yeah, he's influential in my life.

PARK: Yeah, who is this person that your sisters are close with?

BARRERA: Oh, I --

PARK: Oh, okay.

BARRERA: Yeah, yeah. We would have to ask them to see.

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PARK: Okay. Well, I'm going to take a break for a minute so we can flip through some of these pictures.

BARRERA: Okay.

PARK: This is Seam Park. This a continuation of my interview with Oscar Barrera for We Love BuHi's Oral History Project. On this part of the interview, we are planning to speak about some pictures that Oscar has brought with him of his childhood and some of his fondest memories. So, this first picture we're looking at is of a little girl sitting in a what looks like an apartment living room with a bunch of mismatched furniture. Oscar, can you tell us a little bit about this?

BARRERA: Yeah, so, the girl in the picture is my sister, Berlin. Yeah, most of the mismatched furniture comes from just picking up furniture on the street even 83:00the curtains I really remember those because those are handmade curtains from fabric that my mother found. To be honest, probably, I can point out three items that we bought new. Everything else was pretty much some other person's trash. But, you know, it was our stuff. So --

PARK: In this next picture, we're looking at a young boy and it looks like a little sister and maybe an older sister with Sylvester the Cat. Can you tell us a little bit about this one?

BARRERA: Yeah, this was taken at Six Flags with my Providence Cheer Shirt that I love so much. It's amazing how I got by so many years with that shirt. I think this is where it happened where it actually got pointed out to me that it was a cheerleading shirt, but, you know, this was all I had. So --

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PARK: So, after you had it pointed out to you?

BARRERA: I think I stopped wearing it. But this was all I had. This was my favorite shirt at the time.

PARK: Yeah. That's great. And then let's talk about this picture here. We're looking at what looks like a blue sports coupe in a parking lot with what looks like a brick duplex in the background. What is that?

BARRERA: So, it's Head Start. It was conjoined with other, I guess, apartment homes for low-income families. They would send their kids there. I attended that school for about two years before heading to kindergarten. Yeah, I was there for about two years. We all went there, actually. My oldest sister, myself and the other girl you see in the picture, we all went through there.

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PARK: And that's still there as far as you know?

BARRERA: It's still there. I'm not sure if it's still Head Start, but yeah, I mean, I have a lot of memories of that place.

PARK: Yeah.

BARRERA: I learned a lot there. Good folks there.

PARK: That's great. And then now we are looking at a picture of a young woman. She looks like she's maybe eight, nine-years-old and she has what looks like a headscarf on in front of a white background that might be a makeshift sheet. Can you tell us a little bit about this picture?

BARRERA: Sure. So, this picture was taken at Dresden Elementary. I'm guessing for cultural awareness month or something. Compared to her other siblings, my sister's kind of darker skinned because of my father. She says that the staff at 86:00Dresden kind of dressed her up in Indian garments because they thought she was Indian. And she brought the picture back home and we've been laughing at it ever since. She showed it to my mother and we all just laughed.

PARK: Did your sister at the time know what was happening?

BARRERA: No, I mean, it's -- I've cried at this picture. I'll be honest with you. I've cried at this picture a couple of times because, you know, in our family she was the first one to go to school, to go to college, to pretty much experience everything for the first time. So, when I looked at it I cried. I said, you know, my sister went through that and she probably didn't even know what it meant, but she looks at it now and she laughs. She laughs it off.

PARK: And in this last picture, it looks like we're looking at a woman sitting behind a counter of a bakery with a rolling cart with a bunch of bread sitting 87:00on it and there's a woman standing in front of her at the counter. Can you tell us about this picture?

BARRERA: Yeah, so, this was taken at the bakery when we first opened. We took a picture. Everything is empty. I mean, I think we might have a couple of trays inside the bakery display cases, but yeah, this was when we first opened.

PARK: And this is when times were tough for them.

BARRERA: Yeah, we didn't know if we were, I guess, gonna stay in business. This is before -- This is where it all started.

PARK: So, who is the woman?

BARRERA: My mother.

PARK: Okay. And --

BARRERA: My oldest sister. This is, like, probably like the first week.

PARK: Yeah. Well, Oscar, thank you so much for your time, the interview and sharing, opening up your life and your family's lives for the project and also 88:00sharing with us these absolutely wonderful pictures. Thank you so much.

BARRERA: Thank you.