“The world needs a little bit of everything, even a kingpin.”

As part of De-Bug's series covering the experience of immigrant elders, Adrian Avila tells the story of a former kingpin that he came across and the positive inspiration that came from what one would call a "bad guy".

A few years back I made a friend by the name of Luis, a 74 year-old Colombian immigrant. At the time that our paths crossed, Luis had been homeless for about four years.  At first glance you wouldn’t think Luis was homeless, he comes off as a clean-cut stylish 5-foot silver haired man. I think it was his style that drew me to him, simple yet it had a certain sense of class to it. 

Luis had a lot to deal with in his everyday life; besides being homeless he also was undocumented and aging in a country that is not all too fond of it’s elderly. On top of that, Luis had been showing some signs of mental illness, an illness that had him paranoid and in constant fear of his safety.

Up until we met, Luis had found a safe haven at a 24 hour McDonalds parking lot, using his 1969 2-door Ford Maverick as a hotel room. Night after night Luis would sleep in the passengers seat of car battling the cold and lack of room. But to him sleeping in his car was not the problem, it was fear of being messed with and kicked out of his spot that he feared.

Since I had an open driveway I asked him to move in and he did. The next day, he pulled up to my driveway in his “Ford Hotel” with a smile on his face.

Luis and I would hang out, have conversations about life back home and how different things are living in the U.S. One night Luis and I were watching a documentary film about the Pablo Escobar days in Medellin, Colombia.

Back home Luis held many jobs from a young age. He worked the fields, became a police officer and a truck driver. It was his job as a truck driver that landed him a job moving a load from Medellin to a small town 50 miles away. Luis recalled not wanting to take the job because he knew what the load might be, and Luis wanted nothing to do with any wrong doing, but money makes you do things you would normally not do. Luis did the job and got paid, “I didn’t want to do it but I had no choice, Pablo does a lot for our people here, so I am helping our people”, Luis told me.

He explained to me how poor his town was before the day of Pablo, and how by becoming a Robin Hood type figure he had gained respect from his people, and how much the town had come up. “The world needs a little bit of everything, even a kingpin,” Luis said to me, which has stuck with me even to this day because I understood what he meant.

Good and bad are all around us all day everyday, but one has to keep on keeping on, or as they say in the states -- you have to do what you have to do. Judgment can be reserved for those who have the privilege to do so.

Luis left one morning, inexplicably. His paranoia was starting to consume him. I think of him often though. In some random parking lot, passerby’s may see him through the windown of a car, napping. They may be annoyed, even disgusted by the homeless man who is a fixture in front of their store or restaurant. But Luis is a man in America, as we all are, just doing what he has to do.

This piece is part of an on going multimedia series called "Arriving and Becoming: The Silicon Valley Story as Told by Immigrant Elders", supported by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's Immigrant Integration in Silicon Valley project.

About Adrian Avila

Adrian Avila


A designer and artist, Avila writes and posts articles and images that offer a window into the realities of a younger generation of immigrant America.

This article is part of the category: Immigration 
This article is part of the tags: Adrian Avila  / Arriving and Becoming  / Cola  / Immigrant Elders  / Mexican  / Silicon Valley DeBug 


No comments.

Post a comment

Valid XHTML 1.0 Valid CSS