In 1933, Ruben Aguilar was deported to Mexico as part of a largely forgotten Mexican Repatriation Program run by the U.S. government.
During the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of people of Mexican descent were forcibly deported to Mexico without due process. Many, like Ruben, were American citizens.
Ruben had been born in the United States, but his parents were not citizens, and the entire family was deported. Ruben was six years old at the time.
He told his story to his friend Bill Luna.
Special thanks to Marlen Garcia
Click here for the transcript.
Ruben Aguilar (RA): In Chicago.
BL: Now what happened when you were deported to Mexico?
RA: Well, when I was deported what I remember is the way that the agents crashed into the house. Okay people. Line up against the wall. We were put into the trucks, taken to the train station, and then shipped out.
I grew up when that happened. From six years old, all of a sudden I felt like I was 15.
BL: You hadn't been to Mexico before then?
RA: Never. I could speak fluent English, but not Spanish.
BL: Now, how did you return to the U.S.? How did you come back here?
RA: I was an American citizen. So in 1945, I was drafted into the Army.
My father explained to me, he says, "You got a little card from Chicago to join the United States Army. You're going back to your country."
So I took the bus to the United States. It stopped in Laredo before we take off for Chicago. And I asked the bus driver, "Where is the washroom, sir?" And he said, "Right around the corner." So I go around the corner and I see a big sign, No Mexicans or dogs are allowed. And I said, Welcome back.
You know, it's a funny thing, because when I talk about it, you know, it looks like yesterday. Those things, you never get rid of that.
BL: How do you want to be remembered Ruben?
RA: I want to be remembered as somebody got hurt by his country, came back to this country, and is going to die in his country.