“I came here in 1970 from Mexico as a laborer. I only had a second grade education but I was willing to work hard. I made $1.50/hour pruning trees and doing landscape work. The big change here is how we’ve moved from prunes and walnuts to wine making. The work was much more seasonal then with those two crops than what it is today.” said Salvador Ramos, as he was telling me about how he got started in Napa, CA.
Today Salvador manages 400 acres of vines and is a director of Napa Community Bank. My guess is that his hard work and astute investing has made him far more wealthy than he ever dreamed of when he immigrated to the USA.
I asked him how he bought his first house which brought a smile to his face. “I was working on a farm and didn’t have enough money for a down payment. I convinced a neighboring farmer to let me prune his trees for a set contract amount, asking him not to pay me until I was done with the job. I worked weekends and nights to get that job done and was paid $5,200. We bought our first house for $43,000. Today I live on 15 acres up in the hills.”
Ramos’ daughter is an attorney and his son works in the real estate business, both successful in their own right.
When I asked him his opinion of globalization, he responded, “Competition worldwide has been good for us. We took the market away from Europe. This valley is small but we have built a huge industry.”
Immigrants like Salvador Ramos are one of the reasons why the USA has developed well beyond whatever Europe ever imagined. Keeping people like him immigrating into this country is critical to our future success.