José Nicolás Bárcenas’ Story

This post is also available in: Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish

By Maria Danniella Gutiérrez- Salem
We may wonder how some people manage to be always happy and have a positive message for us: a fun remark or just a word of encouragement so we can go on. Our interviewee today is one of those wonderful people that make our days more enjoyable. He is from the state of Queretaro, northeast of Mexico City.

José Nicolás Bárcenas is the son of Domitila Moreno Jimenez and Tomas Gonzalez Bárcenas. He is the second of twelve children, raised Catholic and with much love, despite the number of siblings. He says that his mother was always there to support them. They lived in poverty, and they had no refrigerator and no luxuries, but were instead surrounded by their family’s love. José came to the United States during Easter week in March 1991, more than 25 years ago. He stills remember that bus trip. He was motivated by his dream of succeeding and helping his siblings. He fondly remembers his last trip to Mexico in 1995 when he took appliances, clothes and other things to his family.

José Nicolás did not finish his education in Mexico and, according to him, this is perhaps the reason he did not understand the importance of learning the language. Not being able to speak English has caused him to miss many job opportunities, so three years ago he decided he would learn English. He enrolled for a free ESL program offered at Danbury High School. He tells me that currently he is at the advanced level and that in the future, he plans to get his GED. He explains that for some people, it is very difficult to learn the language because they speak Spanish all the time: at work, at home, at restaurants and shops where they speak Spanish. “It is important to preserve our identity, our values, but we are in the United States and the official language is English. This country gave me a lot so far. I have lived here more years than in Mexico, and even though most of my family is in Mexico, this is my home and therefore I need to understand, speak and write their language. It is a commitment to myself, my classmates and teachers who have taken the time to teach me.” He says that after arriving here he failed the driving test several times. “In Mexico the driving rules are similar; we just do not respect them. So this is why I failed the driving test.” This is why now he helps everyone he can by explaining the driving rules so they can pass the exam. “At work, I often say that it is the Mexican way, because here everything is very fast. We are a little slower when it comes to doing things but I was able to achieve a balance in taking my time to do things and enjoying what I do. Any work we do is good, if we do it well. The only thing in life I regret is not having finished school. I always tell my nephews and young people to study, to prepare, that in life there is time for everything and that youthfulness does not last long. My dream came true, because I helped my siblings to finish their studies; I still support my parents. I have a home, my own car and I am currently engaged to a woman who accepts me as I am and supports me in everything. I hope that after we are married I can take her to Mexico to meet my family.”

José Nicolás concluded with this quote: “Happiness is something we give ourselves; education is a valuable opportunity that we cannot miss. If we find happiness every day in the simple fact of being alive, everything will be easier.” José Nicolás touches the hearts of those around him for he is honest with himself and enjoys the simple things in life. This is why he can be happy in this country or anywhere in the world.


Danniella Maria Gutierrez-Salem practiced law in Venezuela before pursuing her own American dream of becoming a writer in the United States. For those wishing to recommend a story or make comments, I invite you to be costars in this column by contributing ideas and suggestions to

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