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Ahead of Father's Day, we're hearing voices of dads from varying backgrounds


Rounding out our Father's Day series, we bring you a story that starts in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in the 1990s. Jorge Mata and his wife were living and working as doctors there when something terrible happened.


JORGE MATA: Part of the decision to come to the United States and move from Juarez was that we lost a couple of friends. They were doctors too. In Mexico, you can have your office as a doctor, and next to that, you can have a pharmacy. Somebody came and robbed the pharmacy, but they killed my friends. After that, we said, you know what? Like, it's not safe. The violence and the crime was the reason for us to move to the United States.


MATA: When I moved with my two children, they were 1 year and a half and my daughter was 3 years old. I didn't understand any English. Then I felt like, oh, my God, what I am going to do with two children, my wife, no home, no car? It was scary at that moment to think how we are going to survive here. For me, moving to the United States - it wasn't a sacrifice. I knew that I was losing control of my life, but it was the necessary move to have my family safe. My daughter, Cecile (ph) - I remember taking her for the first time to a park here in the United States, and she went to try to play with children. And she noticed that they were speaking English, and she didn't understand. Then the face of my daughter, just like looking at them and not being able to understand and coming back to us to sit down there and be quiet - and I say, what happened, Cecile? She said, I don't know what they are talking about, and I'm not going to be able to play with them. Then I have to explain, no, it's going to be, like, really fast for you to get the language.


MATA: My first job was at the Outback Steakhouse. They say, what do you do? And I say, I don't do anything because it's a new job for me. I didn't mention I'm a doctor from Mexico, no. But I said, you know what? I like to cook, and that's the only thing. OK, they say, then you're going to start as a dishwasher. Then I start moving on the positions there to do salads and then to do fried things. And then in eight months, I was doing almost all the positions in the kitchen. When I'm cooking, my children - they know that I'm in the kitchen because first of all, they start listening mariachi music in the kitchen and they say, OK, Dad is cooking. We have special meals for each one of them. My son likes to eat carne en su jugo, my daughter likes pozole and my wife - we like to do carne asada and ceviche.


MATA: What I most miss from Mexico was the friends at the level of college. And let me tell you, now I have two friends here that are my children, and they have college degrees. We talk about everything. We go to museums, we talk about art, we talk about music, we talk about the medical field, philosophy. They are so interesting, so intelligent that it's amazing for me to see how they transform from the babies that we brought here to really interesting human beings, adults that are doing well in their lives.


MARTÍNEZ: Now Mata is practicing medicine again as a physician's assistant in California. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.