Jesus Carlos Rivera
First Generation Immigrant
In 1993, Jesus Carlos Rivera, his wife and their four children, ages 12 through three, immigrated from their native Mexico to Dodge City. Rivera’s sister-in-law is a U.S. citizen and was already living in Kansas. She told the family that the United States offered more opportunities and offered to sponsor them. Rivera was hesitant at first; he worked in a bottle factory for Coca-Cola making $60 per week, which afforded the family “a decent living,” he says. And he’d already been with the company for 18 years, working his way up to sales supervisor, so the prospect of starting over in a new country was daunting. “But I decided to put it in God’s hands,” he says.
Acclimating to life in their new hometown was challenging. The cost of living was higher than in Mexico. So, after years working as a stay-at-home mother, Rivera’s wife rejoined the workforce. Both she and Rivera work at Cargill Meat Solution. Rivera pulled double shifts, preparing and packaging beef for sale. Meanwhile, their children missed their friends and struggled with the language barrier in school.
Luckily, after months of hard work, the Riveras began to see progress. They saved up and moved out of their in-law’s home and into their own rental. Their children learned English, made new friends, and earned good grades. And the family joined a Christian church, where they found community and support. In 1997, Rivera got a new job working for National Beef packaging meat for distribution to stores and restaurants and for export. Five years later, the family purchased their first home.
Now in his sixties, Rivera still works for National Beef — although he no longer has to work double shifts to make ends meet. His career made it possible for his four children to go to college. “I take a look back and see if we had not moved here, I would not have been able to provide the same opportunities to my children they’d had here,” he says. “My daughter often tells her siblings ‘thanks to the sacrifice my dad made for us, we have a better future.’ Hearing her say that affects me deeply emotionally,” Rivera says.
Without me saying anything, she recognizes our sacrifice.