Ricardo Luna’s mother always believed her son would become a successful entrepreneur, but she never could have guessed that less than 10 years after leaving Zacatecas, Mexico, he’d be hired to produce events for elite corporate and star-studded clientele, including the Grammy Awards.
Luna came to the United States when he was 17 to seek a new life. It was 1979 and the young man travelled alone, leaving his family and friends behind. When he first arrived, Luna settled in Houston, working in restaurant kitchens. In 1981, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he juggled two full-time jobs, as a busboy and as a factory worker making pots. From there he landed at a local flower shop where, between scrubbing floors and cleaning windows, he started to learn about floral design and small-business ownership. He went on to work for some of the top florists in the city before launching Luna Gardens from the kitchen of his one-bedroom apartment. “I started from scratch,” says Luna. Twenty-five years later, Luna Garden is a high-end event design and production company that handles everything from flowers to lighting.
I just came here to work, work, work, and look for new opportunities. I became an American citizen and I’m very happy and very proud to be part of this country.
The company caters to upscale corporate and social events and employs 10 to 12 people on a full-time basis. Luna Gardens also uses a significant amount freelance help, depending on the event. “Sometimes I have 40 or 50 people working for me,” Luna says, noting that his business has also gone global. Many of those freelancers include U.S. citizens. “I get hired to do events all over the world, in Africa, in Italy, in Ireland, in Paris, and in Mexico.”
Luna believes his ambitious trajectory likely wouldn’t be possible today, given how difficult it is for undocumented immigrants to attain legal residency and citizenship under current immigration policy. Luna, however, was granted amnesty under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, a sweeping immigration reform bill signed by former President Ronald Reagan that provided undocumented immigrants meeting certain conditions a path to citizenship.
“Basically, I got really good letters from all my employers,” Luna recalls. “I had a really good work history, and I came to this country legally with a visa. I just came here to work, work, work, and look for new opportunities. I became an American citizen and I’m very happy and very proud to be part of this country.” He wishes today’s newcomers, many with stories similar to his own, could have the same opportunity. “We’re talking about good, hardworking people that come from other countries who deserve a chance,” he explains. “After all, this country that we live in is made of immigrants. It’s sad that little children who come to this country have to live here as ghosts. They can’t go on to university. They have no papers because their parents came here as undocumented immigrants. Immigration needs to be controlled, but reform is important.”