Jesús Ortiz, 26, was born in Torreon, Mexico and moved to the United States in 1996.
His dad was in the agricultural industry and took a job in the U.S. where he moved his family to Boaz, Alabama.
“It was a small little town,” he said. “It was so small that we were one of the first Hispanics there. It was different. I didn’t even realize we moved to the United States until I started talking to people and had no idea what was happening.”
In the second grade, reality hit him, and he had a panic attack at the age of six. He said that’s when he realized he wasn’t home anymore.
Jesús said the adjustment was rough initially, but after that, he learned English quickly. In the seventh grade, Jesús and his family moved to Huntsville, Alabama.
“We didn’t know anything about Huntsville. Boaz was mainly a white community. When I got to Huntsville I was put into a school that was 97 percent black,” he said. “It was another culture shock. I’m a Latino kid, who grew up in a white school, then all of sudden I’m in a black school. It was just different.”
Jesús said looking back, he learned how to absorb different things from each cultural experience. He said those experiences have led him to be able to connect to different people easily and have made him who he is today.
“Once I got to college at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, my closets friends there were from South America, Europe, Asia and all over. I’ve always picked up on different cultures,” he said.
Initially a civil engineering major, Jesús took a break from school. When he returned he just wanted a college degree so in 2014, he graduated with a biology degree. He said at the time it felt right. Only a year away from a civil engineering degree, he has thoughts of going back to complete it.
“Maybe, I’m not where I want to be, but I wouldn’t change any of these last few years for what I’ve learned. I made those decisions, and I’ve got to live with them. You’ve got to keep pushing through.”
After college, Jesús fell into the category of not being able to find a job. For six months, he struggled to try to find employment. He said it was rough but in the end, he made it through.
Today, he is a safety supervisor at General Mills and Yoplait in Murfreesboro.
the NASHVILLE MOVE
About a year ago, Jesús moved to Nashville.
Before making the big move, he was a project manager and co-owner of a construction company. When he came on board, he took the team over, and they traveled and did jobs all over the country. Then the company started to fail.
“I kid you not, I would call 50 to 60 companies and try to place bids a day. It was 16 to 17 hours a day trying to get bids and setting up scopes. Every one I’d send would fail, and I just didn’t know what to do.”
After he left the company, Jesús’ girlfriend moved to Nashville, and he thought that maybe he should expand his horizons too. He said when he came to visit her he decided to apply to a few different companies and as a result landed a job at General Mills and Yoplait.
“It’s not where I want to be but it’s a stepping stone,” he said.
Jesús said this past year is the one he believes he’s grown the most.
“Reality slowly set in with me and I learned that time keeps going on. You’ll fail, and you’ll get up. It’s been a good year to see myself grow up and change for the better.”
Above all, his life experiences have shaped his viewpoint and changed his perspective on things. He said one of the biggest lessons he’s learned is not to worry or overreact.
“My contract with the company I am at now ended three months ago, and they kept me on,” he said. “You always have to look at the positives in everything, no matter how bad it gets. That’s how I’ve learned to view things.”
Jesús said he’s ready for new opportunities and a new step in life, but right now he’s learning how to appreciate what he’s got.
Another part of the move to Nashville was not having the same connection with friends and family like he did in Huntsville. He said there he could wake up and call a friend to get food or grab a beer later, but here, he’s limited to his friends and admits it can get lonely at times.
He said the vibe of the city itself comforts and that helps.
COMMUNITY as DEFINED
“Community is different people in one particular area,” he said. “In college, a lot of my friends were European, Asian, Latino and Americans but we all hung out together. It’s people who disagree but who can be okay with it.”
Jesús said even the people in his apartment complex represent a community to him. On one side of him lives an 87-year-old woman and on the other side is a newlywed couple.
“It’s not just where we are geographically, it’s how we treat each other.”
Jesús said Nashville’s future is one that is seeing a lot of growth. When he goes downtown he said all he sees is cranes going up and cranes coming down.
“I have a picture of when I was here in 2000 and the scenery is completely different,” he said. “There was only a hand full of buildings. Now if you look around or drive through town, it’s building after building.”
Jesús loves the changes and the growth but said that he’s nervous the city is growing too quick only to stop abruptly.
In his future, Jesús said he’d love to be his own boss again with a successful company and a business partner.
“I love helping people out and if I can have an opportunity to give people jobs then that would be awesome too,” he said.
Always wanting to be in the industry since he was a kid, Jesús said there are so many opportunities with construction. Where he works now is considered an industrial construction, which is a few steps up from residential or commercial.
“There’s something about it. There’s something about watching something be built. It was one of those gut feelings. It was something my mind and my body was just pointing me toward,” he said.
Like a lot of people, Jesús has real concerns for the city he now calls home. Issues like traffic and road conditions top his list.
He said the shocking thing about the city’s roads is a number of wrecks. He said the people who have always lived here have driven the same way and the new people coming are trying to learn how the interstate system works.
“There are too many people in cars for the amount of roads that Nashville has,” he said. “On Interstate 24, the ramps are almost always into the interstate, and that’s dangerous.”
Jesús said regardless of those issues, he still loves Nashville and sees himself staying here and making the best of it.
“Nashville is just a beautiful place. There’s just something about it. It feels like home.”
Thanks for reading Nashville!