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A Day Of Thanksgiving Of Thanksgiving Of The All-american Immigrant



“When I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ I want to cry,” Aron Marquez confessed. “The flag means so much to me. This country changed our lives. It changed the trajectory of my family.” As we celebrate the blessings of Thanksgiving this week with family and friends, Marquez’s story is worth knowing. And sharing.

He was born in the northern Mexico city of Chihuahua to parents who wanted the best for their four children. “My parents got married when they were 14 and 15. I can’t imagine what being married at that age would be like.”

Marquez’s father worked in American oil fields doing construction through most of his childhood. “He wasn’t that involved,” Marquez explained. “He would come home every couple of months and then go back to work.” His mother worked in a local factory sewing Levi’s jeans. “Mom worked in the morning, picked us up from school to feed us and went back to work. She did that for as long as I can remember.”

His mother was a source of inspiration for Marquez. “I would tell her, Mom, when I grow up, you’re not going to have to work. I promise. And my mom would grab my cheek and say, ‘I know you will. But there’s nothing wrong with working hard.’ That’s what she always told me.”

Marquez remembers his parents first talking about moving to America when he was in second grade. “It’s something I didn’t want,” he said, “though we never traveled anywhere, did anything or had anything. I didn’t know any better. What I knew was that I was comfortable where we were.”

“This country changed our lives. It changed the trajectory of my family,” says Aron Marquez, CEO of Wildcat Oil Tools.
Wildcat Oil Tools

When Marquez learned that moving to America would mean his mom would work less, his opinion changed. “If Mom didn’t have to work all the time, I didn’t care where it was.”

The family began the legal process soon after, and when Marquez was 11, they moved to America. “You can imagine trying to adjust, not speaking English,” he said. “We didn’t have a home. It wasn’t easy.”

After a short stint living with his aunt and uncle, the family moved to Coyanosa, Texas. “It’s a town where everyone picks onions. You start early in the morning, and you work until 7 p.m. And you do it every day.” All Marquez remembers was the hours, and the heat. To this day, he admitted, “I can’t eat onions. I can’t even look at onions.”

A few moments in Marquez’s teens altered the course of his life. One Saturday before the school year was about to start, his parents gave him and his brother $100 each to go to the mall and buy clothes. Marquez had his eyes on a $140 pair of boots. He was determined to own them, so he put his entire $100 down on layaway, with 60 days to come up with the rest. “I walked out of the store with nothing, and my brother had all these clothes. I got in trouble with my parents when I got picked up.”

But Marquez wasn’t deterred. He looked at different options to come up with the extra cash for his boots. “I knew I couldn’t ask my parents for it,” he said, laughing. “So I started mowing yards around the neighborhood. I didn’t speak English, so I’d knock on a door, and if somebody that answered didn’t speak Spanish, I pointed at my lawnmower and said $10.”

Marquez soon learned he wasn’t good at cutting lawns. So he approached his friends and came up with a business arrangement: He’d do the door-to-door sales—which they hated—and they’d do the mowing, splitting the proceeds. “I’d line up 10 yards on a weekend, and they’d come in and make good money. And I made good money. And I was able to get my boots,” Marquez said, beaming. “I was very pleased, because I’d figured out what needed to be done.”

Another pivot point in Marquez’s life came in school. “The teacher spoke Spanish, the books were written in Spanish, we were segregated in our own group,” Marquez said. “We didn’t even go to lunch with the rest of the school. It was very isolated, and I didn’t like it.”

Marquez approached his teacher. “I want to be in the regular class,” he said. “One, because I want to play soccer. And two, I already speak and read Spanish. I want to learn to speak English. And do everything in English. And no offense, I’m not going to learn English when you’re teaching me everything in Spanish. This isn’t going to work for me.”

Marquez remembers the teacher’s reply. “She said, ‘This is your first day, so I don’t know how you’re drawing those conclusions. And this is not for you to decide. It’s for your parents to decide.’ I politely asked, ‘How different is this going to be tomorrow and the next day?'”

When he returned home, he pleaded his case to his mother and won. “And that’s when life began for me in school and education and meeting new friends,” Marquez said. “I never want to be isolated, or be looked upon as inferior to anyone. Just throw me in the middle of the group. If I fit in, great. If I don’t, I don’t. But I don’t want to get any special privileges. I want to be judged based on me, my merit, my character, my abilities.”

For some, the transition might have been hard. But not Marquez. “I remember going to class and not knowing much, even how to say my name. And I loved it,” he said. “You’re not going to grow being in your comfort zone.”

Things weren’t always easy for Marquez. “I remember once it was my turn to read in class, and I pronounced the word Iceland instead of island. Everyone laughed. And one of the kids kept laughing at me for not speaking English. And I told him, ‘Man, I’m going to learn to speak English in the next three or four months, and that will make two languages for me and you’ll only be able to speak one. And I’m not going to make fun of you for that.'”

From then on, everything changed. “He never said anything again, no one else did, and no one laughed,” Marquez said. “I knew then that if you let people get under your skin or take you away from your focus, they’re winning. I took a lot of things like that as life lessons.”

Marquez wanted more for his family but had nowhere to turn for guidance. “I didn’t know anyone that was really successful,” he explained. “Everyone did what they could to provide for their family, but no one mentioned college. Or starting their own business.”

Marquez graduated from high school and started working for a local oil refinery, while attending college at night. “I did that for a year, working in the plant cleaning tanks, and within six months I got promoted as a leadman. I was making $18 an hour as an 18-year-old, which was more than my dad was making.”

Aaron learned a lot on the job. “I led a group of eight men. We’d be assigned the dirtiest, toughest jobs. I focused on doing things faster, safer and cleaner than the other leadman. People started taking notice.”

Soon, Marquez was at the University of Connecticut, pursuing his college degree, and after graduating, he landed a job at global energy giant Nabors Industries, where he was promoted six times in five years. Not long after, he was running a company of his own: Marquez is the CEO of Texas-based Wildcat Oil Tools, where he leads nearly 150 employees. The company generates $100 million in annual revenue, with facilities in five countries.

But of all of Marquez’s accomplishments, none stands out more than something he did one year out of college. “I got a $22,000 bonus when I was working at Nabors and used it to pay for everyone in my family to become American citizens,” Marquez said. “That’s the best gift I could ever give my family.”

Marquez closed with words we should all consider as we count our blessings this Thanksgiving weekend. “I wish people didn’t take for granted how great this country is. It’s a real blessing to live here and call ourselves America citizens.”



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