Hubbard, Wisconsin is pretty far north so there isn’t a large Hispanic population. One of the town’s best-known characters is Jose Gonzales. Jose came to this country back in the early 80’s, working his way up from Mexico on a custom combining crew. Jose was only eighteen years old when he arrived in Hubbard. His wife, Angela, must have been about sixteen. They didn’t have any material possessions to speak of and rented a beat up trailer on the end of town for $100 a month.
Their financial circumstances would have depressed most people, but he and Angela always had smiles on their faces. When Angela and Jose looked at each other, both of them would just grin like crazy. Crazy. That’s it. Jose and Angela were, as the Kenny Rogers song says, “Crazy in Love.” At first Angela worked as a dishwasher at the Ralph’s diner and Jose did landscaping work in the summer and carpentry work in the winter. Finally Jose bought a broken-down pickup truck and started to do carpentry work full-time.
No one remembers whether or not Jose and Angela were legal immigrants when they came to Hubbard. No one really cared. They minded their own business, paid their bills on time and weren’t on the welfare roles. Everyone, however, vividly remembers the day that Jose and Angela went up to Milwaukee to be sworn in as United States citizens. Jose was so proud. He wore a suit that he had purchased at the local second hand store. It was the only time, before or since, that anyone in Hubbard has seen him wear a tie.
When you hired Jose to work on your house he would never give you an estimate. He would just say, “I work hard. I get $7.50 an hour, plus materials.” Most homeowners would never give a contactor an open-ended deal, but Jose had a reputation for doing quality work. He also worked faster and harder than any human being the town had ever seen. Jose learned a valuable lesson; that free markets are blind to color and ethnicity. As long as you provide value for value, your customers don’t care where you came from or what your last name is, or where you worship; they want to do business with you.
In 1989 Jose’s mother, two brothers and their families moved to Hubbard. The brothers worked for Jose. The wives of the brothers were stay-at-home moms, eternally vigilant to make sure their children learned English, were on time for Sunday mass, and did their homework. For those fortunate enough to imbibe, Jose’s mother made the tastiest tamales they had ever eaten. Meanwhile, all of the Gonzales clan sent money back to their Angela’s parents and other relatives in Mexico. Angela said that her parents never lived as well in Mexico as they did after she and Jose came to Hubbard.
Today Gonzales construction has 38 full-time employees, most of them Caucasians.
The company injects nearly one million dollars of payroll income into the Hubbard economy each year. Jose also hires about 10 college students during the summer. There were 143 moms, dads, and kids at the company picnic in July. When asked about his success he said; “This is a great country. You can do anything you want here. It’s kind of humbling to be responsible for the livelihood of almost 150 people. We better keep doing things right because too many people depend on us now.”
Nearly all of Jose’s kids and his brother’s kids have gone on to college. Two sons have remained in Hubbard to take over the business when Jose and his brothers retire. Angela runs the office and does the accounting work. Her long hair is graying a little, but she remains stunningly beautiful. Jose’s face still breaks into a smile every time he looks at her. They’re crazy in love.