The employees of PRIDE Industries are accustomed to overcoming obstacles and challenges, but one of our PRIDE/Fort Bliss, TX employees, in particular, stands out. Just a few hundred miles south of El Paso is Carlos Gutiérrez’s home city of Chihuahua, MX where drug cartels took his legs – and nearly his life.
Carlos Gutiérrez was a successful businessman in Mexico. His success brought many positives – a wife, family and a good life. But success in a country that has fallen prey to drug cartels can also bring unwanted attention. For Gutiérrez, this came in the form of extortion from armed cartel members who demanded upwards of $10,000 per month in “quotas.” Business extortion has become commonplace in the drug cartel wars waged in Chihuahua and Juarez – with often deadly consequences.
When Gutiérrez could no longer make the extortion payments, they made him an example by brutally cutting off his feet. Rushed to the hospital by friends, he remained in critical condition for days. Doctors had to amputate his legs at the knees to save his life.
A few weeks later, Gutiérrez’s family transported him across the U.S. border, where he applied for asylum. Caught in a complex system of asylum seekers, Gutiérrez was granted a work permit and his case was put on hold.
Starting over in a new land with a foreign language and a physical disability is not easy – much less after such a traumatic experience. Feelings of anger, sadness, fear and depression can overwhelm. Gutiérrez says that he turned to prayer for strength and guidance and found gratitude for his life and his family. Along the way, he also found many supporters.
By chance, he met Dr. Eddie Zepeda who provided him with prosthetic legs at no cost. The empowering feeling of walking out of the clinic for the first time on his new legs left him speechless and full of gratitude. Dr. Zepeda also connected him to PRIDE Industries, where he was interviewed for a job in the HVAC department.
While waiting to hear the results of his interview, Gutiérrez, Dr. Zepeda and others set out on a 600 mile bike ride from El Paso to Austin, TX to raise awareness of immigrants who face life-threatening situations at home if not granted asylum. The grueling trip was a way of supporting others like himself, and acknowledging the support of those who had helped him along his journey.
During the trip, he received a voicemail from our own Cynthia Baca with a job offer. He began in December, and has already received one promotion. He comes to work each day thankful that companies like PRIDE Industries exist for individuals with a wide range of disabilities.
What he may not realize is how enriched PRIDE Industries is by employees like Carlos who provide such a powerful example of resilience and determination. We are glad that he is with us.