About Me

I was born in the 1950’s, in a relative’s home in a city located in the mountains of central Mexico. Although my birth-city (Uruapan, Michoacán) is known as “The avocado capital of the world,” I remember it more for its lush vegetation, El Parque Nacional (National Park), with running streams of cold, pure water, and its cool mornings. To my friends, classmates and relatives, I was “El Pelόn” (the bald one).

With about three months left in my second year of school, my father moved our family from Uruapan to a small farm town in California (Arvin), and in another few months, to a nearby farm labor camp (Camp #10 aka “The Mexican Camp”), where we lived and worked for many years. When the farm in which we lived was subdivided and sold, we moved to a nearby town, Lamont, California, where we lived for numerous years.

I attended local public schools until after high school graduation, when I attended, and later graduated from, a Catholic institution in Los Angeles, California (Loyola Marymount University). I then enrolled in post-graduate studies at UCLA, earning my law degree (Juris Doctor) in 1979. A few months later, after passing the state bar exam, I received my license to practice law.

My law career started where my family life left off – representing mostly farmworkers and low-income clients as a staff attorney at a Legal Aid office in the farm town of Delano, CA. At the urging of a law school colleague, I moved on to a job as an attorney for a California state agency, mostly representing farmworkers in labor disputes with farm owners, farm operators, and farm labor contractors. From there, I transferred to an attorney position with another state agency in Los Angeles, specializing in public sector collective bargaining and labor law (public schools, community colleges, and state colleges and universities). After a stint as Regional Attorney, I became an Administrative Law Judge for that agency, and served there for another five years.

I then transferred to another state agency in the Los Angeles County area, as an Administrative Law Judge, deciding appeals from alleged safety violations. I relocated to Sacramento, California, but continuing my work with the Sacramento (headquarters) office of the same agency. I was promoted to Presiding Administrative Law Judge five years later, and served in that position for about 6 years, until I left state service in 2011, and began private law practice with a small firm in Rocklin, California, my current position.

During my term as Presiding Administrative Law Judge, I was also appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to a 5-year term to the Los Angeles City Employee Relations Board (a part-time Commissioner post).

During school and college vacations, I worked in the farm fields of Central California, with family members. I also worked in the oil fields as a roustabout. During college and early years of my career, I studied martial arts, earning my black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Growing up, my parents were Catholics, but not regular church attenders, nor devout. I was raised as a Catholic, taught mostly by nuns in The Catechism, at which I excelled. My Catholic Catechism education ended some time during my high school years, when the teaching program ended as our labor camp grew increasingly deserted.

My personal life was a mixture of attempts at “being good/doing good” and living a self-centered, care-free, indulgent (“worldly”) lifestyle. All that changed when I came to a turning point – recognizing that I did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, that I did not really “know” him, despite my A-student record in Catechism, and that I needed that relationship and the salvation that comes with knowing and surrendering to God’s will. After decades of wayward living, failed marriages, and a trail of broken lives, I made the choice to give up my old ways and start a new life walking with Christ, and gradually learning about, and knowing Him.

I love music, sports, and food. I live in a household of musicians, starting with my music/drama-teacher wife, Cindy, and four “performers” (Madison, Zachary, Corydon, and Mackinley). It’s humbling living with a family of adept musicians, actors, and performers, since I’m the sole member lacking musical talent. (They don’t let me sing. I just listen.) I have two other adult children (Trina and Eric), from past marriages (that’s not a typo), two grandchildren (Jasmine and Junior), and a great grandchild (Abel). God’s grace and mercy have allowed me to live in a happy, harmonious marriage with Cindy for 24 years now.

My story is one of redemption. But, that is only part of it. God had reasons for birthing me in the middle of Mexico, and bringing me 2,000 miles to this part of the world. And, he had specific reasons for joining me with a Christian woman from Michigan. If you were to draw lines between Michoacán (abbreviated “Mich.”), Michigan (abbreviated in the old days as “Mich.), and the California city where we live today, it would reveal a beautiful triangle. Why would He take a poor Mexican boy in a then-small, highly indigenous town in Central Mexico, and lead him to a “successful” life in a country where the culture and the language are so different? Keep reading and learn with me.


14 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Jaclyn

    Thank you SO much for sharing, Uncle Manuel! It is inspiring to see how God transformed your life and brought you to be who you are today because of Him.


  2. Danny Victoriano

    Awesome story Manuel. The part about you only being able to listen and not participate in singing is hilarious. Great stuff my friend… I will continue reading.


  3. Jeff Campbell

    Wonderful story and one that shouldn’t be lost. In my view, your hard work, dedication to goals, and persistence accumulated into success and should be an example for all. Well done Manuel.


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