When Gener Martinez Rendon first came to the United States at 20 years old he didn’t speak a word of English. Today he provides financial advice for Spanish speaking and English speaking alike.
Much like any immigrant coming to the U.S., Rendon was looking to achieve the American dream: a family, a good job and his basic securities and freedoms.
“Everybody comes here for the American dream and for an opportunity,” Rendon said. “When I got here I didn’t know any English. It was a little bit difficult but my goal was to better myself and have an opportunity.”
Rendon said that his childhood in the rural area in the south of Mexico was a typical one for that area. He attended a school that required him to wear a uniform each day but only supplied him with one uniform.
He said that he learned to wash clothes at an early age and since his father’s work required him to travel he also took on many of the household chores to help his mother.
“I learned a lot of the house chores and my mother taught me a lot of things and has been a very important part of my life,” Rendon said. “She was the one who inspired to better myself and she was very helpful.”
Rendon decided that he didn’t want to spend his life in Mexico because of the lack of opportunities.
“I grew up in a community where there are not many opportunities and there’s a lot of nepotism and so if you don’t know somebody then you can’t get a job,” Rendon said. “When I came here it was like the dream.”
Rendon said that he made his way to Yadkinville to live with family in 1995. He began working in tobacco but quickly realized that this wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life.
He moved on to a job at Sara Lee where he was able to learn English and take some classes.
“I think one of the keys to learning English for me was that I had family that encouraged me a lot,” Rendon said. “I remember that I was with one of my cousins and he wouldn’t allow me to watch Spanish television and all we watched was English and that’s kind of how we learned.”
He got to start his career in banking when Lexington Bank was looking for a bilingual employee and gave Rendon a chance. The bank allowed him to attend Forsyth Tech in Winston-Salem for training.
He then went on to Allegacy Credit Union where he moved quickly through the ranks and ended up a sales and service team leader.
“I was doing loans and we started a program called Allegacy in Espanol that focused just on the Hispanic community,” Rendon said. “Our goal was to grow our Hispanic community and we certainly did that through that program. It’s been a great journey for me.”
All this time Rendon continued to live in Yadkin County and hope for the day that he could work and serve the people of the county that he now called home. After he left Allegacy he and his family left the U.S. and returned to Mexico for a year before Rendon realized that it just wasn’t the place for him anymore.
He returned home to Yadkinville and applied for work with BB&T. He was ecstatic to learn that they wanted to hire him for their Yadkinville multicultural branch.
“BB&T gave me an opportunity and I’ve been happy here ever since,” Rendon said. “When they offered me the job and I learned that I would be working in Yadkinville I was very excited because I know a lot of people in the town and I thought that I would be an asset for them.”
Since then Rendon has been active in the community by volunteering in the food pantry at Divine Redeemer Catholic Church in Boonville, coaching a children’s soccer team at the Yadkin Family YMCA and trying to stay fit and healthy with his friends and neighbors during his daily workouts at the Y.
Rendon said that he would like to get more involved by joining committees and boards in the county to provide a better representation of the Hispanic community in Yadkin.
“I would love to see all of my fellow Hispanic community be more involved,” Rendon said. “I would like to see a lot more communication and understanding. There are a lot of misconceptions about the Hispanic community in general but I would love for us to have more presence so that people would understand what we’re about and what we’re here to do.”
Rendon said that the most important thing in his life is his family. He has a wife who he’s shared 14 years with and a 12-year-old son and six year old daughter. He said that after spending a year with them in Mexico he couldn’t imagine raising them anywhere else but he does want them and all young Hispanics to remember their culture and not be ashamed of it.
“A lot of the Hispanic kids growing up here forget about the culture and they don’t want to speak the language and it’s like they feel ashamed of where they come from,” Rendon said. “Here you should be able to speak English because it is the primary language but you should also be able to keep your traditions and your culture and speak your language. It’s not anything to be ashamed of.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.