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DAUGHTER: I remember, holy shit, I haven’t thought about this in ages. I was at my dad’s when my parents were separated. I was at my dad’s house rooting through stuff in his bedroom because I was being nosy. And I’m in this like little walk-in closet and in his closet I had found this like box, a black box, sort of like what you would find, you know, really fancy dresses in.
And I opened it up and there was all these tiny little black pouches in it. And I opened one of the pouches out and like shook it out and it was, this is gonna sound so crazy, but it was like emeralds and jewels. Tons of black, little pouches and maybe six or seven in each pouch. And the ones that I remember most clear was emeralds. So I put it back and no big deal.
And a couple of weeks later, my dad had given me a ring that had an emerald in it and it was gold. And I remember he had to put tooth floss or something. Around it because it wouldn’t fit me. And I felt so proud because it was the first jewelry my dad had ever given me.
Like real jewelry that wasn’t like a little heart or Hello Kitty. And so I remember being nine or 10 and for about a year or so thinking, okay, my dad’s a jeweler. Maybe he imports emeralds from Columbia, and sells ’em to jewelry places here. And I really couldn’t tell you at that time what my parents did for work.
SON: He was the kind of dad that like, got us like power wheels. Like my sister had like a Lamborghini power wheel and it had a Jeep Cherokee power wheel. We had, like, our rooms were– we had two separate rooms that were like decked out with everything. He gave us everything we wanted, and he like, pretty much spoiled us. He was a good dad.
I grew up with him up until I was about like eight years old. We didn’t live together, but he lived in the same neighborhood as my mom. When you talk to my mom, she could be like, I was fucking scared outta my mind and she didn’t convey it to us. When you sit with my mom, I’m gonna get a lot from it cause I don’t know this shit.
These are the questions that you’d expect someone to have asked, but like, I’ve just never asked them. Did you wanna go over the name stuff? Remember Mom, we’re not using our names.
MOTHER: But I have to change the names.
SON: Well, that’s what they’re gonna, I don’t know how you guys wanna do it. What’s a name mom that you like a lot but isn’t connected to in any way to you?
MOTHER: Make it Rocio, that’s my best friend from Dominican Republic. No, yeah. Rocio. Yeah. The last name. Let’s go. Gomez? Yeah. Rocio Gomez. Rocio Gomez. I write it down so I can remember.Hi. My name is Rocio Gomez. I’m the mother of…
SON: Just say Jeff, Jeff at Casena. Don’t even worry about the last name.
MOTHER: Okay. My son name is Jeff and my daughter Casena. I got out so early from Dominican Republic when I was only 11, came to New York. We came here and I remember it was snowing, and my uncle and my aunt, they used to live here. And they came to the airport with coats. First time that I wore a coat. I skip school, I did a lot of skipping school.
If I had a class that I didn’t like or whatever, I would skip that. And then the next day I was skip– I would miss so much that they would call my father, you know? So I was always in the principal office. Trust me, I was a tomboy. I would fight. I had the strength, I have the ability, and I was fast. I would go, I don’t care if I get beat up.
I became like a little gang, a little clique, maybe like eight. We used to wear our jacket, A jacket Lee, Levi’s. Yeah, with a name and everything, and I was the leader. We didn’t do nothing bad. I didn’t like people doing things to people that cannot defend themself. Whoever was picked on, we were there to protect them. Latinas, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, we used to have a lot of South Americans.
I remember this girl from Ecuador, she had long hair, black, long hair, and she was going up the stairs. And this, black kids, they started putting a match in her hair when I saw that and I just jump and fight. I remember smoking pot the first time and I remember laying down cause I freak. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t see. This is a pot. And then I just did not, I didn’t wanna mess around with drugs.
DAUGHTER: She met my father at something similar to Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was a chicken shop.
MOTHER: And it was summertime in Queens. We were painting the house. My father and I and my father wanted some beer, so I says, okay. I go over there they have it cold. So I went over there and they used to sell fried chicken. And the guy that was selling the fried chicken went to my high school and I said, Hey, hi, how are you? This and that and whatever.
And I turned around and there’s a gentleman there and his friend. My dad tells a story that he saw this beautiful, elegant, tall woman in these tight jeans in front of him. And he kind of like inched his way forward in the line and started up a conversation with her.
DAUGHTER: He asked me, Hey, do you need any help? Do you know what it is? I says, no, no, no, no. I go, Hey, I got my car here if you need that ride. I says, no, thank you, I live only two blocks away. But he kept coming and said, come on, come on, let me help you. And I says, heck it. I gave him the beer. And I said, I start walking out. Said bye-bye to the guy.
And he kept walking with me. He started asking me questions, where you from? And I, oh, don’t tell me you Puerto Rican or Venezuelan. And I said, no, I’m Dominican. I said, oh, how could you? Yes, and whatever. We were just having a conversation. He told me why he came here.
SON: My dad was born in Colombian and left to come to the United States. And he’s in New York and he’s going to school out here.
DAUGHTER: To study English and business at the local community college.
MOTHER: But his goal is going back to Colombia to help his father. Cause his father, his grandfather had a lot of land, especially rice and cattles. My family, they had cattles and they have rice and they have we have that in common. Says, oh, we got land too in Dominican Republic and this, and farming and everything.
And I see him for the first time. I don’t find him, you know, his face wasn’t beautiful. It’s his ways his ways. He will come open the door for you. You know, he is a gentleman, and he speak a beautiful Spanish. People that comes from Bogota their Spanish is superior. It sounds so beautiful, especially when you are getting a girl to fall in love with you, oh it works like magic.
That next weekend we went to the worlds fair and I remember the second day I kiss him. It was then the beginning of my relationship with their father, Rodrigo. After being like three months or so, or maybe more, we were gonna go to a little party in Queens College.
It was nice, a lot of salsa, so we were gonna go all the way over there. So he picked me up, I’m in his car and he went out to get some cigarettes or something like that. And I see, I looked down and in the rug, the little rug, you know the mat on his side. I see like the point of an envelope. There was that. And I read, I see his name, another lady name. i said, what the heck? It’s a divorce decree thing. So this fucking guy is married. I put it back. I didn’t say anything until we got there.
DAUGHTER: My dad had been married to this Jewish woman so that he could gain his residency to live here.
SON: The fuck is this?
DAUGHTER: So my mom was pretty upset. They fought about it.
MOTHER: He panicked and he says you didn’t live with her whatever. Maybe it was the green card, of course, they were married and they were living in the same house. He did live with her. He did fuck her. He did all that stuff. And she had three kids. The girl was ugly. That’s another thing.
I mean, you know, she was ugly and kinda old. I don’t want nothing to do with this guy. As that’s it. I stopped seeing him, whatever. One day I come in to the house and he’s over there. He had a cut all the way from his forehead to top of his head. A cut, a big, huge cut, and my mom was putting whole towels and stuff like that. So I walk in, I says, what happened?
He got drunk, he had a car crash. The car was almost totaled. So I end up taking him to the hospital. He got like, I don’t know how many stitches. Took him home to his house and made up again. That was my chance to break up, but made up. Okay, He loves me, he whatever.
And his words he was good with it. I got married in 1978. Then we were gonna go to the honeymoon, but we got the surprise that your grandfather wanted to come to the honeymoon and grandmother and aunt and uncle. So we had to change a honeymoon plan to go to Niagara Falls. Right there I should have walked out. In 1979, we moved to Bogota, Colombia. You know just to help his father.
DAUGHTER: My grandfather made a name for himself farming rice. Did really well for himself. Bought more and more and more land and started expanding into cattle. And my dad came back basically to help run that.
MOTHER: Because my husband’s brothers were getting into air Force. They all wanted to become pilot. I don’t know why, but he was gonna be left alone with so much land. That was the beginning of my life there. Once I knew that I was going to Colombia, my father make me become an American citizen.
Because he’d said that Columbia wasn’t a stable country and at least they will take care of all the Americans. I met the family. I met the family. They were very nice Colombians. They were country people. They grew up in a small town. If they went to a sixth, seventh, eighth grade, that was a lot.
You know what I mean? They didn’t have the culture. Cause it wasn’t like me, I went to good schools. Knew my history. I knew where I come from. And not them, they were campesinos. They were like country folk. They were just working the land. And they took me and see the land and see me countryside. It was beautiful. It was nice. Everybody was so nice.
And, I’m gonna spend two years over here. I don’t care, you know, it’s fine. I was teaching English to little kids. My husband will go and work in the country on his land, his father land. And we’ll beginning to see production money from the land and. Life was good. Then I got pregnant.
Pregnant of Casena and when I was around, Three months. I wanted to wear my maternity dress and I was gonna go out. Well, my husband was gonna take me out for the first time looking like a pregnant girl. I’m gonna go out and eat dinner with my husband. And he said that he was gonna come back.
He was gonna pick up his brother, younger brother, and they never came back. I waited two hours and so, and one of the son of my neighbor came in a car and I says, let me go to the centro. Centro is the center of the city. That’s where my husband and family used to hang out.
So I went over there and the car, I didn’t see nowhere but passing by a little disco that usually was meant for the mosa’s. They call it the mosas over there. Married guys will bring the girls that were now their wife over there to dance and have a good time. And the car was right in front over there. So I went in, he was dancing with a beautiful girl.
Really young, like 17 year old. And I pulled my husband out of the place and he came, he got startled, he got– and he’s apologizing and he’s making excuses for himself and whatever. Then his brother came in, I was already screaming to him and. And the thing that hurt me the most, it was because it was so much meant to me to go out with a little belly already.
Well, that happened. So I said, heck it, I’m gonna have my girl in the United States. That was my main priority. But then, yeah here we go. That’s when everything started. Everything started with Mafia, with the Colombian mafia.
SON: Basically everything that happened with my dad and his brothers, my uncles, the way that it’s always been in my head presented in a way was that like he was over here and then one of his brothers was like, hey man, you know, the land and all that, that mom and dad left us. We figured out something to do with it. Come back and be a part of it cuz we’re making money.
MOTHER: One of my husband’s younger brother was the first one that started dealing with illegal drugs. He was an Air Force pilot. They proposed to him to do a trip to the Bahamas. For marijuana and pay him $15,000. And I remember he bought a Honda and it was kind of a orange, beautiful color, like really shiny, but a nice orange. Everybody liked that car.
At the beginning it was all marijuana then started being cocaine. Yeah, another brother got enlisted and then the other brother. And my husband function was mainly, it was the money laundering. He would do the money part because he couldn’t be a pilot. It was a corporation that used to bring flowers here from Columbia. And he will take the money to that corporation. But he was the one that, it was in charge with his mafioso.
He was in charge of getting all the money together to send it back to Colombia. They were using the landing strip of my father-in-law. He has cattle there, but he has a landing strip. That landing strip was being used for drug dealers to land and take off and refuel. People from the Air Force will go equipped with machine guns and stuff like that, and they used to get out first and search the area before we could come out.
We were doing a flight, all the pilots. And that load was somebody very important. Two parties involved from two mafia guys. It was four planes going to Bolivia, I believe, or Peru. One of the planes got caught. My ex-husband, youngest brother was caught by the police. So they couldn’t get out.
My ex-husband is not a pilot, so he’s staying in Bogota. And he saw that his brother, youngest brother, was caught. He came out and stayed with him, giving up the drugs and whatever. They got arrested. They were thrown to jail. That came out on the newspaper. All over the world. All over the world. Dominican Republic, my family saw it. And then all the negotiations started. Money’s big.
They already bought all the people in the jail. And when they were there in jail, they were partying. They will bring them food. They got the best thing. They bring them girls. They already had everything set up for them. My apartment in Bogota was set up for all the communication so we could talk to them from prison anytime.
So all of those mafia lords used to come in the nighttime to my house, and talk to them. The mafia, they pay off, I think it was $2 million to get the release. And they bought a lot of politician. And they bought a lot of everybody. And they were out. They were out like maybe two weeks or something.
PRODUCER: So they must have felt probably invincible.
MOTHER: They were. It was very corrupted. You were very well protected by the cops, by whoever. Nobody will mess around with us. They know, especially who you work for, they will not mess around with now. And over there at that time, being a mafioso, it was even better than being a doctor. People will, even political people, people in the bank that used to see you like God.
Even though they knew what you were doing, you know what I mean? When I used to go to our restaurant and one of them would walk in or whatever, or, I mean, it was like if the Pope would come in. The respect they used to get, it was mainly the respect. And me being in there, I didn’t– it came to a time that I didn’t give it too much thought. I used to go out to the spot. I used to play cards in the club, the best clubs they had. It was always the biggest celebration anywhere.
The parties, they were so fancy. So I had the best dress, I had the best. We used to go and even be with President of Columbia celebrations and stuff like that. And it was never wrong. I used to go to my drawer and take out $500 if I wanted. This was going to a farm and seeing a horse and I want 15 of them. How much is horse?
And this horse I came from the Middle East and they cost a fortune and you don’t care. You like that plane, you get that plane. Whatever I wanted, whatever I wanted, had. And I didn’t have to work for it. I didn’t have to do anything for it. You become in a state that is natural.
It is all so freaking natural. That’s a way of making money, that’s a way of whatever. If I didn’t give it a lot of thought and I wasn’t brought up the way it was, people were just fine with it. The only thought that I had, it was how much harm we were doing. That was always in the back of my mind. If they only knew and they only knew.
And the whole thing is, I guess because even though Columbia has a lot of drugs they don’t have a lot of users, you see. And if they have users, they, well, maybe it’s– I’ve seen people maybe doing cocaine and, but that was like the lowest kind of side. You don’t– you didn’t see that.
You didn’t see people– oh yes he’s a drug addict, or he has a habit, or– you don’t see that as you see it here. It wasn’t affecting them, so they didn’t care. When I came to my, mother-in-law and my father-in-law, and I says, hey, you know you’re gonna see babies shaking from addicts. You know how much people you guys are hurting. I seen that when I was in the states. They didn’t seem to matter.
My brother-in-law and husband, the bought them beautiful apartment in Bogota. It must have been like maybe 2 million dollars. As long they were giving him stuff, everybody was fine. His mom believed that if a woman wouldn’t be faithful or wouldn’t do the thing for the man or whatever she should be hitting in the mouth. (Spanish saying) Is animal mouth to the animal. And she said it just like that to me.
My sister-in-law’s there, they will follow whatever the husband wants and they didn’t mind. I wasn’t raised that way. But sometime I just played the role. I just laid back and says, well, one of these days it’s gonna be over, or for me to take my kids. At that time I still love my husband and, um, but I knew that it was wrong. I always said that it was wrong.
I was already becoming too, maybe Colombian thinking. Just saying, yes sir, no, sir, and doing whatever they want. Yes, maybe I was, and I don’t know. You see it, it is different when you already had things in life. I had cars and whatever, and now I was raised in New York, fancy car, everything. I used to see it. So it wasn’t like a big deal. For everybody there it was.
I was never born poor. They were, you know, that’s a big deal. But, once you in it, you want more and more and more. And I saw it. And the competition, it was also between the brothers. If one other brother has something, the other one want it. And want it even better. Between them they were already fighting because of the money. It came to that family– I mean, it is destroyed because of that. The greed, the greed. And then as they get bigger, the bigger problems they have.
I used to see Americans coming in that I have to look pilots and I have to translate for them. And you have to be very careful. And I used to see that they used to be with bodyguards and stuff because they didn’t want them to make phone calls or whatever. Cause we didn’t know if they were working for the DA or they were informant on what they were. And I began to understand. I says, man, shoot, I’m here, I’m playing a really huge role here.
I’m involved as anybody is. That used to make me not want to go to sleep? That used to make me really bad. I wanted to leave this world, the drugs, get away from that kind of life. Get away, just get away. And my hope it was that– let’s go to the United States. I will talk to my husband about it and he says, don’t worry, we’re going to get out. You know, just make enough money to what? Just what more money.
I think we have enough. I didn’t need it. I didn’t need it. I didn’t need it. And plus what comes with it? And even though you know how much money I had, I wasn’t content. I wasn’t, it wasn’t filling me up. It wasn’t the life that I want. And I didn’t want my kids to grow up. I want them to be educated properly. I didn’t wanna bring up my kids with that, in that.
I would tell my husband, I will fight with him. It was the same. We are going back. We are going back. We are going back. We are going back. But it never seems to us going back. It is so hard to break, so hard to get out so hard to everything that my husband, I guess because all his family was on it, he couldn’t break apart. He couldn’t.
And I knew then that I will never break apart neither. Either he get caught, maybe, or whatever. It was never gonna end. One of the mafiaso also, remember he said over there, and this is Gatcha, I don’t remember his name, but they used to call him Gatcha. He says, you know, once you start building, the more you want to build.
No matter you won’t be content just with one house. You’re gonna build more. That’s what it is all about. The greed, the money, the more you have, the more you want. Yeah. But it never stop.