Jose Zavala (Jessica Palmer Photo)
If someone had to pick a single word to describe Jose Zavala, it would be hardworking. Although Roswell-born, Zavala’s family went to live in Uriangato, Guana Juato, Mexico. He got his first job delivering bread for local bakeries at the age of 6.
“They gave me a big hat where I could carry the loaves, so I could ride my bike and deliver the bread,” Zavala said. He earned 5 to 10 pesos a day.
The trait is shared by other members of the family. His father Eliseo Zavala Sr. stayed in the United States to work in Aurora, Ill. His grandfather gathered firewood and brought it back to town.
The family came back to Roswell when he was 8. “When we returned from Mexico, my family had no car. My mother got the permission from Furrs to take a shopping cart home and then my brother and I would walk the cart back again,” Zavala said.
“I didn’t have video games. I had a GI Joe and a soccer ball,” he said.
He didn’t feel a lack, then or now, having formed the opinion that many games promote violence.
His father bought a lawnmower and formed a business. Father and son would go door-to-door to get jobs mowing lawns. “We would get between $10 to $15 per job. The gardening business Zavala has maintained to this day.
At the age of 10, Zavala and a childhood friend picked chilies in the chili fields.
At the age of 14, Zavala applied to HELP (Home Education Livelihood Program) for low income students. “I became a custodian’s helper at Pecos Elementary,” he said. He remained in the program for four years. He refers to the late Joe Smith who helped him get into the program as his childhood mentor.
At the same time, Zavala maintained two other jobs, working at Taco Bell after school during the school year and in the mornings during the summer months. He also helped his uncle out at Margarita’s washing dishes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., then at Taco Bell from 4 to 10 p.m. — this on top of the lawnmowing business.
He continued with school, attending Pecos Elementary in 2nd and 3rd grades and Nancy Lopez Elementary for 4th and 5th grades. He returned to Pecos Elementary in 6th grade, and switched Mesa Middle School through 7th grade. Despite his heavy work schedule, Zavala’s grades were good enough that he skipped 8th grade, going directly into 9th.
Zavala played soccer at Roswell High School and he still plays. “I enjoy the outdoors. I like golf and I like fishing.”
At 17, he volunteered for the Roswell’s Police Department’s Technical Services Unit. Because of his age, he had to get special permission to work with them.
Zavala remained at Taco Bell until the age of 19 at which time he married. “I got a loan and bought a house.” He is now a proud father of two sons, Dominic, 4, and Emilio, 2.
He was working at a small loan company when he received a job offer from Bobby Villegas of Farmer’s Insurance, where he has worked as an agent for the last nine years. If Smith was a youthful mentor, Villegas has been a guide during his adult life. “I love insurance work; I like dealing with the people,” Zavala said. His favorite is commercial insurance, and he will be testing soon to get his Life and Health License.
He is going to school at ENMU-R. “I am four classes shy of getting a degree in criminal justice,” he said.
Zavala measures his life by goals, setting certain dates and certain deadlines. “I am going to get my license in landscaping this year and I hope to graduate (from the criminal justice program) in 2014.”
He was on the ballot for this year’s school board election. “If I had won, I would have been the youngest member of the school board. I had been thinking a lot about this since Sandy Hook and think I could bring some good ideas to the table.”
Zavala would like to get young people to stay in school. “I came up with a incentives to keep them there. I also want to encourage them to go on to college.”
He said he likes to help others and feels he has a lot to offer to the young due to personal experience. “Teenagers are very rebellious. I was one of them.”
He has always been a fighter, he said. “I got into fist fights when I was seven, fighting against older boys, age 13. I wouldn’t always win, but they knew that I’d be back.”
He admits when he was 12, he became involved in gangs. He got out when he was 13 after two friends got shot and another was stabbed. “It’s not something I’m proud of, but gangs were stronger then.”
Now he would like to make sure others learn from his mistakes. “Sometimes I counsel kids. I tell them to be patient. I tell them that their parents are right. They will figure this out when they get older.”
The fighting spirit remains. Zavala trains in cage fighting, although he doesn’t plan to fight himself. He enjoys physical fitness.
He also follows other more pacific pursuits. He is a member of Save Our Youth Mariachi and the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. He says he enjoys all types of music. “I’m learning how to play the accordion.”
Zavala wants to contribute to his community. “I would like to become involved in city government. I would like to run for City Council in Ward 4, which is where I live. The position will be open in 2014.”