By BRITTANY MATTOX
The smell of roasted coffee beans infuses the air of a local Starbucks, on a gorgeous Tucson morning. Behind an HP laptop, sits one Pima Community College student who’s unlike the rest.
Luis Ateca, 28, may seem like an ordinary student, but his journey to PCC has been different from most of his classmates. At the age of 8, Ateca left his homeland of Ciudad Juárez to move to the United States.
“As a kid, I wasn’t an idiot,” he says. “I knew there was a big difference between the kids in the U.S. and me.”
After spending much of his childhood in Juárez, comparing his home to the United States seemed almost unfair.
“They had beautiful homes, better schools, the city looked way cleaner,” he says. “Basically their living situation was far more ideal than mine.”
He moved to El Paso, Texas, in 1996 and escaped the most violent era Juarez had ever seen. From 2008 to 2012, his hometown was overthrown by violent cartels, with almost 4,000 reported homicides taking place in 2010 alone.
Later, he and his family moved to Tucson where he spent the remainder of his youth. While his childhood may seem extreme in comparison to students born in the U.S., he insists that it was very similar.
“Before all the violence started, we would just do what kids do,” he says. “We played outside, we played Super Nintendo, we watched movies.”
Once he became a citizen of the U.S., he says he was able to live the life he’d always wanted. Now he spends his days doing schoolwork to obtain his degree in business administration.
Amy Cramer, who teaches microeconomics at West Campus, is one of his favorite instructors.
“She’s fantastic,” he says. “She’s always there to help the students whenever someone has a question about the material. She’s up there as far as top-notch teachers go at Pima.”
Though he has been at Pima since graduating from high school in 2006, he believes he’ll finish his studies soon. “It’s taking me forever,” he says.
Once he obtains his associate degree, he intends to transfer to the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.
After graduating, he hopes to get a job working for a large company like Walt Disney or World Wrestling Entertainment. “I’m a big wrestling fan,” he says.
When he isn’t watching WWE on television or attending local wrestling events, he takes in all Tucson has to offer.
“I’m a foodie,” he says. “So I like to go out and try different restaurants and different cuisines here in Tucson.”
One of his favorite entertainment venues in Tucson is the Loft Cinema.
“I’m a huge cinephile,” he says. “I love watching movies.”
He dubs “Pulp Fiction” as his favorite movie of all time. “That’s the one movie that made me realize that I’ve been watching movies the wrong way,” he says.
Having viewed his fair share of flicks, he decided to take on an acting gig in a few of his friend’s films. His first role was in “The Lost Dog,” whose title discloses the majority of its plot. His most recent project, “Gordon Moss,” is expected to be finished soon.
“They are short films for the most part,” he says. “In one of them, I am the main protagonist. The other one, I was just a supporting character.”
The films have helped him to secure his own Internet Movie Database page, but he doesn’t plan on acting ever again. “I realized I’m an awful actor,” he says.
In the future, he hopes to take on more directing responsibilities in place of acting. “I see myself being behind the camera,” he says.
While he doesn’t consider himself an artistic type, he has attempted several creative ventures throughout his lifetime.
“I used to write songs back in my early years,” he says. “I haven’t done that as much as I used to.”
His now disbanded rap group, Spicy Deluxe, did earn him a reputation in high school. But now he focuses on different aspects of his creative side. “I’m pretty good at coming up with characters and movie concepts,” he says. He hopes one day to profit from his ideas.
Ateca prides himself on cultivating meaningful friendships, but says growing older has put many of his bonds into perspective.
“As the years pass, you start to see some people aren’t going to stick around,” he says. “But your true friends will be there for you through the years.”
Not wanting to lose touch with his roots, Ateca keeps in touch with many of his childhood friends. He also visits family in Juarez a few times each year, now that the city is being revived.
Priding himself on his generosity, he offers advice to those seeking lasting friendships. “Never expect anything in return,” he says. “Give, but don’t expect to receive.”
Ateca’s friends say they always have a reason to smile when he is around. His closest friend, Gianni Febbraro, says there’s never a dull moment when his pal is at his side.
“You’ll never find a classier gent than Luis Ateca,” Febbraro says.
Ateca says he is exited to meet new people throughout the rest of his academic journey, but is more than grateful for the friends in his life.
“I am good with what I have, and those people are the ones that I should care about right now,” he says. “Not try to impress the rest of the crowd.”
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