Friends & Neighbors: Ruben Hernandez

This month’s interviewee is Ruben Hernandez. Ruben is a lovely neighbor, a long time Marfa resident and a car mechanic who helped fix my Jeep when no one else could.

Anett Gabriel: I’d like to ask you a bit about your background.

Ruben Hernandez: My parents moved here from Los Angeles when I was 4 years old in 1964. My dad was a mechanic, so he had me working with him in the shop, and that’s where I picked it up from.

I graduated from Marfa High School in 1980. After graduation, I started to work as a mechanic with Eddie Pierce Motors, and from there I went to work in Alpine for a dealership, Big Bend Ford, as a paint/body man and got promoted to a service manager. When they sold out, I carried on working with the renewed company, High Country Ford, and after that I came back to Marfa.

I had my own business, Hernandez Auto Repair from 1993 through 2003 until I sold the shop. (It was where the Marfa Live Arts is located today on West San Antonio Street.) After I sold the building, I became self-employed and worked out of my house until 2012, during which time I also worked for Marfa Aerostat for a short period, as well as worked for Shafter Silver Mine for almost a year until I got laid off in 2012.

And since then I started to work for the City of Alpine, where I’m still employed today, full-time as a mechanic. I work on heavy equipment, police cars and do small engine repairs. I really like to work in Alpine. It’s a good city and the people are great there. They treat me good, and that’s why I’m there.

AG: You continue to run your shop here on East Murphy Street, where you are still doing repairs from out of your garage part-time…

RH: The thing is, that there are no other mechanics around here or shops. And all of a sudden they’re just gone. I’ve got a dolly to tow with; whenever I can help the locals, I do it.

AG: What changes have you seen in Marfa throughout the years?

RH: Marfa has changed a lot. It’s not the Marfa that it was back then. There are lots of tourists, and when I go out to a bar, which I don’t do much, I don’t recognize local people anymore. In the old days, we would go out and party in the lot and just have the local police. And now we’re having too many cops.

There were a lot of businesses and grocery stores. Now we have only two. Then the abandoned houses you’ve seen before, now they’re all fixed up. It’s a good thing, since Marfa has been dying and it’s been bringing a lot of business to Marfa. Marfa is going into a tourist town, I think.

AG: What are your favorite things about Marfa?

RH: I like Marfa. It’s peaceful and there is no crime and violence. It’s a good place to live.

AG: Tell me a bit more about your family.

RH: My parents are still alive. They’re old, and I have to check on them every once in a while and take them to the doctors. My father just turned 88 in February. Mando, my brother, lives in Marfa and my sister Lotti lives in Alpine. My mom is Carmen, she used to have Carmen’s Cafe and had a very good business. Everybody misses her cooking. She’s still a good cook and occasionally still makes her famous donuts.

AG: And do you cook?

RH: My mom taught me a lot about cooking, and I know how to make a lot of stuff that she used to make. And I like a good BBQ.