In July of 1992, with his wife and five children in tow (number six would be born in 1995), Mexico City native Fidel Ramirez arrived in Carpinteria seeking the “American dream.” Not a dream of fame and fortune, but the simple dream of a better life for his family. He was 45 years old. In 2019, on the eve of his 70th birthday, Ramirez proudly said that he’d found it. While he only knew a little English when he came to the U.S., Ramirez knew auto parts having worked as an auto-parts salesman in Mexico since 1966. So, he walked into NAPA in Carpinteria in 1993 and asked a Spanish-speaking employee about getting a job.
One might think that language would be a barrier, however Ramirez grabbed the parts catalogue and demonstrated an expert knowledge of every part—in English. (In Mexico, Ramirez had only ever used English parts catalogues.) The store manager was so impressed by his expertise—which included industry vocabulary—that he gave him a job on the spot.
-five years later, Ramirez remains a fixture at NAPA Coast Auto Parts on 901 Linden Ave., missing fewer than 10 days of work since 1993. He’s still going strong and has no plans to slow down. “Retire? How could I?” Ramirez said. “This is my passion. There’s nothing else I want to do. People come from Mexico to the United States—doctors, lawyers, dentists—and they have to change fields. But I’m fortunate, I got to keep doing what I love.”
In 2002, Ramirez added an evening job as a delivery driver at Giovanni’s on Carpinteria Avenue and continues to work there as well. Ramirez’ wife of 44 years, Ernestina (known affectionately by all as “Tina”), has been the cornerstone of his and his family’s success. All six of his children have gone on to become productive members of their respective communities. For example: Fidel, Jr., following his dad’s passion for cars, is a mechanic in Santa Rosa; Diego just completed his Master’s degree at Cal Baptist University while working fulltime at Santa Barbara City College; Andrea is preparing to graduate from San Francisco State University; Juliana, with the help of sister Natalia (who is a Cal Lutheran graduate), has built a successful accounting business in Ventura (JR Bookkeeping), which just celebrated seven years in business and has a staff of 10 employees.
The most remarkable lives are very often the most unremarkable. Day-in and day-out, they look exactly the same: wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner with the family, go to sleep and do it all again the next day. But let a person spend a few decades like that—just like Ramirez has—and they’ll make profound impacts on many, many lives. The Ramirez family will be celebrating Fidel’s 70th birthday on Sunday, April 28. For information on celebration details, or to find out how to attend, call (805) 708-3254.