Now playing in theaters: Rudy's Amazing Return to Pelican
“Pelican Rapids has everything. A diverse community, opportunities; it’s truly amazing how much there is going on in such a small hub.”
When choosing a movie soundtrack to one’s life, you couldn’t go wrong if “happy” was in the title.
That image certainly comes to mind in meeting Rudy Martinez. Big smiles. Laughter. A love story. Overcoming barriers. Plus an amazing alignment of stars.
Not the Hollywood star type; more like the “this was meant to be” type. Cue soundtrack.
Start in second grade. Rudy lives in Uriangato, a modest farming region in central Mexico. For years his parents were migrant farm workers in the United States learning of the American Dream first-hand. But joining that dream in the land of opportunity wasn’t easy; his family’s starts and stops as they navigated the venture caused many anxious moments.
But Rudy’s relatives said work was readily available for his parents in Pelican Rapids and they finally made it there…in the midst of winter.
“I remember getting off the bus in Fergus Falls and there was snow up to my chest,” Rudy said (that was 1997, a year of surplus snow) “and I remember freezing.“
He was eight-years-old in a new place and Rudy didn’t know how to speak or read English. So the first months of school were challenging to say the least. But he did understand numbers and he found he had a gift for math. Later that summer Rudy taught himself English - watching cartoons - and settled into life in small town Pelican Rapids.
Fast forward. High school graduation - “I was an ok student,” he laughs - and a first generation college degree. He continued to date Katie, his high school sweetheart who was the only girl on the new Pelican Rapids soccer team. He lands a good corporate job in the Twin Cities - “I wanted to try something different” - as did Katie, so life was really humming along.
Marriage and family soon followed, yet Rudy and Katie knew they wanted to return to their rural roots. “For me, the ‘aha!’ moment was sitting on the 35-W bridge, bumper to bumper, above the Mississippi. And Katie is texting me to come home and help with the baby,” Rudy said. “At that moment I said I can’t do this anymore. I got home that night, told Katie that we should start thinking about moving back home and she cried and said yes.”
The rest of this story is one of wonderful fate. It was just a week after the traffic jam realization set in that, one-by-one, job opportunities in Pelican Rapids came their way. Shortly after that, job interviews were set up.
On the same day. At the same time. And as if by script, other facets of going home fell in place.
Rudy reflects on where they were and where they are now.
“In the cities, everyone seems in a hurry. I worked in a corporate setting and all they mostly seemed to care about was your performance numbers. Literally, my performance review would start with hearing that they wanted to focus on my numbers and it was not the place to share personal stuff.” In a small town “people respect you for being a person and not a number,” he said.
Rudy goes on. “Pelican Rapids has everything. A diverse community, opportunities; it’s truly amazing how much there is going on in such a small hub,” Rudy said. “You have a feeling you belong, everyone seems happy, they want to say hi and know about your day.
“You can’t put a price on that. You can’t trade that for anything.”
And let’s roll the “happily ever after” credits.