Miguel is from Nayarit, a city on the west coast of Mexico between Mazatlan and Guadalajara. He served in the Mexican Air Force, he says, but didn't like it much and came to the United States many years ago looking for better work. He labored for a while in the fields around Bakersfield but has been living on the streets of San Diego for the past three years. Despite his current situation, he doesn't show any interest in returning to Mexico.
His English is limited, but his gaze is sharp, his body still in pretty good shape. Curiosity led him to experiment with drugs in the past, he admits, but now his only vices are coffee and cigarettes.
It's late-afternoon, a gorgeous sparkly day at the harbor near Seaport Village. A propeller-driven plane carves small circles in the air overhead; tourists and pedicab drivers hustle to and fro. Miguel sits tranquilly on a shade-dappled concrete bench, sipping from a large Styrofoam cup of 7-Eleven coffee.
“I know how to do a lot of things,” he says many times, referencing his desire and ability to work more. He waits outside Home Depot in hopes of finding day jobs but says that so far he hasn't been able to get enough work to afford an apartment. He says he still dreams of one day having a home to settle down in when he's old.
A loner on the streets, Miguel doesn't have any other homeless buddies. He had a woman friend for a while but says he couldn't trust her not to steal from him. The only possessions he has with him today are a black backpack and a small camouflage umbrella.
The language barrier makes communication difficult, but it seems he had a green card for a while. He says he worked building fancy pools and waterfalls around Las Vegas but did so without a license, got caught and was supposed to spend a year in jail. He didn't, but now it seems he might regret his choice.
“In jail,” Miguel says, “you get three meals a day and a bed.”