Welcome/Bienvenidos to the LatinoDad Profiles – Interview Series where we have conversations with everyone from trailblazing Hollywood celebrity fathers to the local and global leaders in the reinforcement of healthy fatherhood, parenthood and manhood in our communities.
LatinoDad looks forward to engaging you with fresh perspectives and stories of our coveted leaders…men who like you, embrace their most important role, as FATHERS. Adelante!
This month, we are proud to have Juan Vasquez partner with us at LatinoDad. Juan has presence. At over 6 feet tall, brawny, bald and tatted up – he is a menacing looking character…or is he?
Like most at-risk Latinos who had a poor father figure in life, it is easy to get caught up in gang life and that is exactly what happened to Juan, who turned to the more senior of his Los Angele’s neighborhood’s gang and/or family members for guidance.
The father figures I found came from the older boys in the neighborhood or other family members.
Today, Juan Vasquez is a family man – an aspiring actor and an emergency room nurse. That’s right, a ‘nurse’. More on this later…
Juan Vasquez’s life-changing journey, the positive direction he decided to take, is what makes Juan a ‘stand out’ involved father who is also contributing to dispelling the myth of what a ‘caretaker’ looks like by taking on a career path traditionally held by women. You just simple can’t judge a book by the cover, ever.
Here is our interview with Juan Vasquez, actor, nurse and above all, a game changing LatinoDad.
LD: Please tell us about your family, Juan? How many children do you have? Married or Single Dad? Raising children with wife, separated with custody, co-parenting?
JV: I am married and we have two children we are raising together. A 4 year old daughter and an 18 month old son. I also have two older girls (13 and 16) from a previous relationship that I share 50/50 custody with and co-parenting.
LD: What has been your greatest challenge as a father and how or who do you lean on for help or guidance? How do you solve the many parental problems?
JV: My greatest challenge as a father was when I was raising my two oldest children as a single parent for about 5-6 years. My challenge was trying to figure out how to balance my time with being there for my children and working full time to provide for my children. It was a struggling trying to work 12 hour days and help them with their homework, attending school functions, and just spending time with them. I just tried to address every situations with what was best for my kids not for me. Now that I am married and we have kids we discuss everything. Even with my oldest girls. It is great having someone to discuss any parenting issues with. And it is nice to have a partner.
LD: What was your upbringing like? We know it was rough. What was your relationship like with your own father? If you were not raised by your own biological father – who was that father figure for you? If any?
JV: My biological father was not involved he left when I was a baby. My older brother was what I thought at the time to be a father figure, but he was out running the streets so wasn’t really around. I had a stepdad but he wasn’t very nice to us and my mother. I never felt like he was my real father or father figure. The father figures I found came from the older boys in the neighborhood or other family members. My mother did a great job at handling dual roles. She taught me to work hard, have great work ethics and how to be respectful.
LD: Who is someone, a leader, coach or mentor, a champion, a sponsor who has helped you in your profession as a ‘murse’? Someone who has the values and philosophy you admire and/or resonates with you? What was their message or best words of advice for you?
JV: There was no one that really helped me in the medical profession as a nurse. It was just my life’s struggles that pushed me to want a better life and I believe in myself and my kids are my inspiration to be the best I can be.
LD: Do you believe fathers get a bad wrap? Don’t have a good narrative in the media or beyond – seen as the ‘babysitters’, the ‘goofy dad’ or ‘absentee gangster father’ in the media? Does that narrative bother you?
JV: I do believe that fathers get a bad wrap and it bugs me because I am a very involved, hands on father. I understand because there are a lot of deadbeat dads that are not involved or are part time dads. I know some dads that want to be involved and the mothers won’t let them and the courts won’t help them or see them as deadbeat dads. Courts do favor the mothers, I have seen this not only in my case but in other fathers’ cases as well and it isn’t right. The laws favor the mothers no matter what and I believe both parents should be held to the same standard and both should be held accountable. I don’t think one parent should have to take all on the financial burdens or responsibilities on their own.
LD: How would you like to see fatherhood especially in the Latino/Multicultural or general community evolve and rightfully portrayed in the media? Are we not seeing enough positive father models?
JV: I would like to see father’s portrayed as more positive role models. You don’t see enough positivity towards involved fathers and towards single dads. There are a lot of both and they don’t get enough recognition. I remember seeing a commercial where they portrayed dads as not being able to brush the little girls hair or have her dressed matching or nice, not knowing how to change a diaper, give a bath, or cook for their kids. They make it seem like only a mother can do that. I did and still do all of that for my kids and there are many fathers out there that do that as well and that should be shown whenever possible.
LD: What made you become a nurse? Why nursing? What was that pivotal moment that said this is what you need to do to change things around for you and your family?
JV: I became an EMT and I loved taking care of people at their worst times but I was limited with what I could do. As a nurse I could do so much more for people. It also is a career that not only do I love but allows me to provide for me family and gives me job security. I wasn’t living the best life and once I had kids I didn’t want to lose everything so I changed my life around and became a nurse.
LD: Talk about being a nurse and the gender expectations? Did you receive any resistance in pursuing this career because you are a man? Did you, yourself have any doubts about entering a female-dominated field? Should more men pursue medical nursing?
JV: Being a nurse is a career that is stereotypically for women only. But they actually want more men in the field. So I had a pretty warm welcome from peers and patients. The only thing is that many women look to you as a man to do all the heavy lifting and deal with any difficult patients. There are protocols in place but they rather be quick and use a strong man. Other than that everyone wants more men in the field. I would encourage more men to become nurses but only if they have a passion for it not just for good pay. This job is very rewarding but you have to be passionate about helping people.
LD: Do hospital patients react differently because you a ‘murse’? You are a big, tall guy and can see folks getting intimidated by your stature and presence. How do you put patients at ease, if you have to. Any funny moments to share?
JV: Most of my patients do have a different reaction when I introduce myself. Once they interact with me and see that I am professional and they see my personality it usually puts them at ease. Some older patients seem to be a little intimidating when they first see me and kids seem to love me especially my height. One time I had this older patient and I went into the room to introduce myself and tell him that I was his nurse for the night. He said, “DAMN homie you a straight gangsta, you really my nurse?” I said, “Actually I’m housekeeping and we are very busy so I’m going to help and start an IV on you. And if you need that bath, I got you!” He started cracking up laughing and said, “I’m good, no bath needed.” It was a great ice breaker and made his time a little better and we had a good night with me as his nurse. Laughter is great medicine.
LD: Aside from being a nurse, you also act and appear as yourself in media projects, like the A&E clip ‘We are the unexpected’, sharing your story – it’s powerful. Talk about any latest projects or past projects that have received accolades?
JV: My first movie was Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. I was very lucky to land a principle role. It was my first time and was a great experience everyone was great to work with. I got to do a voice over with an avatar in Grand Thief Auto V, it was my first time in a sound booth and was a great time. I have done some short films the best was Sin Frontera about Mexican immigrants that have been here their whole lives and get deported to Mexico. I did a few other projects music videos, commercials, and so much more. I have been very blessed. But my A&E Look Closer project was my favorite one. It has been getting a lot of notice on Facebook. I am most proud of my A&E project because it was me being me and it was something I got to do with my son. The video of my son and me on the porch is just priceless and something we will have together forever. This project also seemed to touch a lot of people. They have reached out to me saying they saw the A&E commercial and it was inspiring to them to get their life together. Many people said that it was awesome to see someone that came from the same background as them doing positive things. Many people have reached out just to say thank you for sharing my story. I have been contacted by law enforcement and nonprofit groups to come and speak to at risk youth or inmates in prison. And a big honor was being a part of the LatinoDad Summit conference panel.
LD: Lastly, anything you’d like to add or say about your journey so far to include fatherhood today?
JV: I was raised in a Catholic home. My mother worked basically 7 days a week and she was not there physically or at any of my sports events. She was working not out partying or doing bad things she just wasn’t there. So as a father I want to be home and attend all of my kid’s functions. It is one of the reasons I picked to work night shifts so I won’t miss anything. I didn’t want my mom’s struggles and sacrifices to go to waste; so if I lived long enough I was going to change my life. Whether it was religion or luck my journey has been a crazy one. I have been shot and hit once, gotten in a lot of fights, and guns put in my face (somehow seven guns jammed – which saved my life). I’ve asked myself “Why am I still here?” I’ve had friends die. I’ve put toe tags on people younger than me with no medical problems. I was not going to waste my second chance or make excuses why I can’t do something positive. It’s easy to make excuses on why you can’t better yourself. The opportunities are not going to just be handed to you. You have to want to change and do it no matter what. I survive everything to do something big and I feel that I am doing that by being a nurse. I am making a difference and giving back. I like to live in the moment and live for today. Spending time with my kids is what I love to do, they make me laugh and so happy. They are my escape from the stress of work.