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Santiago arrived in California when he was 13 years old. An incredibly social and likable guy, he made a lot of friends at the Jr. High he attended. Remembering the words of his parents, "a chance to have life," he did his best to make peace with everyone and do what was necessary, even if that meant having to tolerate the insults that came with his accent, or lack of education. For 4 months he and his brothers were able to live with some distant cousins while they transitioned to an apartment of their own. His older brother, Sergio, forewent school and decided he would work two jobs; picking at the ranch by day, and working in the kitchen at night. Depending on his quick wits and his sociability, Santi would drop out of school when he noticed his brother routinely exhausted, so that he too could help out with all the expenses of living in the land of the free. Santiago remained consistent in his optimism to see them have life.

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Yessenia met Santi in Jr. High. He would always make her laugh. She especially loved his antics in avoiding answers to questions he didn't know the answer to in class - his witty comments got everyone else laughing, including the teacher. She could see through the fun loving exterior of a guy who seemed so carefree, into a young man with a lot potential to lead, but no one to nurture it. When she learned he had no parents, and his older brother worked all the time, she decided she would be Santi's balance in life.

After Yessenia returned from community college, at 21 years old she and Santiago were wed. He promised her she would always laugh, and that her life would always have adventure. She promised to laugh at him, and to always support him, especially as he grew into the man she saw he could be. She just didn't know how to get him there.