A Rogers man who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally three times as a child says he has endured plenty of rejection and racism, but now he can be called something else -- doctor.
Cesar Hurtado, 32, received his medical degree in May from Ross University School of Medicine after many years of working as a local paramedic and applying several times to medical school.
“Each case impacts me, but I can’t let it affect my life.”
Dr. Cesar Hurtado
Hurtado was accepted into Ross and studied in the Caribbean island of Dominica for two years before finishing the last two years in Maryland.
He now begins three years of residency at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Fayetteville.
Before he discovered his medical calling, Hurtado was a 9-year-old who entered the United States illegally through Nogales, Ariz.
"I jumped a fence," Hurtado said, adding he came with his mother and five siblings in search of a future better than was offered in their native Tarandacuao, Guanajuato, in the central lowlands of Mexico.
The Hurtados settled in Rogers, where his father had been working legally since the late 1980s and had applied for residency for his family.
"When I came here, I didn't know the language, but because I was a child I adapted very quickly," said Hurtado, whose primary and secondary studies were in the Rogers Public Schools system.
For family matters, Hurtado, his mother and his siblings had to return to Tarandacuao twice while their legal immigration status was still processing.
To return to his life in Rogers, Hurtado crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally two more times -- once at age 12 "through a hole" in Naco, Ariz., he said, and once more at age 15 through Eagle Pass, Texas.
Hurtado studied at Elmwood Junior High School, where Tina Matranga Howlett taught him English as a Second Language.
"It gives me great joy to have been a part of his education," Howlett wrote in an email. "Dr. Cesar Hurtado is an outstanding role model not only for the Latino community, but also for our immigrant students and English learners. Cesar learned English, continued to challenge himself, and persevered through various obstacles in order to realize his dream of becoming a doctor."
Hurtado became a legal U.S. resident in 2000, graduated from Rogers High School in 2001 and immediately went to Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.
There, one of his mentors was Monte Gagliardi, who taught one of his classes in 2003. Gagliardi said it was obvious to him Hurtado was going to go far in the medical field after success on a dysrhythmia test.
"I said, 'This guy needs to do something beside being a paramedic,'" Gagliardi said. "I'm just excited for him and also his family and all the people he's going to take care of. He's going to provide great care to people; he cares about people, and that's the most important thing. He's going to do an excellent job."
Hurtado received his associate's degree in 2004 and went to work as a paramedic at Central EMS.
He said he and his team of paramedics picked up the body of a young woman stabbed to death by her boyfriend in the Colonial Arms apartments in Fayetteville in spring 2008.
"Each case impacts me, but I can't let it affect my life," said Hurtado, adding he had to imagine the corpses were mannequins.
Setting his sights on becoming a doctor, Hurtado later studied biology at the University of Arkansas, graduating in 2011.
Today, Hurtado is a married father of two baby girls. He credits all his family for his success.
His mother, Maria Elena Hurtado, deflected the praise and said the achievement of the medical degree is due only to her son's efforts, admitting she and her husband were too busy working to dedicate time to their children.
"How many parents have their kids and they don't take care of them, and they follow the wrong footsteps," she said in Spanish, unable to contain tears. "We didn't take care of him enough, that's why I think it's something he wanted to accomplish, it was not because of us, it was all him."
NW News on 06/13/2016
Print Headline: Mexican immigrant earns citizenship, medical degree