Luis Garcia is the first Latino owner of Roosevelt Barbershop now Dreamers Roosevelt Barbershop. Photos Mayra Quintanilla
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There was a time when Luis Garcia, a 31-year-old resident of Des Moines, Iowa, gave up on his dream of doing what he loves the most and accepted that there would be no change. 

“It is what it is,” he thought to himself. Fortunately for him and many others like him, the change came in the form of a Presidential Executive Order and his dream finally turned into a reality.

Today, this DREAMer, as they call DACA program participants, has his own business and is working hard to succeed. 

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is President Obama’s deportation deferral program for DREAMers – undocumented young people brought to the United States as children. The program started taking applications on August 15, 2012. 

Luis Garcia was born in Cordova, Veracruz, Mexico. He lived there for over a decade, cared for by his grandparents while his mother earned a living in the US. 

“Life there is very different from here,” Garcia shares. “I remember I used to help my aunt sell limes, tomatoes, and such.”

He added that he used to spend a lot of time in the streets, which were getting dangerous. By the time he turned 11, he had seen some things kids his age shouldn’t experience. When his grandfather passed away and his grandmother could not take care of him anymore, his aunt told her sister, his mother, Garcia should join her in the United States.

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“What are you waiting for, my aunt asked my mom,” Garcia recalls. “Take your son with you. He is alone here. There is no life here.”

Soon, Garcia found himself in a new country. He said it was very hard for him because the school was very different from school in Mexico, and he did not speak any English.

“It was very, very, very hard,” Garcia says of his first years in the United States. “Not only because I did not know how to speak English, but I didn’t even know how to get to the bathroom because I did not know how to ask. It was hard to learn. It was a silent period in my life.”

He said there was even a time when he asked his mom to send him back to Mexico or to let him go to work because he did not understand anything in school. But his mom did not let him drop out. She pushed and encouraged him to continue.

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When he started high school he realized it was time to get serious and try to figure out what he wanted to do with his life after graduation. 

As a teen, Garcia was not satisfied with any barbershop in town. It seemed that they could not produce the styles he wanted.

“They did not do unique styles or designs. They were too classic,” he said.

At one point he got so frustrated that he asked his mom if she could buy him his own hair clippers. The next day he found a box of clippers on his bed. Garcia spent the next three hours in front of the mirror in the bathroom, but he ended up with the result he was looking for. Kids at his school noticed his haircut and soon started asking him to cut their hair. It was around that time that he started thinking that being a barber might be his thing.

After high school, he tried to enter the American College of Hairstylists. Unfortunately, this was before DACA, and he did not have a social security number so the school refused to accept him as a student. Garcia was upset, but he knew, like many other young immigrants, that there was nothing he could do. He started working at a restaurant and thought that his dream of becoming a licensed barber would never happen.

In August of 2012, President Obama established the DACA program and Garcia figured that was his chance to realize his dream of becoming a barber.

“At first, many did not believe in it. They thought it was a way to deport people,” says Garcia, sharing the cynicism many had about the DACA program in its early days. It sounded too good to be true. Despite his fears, he gathered the required documents and was one of the first applicants to the program.

As soon as Garcia received his social security card, he went back to the American College of Hairstylists and applied again. But being a DREAMer meant he could not get any financial aid or scholarships. He would have to work to pay tuition. The school offered him a payment plan where he would pay $1000 a month to cover the cost of school and supplies. He did not have that much money. He thought his dream was crushed yet again, but his mom stepped in to help her son. She worked extra shifts and sold some of her belongings to pay his monthly bill so he could go to school.

The hard work paid off and Garcia completed barber school. He started working for a local barbershop while dreaming of opening his own. He wanted to open it in five years, but the COVID pandemic derailed his plans. He stopped working for about two years during the lockdown. Once things got back to normal, he started looking for locations for his own barbershop.

“I was searching for locations, but it was not easy,” he remembers. “I had to follow many codes and it was expensive because prices went up.”

Fortunately, opportunity came knocking. Garcia received a call from a friend who said that the Roosevelt Barbershop was on the market. It has a long history in Des Moines. It was opened in 1934 and is considered one of the oldest barbershops in the metro area. It has had 5 owners since it was first opened and there was a chance Garcia could be the next one.

He did not have to think long about buying the Roosevelt Barbershop. While he loved the historic aspect of the place, he wanted to add a personal touch so he decided to call it Dreamers Roosevelt Barbershop.

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“It is very sentimental to me,” he explains. “If it wasn’t for the Dreamer program [DACA] I would not be a barber now. This program gave me a chance to go to school and become a barber.”

Under Garcia’s ownership, Dreamers Roosevelt Barbershop is planning some modern touches and may even expand one day. While bringing his shop into its next era, Garcia is firm on keeping the rich history of the Roosevelt Barbershop intact. He plans to build on its amazing historical background. The previous owner still works there, renting a chair from Garcia to service his longtime customers. Garcia has added 2 more Latino barbers to the team: Mayra Quintanilla and Adrian Camarillo. 

The Barbers of Dreamers Roosevelt Barbershop.
“Dreamers Roosevelt Barbershop a Barbershop for EVERYONE” – Luis Garcia

DACA has opened new opportunities for many people. A young Luis Garcia never imagined he would reach success in a new and unfamiliar country. With the support of his mother, he made it through many difficulties and is now the proud owner of his own business, Dreamers Roosevelt Barbershop. Many DACA recipients credit their parents as the original dreamers. They dreamed of a better life for their children, no matter the sacrifices they had to make to give them the chance to pursue happiness. They work hard in their new countries to remove barriers for their children, just like Garcia’s mother did when he needed help with tuition.

Today Garcia is a documented US resident raising a beautiful family with his wife Lacy and their 3 children, and he is living his dream of running his own barbershop.

Dreamers Roosevelt Barbershop is located at 851 42nd St., Des Moines, IA.

Luis Garcia is the first Latino owner of Roosevelt Barbershop now Dreamers Roosevelt Barbershop.

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