In early spring the Robledo Family Winery was abuzz with excitement. The news traveled from family members to friends and visitors that “don Reynaldo” was going to Washington as the special guest of Mexico’s President, Felipe Calderón, and the visit would include a State Dinner with U. S. President Barack Obama.
Explaining the reason for the invitation, Robledo told me that “Calderón takes pride in me because I remind him of the history of the bracero movement.” The founder of the Robledo Family Winery dedicated a 2004 vintage to the braceros of 1942, those “strong arms” who were brought to the United States through a diplomatic agreement with Mexico to supply a work force depleted by the draft during World War II. The program continued until 1964. Calderón sees Robledo “as an example, a source of pride for all Mexicans and other Latin Americans.” In fact, Robledo recounted that Calderón acknowledged the Sonoman at every opportunity. The highlight was before the State Dinner, when the Mexican president, after greeting Robledo with an embrace, introduced him to the American president, saying, “Here, Obama, is the person I told you about.” The two presidents continued to speak about how Robledo exemplifies successful immigrant history. The winery owner said that he was so overcome with emotion that it was hard for him to follow what the presidents next said to him. But he didn’t miss the opportunity to invite President Obama to Sonoma to sample some of the Robledo wines. Obama responded that he “would keep that in mind.” Caldereon had visited the winery two years ago.
In addition to dining at the White House, Robledo attended a luncheon at the White House, presided over by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and a breakfast the following morning. He said that Clinton commented to the luncheon guests on the situation for immigrants in Arizona, deploring the new measure as unworkable.
Reynaldo Robledo, Sr. is one of the first immigrant field workers in the U.S. to found a winery. His story starts in 1968, when he began to work in the vineyards, pruning. Gradually acquiring vineyard lands, the senior Robledo then launched a vineyard management company, and finally became a successful vineyard consultant and award-winning winery owner. The family now has more than 300 acres of vineyards in Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties.
Asked how he felt about his Washington visit, Robledo answered, “As a Latino, I feel very pleased to have represented my community. “ He added, “I understood that my story can inspire and motivate others to hope for and achieve a brighter future.”
Anna Pier, an occasional contributor to the Sun, directs the educational programs for CommonBond Foundation, whose mission is to bridge the cultures of Sonoma.