Francisco and Oyuki Blanco enjoy looking through family photos at La Reyna Photography in Decatur. They have been in north Alabama 18 years after first living in Denver after leaving their home country of Mexico. [MICHAEL WETZEL/DECATUR DAILY]

Francisco Blanco, his wife Oyuki Blanco-Castro and their three children see their friends and co-workers get excited every fall when college and NFL teams take the field. But they admit American football has them stumped.

“It’s complicated, hard to follow,” Oyuki, 44, said at her Trinity home. “We like soccer here, and of course, in Mexico.”

The Blancos are among 21st century immigrants to north Alabama. They've been in the area 18 years, and two of their three children were born here. Oyuki says the family sees north Alabama as home, and she has fond memories of raising her children here.

That doesn't mean they've mastered the concept of American football.

Even their son Deyvi Blanco, 21, who has lived in north Alabama since he was 3, doesn’t fully grasp American football. Their other two children are Axel, 14, an eighth grader at West Morgan Middle School, and Yahir, 5, a kindergartner at West Morgan Elementary.

“I know here everyone is either for Alabama or Auburn,” said Deyvi, a 2018 graduate of West Morgan High. “I like Auburn because of their (orange and blue) colors. But I’m glad Alabama is always winning championships, too.”

After arriving in Denver from their home in Acapulco, Mexico, in 2000, it didn't take the couple long to see the high cost of living in the Colorado capital of 700,000 residents. It was a little too much for them.

Francisco, 40, said he learned about the strong allegiance to that city’s NFL team, the Broncos, but never had a desire or time to attend a game.

“We were working two jobs each just to pay for lights and food and rent,” he said. “There was no time for anything else.”

Oyuki said she didn’t enjoy living in a large city with so many people.

“We had some cousins and friends who were living in Decatur and said jobs were available and life was economical,” she said.


Lower cost of living

It didn't take them long to fall in love with Decatur.

“I really like it here. The people are friendly," Oyuki said. “We like Decatur because it is a calm, peaceful place to live. Food is cheap here. I like the open space here, too. In Denver, things were expensive and so many people. Here we don’t have to work all of the time just to pay for our utilities and groceries.”

After moving to Decatur with little money and no jobs, the couple said family members helped them financially until the couple landed jobs packaging compact discs for a Huntsville firm.

A couple of years later, Francisco got a job in construction where he could use his skills as a carpenter, plumber and wallboard hanger. Oyuki became a full-time mom and enhanced her culinary skills.

Even though Devyi enjoys soccer, he decided not to play for the West Morgan Rebels, a north Alabama powerhouse in the sport.

“I worked after school and helped mom with my younger brothers,” he said.

Presently working in construction, Devyi has his heart set on moving to California. He even has a California state flag hanging on his bedroom wall.

“It’s pretty out there and I’ll be able to find work,” he said. “Mom is telling me it is too expensive.”

He said if he stays in Decatur he will be content with his friends and with job opportunities for young people. He plans to use his bilingual skills in a career choice, he said.


Hispanic community

Meanwhile, Oyuki said the growing number of Hispanic food and clothing stores make Decatur more attractive to Hispanics, and her family now has a close-knit group of friends.

“Even in spite of COVID-19, we have small gatherings where we cook for our families on the weekends,” she said. “The weather is usually fine here. It’s a good place to raise a family.”

Francisco said he enjoys spending time with his family swimming and fishing in the Tennessee River and playing in the city’s parks. He calls it “the natural life.”

He said he plans to work in construction until he retires.

“We want to have some money saved and go back to Mexico,” he said. “I’m glad we’re living in Decatur now though.”

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