DINUBA, California (KSEE) – Comedian and actor Paul Rodriguez says he’s coming back to the Central Valley after experiencing several economic and personal hardships – including his home in Dinuba burning down a couple of weeks ago.
Rodriguez said buying a home for his mother was a dream of his and something he was able to do after gaining success in his career.
“I bought them this ranch and they lived their years here. My parents went from migrant farmworkers to having their own little ranch. They were happy, that was my only goal,” he said.
He and his family immigrated to the Central Valley from Mexico. He says he then lived in Compton and joined U.S. Air Force. After returning to the Los Angeles area, he pursued a career in acting.
He added that his mom always wanted to go back to the Central Valley.
“Every memory that I can think of were here. Our Thanksgivings were here, our gatherings,” he said referring to the Dinuba home.
Rodriguez said his mom lived in the Dinuba home until she passed away in 2013. Since then, he said he didn’t visit often. And then a few weeks ago, his sister and brother-in-law were in the home when it burst into flames.
“The fire happened in a refrigerator downstairs, apparently it caught fire with some cobwebs and it simmered,” Rodriguez said. “Within 30 seconds the floor caved in and the whole place exploded.”
He didn’t have home insurance.
“I had no insurance, not because I didn’t want to but I’ve gone through some economic problems,” he said.
Rodriguez said he lost his money because of a bad accountant.
“In less than five years, all my money is gone,” he said.
But now, Rodriguez is looking to move forward. He has 40 acres of lemons and says he wants to rebuild his house. But he says his goal is to start a theater company for actors in the Valley.
“Me, I’ve always been a big dreamer, dreams do come true and that’s my goal. I want to teach, I want to have comedy here,” he said.
His work in the Valley goes back to when he worked with the California Latino Water Coalition to bring awareness to water issues. That’s when he met Mario Santoyo, the California Latino Water Coalition executive director.
“Paul’s involvement with water here in the Valley is probably is most significant to bringing attention to the valley on a national level,” Santoyo said. “Paul’s not a quitter. And it’s so easy to give up when you’ve had as many setbacks as he’s had recently. He’s got high hopes.”
As he works toward his goals, Rodriguez said he aims to help create more Latino representation on screen. And he plans to do that work in the Central Valley.
“I’m here because this is home. Maybe God told me this is what I got to do by burning the house. All I know is that I want to spend the rest of my life being an advocate for us to be represented,” he said.