Opening Day at Morelias Mexican restaurant in Gulfport was the American dream come true for Isaias Rodriguez. The Mexican immigrant says he is proof that this is the land of opportunity.
"People who want to better themselves," said Rodriguez. "There is a lot of opportunity here in the United States. I don't think not only for Mississippi or other states, but in general, there is much more opportunity than back home. So when I came here, I came with my mind set on staying here, educating myself, better myself."
Owning his first full service restaurant took years of hard work and sacrifice. Back in California, Rodriguez helped his wife run a take-out-stand, while holding down a second job.
Rodriguez said, "It was hard at first. The first thing I needed to do was to learn the language. Then I went a couple of years to college and everything is much easier once you get a degree. The doors open for you much wider."
Rodriguez decided to move to South Mississippi to start his business. He likes the weather, the friendly people, and how anyone with a goal and the dedication to make it happen can succeed. Rodriguez says he spends a lot of time imparting that message to young people.
"Anybody who is trying make it, there is a chance for everybody," he said "I am one of those persons who, I like to help my fellow Mexicans and other communities. Being involved in helping other people who are in need."
Rodriguez says the most important lesson he's learned in the past 22 years is that despite any obstacles, you can never give up.
"I thought at first it was too hard for me, but eventually it came true. It wasn't as hard as I thought at first."
Isaias Rodriguez says he became a U.S. citizen 17 years ago.