In October of 1979, Oscar Mendoza fled for his life to California in the trunk of a car after his uncle was killed in the Salvadoran Civil War.
At the same time 19-year-old Oscar arrived in the U.S., Martha Rico Aguilera arrived from Mexico, 16 and pregnant. Mendoza got a job in an auto detail shop; she in a balloon factory, printing balloons for Disneyland. They met on the bus to their respective jobs and soon got married.
Though they applied for citizenship in the early 1980s, it was a long and ardous path to get there. “We kept meticulous records,” says Oscar, “and that sealed the deal for us. The INS tried to deport us in 1981 but our recordkeeping helped prove our case. We got amnesty in 1986 but we weren’t actually granted citizenship until the late 1990s.” Their story was picked up by a Washington, DC correspondent and, in 2013, made national news. (For the complete story, visit http://bit.ly/QvGT0i.)
Their American Dream began to materialize in 1985 when Mendoza was hired by a well-regarded southern California laboratory owner and introduced to the wonderful opportunities available in dental technology. He trained to be a metal finisher; a year later, Martha joined him at the lab to do opaquing.
As often as possible, they pursued continuing education courses to hone their skills, taking classes with Lee Culp, Uwe Brosamle, Matt Roberts and Trevor Laingchild, to name a few, and became specialists in advanced anterior esthetics. They are also regular attendees at LMT LAB DAY West, always eager to stay on top of trends and the latest technologies.
They opened USA Dental Studio in Salt Lake City in 1995, named to honor their allegiance to their adopted homeland.
In 2005 they made the move to Mesa, AZ, “where business is great and it’s summer all year long,” says Martha. Their daughter and her family still live in Salt Lake but their son, Dakota, who recently completed a tour with the U.S. Marines, is now working with them in their three-person lab.
“We are so grateful to be here,” says Martha. “The most important aspect of our career has been our personal growth. As the industry changes through the years, so do we, and we’ve created thousands of smiles and love the feedback we receive from our doctors and patients.”