Five years ago, Mauricio Hernández, 41, would have done anything, including risk his life, to return to the United States. It’s this hunger that got him to the U.S. the first time around, when, at 15 years-old, he crossed the border from Mexico by foot along with his brother. And it’s this hunger that took Hernández on an unlikely journey from undocumented immigrant struggling to make ends meet, to tricking out cars for celebrities with MTV’s Pimp My Ride, and later back to his native Mexico, where he became a star on the Spanish-language version of the show, Tunéame la nave.
Mauricio Hernández’s epic story is the subject of the latest Radio Ambulante episode, the Daniel Alarcón-helmed narrative Spanish-language podcast that we can’t stop listening to.
The 30-minute episode dives into the story of how Hernández wound up becoming a key figure behind the scenes at Ryan Friedlinghaus’ West Coast Customs, the celebrity-frequented car shop where Pimp My Ride was set. Touching on everything from the struggles of migrants in the U.S., to their difficulties advocating for their rights with employers, to the ambition that drove Hernández to attempt a harrowing journey across the border that nearly ended in his death in the desert, the story is worth the listen.
(Plus, there’s a pretty great anecdote about then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had his car customized by Hernández at West Coast Customs shortly after having blocked a law that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses in California. “I was pleased,” Hernández said of the ironic encounter. “I said, look, you are making sure that no one without a license or papers can drive cars, and I don’t have papers or a license and I drove your car.”)
Listen to the episode below for the full fascinating story, and take a trip down memory lane with some videos from Pimp My Ride: