Benjamin Meza (b. 1960 in La Piedad, Michoacán, Mexico) remembers vividly the day he came to live in the United States, even though he was only three years old: it was the day John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas.
His father was Benjamin Meza Barajas (b. about 1935 in Ocotlan, Jalisco, Mexico) and his mother Maria Elena Vasquez Solorio (b.1935 in La Piedad, Michoacán). They met in La Piedad probably about 1955 when Maria Elena was working at her brothers photography studio. (Her brother was a renowned photographer in the town.) Together, Benjamin and Maria Elena had three sons and a daughter.
Ben’s father came to the United States many times as a young man, working as a dishwasher and then becoming a cook, working in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. He only worked seasonally and then would return to Mexico. Eventually, he obtained his Green Card and moved the family to the United States. He became a furniture upholster and did that for the rest of his life. Ben recalls going to school in Tijuana until second grade, his mother and siblings staying there for a time in order to apply and receive the appropriate paperwork.
Ben attended Bayside Elementary in Imperial Beach, then Southwest Junior High School and he graduated from Southwest High School in 1978.
An uncle inspired him already at a young age by telling Ben, “You’re going to be a great architect… You know why? Because your history is rich in culture. It’s twenty centuries or thirty centuries of culture, so inside of you there’s a lot of art.”
Ben went on to study at Southwestern College for two years, majoring in architectural technology. He then transferred to Cal Poly Pamona and got his degree in architecture. He subsequently returned to San Ysidro and has lived there for over forty-five years where his home overlooks the Tijuana River Valley.
As an architect, he completed his internship at a small firm in the Gaslamp Quarter, PBV Architects. Thereafter, he worked for a firm called Larsen Carpenter. Currently he is one of the owners of Mosher Drew, the oldest architectural firm in San Diego founded by Robert Mosher in 1948. (Mosher was known for designing the Coronado Bridge.) In addition, Ben is an accomplished sculptor and a painter.
Ben has designed zoological exhibits, including the panda exhibit at the San Diego Zoo, the Giraffe exhibit and the tiger exhibit. He designed the Mission Hills/Hillcrest Library. He also does work for hospitals, in particular UCSD and their medical center. He is also avidly engaged in the San Ysidro community. He is President of the Friends of the San Ysidro Library, a member of the San Ysidro Community Planning Group and of the San Ysidro Foundation, among other organizations.
Ben’s community engagement comes from his interest in giving back to his community. When he moved to San Ysidro his family, like many others, were poor. The San Ysidro Health Center was very helpful, especially to him and his siblings because the family had no medical insurance. When they got sick, Ben’s mother would take them down the hill to the clinic where oftentimes they would simply forgive the fee. Ben always felt he wanted to give back in a similar way because his family was treated so well.