Carlos Amador, East Boston

Of course Carlos Amador, 25, has gotten doors slammed in his face. He’s been going door to door as a Jehovah’s Witness ever since he was a child.

Our new story ambassador, Corina Pinto, of East Boston, knew that much. But in all their years as family, she’d never asked her older cousin why he was drawn to the religion. When she did, Carlos, who works in garden design at Winston Florist, told her the story of how it steered him away from drugs and gangs—and the cost he paid in friends.

“Growing up here in Boston, it’s not the best, especially with the type of circumstances you and me grew up in. We fell right into the stereotype of being Latino and not having our fathers around. Even though we knew them, they weren’t around. It sucks growing into that.

Back when I was in school, there was still a big gang problem. So a lot of my friends went into that—either gangs, drugs, whatever they wanted to do. I kind of feel bad for them, because that’s the only thing they had. Sometimes when you’re young, you just deal with what you have, and that’s it. You don’t go look for something else.

But it’s always been different for me, because I’ve always had that influence—being in church, or in a religion, you have positive role models. So I chose that.

(When I started going to church), I was really, really young. Every night, my mom would go over the information we had, certain books that the Society brought for us, Bible reading, and every Sunday and Wednesday, we went to service. Actually, three days a week back then. It was always in Spanish, so that was hard for me, but that atmosphere was always good.

It was always buried in my head that I wanted to be there. But when you’re young, you’re not really deciding: I want to follow God or religion or anything. You don’t have a lot of decisions for yourself.

The first time I actually felt I wanted to be part of it, I was about 13 years old. Within our organization, the person who’s giving you the studies is the publisher—and that’s one decision I made, to become a baptized publisher. It wasn’t expected of me by the age of 13, but I was already taught enough to present. So I really started taking that under my control and doing that for myself.

Back then, (going door to door), I would always be nervous. The best experience I ever had was one guy reading the information and asking me all these questions. Even though I didn’t know the answers and I had to study more, I felt like: Okay, that’s pretty cool.

On a weekly basis, people shutting doors in my face, stuff like that—that would be the worst experience of preaching. But also being a young male and being religious, your friends wouldn’t really take you as serious, so you get shut off from a lot of stuff. I was labeled the church-going boy. People would tend to stray away from me, so I didn’t have much friends.

Sometimes that’s how the world works. People are just separated socially.

The role (religion) plays in my life, it’s more than people expect it to be. It’s everything to me. Everything I do, every decision I make, everything I’ve been through, my understanding of those things, are through that.

My religion gives me hope. A lot of hope. Take East Boston, for example. There’s a lot of poverty here. It’s coming up. It’s getting better. But this is an area where it’s not doing well. You have so many kids here. And you have the same story all over again: domestic abuse, alcoholism, kids who are coming here from other countries who don’t speak a word of English, kids who don’t have fathers, broken up homes.

When we’re presenting…we just try to acknowledge that we are all going through difficult times. It talks about that in the Bible: this is a time when we’re going through a difficult trial, but there’s hope for us as humans. There’s something more than this, and we can always strive for it, and live a simpler life.

I definitely do want to get out of here. But I do have a personal love for East Boston. I grew up here. I love the people here. They’re good people. It’s just the area they’re in, and the circumstances they’re in, it’s not the greatest.

Knowing what I know, I’m content, I’m fine, because I know hard days will come before Jehovah brings his promises. But that’s for me. What sucks, that I’ve noticed, is that other people don’t have the same hope that I do. And it’s kind of heartbreaking.”

Carlos was photographed by Corina. The interview was then transcribed and edited for length, clarity and flow by Cara Solomon, founder of Everyday Boston, in partnership with Corina. Cara wrote the intro text.