By Alejandra Matos December 9 at 8:00 AM

Ismael Aguayo and his wife Darlene Aguayo during church on Nov. 20, 2016, in El Paso, Texas. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Washington Post)

EL PASO, Texas — Ramon De La Rosa predicts that it’ll take President-Elect Donald Trump just six months to make America great again.

The 73-year-old is enthusiastically ready to see Trump bring back jobs from places like China and to stop taxing hard-working Americans to pay for food stamps and other entitlement programs.

When Trump launched his presidential campaign and labeled Mexicans illegally entering the country as rapists, criminals and drug dealers, De La Rosa, who was born in Mexico, crossed the border and became a U.S. resident at 17, was not offended. It also didn’t faze him that Trump pledged to build a massive wall along the border here in an effort to keep people just like him out.

“I know he didn’t mean that about all Mexicans,” De La Rosa said, noting that Trump just talks like a “tontito,” a Spanish term meaning fool. “He knows nothing about politics, and nothing about speaking politically correct.”

Counter to what many polls and pundits expected, De La Rosa — who for decades was not a U.S. citizen and earned the right to vote just 10 years ago — was among the 29 percent of Hispanic voters across the U.S. who chose Trump on Election Day, according to exit polls. He was one of thousands of El Pasoans here who are celebrating Trump’s victory and are looking forward to his inauguration; Trump received 26 percent of the vote in this border area, which includes the city of El Paso and five small rural cities in the far west corner of Texas.

Many thought Trump would fare far worse among Latinos than he did, largely because of his anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant comments. While many in El Paso say they don’t agree with all of Trump’s approaches — he fared worse among Latinos than previous Republican nominees for president — many who voted for him had single issues in mind: Some chose Trump because they want to see restrictions on abortion, others said they think Trump will bring more jobs back to the United States, some hope he will limit entitlement programs. Some, not born in the United States, are against illegal immigration and believe Trump will be successful in reforming the immigration system, something they believe Democrats failed to do in the past eight years.

Ramon De La Rosa listens to a conversation on politics at his family home on Nov. 19, 2016, in El Paso, Texas. De La Rosa was born in Mexico and became a U.S. citizen. He supports Donald Trump because he believes Trump can bring jobs back to the U.S. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Wasington Post)

Trump’s apparent anti-Mexican insults weren’t enough to turn off many voters in this border town, including Cecilia Kazhe.

Kazhe, 45 and a native of Chihuahua, Mexico, was shocked when she first encountered racism in America, that time a co-worker used a slur against her decades ago.

“You are nothing but a wetback,’” Kazhe recalled the colleague saying, using a derogatory term for Mexicans who illegally cross the nearby Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States. “She would say ‘wetback’ like it was a dirty name, but I never saw myself that way.”

Did Trump’s attack on Mexicans echo those insults? Kazhe said they weren’t a major problem for her.

“At the end of the day, they are just words,” said Kazhe, who became a U.S. citizen when she was 17. “I know I am a productive citizen. Those words don’t represent me, so it didn’t bother me at all.”

The fact that De La Rosa sees Trump as a better advocate for America, his adoptive home, was more important than anything Trump might have said during the campaign.

De La Rosa likes to ask “educated” people a simple question: “Where does Santa Claus come from?” He gets answers like “the North Pole,” “Europe” and “the universe.”

Wrong, wrong and wrong, De La Rosa replies: “Santa Claus comes from China.”

“Everything he is wearing: shoes, socks, underwear, says made in China. That means he must be from China,” De La Rosa said with a chuckle, noting that he voted for Trump because he believes he will bring jobs back to the U.S. from overseas. “He’s going to make this country better. ”

El Paso, a city on the southernmost point of the Rocky Mountains with more than 680,000 residents, is so close to Mexico that a wrong exit on Interstate 10 brings motorists to the port-of-entry with Juarez. Mexican students cross the border to attend local U.S. schools and the University of Texas at El Paso, which is separated from Mexico by just the highway and the Rio Grande. Popular Mexican steakhouses, seafood and taco restaurants from Cuidad Juarez have locations spread across the U.S. city.

There’s already a large rusted steel fence that hugs much of the border. Even staunch Trump supporters here laugh at the idea that building a large wall is going to stop anyone from coming in.

Adolpho Telles, the head of the Republican Party in El Paso, was surprised by how well Trump fared among Latino voters nationally and in El Paso. About 81 percent of El Paso residents are Hispanic and longtime Democrats. A Republican presidential candidate has not won in El Paso County in more than two decades.

“We would be visiting people around the community and they would whisper, ‘I am going to vote for Trump,’” Telles said. “People felt they had to whisper it here because you would get criticized.”

Clinton won El Paso by a wide margin, garnering 68 percent of the vote.

Jenny Carrillo, 58, was among that majority, and she said she expected Clinton to receive the same overwhelming support across the country. Carrillo, whose mother came to El Paso illegally, found Trump’s comments about Mexicans extremely offensive, and she feels like many Trump supporters have forgotten that the U.S. is a country of immigrants.

She is still mourning Clinton’s loss a month later.

“I cried so much,” Carillo said. “It was so discouraging, not just for me and my candidate, but I feel scared about what’s going to happen to our country.”

Not De La Rosa.

Still in construction, De La Rosa says he can break a concrete slab better than his 20-year-old colleagues. De La Rosa has done jobs in construction or in agriculture — picking cotton and other crops — since he was a little boy, and he’s not even sure he finished the first grade.

His family moved around a lot, chasing seasonal crops in the United States. His father was a Bracero, a Mexican laborer allowed into the United States for a limited time as a seasonal agricultural worker. De La Rosa was able to get his residency when his brother became a U.S. citizen in 1960.

De La Rosa became a U.S. citizen 10 years ago. At his home on the west side of El Paso, joined by his two daughters, De La Rosa said he is tired of working hard and seeing the government raise taxes to support others who are “not motivated” to better themselves. His daughters agree.

“The harder you work, the more the government penalizes you,” said Veronica De La Rosa, 46. “If you are poor, then you stay poor because the government will give you everything you need.”

Ramon De La Rosa, right, dances in his living room as his daughter Veronica De La Rosa looks on at their family home in El Paso. Ramon De La Rosa was born in Mexico and became a U.S. citizen. He supports Donald Trump because of his economic policies; his daughter was drawn to Trump because of his pro-life stance. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Wasington Post)

While De La Rosa and his daughters were drawn to Trump’s economic policies, Ismael Aguayo, 31, and his wife Darlene, 30, were drawn to Trump’s pro-life stance. More than half of El Pasoans are Catholic or Evangelical Christian, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

Aguayo and his wife were both raised in Evangelical Christian households. They are now raising their two daughters, 8-year-old Darlene and 4-year-old Victoria, the same way. They attend a church in West El Paso, and Aguayo is a member of the church’s advisory council.

Aguayo, who grew up in a rural town outside of El Paso, said he and his wife are not fully supportive of Trump and his agenda, but a vote for Trump was a vote for “godly principles” that give unborn children a chance at life. While he and his wife “love homosexuals because Jesus loved us no matter what our sin was,” they also don’t support same-sex marriage.

His vote for Trump was a vote for at least one conservative Supreme Court justice, he said.

“Somehow or another we did feel that his principles were more aligned to that of a God-fearing person,” Aguayo said.

Kazhe, who worked for 15 years as a nurse in a newborn intensive care unit, also is anxiously awaiting the appointment of a conservative Supreme Court justice because she said abortion is nothing more than“murder.”

Her husband Peter, who is part Mescalero Apache, also voted for Trump. He spent eight years in the Marine Corps and is now a firefighter.

They believe they have had to keep their support for Trump a bit of a secret because of the negative reaction they tend to get from friends and co-workers. Another firefighter even asked Peter how he can call himself a Christian and support the president-elect.

Their 24-year-old son, who did not vote in the presidential election, was in disbelief. He questioned how Kazhe — a woman and a Mexican immigrant — could have voted for someone who made vulgar comments about sexual assault, wants to stymie immigration and broadly insulted Mexicans.

“I know that’s not who I am, so his words don’t offend me,” Kazhe said. “And I also know my people aren’t like that.”

Cecilia Kazhe orders food a restaurant with her husband Peter Kazhe, in El Paso. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Wasington Post)