Maria, a childcare provider and mother of three in El Centro


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Tell me a little about yourself.

I was born here in El Centro — born and raised. I’m married. I’m 31. I have a 11-year-old boy, 9-year-old girl, and a 3-year-old girl.


What do you like about living in El Centro?

Even though it doesn’t look like a really good area, I can leave my door open, nobody comes in. It’s peaceful. I just like living here because I was born and raised here. I like it. It’s small. I don’t like San Diego because it’s lots of traffic. I like it here because it’s just small and you know everybody.


What are ways that you’re involved in your community?

Well, in the community I’m not really that involved. The only thing I was involved in was voting. And I didn’t really like it. I didn’t get the way I wanted.


Up until you didn’t get the way you wanted, how did you feel about the voting process?

When I went and I voted, there was almost nobody there. It was just like six people. And I know there was bad things said about Hillary Clinton, but it was like, putting them together, she was the better choice. So I think a lot of people just didn’t like the choices they had. That’s why people didn’t vote.


So you didn’t vote in any other elections before, why is that?

I had my head in other places. With my son, and trying to get my husband over here. Stuff like that. And it wasn’t really important to me. Then when I heard what Donald Trump was saying, none of the presidents had said that, “I’m going to kick you out.” That’s when I got interested — the way he was talking.


Tell me about your husband. What does he do?

My husband, he barely got here. He has a year as a resident. After ten years trying for him to get here, he just got here last year on September 11th. Before that, it was hard. Really hard. Money-wise. Me coming and going to Mexicali, which is 40 minutes away. I would just go during the weekend or during the time the kids didn’t have school.


What allowed him to finally make it this last year?

God I guess. He was here illegally. He didn’t have any papers, so we had to go to Mexico. They told us the process was going to be done in six months. Well six months turned into two years, then three, then five, then 10. We would go to Juarez for the interview and they would tell us “Oh no, you need some other paper.” And then we’d come back and do another appointment.

My husband would work in Mexico and he would only get $40 a week. So he couldn’t help me that much over here. I had to go on welfare. And then I got pregnant. I had her here by myself, and then I left the welfare and I said “You know what, I can’t take it no more.” I went back to Mexico and went to live with him. It was really different over there. My son had to go to kindergarten, so I came back when he was 5 years old. I was alone for 10 years here.


What’s your husband’s workday like?

He’s in landscaping. He cuts grass, he goes and does the seeds for the grass, and he plants trees. He cleans ranches. He gets out at 3 pm. So he goes in at 6 am, he works from here all the way to Holtville. He gets home around 3 pm, takes a shower, and has time to go to my son’s soccer games. My kids are getting honor roll, so we took them to dinner on Tuesday.


How did he get the work that he has now?

It was hard. He went to Santo Tomas — it’s a swap meet — and he started working there at 5 or 6 in the morning and he’d get out at 10 at night for $30 a day. And it’s from here to Calexico which is 15 minutes away. It was really hard for $30 a day. It was nothing.

One day, we saw this man cutting a tree. And my husband was like “Oh, I’m going to go ask.” He was white and he was speaking Spanish. He said, “Go over there to Holtville, right next to the Family Dollar, and I’ll talk to you.” So we went for two weeks — he was never there. One day we went at 6 am and he was there. He said, “You know what, come back on Monday. Because I know you’ve been coming and looking for me.” That’s how he got his job, after seven months. Sometimes we didn’t even have money for the gas. We’d borrow $10 from my sister.


What's the hardest thing about keeping a job for your family or your friends?

Knowing that there’s no jobs here. Knowing that it’s really hard to get it. And you just have to take care of it. My husband, he gets really sick, but he doesn’t care. He goes to work like that. And if the owner tells him to go back home, he’ll do it, but otherwise he will stay at work even though he’s sweating with a cough and everything. He takes really good care of his work. You have to take care of what you have because it’s hard to get another job.


Do you see your husband doing landscaping for a long time?

He wants to be a semi-truck driver. He wants to do more: learn English...finish high school. He only got to first grade in Mexico. He had to get out because there was no money, he had to start working. He would sell CDs and cassettes and all that. It’s different. I know he does want to go back to school. He wants to have a better life.


When your kids are all in school, do you see yourself working?

I do childcare free. Well my sister, I know it’s hard for her. My nephew has to go somewhere else because they’ve kicked him out of two schools. Now he is in school, hopefully he’ll stay there. It’s only three hours I take care of him. That’s like a help for her, I’m helping her because I think it’s really important for her to have a hand. She’s already been struggling for so long, and she did take care of me for five or six years. She put her life on hold — her education and everything — to take care of me when I was small, so I think childcare is the way I’m paying her back.


Are there things that are important for you and your life that you need to get in Mexico instead of the United States?

Sometimes groceries, because it’s way cheaper than here. What we get here for $50, you could get over there $200 of food. So it’s cheaper, it’s way cheaper over there. But I wouldn’t like living over there. It’s way cheaper over there, the rent’s cheaper, the water’s cheaper, the light’s cheaper, but I don’t like the way they live over there. You see 13-year-olds, 12-year-olds pregnant already. They’re already up and about in the streets. I don’t want that for my kids. I want something better. I want my kids to be small and grow up when they have to.


What are you most proud of in your life?

I think my kids. Even though we struggle, they’ve seen everything I’ve struggled with, and they don’t always get what they want, they’re like, “It’s okay mommy don’t worry.” I think that’s why I’m so proud of them.


What do you hope for your kids?

For them, I want them to have a good education, that I didn’t have. To know they have me and their dad backing them 100%. And I want them to just be great people. Never try to put people down. If somebody needs help, help them. If you have $5 and you can give one away, give one away. Respect and love other and have a really good education. If you don’t have an education you don’t have anything. Even to flip burgers you need a high school diploma. I want them to have everything I didn’t have.