When Maria Luisa describes how Casa Latina has helped her, she says, “When I arrived, I felt like a plucked chicken and then little by little I grew my feathers back.”
Both of Maria Luisa’s parents died when she was twelve, leaving her in the care of an aunt and uncle who ran a rural farm. Because she had to harvest coffee and oranges with the workers, Maria Luisa couldn’t go to school. After several years on the farm, a family in Mexico City “adopted” her and she had the opportunity to go to school—but only after she had finished a whole day of cleaning, washing, and childcare for the family of five. Maria Luisa finished second grade but was mistreated by the other children where she lived. She was also terribly lonely. Marriage was an escape.
Maria Luisa gave birth to a boy and a girl while she lived in Mexico City. Her husband was largely absent, and she worked two shifts a day to make $150 a month. She says, “I had to pay for rent, gas, food for my kids, and the bus, so if we paid rent, we weren’t able to eat.”
There seemed to be no way out, but Maria Luisa’s brother-in-law encouraged her to come to the US to work. When she arrived in Seattle in 2000, a friend helped Maria Luisa find a job at a nursing home. Several years later, the home suddenly shut down and she was left without a job.
Maria Luisa felt like she had nothing, like she was as low as a “plucked chicken.” Luckily, this is when she found Casa Latina. She immediately joined the housecleaning job dispatch, and today she has enough clients to support herself. Finding steady employment was Maria Luisa’s first “feather,” but Maria Luisa has grown many more in her three years at Casa Latina!
For example, English classes have given Maria Luisa the language skills she needed to feel more comfortable in the US and to manage her own housecleaning clients. Also, our women’s leadership group Mujeres Sin Fronteras has taught less tangible skills. Maria Luisa says the most important thing she has learned is “How to overcome. More than anything how to be human, how to be a whole person.”
Given the adversity Maria Luisa has faced, her capacity for love is remarkable. She is close with her children and grandchildren and she has reconciled her marriage. She is often at Casa Latina sharing a wide smile with all and she has become a leader among the women. She’s fights for her family, and she fights for the rights of all immigrants with love in her heart. In September 2015, she even made a pilgrimage with other MSF members to see the Pope in Washington, DC, spreading a message of love and compassion for immigrants everywhere. With Casa Latina, Maria Luisa has not just grown her feathers back—she’s come back stronger than she ever was before. She has taken flight.