Thursday, March 5, 2009

Let me introduce you to...

Maria, whom I first met back in the fall of 2007 when I was working at Burger King as a cashier. Maria was one of the cooks there. She was a small woman of about four feet and seven inches in height, with very indigenous features and long black hair that she wore in a ponytail. Having been in the United States for only two years (spent mostly working) she spoke only very broken English, and understood fragments of a conversation. Maria liked to joke with me and often times we would bicker playfully about the way she made Whopers or the way I sounded over the drive-through headset. I remember that her uniform pants where always a little too high, so that her white socks showed and clashed with her all black uniform. Or the time when, at the Christmas party, she came dressed up and everyone gave such her a hard time so that she cried. As I tried to comfort her she called me "Grabiel" like she always did.

Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Maria had come to the U.S. with her husband in the year 2005. They had left three kids behind with her mother. One night as we were both closing the store down, she told me of how she had actually crossed through the desert, walking for three nights (resting during the day to avoid the heat). In my mind I tried to picture this small woman, walking with a bag in the pitch black of the desert night and trying not to lose her husband.

Most of our conversations revolved around humor and burger king "politics", like which manager was being stingy with hours or who was really bad at taking orders. But once in a while we would have more serous talks, such as her reason for coming to work here. Maria had come to save some money, like many of the undocumented do, so that she and her husband could start her own business. I listened as she explained her plans of saving enough so that she could buy materials to have a small "snack" shop, from which she could sell fruit cocktails, corn on the cob with chile and raspados. "Si voy a una Quince, va a ver mucho negocio ahi" she told me. I saw such earnest hope in her eyes.

When I told Maria that I was undocumented too she didn't seemed surprised. She did ask me in a very natural manner, why I was still here. I never did answer her very well. I told her that regardless of what happened I would one day visit her in Oaxaca, and asked for the name of her home town. She wrote it on the back of a receipt and I keep it in my journal, for future reference. She laughed when I told her I would show up when she least expected it and would be bothering her to make me some tamales Oaxaqueños.

When I asked her if there would be a hotel nearby this was her answer, "Grabiel",she said, "my house is very big. You can stay on the floor of my kitchen, but you'll have to get used to the bathroom being outside of the house".

Maria went back to Oaxaca on December 23 2007.


  1. It's amazing the stories other people have, but are never heard. It's heart breaking to hear them sometimes for me, but knowing that in the face of impossible odds they still hang on and hope that things will get better gives me hope. The hope that things will get better and in return i will help their kids because I was once like them.

  2. Great post. I could almost picture Maria by the way you described her. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of people who face that same reality everyday. Hopefully something good will come from this administration and people won't have to risk their lives anymore.