In a search for a better life and to escape violence and the oppression she felt as a young woman in Guatemala, Blanca and her husband decided to pursue the American Dream. They left their two young children in the care of her mother-in-law and started out for this country on January first 14 years ago. After many delays in Mexico and a loss of money spent on disappearing smugglers, they made it across the border two months later. Unable to speak English, devoid of friends and family, they made a humble beginning. Blanca took on three housecleaning jobs working from 8 a.m. to midnight and her husband found work in construction. After eight years working for others, all the while trying to improve her English, Blanca started her own cleaning company. She now employs two other workers. Never forgetting her humble beginnings, Blanca hopes to expand her staff by offering a helping hand to newly arriving immigrants in search of work. This recording took place first as an initial phone conversation about the coronavirus followed a few days later as a regular podcast episode.
In a search for a better life and to escape violence and the oppression she felt as a young woman in Guatemala, Blanca and her husband decided to pursue the American dream. They left two young children in the care of her mother-in-law and started out for this country on January first 14 years ago. After many delays in Mexico and a loss of money spent on disappearing smugglers, they made it across the border two months later. Unable to speak English, devoid of friends and family, they made a humble beginning. Blanca took on three housecleaning jobs working from 8 a.m. to midnight and her husband found work in construction. After eight years working for others, all the while trying to improve her English, Blanca started her own cleaning company. She now employs two other workers. Never forgetting her humble beginnings, Blanca hopes to expand her staff by offering a helping hand to newly arriving immigrants in search of work. This recording took place first as an initial phone conversation about the coronavirus followed a few days later as a regular podcast episode.
Deborah: Can you tell me? How’s your life different? Just talk to me.
Blanca: It’s stressing. It’s difficult. Stressing and it’s a bad, bad time.
Deborah: Really? Are you able to do any work or you staying home?
Blanca: No. I stay home. I work two days a week but it’s not homes, it’s small apartments. But the people go out maybe four or five hours, you know, and I clean the apartment. But I wanna use gloves. I wanna use a mask. And every time I need to change my gloves.
Blanca: It’s not easy. It’s not easy, Deborah.
Deborah: Very stressfull, huh?
Blanca: There were very stressful, stressed, very stressed because I didn’t know. I work every day.
Blanca: Saturday and Sunday. Yeah. And I stay home for almost for three weeks.
Deborah: Wow. That’s hard.
Blanca: That’s no good. My son too. And my husband. That the good thing is I will try to stay with my family together. I will try to play cards or cook. Oh!
Deborah: Do you have enough food?
Blanca: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I wanna food. Rice, beans, milk, eggs. Then I watch the news and say ah maybe they’re gonna close the Stop and Shop they want to close everyplace. Star Market, Basket Market. I don’t know. It’s not closed, but sometimes I went to the Stop and Shop or different place because I need alcohol for disinfectant and Clorox something with Clorox but I find nothing in the stores, Deborah.
Deborah: The shelves are empty.
Blanca: I know.
Deborah: Are you losing money?
Blanca: Yeah. I am losing money. I’ve had to stop sending money to my mom in Guatemala, and to my daughter too. Because the place when I go to send the money is closed. I’m not working. My son is not working. My husband is not working.
Deborah: It’s so hard.
Blanca: I know. I know. My brother lives upstairs with me and he have depression because he has almost one month that he’s not working. And he has multiple sclerosis.
Deborah: Oh no!
Blanca: Yeah. And he have very depression. And the wife is pregnant. She works in the Cheesecake Factory.
Deborah: Is that closed or just take out?
Blanca: She works two days a week but only making food to go. People can’t go to the restaurant to sit and to eat. Only for to go. But my brother not work any days.
Deborah: Okay. Well thank you for sharing what’s going on for you in this terrible time. I know you’re a very strong person. You’ve been through a lot, so we’re gonna get through this and I will talk to you much more on Thursday.
Seeking Better Life/06:08
A few days later, we started our official Immigrant Voices Podcast interview with Blanca.
Deborah:So my guest for the immigrant voices project podcast project today is Blanca and she is from Guatemala. Tell me, tell me, Blanca, what are the main things I want to know are what you left behind? What was the hard thing about coming to this country? What were your struggles and successes? And what are your dreams for the future? Okay? I’m listening.
Blanca:I come in to my country because in Guatemala is difficult especially for the woman. I stay in this country for, uh, almost 15 years.
Deborah: Were you married before you came here?
Blanca: Yeah. Yeah. I married and I one or two kids. And, my daughter is how old when I come to this country. My daughter has four years old and my son I have a two years old. This is difficult part for me because, it’s, it’s very, very difficult for any mother when, you know my son is in Guatemala and me is in this country, but oh my God. It’s not easy.
Deborah: So did you have to leave them behind when they were four and two? Or did you bring them with you?
Blanca: No, I leave behind.
Deborah: Oh. That must have been so hard.
Blanca: I know. I know and they were living with my mother-in-law. And I wanna start to work here and I gonna send money, but it’s not easy because when I arrived to this country the difficult for us is that you know not that language because I don’t have speak English nothing. And I want to start to work to clean a house, but I know alone I want to work for the other company and, it’s not too good because work two days a week and much money. I started to clean the house, but I working only maybe for three months because I work only two days a week and later I want to start to work in a hospital to a housekeeper and that work Monday to Saturday. And I one at work to eight o’clock to four o’clock. I have another work, but it’s not full-time only part-time I want to work in a big company to uh, same, uh, housekeeping same work to housekeeping.
Deborah: So you had two jobs, two jobs?
Blanca: Three jobs!
Deborah: What’s the third job?
Blanca: Same housekeeping, but I will not work in the and I when I worked my part-time uh, 10 o’clock, I went to uh went to another work for two hour more. And but I want to finish at 12 o’clock midnight.
Deborah: Oh my goodness. So you were working from eight in the morning until midnight?
Blanca: Yes. Yeah.
Deborah: And how long did you keep that up?
Blanca: Whoa. Eight years.
Starting a Business/10:14
Deborah: Eight years! When did you decide to go out on your own, have your own cleaning company?
Blanca: My husband worked to construction. And when he finished the construction, the people say, “Oh, you no have a people to clean the house or apartment?” And he say, “Yes, one lady.” I want to start for two apartment.
Deborah: That’s how you started. And how many years ago was that?
Blanca: Six years ago.
Deborah: So you’ve been on your own, your own company for six years.
Blanca: Si, for six. Yeah. But when I started, I have a only two houses and I work alone, but the step to a step, when one uh maybe in the second year the work is uh more and more and more. Now it’s have I worked at three lady with me, but now I want to stop because for that you know?
Deborah: Because of the virus?
Blanca: Virus, yeah.
Deborah: What was the hardest thing about for you coming to the United States? I know you said you couldn’t speak any English. You left your children behind, but when you got here what was the hardest thing after you got here?
Blanca: Uh, many things. The more difficult was my kids, so four and two years old. And I remember I crying, crying for my, for my son. And uh. Oh.
Deborah: Did they come to this country eventually?
Blanca: No. Yeah.
Deborah: When did they come?
Blanca: My son came in 2009. And my daughter stayed in Guatemala.
Deborah: Oh, your daughter’s still in Guatemala?
Deborah: But your son is here. That’s good.
Blanca: Yeah, my son is here. And my daughter comes every year but she’s still a student for a medicine, she’s a doctor.
Goodies from Home/12:45
Deborah: Did you ever bring some object with you from Guatemala that you still have today? Some small object or something that you brought with you that you still have?
Blanca: Yeah. Yeah. My mom sent to me something for my country.
Deborah: What did she send you?
Blanca: She sent to me food because you know uh the food in this country years ago I don’t like. For example, I don’t like hamburger or pizza. And then she sent to me some Guatemalan food.
Deborah: Oh nice. Name some of the foods that she sent.
Blanca: She sent for example candies or my mama made for me—it’s Spanish dolce de lecce and conserva de coco. Yeah. And sometimes she sent to me clothes for example sweaters she made.
Deborah: Do you communicate with your mother through the computer or FaceTime time on the phone?
Blanca: No, no Deborah because my mother live in a village.
Deborah: In the village. Okay.
Blanca: Yeah. And I don’t have internet. I only call and texting for WhatsApp and a call or you speak only look face-to-face.
Deborah: Yes. How often do you talk to her?
Blanca: Every night. For example, during this time I call every day and every night because my mother and father are scared about this difficult time. Because in Guatamala coronavirus.
Deborah: The coronavirus is there too?
Deborah: Oh dear.
Blanca: I’m scared for my daddy because he has problems with his pancreas.
Deborah: Oh, his pancreas.
Deborah:They’re staying in the house all the time?
Deborah: So based on your experience and what you’ve learned since you’ve been here, what thing do you wish you could have changed before you came to the States? If you could have changed something. What would it have been?
Blanca: Many things.
Deborah: What comes to your mind?
Blanca: Many things. For example, the language. I want to continue to speak more English. The food, the friends. When I came to this country I didn’t have many friends.
Deborah: But that changed.
Deborah: Now you have, you have a lot.
Blanca: When I came to this country not too much friend. Now I speak a little English communication with other people for example, American people or different kind of people. You know for example now I say, “Hi! How are you?”
Deborah: You have more confidence now.
Deborah: You’ve had some successes. Tell me about some of the things you’re proud of that have happened to you or that you’ve made happen to you since you’ve been here. What makes you proud?
Blanca: My English. My English and my work because you know now I want to work alone. I don’t wanna work for another company I want to work for me. Yeah and I try to open a company, but then this time is difficult because yeah. I don’t know if he for example loss a house or apartment. When I back to home to clean a house. I don’t know.
Deborah: You don’t know how many customers you’re going to have.
Blanca: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. I don’t know. It’s just scary with this planning for the future. Not uh taking more house or apartment. I wanna take maybe another lady worked for me but I dunno.
Deborah: So what do you do to calm yourself down? And during this time what, what calms you down?
Blanca: I don’t know, Deborah. I don’t know if it’s it’s difficult because.
Deborah: You’re discouraged, uh. Well, when you think, when we think about this virus getting finishing and things, getting close to normal again what are some of the dreams the hopes you have for your life?
Blanca: I continue work. Take maybe the same house in the apartment, but I’m a scary with it because I don’t know. I see people I told my house or apartment for cleaning because a lot of people may be lose their working. And I don’t know if I want to continue cleaning with another lady. Maybe I want to clean alone. Not with another lady. And uh, so.
Deborah: Yeah, this is definitely a difficult time. When things were kind of smooth and not so difficult. Did you have any hobbies, things you like to do? Some kind of craft or reading or music or dancing, or what are the things you like to do?
I like reading. I like to dancing. I like to practice my English. For example with Erica I want to call last week. I look at the faces on Zoom. Six people with Erica and Michelle.
Deborah: Are you going to classes online in the Zoom room?
Blanca: It’s good. It’s a little crazy because everyone is speaking at the same time. Oh could you speak one by one because if you speak at the same time it’s no good. I like to practice English and you know . . . I don’t know Deborah.
Deborah: I know you’ve been through some medical problems, but are you feeling okay now?
Blanca: Uh, so, so. I wanna you know every day I’ll take my medicine and I want to try to not stay too stressing because this is not good for me.
Choosing the U.S./20:52
Deborah: What do you like about living in the United States over when you were living in Guatemala? What is better for you in the United States?
Blanca: Because it’s safe. That’s the reason I came to this country to feel safe. In Guatemala it was very dangerous. This country is safe. That’s the reason I love this country.
Deborah: Was your journey getting here difficult?
Deborah: Can you talk about it a little bit?
Blanca: For example, maybe seven or eight years ago I didn’t have any work because the company I worked for American Cleaning closed. I didn’t work for about six months. It was very difficult for me because I wanted to send money to my family in Guatemala. This time is so difficult for me. And the other things that is bad is the immigration.
Deborah: Oh immigration.
Blanca: Yeah. You said that’s, it’s very difficult for me many people. Not only for me but for many people in this country.
Deborah: I know. I know.
Blanca: I know it’s difficult for everybody around the world. Exactly. Right, exactly. Around the world.
Deborah: I did ask you about when you came to the United States. Was the journey coming here from Guatemala difficult? What, what were the, some of the difficulties that you encountered?
Blanca: Um, I don’t understand much this question.
Deborah: Your trip from Guatemala to the U. S.
Deborah: Was that hard?
Blanca: Very hard.
Blanca: Because I came to Mexico.
Blanca: And um you know I came to Guatemala on January first and come to this country March first.
Deborah: Oh, so you left Guatemala January first and then you didn’t get here until March first. It took you that long. What year was that?
Blanca: Almost 14 years ago. I don’t remember what year.
Deborah: Fourteen years ago. So the trip, was it dangerous?
Blanca: Yeah. Very danger.
Deborah: What made it dangerous?
Blanca: Mexico because you know the people in bring the money because I come with my father and another friend and the people in Mexico uh you know bring my money and you know I don’t know where’s the people and other days. I looking for the people the people the people you know the people I don’t know where.
Deborah: Oh, you paid money to come here and then they disappeared. They took your money.
Deborah: Oh dear.
Blanca: That’s the reason why I stay a long time in Mexico.
Deborah: I see. How did you finally make it here?
Blanca: Family you know living in the United States send the money to.
Deborah: To help you come the rest of the way. So that was a family that you knew from Guatemala or?
Blanca: No. In the United States.
Deborah: How did they find you?
Blanca: Well yeah. I’m not sure. I want to look in for another person to um to uh I dunno cross the border. Um, yeah.
Deborah: Is there anything else you want to tell me about your experience either coming here, living here, about the future, or something that would help another immigrant hearing your story? What would you tell them to encourage them or discourage them or give them. What advice would you give?
Blanca: I want to love this country, Deborah. I want to come to this country. This country help everybody. This country supports different people, for example, Chinese people, different immigrant. And I have so proud this this country this United States, but I don’t know what my planning is. Take more, more work to help another people. Maybe work two more people you know for example people can’t —you know the caravan yeah. That people a lot of people this country looking for work.
Blanca: Then my plan is you know take more and more and more house or apartment to support that another ladies. The ladies came to this country I had to Salvador or Guatemala I don’t know English, um, you know, um. It’s not good because they are coming to this country because in their country is not safe at this time. Because it’s not good. Um, the reason I want to try to take more apartment in a house or office or I don’t know, uh, for help another ladies.
Deborah: So are you saying that you want to help the newer immigrants by being able to give them work or give them a place to live?
Blanca: No. More work.
Deborah: Blanca, thank you so much for chatting with me. I really appreciate your sharing your experience with me today. Thank you so much.
Blanca: Thank you Deborah.
Blanca’s enthusiasm for learning English and starting her own business has certainly been hampered by the pandemic yet she attends Zoom ESL classes and thinks about ways she can help her fellow immigrants. A grateful resident of this country she is proud of the life she and her family have created. Blanca is a vibrant member of the Gardner Pilot Academy family and we are inspired by her resilience and positive presence.