Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
I’ve known her for over two years. She is my friend, even though I speak Spanish very poorly and she speaks English very poorly. Yet we communicate, and we have built a friendship.
About a month ago, she invited my husband and me to her youngest child’s birthday. He is her seventh child and is two years old. She has six grandchildren. We picked her up after work and drove to her house. I’d never been there before. We drove, and we drove, further out of town, and drove some more. We turned and went through back roads that got smaller and smaller. We finally reached our destination. I kept thinking to myself “She walks to work and back every day!”
We entered a ranch with a large main house. But I was soon to learn that this house was not hers. This was the house of her in-laws. The house was exploding with people, children were racing around and chasing after the animals. Adults were chasing after the children.
There was much food and laughter, and I watched as I noted that two-year old boys are the same in America and in Mexico. We enjoyed our time there. Her family, her children, have become our family. But I could sense an air of hostility from the in-laws. They were polite, but distant.
Through our limited communication, I was soon to learn, unfortunately, where my friend did reside. As we left the party, she pointed to what we would refer to as an “out building.” Opposite the cows, goats, pigs, ducks, and chickens…was a building of unpainted cement blocks, without windows. I could see inside… there were dirt floors. I turned to my friend and saw shame in her eyes as she pointed the long walk back to the main house and said “baño.” The laundry she washes by hand was hanging on the line.
She has always been happy and smiling. I have never heard her complain about anything. And this is how she’s been living for the past six years. We hugged each other and said “Adios” and my husband and I got into our van to drive the long way back to town.
She is 43 years old, with seven children and six grandchildren. She was recently diagnosed with cancer. Neither my husband nor I spoke as we drove away. I now know that she gets up at 5:30 every morning to make sure she gets to her job on time. She leaves her youngest in day care, and she works a full and a hard eight-hour day and earns less than $11 USD per day.
I have so much, and she has so little. Tears trickled down my cheeks, and it was my turn to feel shame.
(Ed. Note: When Victoria filed her column, she e-mailed me, saying “Sorry it isn’t a funny, light Christmas story.” I think our readers will agree with me, however, that it is a perfect Christmas story!)