Teresa likes the story of the first pilgrims who came to America. They left everything they knew and made a treacherous journey to a new land, seeking freedom.
Teresa says she had a similar experience. She was living in Cuba and found that life there was almost unbearable. She was married to Hector and they wanted kids but every day was a struggle to find food and other necessities. Even when they had money, there was no guarantee they could get what they needed. There were times when they had to wait in line for an entire day just to buy a chicken. Then, once when they got to the front of the line, the clerk said they should go home because all of the chickens were gone and they would need to wait for another day when they would be available again. Cubans simply did not have the opportunity to purchase beef, which was for tourists or for export to other countries.
Teresa and Hector wanted to raise their family where their kids could attend school without worrying that they did not have shoes, paper or pens to take to school – or enough to eat at home.
Teresa and Hector decided to leave their beloved country before starting a family. They saved every penny they earned until they had enough for Hector to buy a plane ticket to travel to Guatemala. Once he arrived, Hector got a job at a bar and saved all his money. After a few months, he had enough to buy a ticket for Teresa. When Teresa arrived in Guatemala, she got a job at the same bar. The pay wasn’t much but at least they were able to buy food.
The couple continued to save every penny they made. But seeing the poverty and unsafe conditions around them, they realized that the people here were worse off than they had been back in Cuba. After a few months, they had saved enough to buy bus tickets that would first take them across Guatemala, then they would take another bus that would carry them across Mexico to the border of the U.S. They were excited to make the trip and start their new life – even more excited because now they were expecting their first child.
Teresa and Hector knew that they trip to the United States would be long, uncomfortable and dangerous. On the bus going through Guatemala, the other travelers left them alone. They lost track of time but figured that they were on that bus for more than 30 hours.
Once they boarded the bus in Mexico, things changed. This leg of the trip was much longer and they were constantly harassed. It was worse for Teresa because she was seven months pregnant and suffered from constant morning sickness. She was not sure if she was sick because of her condition or because she was terrified. Hector had hidden some of their money in the lining of his pants. He left $500 in his pocket because he knew that, most likely, they would have to pay their way out of the country. Sure enough, at one point they were held up by some men and told they had to “pay up – or else.” After explaining that they were poor people just trying to reach the border, the men agreed to let them go and took only the $500 Hector said they had. Teresa says she has never been so afraid – there were moments she feared that the men would kill them.
Finally, when they got to the border, they crossed into the U.S. peacefully and legally. They made their way to Miami to stay with a cousin. They had a hard time adjusting to all the traffic and congestion there. When another cousin came to visit, he invited them to come back to Sarasota with him and they agreed to go.
Once the couple got to Sarasota, they immediately fell in love with the city and decided to stay. Hector found a job and he is still with that company. Once their son was born, Teresa found a job at the mall. She worked in a back room, where her limited English skills were not a problem. Teresa kept that job for almost seven years, until the store closed.
Trying to find a new job was tough. Her English was better but still not good enough for most of the places Teresa applied. She finally found a job at Goodwill and has been here ever since.
Two years ago, Teresa and Hector bought their first house. They no longer worry about their son not having shoes to wear for school. They both work and they are able to pay their bills. They love to go to the grocery store and buy all the chicken, steak and whatever else they need.
Teresa is not sure what the future holds but having a great job, earning a paycheck every two weeks, and living in a safe community make all the difference in the world. Teresa is glad that she has a job with a company that values her hard work and makes sure she earns enough money to meet her family’s needs.
When Teresa, Hector and their son celebrated Thanksgiving last week, they thought about the original pilgrims. They are pretty sure they know exactly THOSE new Americans felt. Helping families to find security and achieve financial stability – it’s what we do …