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“I’ve learned a lot of new things through the co-op: that we have to be united, that we have to take collective decisions, and that we have to take into consideration different points of view.”
I’m from Mexico. I came here 20 years ago with my mom and my four younger siblings because of economic problems. We’re originally from the state of Puebla. I was very young when we came. I was still in grade school in Mexico and I just know that me and my brother couldn’t continue our studies. I was finishing up middle school and my brother was starting middle school. My mom decided we should come over. We didn’t have enough to survive. We didn’t have enough for our schooling or for food. Our school was an hour and a half away walking distance. We had to walk because we didn’t have enough for the passage for the bus. The only exit my mother saw was to sell a piece of land that she had and use that money to bring us. My mother at that time had sisters who lived here and that’s why we came to New York. They told us there was work here and that my siblings would be able to attend school. We would be able to survive here.
Eventually, my mother returned to Mexico with my youngest siblings. I stayed behind, since I was the oldest. I have two kids of my own now. They’re both at the university now. I also support my mother economically. My two kids have had a better life here because they’ve been able to study. If I still lived in Mexico I would have followed the footsteps of my mother who didn’t have the means to take care of us.
I’m a single mother. Even though I have a life partner, I feel that my kids aren’t his responsibility, they’re my responsibility.
It’s difficult for me to say whether my family members value what I do because I hardly see them but I think my mother does because she knows the effort it takes to live here since she’s done it. Here, you’re always rushing somewhere, working, taking care of the kids, doing housework and other things. Here, you can do that but in my mom’s day, it wasn’t normal for women to be outside of the house. I stay in touch with my mother regularly by phone even if she is in Mexico City.
I’ve been working at my current job in the Si Se Puede/We Can Do It cooperative for approximately 8 or 9 years. This job has given me the opportunity to manage my time so that I can work and still be on top of my kids’ lives. If I had any other job, I’d have to follow a lot of rules like working 8 hours. The coop has let me have the flexibility of working in my own space, for a dignified salary and to be a co-owner of the business. Our co-op provides a cleaning service for homes in many places throughout the city — Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and all 5 boroughs. We work on a contractual basis and we are paid directly. We set our own prices. I don’t know if I would say we make good money but I would say that it’s just. I like my work even if sometimes I’m a little tired. But at the end of the day I feel secure, calm and like I’m not being pressured by anyone. It’s the best possible job I could have found. Before this, I was working at a clothing factory as a seamstress. I only worked when my kids were at school — I earned less, so little that I had to share an apartment.
I started to come because I had always been very active in things that I thought would be for the betterment of my family. I belonged to Family Life when they gave me an informational pamphlet. It was an invitation. They started to give us more information about what a cooperative was. I had always been drawn to workshops and things like that that would bring me closer to my kids like the Parent associations at my kids’ school. I didn’t understand what exactly a cooperative was but they told us that some women were starting one so that’s how I got behind the idea.
We didn’t have a lot of clients when we first started. There was a social worker who started the group and I started to like it because there were different idea and I felt like we could do a lot if we united. We could change our work and we could move ahead. Sometimes I feel like I’m too involved in the co-op. Before, I had time to be on top of my kids. But I’ve learned a lot of new things through the co-op: that we have to be united, that we have to take collective decisions, and that we have to take into consideration different points of view.
I would encourage other women to join a group or a collective if they’re looking for work because we’re trying to find a way of working and protections and supporting one another.
I would like to have my own house someday. I would also want there to be immigration reform because sometimes that’s the thing that holds us back; many of us immigrants are working, paying taxes, and doing everything right and we just need to be given that chance.
On May First, I will join the march. I will not be going to work and not just on May Day but every day I will continue to support my community. I will not participate in the abuse of others and I will simply try to always share helpful information with those that might need it.
*This interview was done in collaboration with Public Seminar and the International Women’s Strike NYC. The names of the interviewees has been changed.