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Maid in America

Live or work in a border city like San Diego / Tijuana, and you see hundreds of women on buses and trolley's in the early morning hours.   It's no secret that many are crossing over from Tijuana to clean houses and or care of the elderly or small children.   Yes, they will earn a decent wage by Mexico's standards. Many will take their week's pay and convert it to pesos, but for the housekeepers breathing in chemicals from cleaning fluids, it certainly can't be healthy.

Take one housekeeper I'll call  Ana. (her name has been changed for this post to protect her identity.)  Ana like many of the women I've described started cleaning houses in San Diego years ago. Before long her patrones, or bosses, discovered she could really cook deliciously too, so they started asking her to cook meals as part of her duties.

As her patrones started having families,  it was only natural that she would start caring for the babies as many of her American bosses went back to their careers.    Working women in America want it all,  but it's hard to be in two places at once.  Luckily,  for the patrones, Ana agreed to move in with her American family 3 days a week.   Tuesday nights she would pack her overnight bag,  take two busses and a trolley and her patron would pick her up in front of a local Jack in the Box restaurant.   She continued to do this week after week.   Then Friday night after the sun went down,  she'd get a ride to the border,  and back on a long bus ride that would get Ana back to her Tijuana home about 8 p.m.

What most American's don't see, is the life that these housekeepers are leaving behind.    Ana shared that these mini trips to San Diego finally started taking a toll on her family.  Ana has three sons ranging in age from 12 to 23.  The older boys she said, don't need much coaching anymore.  But the youngest son literally grew up without his mother.  She said leaving him on Tuesday night was the hardest thing for both of them.

Ana says her son has grown accustomed to watching her walk out the door.   But in his younger days,  she said she had to peel him off of her every week as he clung to her for love and safety.

Eventually he learned that upon his mother's return she showed him with gifts to make up for the separation.  She bought him a play station and a computer to do his homework.   He was eventually able to cope.  But the weekly separation exhausted her emotions she said.

Ana's story is only one of many maids in America.  She said there is no amount of money which could fill the void in her heart she carries for not really raising her own children all these years, and no amount of American dollars which will ever replace the time she lost.

The Border Blog