Our Story of Women of Faith and Hope
Most of the Women of Faith and Hope live in hand made shacks on the former city’s garbage dump. These homes have nothing but love. There are no indoor water, electricity, or city services. This “colonia” is not considered part of the city.
All of the residents have come from rural areas trying to get a job in the big city. They could not survive in their poor villages.
The cooperative is the only source of funds for these women.
It also serves as a place where they can get support from one another
and form a bond of friendship. The woman coopertive supports a total of 62 children.
We have begun to collect the women’s stories and will be sharing them with you.
Elodia is a direct descendent of a tribe of indigenous people called the Mizteco who live in the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Her parents were a part of the tribe and spoke the language. She neither lived as part of the tribe nor speaks the language. She is a very vusy woman, selling candy and chips on the side to gain income in addition to what she earns with the cooperative.
My name is elodia. I was born in (the city of) Oaxaca, (in the state of) Oaxaca. My society and my language are Mizteco, but I don’t practice it (the language). I come from a family of six siblings and low economic resources, but I was very happy to have my parents. It made it a little harder to be happy when my father died from a cardiac arrest in the heart. It was sad only being with my six siblings. My mother was a very yound widow. She was not ready to move on with us. She met a man who promised to marry her and help with her children, but the sad reality was that she was taken to another country. I was left alone with responsibilities that weren’t mine, but I did what I had to in order to eat. I started robbing houses and asking for food. I was brought to live with my aunt and uncle. Then my suffering started. My aunt and uncle insulted me, humiliated me, and caused me to become depressed. They said to me “daughter of no one, you are worth nothing”. They broke me.
I finished primary school, so I can read, write and do math. My adolescence arrived and I looked for work. I was working in houses as a maid. It brought in very little money and it was a lot of work. Then the time came when I had friends and a boyfriend and I fell in love. I had a formal wedding with my family and my mother was happy to see me married.
Later I came from Oaxaca to Juarez to have a better life. I had to struggle to leave for the children I would have. I had six children and they were all born in Juarez. Here I bought land where I have a home. I give thanks to God for life and for my children that He sent me. They are studying to prepare themselves for the future. My children entered in the homework program at Centro Catalina de Sienna (Centro Santa Catalina). I come to the prayers that they do every Friday because, in reality, I don’t know much about God, how to pray, how to say a petition, how to give God thanks for life or how to sing. I liked it (the prayer) and I continued attending the prayers. I made many friends and they invited me to be part of the work (the cooperative). I have worked in the cooperative for four years and I am happy because I have met many people of different cultures, religions and languages. (Now) I value myself more as a woman, a wife and a friend (and a mom) with my six children. This my story.
Rosalia is an active member in the community garden project. She is one of a number of women who passionately wants to change the horrible condition of the environment around them in the dump. These women are organizing to get the government to come clean up the trash and dead animals around the neighborhood.
We arrived (in Panfilo Natera) in 1991. Before now, it was a municipal dump. When it got hot, strong stenches of dead dogs came. It still smells today. The authorities don’t do anything about other people throwing trash or dead dogs. Before, we didn’t have electricity or water either. With time, buses arrived with water to put in our water holding tanks. There were many houses made of pallets and cardboard because the people were poor and never earned enough. They (the government) never paved the streets and they still aren’t paved today. The cholos (gang-bangers) robbed often because there were many of them. When it rains, it makes ruts in the streets. All of this is what we have had in Colonia Panfilo Natera up until the present year.
This year we are paying for our land. They want three thousand pesos(three hundred dollars) for it (in all). There was a man named Chacon (that we were paying), but he died and never gave us titles (to our land) or took our money for the mortgage to the bank. Now that we have the services (running water and electricity), the land has been sold to another man and the bank has returned to collect the money (for the land) from us, asking for more than we paid before. It is very expensive. When everyone in the colonia received the services, this new owner suddenly came to get payments for the land. Well, some people are paying and others won’t until they see some documentation or the title for the terrain.
Esther lives in one of the nicer homes in the colonia, meaning it is painted and has a concrete front yard rather than being surrounded by rock and dirt. She is one of the coordinators for Centro Santa Catalina’s community garden project. She also came to Panfilo Natera when the dump was still active.
I was born in the state of Durango. I have five brothers and four sisters. My parents live in Durango. I came
(to Juarez) when I was eithteen years old. I came because I had an aunt here. She came for me because they had to operate (on her) and she had no daughters here (in Juarez, to take care of her). After three years, I got married. That was when I came to live in this colonia. I have lived here for thrirteen years. At first it was very difficult. I came when the colonia was a dump. It was very ugly to live in – horrible smells of trash. Twice we had to go to the other side of the dump because not one of us could breath. We also didn’t have water or electricity and the buses (public transit) didn’t come here. We had to go down to where there is pavement (to catch a ride down in the colonia below Panfilo Natera) I have been involved at Centro Santa Catalina for five years. I started to go (to CSC) for my oldest son because he is very shy and because I wanted him to be more sociable with other children. I have two boys and one girl. Thanks to Centro Santa Catalina, we are helped in many ways.
My name is Saira (22 years old), I was born in a village by the name of Fresnillo, Zacatecas. We lived in the small hamlet for the first year of my life, but life was difficult for my mother because she had no schooling and there were no jobs in the village. Since my father did not support her, it became even more difficult. She then decided to move to Cd. Juarez to look for a better future for me. My mother found a job at a maquiladora, operating a machine, earning minimum wage. She worked nights and slept mornings. My mother continued to work while my aunt took care of me, and her family treated me well. I believe that it was here that I learned family values.
When I was 7 my mom decided to marry a man that I didn’t like so my mother sent me to live her sister in Zacatecas. It was there that I attended my 3rd year of school. I returned to live with my mother when I entered the fifth grade. she was already living in the colonia where we presently live, Panfilo Natera. My mother already had my brother Ricardo and they lived in one small room, 4×4 meters and she and her husband started to have problems and I returned to live with my aunt there I started my 6th year in school. At this time my mother gave birth to my other brother, Carlos, and again I returned to live with her. she became desperate because she wanted me to continue studying but didn’t have any money, but a neighbor secured a scholarship for me through a doctor named San Juana Mendoza and thanks to her I was able to finish junior high school with excellent means and because of my grades qualify for another scholarship for high school. However,while I was studying things were not going right in my mother’s marriage, so she decided that we should look for a better life in the United States, so we went to Los Angeles and I left my studies behind. I was not accustomed to living another kind of life and it was difficult for my mom to find employment because she was undocumented so I decided to return to Juarez and lived with a neighbor. But I did not go back to school. I decided to go to work and found the factory work very tiring.
When I was 16, I married the man who is still my husband. I was very lonely without my mother and within a year I had a baby girl. I needed to work, but at the same time, I did not want to leave my daughter alone. Around this time my mother returned to Juarez and I felt I had some support. My daughter was 2 years old and my mother was working at a place called Centro Santa Catalina in a cooperative. I knew about that place. When I was a teen of 14 years of age, I remember attending youth meetings with a group called CHICAS DE ESPERANZA Y FE (Girls of Hope and Faith), so I already knew something about that place and I decided to ask Sr. Donna for a job. I asked for a job in the cooperative, but she said,”No, I do not want you to work in the cooperative. I want you to help me in the Escuelita at the Center.”
It is my experience and belief that God walked me to this place. I have learned a lot of things in this Center. I have learned to move forward with strength to educate my family and to continue studying. Thanks to Sister Donna and to all the good hearted people who give donations to the Center, I am growing each day. I have finished high school and with God’s favor I will continue to go to the university. But over and beyond the education, I have received a leadership scholarship. This Center has taught me the importance of helping others and all the people that come here deeply need our help, for they are poor, people of low economic resources and have even greater needs than I have. This Center has awakened in me a sense of generosity and hope.
Today I work as a tutor giving classes to children in the Homework Program and am a secretary to the kindergarten program. My older daughter, Alejandra, is in her first year and my other daughter will enter pre-kinder next year. I am also attending the class on Valores, Fe y Vida (Values, Faith and Life). Soon I will be able to build my house with God’s help and also attend the university. In my family we are all healthy, my husband works in a maquiladora with low wages but doing alright, just thankful for our health. I love all my family and I am progressing very well, all due to this Center.
Ignancia’ story is about her and her family and it is all true.
“I came to Ciudad Juarez from the state of Tabasco. Our land was rich and beautiful. I remember well the smell of the air and the beauty of the flowers. I left with my husband and children because we could no longer survive as campesinos.
We left everything in order to come to the Nothern Frontier. We didn’t have enough money for train tickets for our children. My husband and I boarded first and after the ticets were collected, my mother put our little ones through the train window as we began to pull away. I was terrified.
The struggle in Ciudad Juarez has been very difficult. We came with only the clothes on our backs. After six years, we are still struggling but we have a little house and hope that some day, with the help of God, the future will be more secure.
Consuelo has been living in Colonia Panfilo Natera since it’s beginning when the dump it is built on was still active. On first arriving, she received a great deal of help from a man named Frank who has a clinic and distribution center at the base of the dump. She was also one of the founders of Centro Santa Catalina and the women’s sewing cooperative. Here she describes the beginnings of her life in the colonia and how she came to meet the Adrian Dominican Sisters who started Centro Santa Catalina.
We (my family and I) came from the countryside in Durango. When we came there were not any people in the colonia yet. We came because my husband had gone through five operations. He had four of them in Durango and the last one here in Juarez. When we came here, we came with two daughters and our grandchildren. We all went to work in the dump. Then a lady, a close friend of Frank (who ran a clinic down the hill), asked me, “Where do you work”?
I said that we worked in the dump.
She said “Who is your husband?”
I said “He can’t come and eat because of his operation. He needs another operation, but we don’t have the money for it”.
She said, “Let’s go talk to Frank”.
So Vikki (the lady) went to Frank and said, “Frank, come (to meet with this woman Chelito)”!
So I presented myself and our situatuion to Frank and we talked about the problems that our family had. Frank said, “I can help you because I have more (resources). I want you and your husband to be able to work.”
I said,”Sir, I don’t have enough money to buy food.”
He said, “I can give you two hundred pesos (twenty dollars). I want you, your children and your husband to come here ((to my center).”
I brought my husband (and family). Frank had my husband operated on. He asked how we had heard of him.
I said, “I talked with the lady, Vikki.”
Frank helped us to build a small house to live in, where we live now. Thanks be to God, my husband’s health is better, but it is still a bad situatuion because he cannot work. He used to be able to walk well. Now he can’t do much more than eat and walk to the bathrooom. Thanks be to God that he is alive.
So the women came to live around here in the dump. It was dark(here), without water or anything. It was very ugly. Now that we are trying to buy the land (where we live), it is a big pain. We pay every month. We want to pay for all of it (so that it’s ours). It costs twenty-two thousand pesos (in total, which is $220 American Dollars). We pay two hundred pesos every month. We also need money to pay for water, electricity, gas and food. It is difficult. We are trying to move forward.
That’s how this colonia was: ugly. We didn’t have a house. We were wating for a house and there were four of us living in the colonia together. It was dark. Then people started coming and coming.. Still there was no light and it was very dark. Now we have electricity but it is very expensive along with water and gas.
When they got rid of the dump, there was no more work for us. We were ready to move somewhere else. When I started going to prayer (with SisterDonna, Elli and other women in the colonia). So I went to prayer regularly. I got along well with her (Sister Donna) and we talked together about the people living here in the little houses. But she couldn’t understand anything I said and I couldn’t her (because Sister Donna didn’t speak any Spanish yet). Eventually, she started to understand. We said, “Sister Donna, we should make a big room there (in the dump, for prayer)”.
“And how?” she asked
I said, “Talk with the priest and ask him for help to make the building and we can work (to raise money).”
Sister Donna asked, “What would we make?”
I said, “Paper flowers and pinatas.”
“And what else?”
So we did this to raise money to buld the building. (And) she (Donna) had to go ask and ask for money in El Paso (to build the first building.) And now here we are (with Centro Santa Catalina) much wider and larger.