I live in a town of 5,500 folks in Colorado. We are rural, agricultural and have a large Hispanic population. I am fifty five and have been self-employed most all my adult life. Times were becoming difficult in my business and I knew I was not going to survive without making some changes.
More and more, Hispanic restaurants, 'Tiendas' and cultural enterprises began to sprout. About 5 years ago, it began to dawn on me that we are not serving our Mexican/Central and South American neighbors.
My business, our thrust was only to the whites. I have, a natural affinity for these folks (Hispanics), especially when they are first or second generation and began to research some possibilities for gaining their business.
Little by little I started. I took a local Community College course in Conversational Spanish; I made trips to Costa Rica, Mexico and also took pictures of and studied conditions, of retail establishments and, more exactly, observed just what these groups of people were seeking here, in the United States. I began to immerse myself in the culture and the language; learning, talking, listening and watching.
Over the next two years, I began to establish, and implement a plan. I found wholesale sources for imported Mexican goods. I realized that many of the people who live here could not read English, and did not know the difference between Prell Shampoo and Palmolive Dish Detergent. They went into our HUGE stores, aghast. There is So much available, so little knowledge.
I began to realize that they had their own, familiar products, back home. This was the beginning of my thinking. That is what started my foray into the world of the Hispanic Culture and this story.
In November of 2001, I opened a Tienda. We feature meat (geared to the Hispanic taste), produce, canned and dry goods ... all imported from Latin America, or geared to their lifestyle, their likes and tastes.
It was odd. Here I am, a Gringo, 6'3", pleasant attitude, nice looking, but little ability to communicate, yet, I am amiable, gentle, kind and open to them. As far as I know, nobody (no Anglo) in this county is open to the Hispanics. Because of the financial depth of my other business, I was able to tough it out and our sales began to grow, especially as I added other services and products.
In about a year, all the other Hispanic tiendas had closed in our area. I was the only one left. It was a surprise, but I was very pleased with the friendship and support of more and more of their business, their support. We had added the services, the sending of money grams to families in Mexico and Central and South America, Photo ID's (not official, but some picture ID for them to carry and have), and many products they couldn't get at the larger and more American stores.
We also have one other thing that others don't have; I hire really nice looking chicas(girls) to wait on the customers. They were exclusively Spanish Speakers, Single, and it began to draw the single male clients, without regard to other motivations to shop elsewhere.
I went through a number of girls. Over the past few years, they came and they went. Though I am single, and, over their age limit, I began to learn the language, became a 'compa' to many of the clients. Many housewives, many single men have frequented my business. We aren't exactly kicking ass, but we are more than holding our own, now.
Then, came Dulce (this means, 'sweet' in Spanish) Lopez. Maria, my main girl was pregnant ... I would need to replace her soon.
In comes this 27 year- old knockout, looking for work. She had been abused in Mexico, both by her dad and her husband. She had been living on the streets in Mexico since age 12, gotten married at 15, had two children and her husband ran off with another woman ... leaving her alone, with two kids. She left her kids with family and made the trek to America. I don't know how long she has been here, but she has her green card and social security card, so I hired her. Truthfully, she had a forged id card and the Government wasn't cracking down yet so it was easy to hire her.
Dulce's trek to the Northeastern part of Colorado is a story of resolve, strength and determination unlike any I've personally witnessed.
She left the town of Hermosillo in Sonora, hitchhiking and walking to the border town of Aqua Prieta, where a Coyote smuggled her across the border into Arizona. She walked in desert heat, without food and little water for two weeks. They rendesvoued with another Coyote in Tucson where she was loaded like cattle into a van, one of thirty people in a van built to carry fifteen.
Her destination was to be Denver, but they took the Southern route, dropping other companero's off along I-40, not going into Colorado at all.
Dulce said she was raped several times, went without food, sleep and any help at all for two solid weeks. She landed in Nashville, when they dumped her out.
Eventually, by selling herself to other Mexicans along the way, she made it to Colorado.