Soy/Somos: Ana: My Hero

From my Soy/Somos series, a real-life collage of Latinos in the USA. Read the introductory post here Soy/Somos: We Are Many.

It’s not the first story I hear of its kind. Over the years when employing a cleaning woman, I’ve come across these life events. Women who leave distant countries for this one, needing work, leaving entire families, leaving destructive men.

Ana is wiping down the TV screen, still young and trim, about fifty. I am at the kitchen table in the terry robe I wear long into the day when I plan to write. How did we get into the conversation about violence? I may have asked an innocent question, curious about her life.

“As soon as my son saved $500 in the US, he asked for me in Colombia. His dad used to beat me.

“For no good reason—if I changed the TV channel—he’d punch me. Never in the face, so people couldn’t tell. Hard in the head. He left me unconscious. He also broke my arm. My family told me to get away. And when I did, my husband would cave in and promise he adored me. He gave me presents. I denounced him after I landed in the hospital. But that didn’t protect me. The cops said, “Well, the woman had it coming. She must have done something wrong.

“I stayed with him. I had three young boys and had to protect them, but I was so afraid. When I confronted him and told him I was leaving and scratch his neck and face, he’d beat me harder.

“When I left for this country I had nightmares for many years that he would come and get me. And hurt me. I don’t have these nightmares any more.”

I remember now that Ana and I had been talking about nightmares. Her story this morning helps explain the strong air of independence that I’ve sensed about her. She’s punctual. Works hard, head held high. This is hard-won self esteem.

There are thousands of women like Ana, immigrant women who left their countries and families for survival. They are unsung heroes.

On the eve of the New Year, I raise my glass to their courage.

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