A Worker’s Christmas

Juvencio Reyes (to the left), member, serves food at the DLP/Women's Collective Christmas party. Photo: Maria Pia Kirk Berastain.

Juvencio Reyes (to the left), member, serves food at the DLP/Women’s Collective Christmas party. Photo: Maria Pia Kirk Berastain.

By Maria Dolores Lugo

—I am María Dolores, a member of the Women’s Collective (La Colectiva), and I clean houses. The other day, I cleaned a big, pretty house.  Seeing the Christmas decorations, the great tree, the lights and all that luxury caused me to reflect and value the way we celebrate Christmas in my country; a branch, even if it was made out of thorns, sufficed. What was important was the excitement while adorning it and the happiness of sharing supper and a piñata with family and friends.

A survey was done at the Day Labor Program (day laborers) and La Colectiva to learn how our members feel about Christmas. Twenty day laborers and 26 Colectiva members participated in the survey. In ten of the questions to which they responded, the word ‘family’ is mentioned more than once as an answer.
‘To be with family’, ‘family’, ‘seeing family’, ‘not seeing family’, and ‘sharing with family and friends’, are the answers with the highest percentages; family is the cause of sadness, happiness, it is the most desired gift, what makes Christmas important, and with whom it is celebrated.

For 50% of polled Colectiva members, not seeing their family causes sadness, whereas 73% reported that family, in general, gives them happiness. For day laborers, money/work is the main cause of happiness and sadness, 40% and 30% respectively. Family remains in second place as a cause of sadness, with 15% reporting this factor. The third most reported causes of sadness were being ill and having a hangover, each reported at 10%.

“Solitude affects day laborers. While we don’t have our family, there is always a ‘friend’ who will invite you to drink, just to enjoy the moment,” shared a day laborer, Gonzalo Morán.

“We drink for different reasons, because of the absence of family, not having stable employment, because of the solitude that each of us feels upon coming to this country. We leave behind our family, children and wives. At times this separation hurts family relations. This causes anxiety, so one finds friends that are really strangers. In that moment one’s emptiness is filled and with alcohol one forgets one’s grief. But at the end of the night, you finish in your cot with the same grief and the harsh reality of not even having a dollar in your pocket,” shared another day laborer, Néstor Luis Ramírez.

La Colectiva members and day laborers coincide on question number five; what they hope for 2013 is more work, 30.75% and 25%, respectively. This is the only question where the word family does not appear. Nevertheless, money/work is related to family stability and happiness. “It makes me happy to be able to send money to my family so that their Christmas can be happier,” said Griselda Hernandez, a member of La Colectiva.

The results of the survey are related to different factors that affect our lives.  Personally, now that I live here in the United States, I can spend more money on Christmas dinner, have a cup of wine and dress elegantly. Nevertheless, I would trade in these luxuries in order to share a meal with my mother and my brothers. It consoles me to be able to send them money. The results of the survey show that my friends and companions in The San Francisco Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective suffer, celebrate, and long for similar things.

Translation: Maricruz Gonzalez

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