Last week, Roscio received her permanent resident card. Roscio has worked for us for over eight years. She is a sewer, as in sewing fabric (in our case, aprons, table covers, totes, etc.). When she lived in Colombia she owned her own sewing house. Coming to the states meant a step backward for her authority, but a step forward for her family. She is no longer surrounded by drug cartels, violence, and oppressed citizens.
I initiated her employment with us. When she came to our lobby, I was fascinated by the sparkle in her eyes and her head full of gorgeous white hair. Her granddaughter accompanied her; Roscio didn’t speak English. I pushed her interview. I pushed her hiring. Because no one could speak to her (No hablamos español), our sewing supervisor simply asked her to sit and sew. She did so impeccably.
As the years have gone by, she has picked up English – probably more than we suspect. I caution her coworkers to take care with what they say. She may understand more than she indicates. Everyone likes Roscio. Some love her. She is so grateful and gracious to have her job. I make a point to say, “Como esta?” when I walk through our production area. I also instruct others (as best I can with 4 semesters of Spanish under my belt) in words they can say to her. As is often the case, the blue-collar Americans don’t make much effort. After 8 years, many of them could be speaking better Spanish.
Last week, upon hearing of her new resident status, I ordered a cake. Heart shaped, chocolate, with raspberry ganache. And five American flags on tooth picks. I didn’t have much advance notice. On the top of the delectable desert written in red: “Felicitaciones, Roscio!” At the 3:00 break, every office worker marched into the production area. Roscio was not paying attention – the day happened to coincide with the boss’s birthday. She thought we were gathering to sing happy birthday. Instead, we broke into the chorus of “God Bless America.” I walked to her with the cake, and the tears began to roll. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We should have recorded it, put it on YouTube. It was an intensely emotional moment. For the final line, we changed the words a little. For Roscio, it became “Your home sweet home.”
The dream may have changed. But, for many, the dream still lives here.