I recently visited Enrique, 27, and his family in Florida, and stayed at their white cinder block home one night.
There is good news and bad news.
First, the good. Enrique vowed when he brought his girlfriend Maria Isabel to the U.S. and asked her to leave their daughter behind, that the separation from their child would be brief. Enrique made good on his pledge. Six months after Maria Isabel’s arrival, they had amassed the $5,000 needed to pay a smuggler to bring Jasmin to the U.S. “He didn’t want,” says Enrique’s mother Lourdes,” to have Jasmin go through what happened to him.”
The bad news: Enrique’s drug addiction progressed and he hit a new low a year and a half ago. He was struggling with unemployment. When he did work, he would often spend his checks on drugs and alcohol. Sometimes, Enrique would come over to his mother’s house in the middle of the night, knocking on Lourdes’ bedroom door, begging for money.
Maria Isabel, 30, was threatening to leave Enrique. She was carrying all of the family’s expenses on her job as a hotel maid, cleaning 29 rooms a day for $7.50 an hour.
Maria Isabel, who had become like a daughter to Lourdes, often turned to her for comfort. Lourdes invited Maria Isabel and Jasmin to move in to her home last year. Lourdes told Enrique he could also move in under certain conditions: no drug use at her house. She believed that if Enrique lived with her, he would get better.
Since then, Enrique has cut back on his drug use. He pays $300 a month to Lourdes in rent and confines his drug binges to every other weekend. Even if he gets home at 3am on Monday, he will sleep three hours and get up the next day and go paint houses outdoors in the Florida humidity and heat.
Before, when Lourdes pressed him to give up drugs altogether, he shut her down. Now, when Lourdes goes out on an errand, she asks Enrique to come along. In the car, she reminds him: what kind of role model are you providing for your daughter? She tells him he could lose Maria Isabel. “Open your eyes. Open your eyes. You will never find someone like Isabel,” Lourdes says.
Enrique is silent. Sometimes, he cries.
“It’s hard,” he tells his mother.
He vows that when he turns 33, he will stop.
Lourdes has hope.
“Everything reaches a limit,” says Lourdes. “He will reach a point where he says: enough. I pray for him. And that God listens to our prayers. He will change. I don’t know when, but he will change.”
Already, he is loving with Lourdes. He has largely moved past resentments he had towards her after they first reunited. Each morning, he finds his mother in the house, gives her a kiss and a hug, and tells her he loves her.
Lourdes was re-born as an evangelical Christian four years ago, and is now a leader in her church. After three years of study, she is an entercedora, someone who can put hands on people and pray to help them. She attends church or church meetings two to four times a week.
Lourdes married her boyfriend of 12 years in May 2010. She works taking care of the elderly in their homes. She wants to become a certified nursing assistant. She also hopes to someday buy a house that has more than one bathroom. She dreams of her U.S.-born daughter, Diana, going beyond her high school degree and graduating from college.
Lourdes is showering Jasmin, 10, with the love and attention she could not give Enrique as a child. Jasmin and Lourdes are inseparable. Often, Jasmin tags along when Lourdes goes to her job.
Jasmin, an A and B student, speaks perfect English and her favorite topic is math. She loves Justin Bieber. She has crooked teeth, a round face, a big smile and curly hair. Enrique dotes on Jasmin, watching SpongeBob and iCarly with her. Jasmin tells her mother that she desperately wants to have a sister. Maria Isabel refuses to have another child while Enrique remains mired in drugs. “I keep on waiting,” Jasmin says.
Enrique’s sister, Belky, is living in Honduras and in 2010 married her long time boyfriend Yovani. Lourdes recently bought Belky a $600 refrigerator so her daughter could make and sell popsicles. She sends her daughter boxes stuffed with used clothing to re-sell in Honduras.
Lourdes is proud of her daughter, staying in constant contact through text messaging, but feels somewhat cheated that Belky never completed college. Lourdes remembers how her knees turned raw scrubbing floors so she could send Belky money to study in Honduras.
Belky’s son, now four years old, looks up at airplanes flying overhead and wishes he could go visit the United States. Belky hopes she can take her son to visit Lourdes and Enrique soon.
Lourdes’ sister Mirian returned to Honduras and her children in 2009, determined to return to them before they developed resentments towards her for leaving them.
If you have any additional questions about the family, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org