When I was just 2 years old, my parents left El Salvador for America. I stayed behind with my grandmother, Emilia. From the age of 6, I was at her side every day, learning to cook her traditional recipes: beans, pupusas, tortillas, and even cheese. I loved my grandmother.
When I was 12, my parents brought me to the family home in Virginia. I was the last of their six children to make the journey. I arrived in June, and went immediately to summer school so I could start learning English. It was a hard time for me. I just wanted to go home—back to El Salvador.
But I stayed here—and in school, even after I got married at 18 and even while I was pregnant with my first and then my second child. And, I graduated. My family was so proud of me. So was I.
My husband and I bought a home in Leesburg for our four children. We were both working hard, each taking on two or three jobs at a time to pay the bills. But then—all at once—we lost our jobs. We were both unemployed for three months. It was a very scary time.
The Next Chapter
That’s when my sister-in-law suggested I visit a local center that helps new immigrants. They took care of me and my babies. They made sure we had doctors, food, clothes, and diapers. I attended classes on parenting and budgeting. I was able to make friends. And I decided to start my own business.
Three months after we had lost our jobs, we borrowed money from my father-in-law, and we bought a food truck. I started cooking and serving my grandmother’s meals: pupusas, soups, stews, and tacos. Then, we opened our first restaurant in December 2015 in Purcellville. My grandmother, now 78, came to see my kitchen and all the people enjoying her food. It was such a great day to share with her.
Now, my husband and I are dreaming about opening a second, bigger restaurant. And we are talking to our own children about their futures—about staying school and making good choices. You see, I still remember what it was like to be unemployed with four small children. So I am grateful to the nonprofit center that helped us get past that difficult time. I, in turn, try to help people whenever I can. If we all do our part, we can help End the Need in Loudoun.
As part of the Community Foundation’s Faces of Loudoun campaign, Loudoun Nowis publishing monthly articles highlighting men, women and children who have found a helping hand when they needed it most. Learn more or donate to help End the Need at FacesofLoudoun.org.