103-year-old Guatemalan mother and daughter struggle to survive

“Every day is terrifying here,” a 95-year-old Guatemalan immigrant told me in early September. Fidelia could barely recall the details of her day with Walmart. She packed produce and painted tires at a plant…

103-year-old Guatemalan mother and daughter struggle to survive

“Every day is terrifying here,” a 95-year-old Guatemalan immigrant told me in early September.

Fidelia could barely recall the details of her day with Walmart. She packed produce and painted tires at a plant in a nearby town. The supermarket provided her employment, but it was not full-time.

At around 3 p.m., a man from the plant knocked at her door. He took out a paper that had a warning about industrial waste. It had a special stamp. When she entered her home, it was decorated with a tree. Fidelia had decorated it too. She thought it was a miracle that the man from the plant made it to her home so quickly.

As her co-workers finished up, she took the day off and went to pick up her 90-year-old mother.

“Sometimes, the plant is rude,” she said, recalling her conversations with people from the plant. “I say to my mother, ‘Tomorrow, the plant will be respectful.’”

For the past four months, Fidelia has lived in a trailer with the roof rattled by storms and broken windows. “It’s real hard to live,” she said. “One day, I can have love and the next day, I can have hate.”

We interviewed her outside one of the Walmart stores in San Luis, a town about an hour’s drive south of Guatemala City. Here, the crush of customers on a recent Saturday afternoon–some waiting in long lines to pay their bills — has changed the face of commerce. The stands selling frozen chicken, meat and garden produce are crowded.

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