1.Trixy, how did you come to your current job as a housekeeper for the Culiberg family? What convinced you to accept this position? And how did you feel at the beginning? Was there uncertainty, given that the family is foreign?
“I wanted this job because I was fed up with the long daily commute in Salvador’s heavy traffic and I wanted something permanent and secure, without the daily traffic and without wasting hours on the bus.
Yes, at first I was very scared, especially because I don’t speak English and because I knew my family didn’t speak Spanish. I was especially afraid of how we were going to communicate. Of course, at the beginning there is always the fear of whether they will be good people, whether they will treat me well, especially because I have also had some not very pleasant experiences when a family hires you. You are afraid of the new and the different. I was afraid too. But it soon turned out that they were nice and that, in fact, they were good at Spanish.
2. Did you have any other job before becoming a housekeeper? How did you find your previous job?
“Yes, I started working when I was young, in my teens. First I helped in the kitchen, for many years, then I did a lot of odd jobs like picking up coffee and cleaning, I was a waitress, I served food and many other things. Then I got my first serious job as a housewife, thanks to the recommendations of my son-in-law’s mother, working for one of the most powerful and richest families in El Salvador, the Simán family.”
3. Before, did you live with your bosses or did you go to work every day?
“Here it is a habit and something quite normal to live with your family. Almost all rich people’s houses have an annex for housewives. In most of my jobs, I lived with the family, went home on the weekend and came back on Mondays.”
4. Trixy, what is your return home like every weekend and how do you spend your free time?
“My journey home takes between 5 and 6 hours one way. I live in the northwest of El Salvador and the traffic is very slow. When I go back to San Salvador, where the Culiberg family lives, I get up at 3 a.m. on a Monday morning to get to their house at 8 or 9:30. During the weekend I am always with my mother, whom I take care of and help financially, and one of my sons always lives with me, while other sons and grandchildren come from time to time. I also have a daughter and two grandchildren whom I see regularly because we live nearby. Sometimes we go for walks, to the beach or cook at home. I also work from time to time on the weekend, if there is some odd job, like picking up coffee. Family is very important to me and that’s why weekends are the most sacred for me, because I enjoy the company of my family, whom I miss. I also visit church every weekend, it’s my refuge.”
5. How have you dealt with the fear of crime in recent years? In your experience, has the situation improved?
“Mixed feelings. There has been violence in El Salvador for as long as I can remember and I am still afraid on the bus because I have been robbed in the past. They took all my money and my phone, it was terrible. I still don’t feel safe, it probably takes time, but I’m still scared and cautious. But this is my opinion and my personal point of view.
6. What wishes do you have for your family, for the future of your children, have you helped them to educate themselves, have you encouraged them to learn and grow?
“I have two sons, a daughter, two grandchildren and a mother. This is my family. What I want most is a good future for my children, that they are healthy and happy and that my children find good partners, because they are still single. With a lot of hard work and sacrifice, I have supported them through high school, so that they have a basic education. Unfortunately, I cannot help them financially because my income does not allow me to do so. I am an only child and I have to take care of my mother, who has no income. I can only advise them and motivate them to learn every day”.
7. How do women, the local women where you come from, take care of themselves during menstruation, given the limited access to sanitary products, pads, tampons and hot water?
“I haven’t had my period for a year now, and that’s only 45 years old. I had health problems that have now been solved, but fortunately I no longer have my period. Otherwise, we used sanitary pads, if there was money, I take care of myself, I take vitamins and if something hurts, I take an analgesic”.
8. What do you do if you get sick and who pays for your medical expenses?
“I don’t have health insurance and if I get seriously ill I can only go to the doctor if I pay for it myself. Usually my eldest son buys medicine for me when it is really necessary. If I get sick, I go to the Mazzini hospital in Sonsonate. I pay for everything myself because I only had social health insurance for a while, when I worked in a factory for 6 years.
9. Do you believe that education is the key to success? What is your position on this?
“Yes, I think it helps a lot to move up the ladder because I see that there are better and better paying jobs. It contributes to family and personal well-being.
10. Would you like to visit Slovenia with us sometime? Would you like to see the snow? Do you think you would enjoy a long flight?
“Yes, I would like to see the snow. I would probably be scared of the flight at first, but I think I would enjoy it and prepare well so I wouldn’t be cold on the plane, and not cold at the destination either. I hope to experience that someday.”
11. What are the local traditions related to dating and marriage in El Salvador?
“Some couples do get married, modestly in my village, but most couples now simply decide to live together in free union without getting married, but I personally don’t agree with that. I think marriage is something very important and serious, a commitment one makes to the other.”
12. do you think about the future, given that you may not have a retirement pension? are you worried about how you will support yourself when you are older?
“Here it is common for children to take care of their parents, and I hope my children will help me too. I am not afraid. I pray to God not to let me stay longer than necessary, so I won’t be a burden to anyone.”
13. How do you remember your previous bosses, and do you have any experience that sticks in your memory?
“I had a boss who gave me presents for Christmas for my whole family, for my three children, gave me a lot of money and let me have a long vacation, which I paid for anyway, as if I were working. She made me feel very good, she was rich and generous and I will never forget her, she was a wonderful woman. Unfortunately, she passed away.
There have been several bad experiences. One terrible one was when my co-workers and I went without food at my boss’s birthday party because the guests came first and we were working all day. We were hungry, so we ordered food and paid for it ourselves, so we pooled our money. Those were the worst. Normally a family would have several helpers and maids, two to five, plus a gardener and a nanny for each child. So sometimes we would get together and the workers would help each other.
14. Have you ever thought of leaving the country and going abroad? What would motivate you to do so? After all, you have a passport now?
“Yes, I would leave the country and go to the United States to work and have a better standard of living. I would leave, although I would leave my family, because they would be much better off with my help from afar.”
15. What do you think needs to change in El Salvador to improve living conditions? What aspects are currently bothering you?
“I hope we get better salaries for the professions where the minimum wage is now. Domestic workers should have social security and we should be treated better because we are practically underpaid and those of us who maintain the home and take care of everything, food, cleaning, children and so on, it is difficult for us to support ourselves with only one income for so many people. The state should prescribe a minimum and help more actively. Also in educational opportunities.
16. How do you take care of the hygienic needs of a baby, for example your granddaughter, in your city, especially if you don’t have access to hot water and diapers? And who takes care of them when mom is working?
“My children are grown up now. When they were little, it was mostly my mother who took care of them because I had to work all the time. We didn’t use disposable diapers because we couldn’t afford them. Now my granddaughter is better, we heat water from time to time, we have diapers from time to time, so it works.”
17. Trixy, what are your dreams and goals for the future, what would you like to achieve?
“I want to have my own house so that all my children have a safe place when I’m not around. I want my children to be good, honest and have a job and be happy.”
18. How have you overcome the obstacles and adapted to living in an environment where you do not have all the privileges, such as hot water and other comforts?
“I thank God for everything I have, for my health, for my life, for everything he gives me. It doesn’t affect me because I have lived like this all my life and it doesn’t bother me at all. God fills my being with peace and for me these are trivial things.”
19. So you’re renting a house – what’s the house like, how many rooms, what do you like and what do you miss?
“Yes, I rent a house in a village on the other side of the country. It’s nice, it’s quiet and there’s nature. My house has only one room, it’s very small. Only my youngest son and I live there permanently. I have a closet, a microwave and two beds, outside there is rain water for washing, which is cold, but we have no refrigerator, dishwasher or stove. There is a small garden around where I get a lot of things, but we cook mostly in an outdoor fireplace. I also have a dog, cats and some chickens.”
20. How do you take care of your mental and emotional health when you face the challenges of everyday life? What helps you maintain a positive attitude about the future?
“I go to church every Sunday when I am at home and kneel every day when I get up and before I go to bed. I talk to God and ask him for health for me, my children and my mother, and I thank him for everything he gives me. I thank him for never abandoning me and I feel that he always listens to me and gives me peace of mind and soul. Even when I am sad, I ask God to help me, to give me strength, to make me feel better. I am not afraid of the future, I trust God and just enjoy every day.”