Alejandra is proud of her home. It is not a house, but a travel trailer, parked in a small space at the back of her mother-in-law's house. We can reach the front door today because it hasn't rained in a while.
Her husband had paid $1,500 or so for the trailer, buying it from a friend who had lived in it for ten years, who had bought it from a couple from Minnesota who, twenty years ago, had used it while traveling through Mexico.
So it is not a house, but it is their home.
"Before," she said, "We would rent a small room from different people. But now we have a home."
Alejandra gave me a tour--a small breakfast nook; a small cooking area, a very small bedroom, and a small, small, small bathroom with a smaller shower stall. There is no hot water, as the boiler burnt out some time ago.
No air conditioning either, which I noticed as soon as I entered. The word "sauna" came to mind at first, but then I remembered that in a sauna you are not wearing clothing, you go there by choice and you can leave whenever you want.
Alejandra closed the door.
Sweat streaming down my face, I told her that I had just lost ten pounds. She laughed and said, "Our trailer is a double-use--a home and a fitness center!"
The screens were intact on the small windows, mercifully keeping out the mosquitoes and flies. Her one year old son was napping in the bed. In the evenings, Alejandra explained, they made a small bed on the floor for him. "We have to be very careful if we get up in the middle of the night not to step on him," she commented.
I carefully backed into the kitchen/dinette/living room. I sat at the small table while she poured me a glass of water, which she then sat upon a napkin.
She filled up a glass for herself, and then sat down opposite me. A drop of sweat fell from the tip of her nose. Alejandra sighed, and noted, "We are so blessed."
Then she took a measured, small sip from her glass of water, and smiled again.
The details of my visit were misleading. I had found an obviously poor woman living in a hot, leaky trailer—and she seemed happy about this. “A simple soul,” the uncomplicated part of my brain deduced.
But then we continued to talk and I learned that while this was definitely her home, and while it was a step up from a rental room, it was just that—one more step.
Alejandra had larger things in mind, which involved a decent home for her boy to grow up in and in which her family would create their living space. What struck me most about our conversation, though, was how she continually included the wider community in her dreams. How she would refer, over and again, about how nice it will be when “all of us have decent places to live.”
Her present home was indeed small. Her dreams—not so much.