Hope for Esperanza in 2010


Today, right before the New Year begins, Esperanza and her two daughters came to visit my wife and me in our New York apartment. Thirty four years before today's visit, Esperanza was a runaway from a South American embassy in Manhattan that had virtually kept her a slave, having taken her to America from her native Peru to care for the Ambassador's children. They paid her no salary, gave her no days off, and confiscated her visa so she could not return home. She made her escape one night and, being homeless and penniless, began riding the subway, back and forth from Manhattan to Brooklyn, lost, frightened, and alone. She only spoke Spanish, and did not know where or how to reach out for help. It was her good fortune that Maria, a woman who worked as a housekeeper in our apartment building, was riding on that very subway car, and had heard that my wife and I needed a baby nurse for our infant son so that my wife could return to work. I've told some of this story before on the Huffington Post, but bear with me, it's worth retelling, and today I bring it up-to-date. Best of all we can all use a tale of hope in a time when so many feel hopeless.

Maria introduced herself to the frightened girl and told her of this chance for work, a decent salary and warm shelter working as a baby nurse for a family with two small boys. She advised Esperanza to keep silent, say yes when nudged, and let Maria do the talking. Maria introduced Esperanza to us as her "dear cousin" from South America, here on a visit and in need of work. Maria assured us that Esperanza understood English but was very shy about speaking it. Thanks to that wonderful lie we hired her. My wife spoke no Spanish, only high school French, and my high school Spanish, taught by the stern Senorita Pulaski, left me speechless after my first Buenos Dias. Nevertheless, we were drawn towards the small, bright eyed, intelligent-looking girl of eighteen whose profile might have been the model for a face on a Mayan ruin and whose long black braid gleamed like a raven's wings. So Esperanza arrived in our lives to take care of our two young sons, and we were privileged to watch the amazing development of a human being.  Continued...