If you walk into Villa Soleada and shake hands with the first person you meet, they’re probably related to Juana Pastora.
Juana has just turned 63 years old, and her wise and steely composure is legend among Villa families. All six of her kids live within the community: Chilo, Wilson, Edwin, Luis, Yadira, and Carmen.
“I raised my kids in poverty,” she said, “we were renting, house to house, for a long time. When they offered us a place in Villa I was thrilled and we moved here immediately. I’m never going to leave.”
“You’re going to retire here?” I joked.
She looked at me across the table. Her expression said yeah right.
Although retirement is a luxury in Honduras, Juana wouldn’t do it even if it wasn’t. She told me as much while we sat in the kitchens of our partner NGO, Students Helping Honduras, where she works as a cook.
She pointed out the window towards the girls home and told me how she started working there when they first arrived in Villa. Now, she puts in the hours cooking for the school and any volunteer groups that pass through.
Someone yelled out with another order. Juana stood and began peeling an onion as she talked.
“I love to work.”
Among other things, like attending church activities, making her own bread, and eating fish soup, Juana never lost her will to bring home the bacon.
“I’ve never liked to buy things with the money I keep for myself. I only buy them if they’re useful to me. Why have a TV if you can’t turn it on anyway?”
“You have a TV in your home, though.”
She nodded and handled a tortilla.
“Yes. The only reason I’ll turn it on is to watch the news. I like to keep up with current events and know what’s going on.”
I asked if she passed her frugal habits on to her children.
“I know, for example, your grandson likes to purchase things,” I went on, “he’s buying a fan and a stereo right now.”
I’m speaking of course of Eduar Reyes, our La Ceiba Loan Officer, and Juana’s fourth grandson. She smiled a little bit and waived her hand.
“Who knows with young people these days. At least they’re thinking about their future and the comfort of their own homes.”
We change topics to her loan account. Currently, Juana has a $200 loan out with us. We’ve only known her to be late on her payments once in 2014 when she fell ill. On every other payment she’s ever made, Juana has almost always done so a week in advance.
She says it’s a habit of hers, to “always, always make the deposit early.”
I asked her if her refrigerator was still broken.
“It is, so I can’t sell milk like I usually do. I’ve had to rely on this job instead.” Her and her husband keep their incomes separate, making sure things are balanced in the household.
“What he does with it is his business. I don’t want to take out any other loans, though. When you do that, all of your money goes to making payments and you have none left for yourself. That’s not for me.”
I asked her what she wants to buy in the future.
“A radio. Well, I want to fix the refrigerator first, but then I want a radio so I can listen to the news on there too.”
She delivered the plate out the door and sat back down at the table. The kitchen was quiet again and I had run out of questions.
For no reason what-so-ever, we both started laughing. It went on for a while until we both calmed down.
“Thank you Donía Pastora.”
“You’re very welcome.”