Maria Santos came to the community in 2014.
Her and her husband had one motorcycle, a few pots, and two kids. They left the crowded family house in San Pedro Sula to make a new life for themselves.
They found a piece of land, cleared it, and settled on it.
The first thing they did was build a home of palm. They set up a small stove out in the yard and strung a hammock up between two trees.
Every morning her husband got up and left for a construction site in another city. He’d be gone for a while and sometimes wouldn’t come back for a few days. Santos watched the kids and found her own work nearby. She cleaned, cooked, and babysat, earning about $26 a week.
She worked for two days at a time. Sometimes they asked her back for a third, but her real project was at home. Santos knew that making a new life meant investing in her children’s future.
She started making payments on her property.
She saved up every month to make the quotas. To own the small thirty-by-thirty piece of land, Santos must pay $6,600 to the municipality. She makes $45 payments every month and doesn’t consider it unachievable.
“Twelve years,” she said, “that’s how long it should take.”
To her, each small payment is a step closer to having land she can pass on in her name.
To help make the payments and cover household costs, she started La Ceiba’s Personal Loan Program.
In late 2015, she rebuilt her house with bamboo and mud. She put up a porch using branches and tin panels.
“It’s better, but there’s still a leak in the corner” she laughed.
She took out another loan with La Ceiba. She’s worked her way through the program up to $175, paying $9 in interest.
Then came some luck. In 2016, she found work at Moy, a popular eatery by the mall. She worked twelve hours a day – five to five – taking Mondays off. She says she makes upwards of $58 a week.
Even better, they let her bring her kids, which frees up her husband to take more work elsewhere.
Things were looking up. I walked by her house one day and wasn’t surprised to see her smiling and waving at me. It was her day off.
“I wrote a blog about you” I said.
“You did? What did you write?”
I told her.
“You didn’t include anything about Ana [Hecton] who came to teach. Her and my daughter Alejandra were inseparable that whole week.”
I told her I would include it. Then she smiled and said there was even better news.
“I may have found a job that pays $100 a week cleaning a bank!” She said, whispering behind her hand.
I told her that was phenomenal and that we were all rooting for her. After everything she’s done to get where she is, I asked her if there was any advice she wanted to give the readers.
“Do what I’ve done.” She said.
I looked at her and she nodded.
“Buy land. Build a house. It’s important to make your life your own.”
I told her I’d pass it on..