“My family is from Uruguay. My sister developed cancer in 1992. It was osteosarcoma of her right leg. They contacted St. Jude and got a visa to enter the U.S. for treatment. She was in treatment for six months but passed away. She was almost 13. I was born after she died and I am the spitting image of her.
After she passed away, my family stayed in Memphis. Dad opened one of the first Latin American grocery stores there. In 2002, my parents turned their business into real estate to help the Latin community. Dad was always the big dreamer, and Mom was the home-making hustler who made sure the rent was paid.
The economy tanked in 2008, especially with real estate. We went from having a successful real estate agency to nobody buying houses, not even the people with cash for a down payment. After we lost the real estate agency, my parents tried their best to make ends meet. Mom took a couple of jobs. Dad sold insurance so he could connect with people on an individual level.
Learning from my parents to be resilient and passionate inspired me to pursue what I love–art and animation. I went to the Memphis College of Art. I met my future husband the first week of school and we became best friends. After about three months of our friendship, I told him that if he would ask me out I would say yes. After months of teasing, he finally asked me out at midnight on Halloween. I knew we needed to keep it private because my parents would not approve if they found out. They wanted a different kind of person for me.
They found out and it didn’t go well. They pulled me out of school and sent me on a mission trip to Colombia with my mom’s friend. I think they were hoping I would meet a boy they approved of.
I came back after three months. Growing into my own person strained the relationship with my parents. I was raised where if you love your family, you will do what is asked of you and play your part. There are boundaries. If you fall out of them, that means you want more than you are given and that you don’t love the family. They felt the family should be enough. As I started experiencing new versions of normal and what was right for me. I didn’t do the things they thought were best for me, and as a result, they hurt me.
There was still a lot of trying to reach out and getting rejected until my father finally disowned me. My healthiest path was to become independent, so I separated from them. I didn’t want to lose contact, I just wanted them to be okay with my life and fiancé. He was the one for me.
Becoming independent like that was hard and I had to figure life out. I have been homeless in Memphis for months at a time. The day I separated myself from my parents, I only had $200 to my name. I couch-surfed with friends and slept in my car so I wouldn’t have to go back to my parents.
I have gotten back on my feet each time with my now-husband by my side. I lost everything to be with him, but he was worth it. He continues to be so interesting, thoughtful, and good to me. There is no resentment or anger about what happened.
We moved from Memphis to California with two close friends in 2017. I was hoping to find a job in the animation industry, but jobs were limited and rent was high. It took income from all four of us to pay for our apartment. I eventually lost my job during COVID and the cost of living was too much. We moved from California to Fairhope in 2021 because my husband’s sister lived here.
Once settled, I started working at Piggly Wiggly. We didn’t have a car so I walked to work until we saved and bought a car. Through God’s kindness, we were able to rent our own home. I have fun working at Piggly Wiggly and it has given me a chance to be myself.
I have worked at the customer service desk at Piggly Wiggly for almost a year. I care for people and want them to feel better when they come in. The trick is knowing that they are more than just a face. Some of our clientele are older and I may be the only person they have a conversation with that day.
I make the announcements over the loudspeaker and want to be warm and friendly. I hope it sounds like I am glad to be here taking care of you.
When I was becoming independent and figuring out what I was doing, I wish someone had given that kindness to me. I want to be the person that I needed when no one was there. I learned how to tell myself it’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to want to feel better. It also gave me a servant’s heart to take care of people.
I have gone back to art as my old friend instead of an assignment. In time, I want to own a studio to express stories like mine. I want people to know they aren’t alone.
I want to make apparel that is LGBTQ-related and provides accessibility to kids who may be afraid to express themselves. I realized throughout my journey that I was non-binary, which means that instead of feeling specifically female or specifically male, you feel like neither or a mix of the two.
Surprisingly, the South gives you more room to be yourself than California. There’s a difference between Fairhope and Marina. In California, people are nice, but not kind. They are more preoccupied with appearance and how others see you. In Fairhope, people are both nice and kind. That kindness creates an energy that lets you be okay with folks who are different. It may even lead people to talk and learn about something they don’t understand.”