My time with Gabriela gave me a better understanding of immigrant life, and immense inspiration. She leads a life of determination and resilience, fueled by her love for her family. I will present her story in her own words:

The Past

My name is Gabriela. I was born in Mexico City, and lived there until eight years ago. I reached the United States in April 2006. I crossed the border with my father, Efrain Martinez, and did not realize I would never again see my mother and brothers. At the time I was young, and terribly sad to leave my country, my home, my family. Yet, I came with a positive mindset because I needed to leave to help my father raise money by building houses, then eventually return to Mexico — at least those were the plans.

The Border Crossing

The truth is, I cannot complain. Although crossing the border was scary and difficult, we had God’s protection. We did not suffer that much (at least, compared to the stories we had heard). I also had the protection of my loving father and my uncle. As a young girl, I knew it was a much higher risk for me to cross. It was uncomfortable, obviously. There were no access to bathrooms, and we had to relieve ourselves in the mountains. We slept in abandoned houses with no beds or blankets. Luckily, we hardly had to walk as we were picked up by a coyote who hid us in his van. My dad was hidden in the back and I was kept beside the driver. The details are difficult to remember, as I was so young.

North Carolina

Well, by God’s mercy, we arrived in North Carolina! We chose to come here because we had some relatives who had helped us pay for the coyote. My cousin Ana, a fellow housecleaner, and her brother Hector Duran, they helped us. Family is everything. She helped me buy clothes, find work with her, and even helped us find a place to live. That is how I became a housecleaner.


I began working with Ana. We first had a few houses, but then we got more and more work. That same year, I met the father of my children, the love of my life… I met Marvin Rodriguez. He was a Salvadoran, someone with very different customs and culture from me, so God changed me and my plan. After that, I did not want to return to Mexico!

In May 2008, I gave birth to my first child, Kevin Rodriguez. Five years later, I had my second baby, my beautiful princess! We call her Kathia.

Through the government, I am able to provide daycare for my children when I am at work. They are both very smart, and Kevin helps me learn English.

But, we had problems. My husband works for a construction company and builds houses. He travels outside North Carolina every week in order to do his job, then returns weekends. Sometimes, I feel like I am a single mother. When he is home, we go to church. I love going to church, there, I feel great. I feel peace, and I want my children to know and love God. Since 2011, we have attended La Iglesia Cristiana de Durham. We serve God and have changed the way of our lives, because our life was a mess!


About my work: we are also blessed because we have a lot of work, and yes it is very difficult work, but we are useful. If it is very hard work, people are not seen as “freaks”. There are people who see maids as worthless, but there are also those who are very good people. They are grateful, friendly, and even invite us to dinner. This makes us work harder.


I have dreams, just like everyone else. I dream of having papers so we do not have to live in fear. I dream of one day seeing my family again. My children have never seen their grandparents. I have never met my husband’s family. I also dream of owning my own home someday, to see my children study and become professionals in whatever career they choose, so they do not have to ever suffer due to money or work in a job that earns so little and makes them work like donkeys!

May God always keep us united, my husband, my children, and me, united in health and in love.

As told to — Nikita Yogeshwarun