Salvadoran family finds refuge from racism in Texas

Story, photos and audio by Conor Dunn, NewsNetNebraska

Martha Moratoya immigrated to the United States in search of the “The American Dream.” But after moving to Houston from El Salvador 18 years ago, what she found was far from the opportunities she had heard so much about. Promises of well-paying work and a good education for her children had inspired her journey.

Instead, she learned just how intolerant people could be. Even a simple trip to the gas station ended with someone shouting at her to go back to Mexico.

“They (white Texans) thought they could do whatever they wanted to us,” Moratoya said through an interpreter. “But I’m not the type of person that would allow them to.”

Martha Moratoya, 34, embraces her sons Diego (left) and Jonathan (right) Hernandez at her part-time job as a clerk in Variedades el Quetzal.

Martha Moratoya, 34, embraces her sons Diego (left) and Jonathan (right) Hernandez at Variedades el Quetzal, where she works as a part-time clerk.

So Moratoya packed up her things and left Texas, finding solace in the Cornhusker state. For the past four years, she’s lived in the Everett neighborhood, where she pays $800 a month for her rental home. As a 34-year-old single mother raising five children, who range in age from a high school freshman to a second-grader, life can be challenging.

But Moratoya loves living in the Everett and wouldn’t dream of moving elsewhere. She generally shies away from most English-speaking people unless they engage in conversation with her first.

“I can’t speak English,” she said. “But I can understand what someone is trying to tell me.”

When Moratoya isn’t cleaning houses to support her family, she volunteers at her aunt’s business, Variedades el Quetzal, a convenience store in Everett, where customers can send or receive money through the Western Union services or purchase international calling cards. The business also sells popular foods, drinks, clothing, music and toys from traditional Mexican, Salvadorian, Guatemalan and Puerto Rican cultures.

The part-time job is a nice way for her to connect with other Spanish-speaking members in her community, she said.

One thing that has solidified Moratoya’s desire to live in Nebraska is the English Language Learners program at Lincoln Public Schools. She said the education in Nebraska has been a vast improvement from what her children were learning in Houston.

Moratoya wants her children to have strong English skills so that they can attend college and have more opportunities than she did growing up.

Although Moratoya enjoys going to the bakery and restaurants such as El Chaparro in the Everett neighborhood, she would find life more convenient if there were more clothing stores and an outdoor fruits and vegetables market, she said.

When it comes to assimilating to the social aspects of American culture, such as shopping, eating out and dancing, Moratoya said things are pretty similar in El Salvador.

“I don’t see many differences,” she said. “You guys just have a different way of partying, but so do we.”

Moratoya discusses the stores she’d like to see in Lincoln (translated by Magdalena Madera):

Return to The People of Everett

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *