As a kid my mother used to take me to clean houses with her. ¡Sientate aquí! No toques nada. Nomás juega aquí… ahorita vengo. That’s what she would tell me before heading into the rest of somebody else’s house to do the housekeeping for them. I wasn’t in school yet and it was always an adventure to explore all of the nice things in other people’s homes. They had really nice sofas. More than one and matching ones at that! Their walls were decorated with fancy picture frames and decorations. Their refrigerators stocked with things like bologna and cheese. Things we could never afford at our house. It was just fun to see so many new things at every house we visited.
In those days, ni me daba cuenta that we were essentially the help. I didn’t long for their belongings or wish that we had what they had, crazy as that is to believe now in hindsight. It was more amusing to wonder why their dogs were living indoors and running around so nonchalantly. At home, any time a cat or dog would come into the house it was always total and complete chaos. My mother would shoo it away, we would chase after the animal trying to get it out of the house, and my father would chunk whatever he could get his hands on, while yelling ¡ey, saquen ese gato!
“Pets belong outside, not inside… silly people,” I would think to myself as the animal in question would curl themselves around me. It was fun to do things differently in someone else’s home. My father wasn’t there so the same rules didn’t apply.
Later when I entered elementary school, my schoolmates, I guess you could say, were my bosses. At least their mothers were my mother’s boss. When we would ride the school bus home I knew which one of their houses my mother had cleaned. They knew it too, but it was never awkward or weird. They never made fun of me for it or even brought it up at all. Ever! We were friends and classmates and that’s all we cared about. I should mention this was in the Rio Grande Valley in the late 80s, in our small little town of probably no more than a couple dozen families. Farming was our main source of income in McCook and in a way I guess that created a sense of unity in the town. We all had a role to play and that made everyone a part of the community.
Even my mother the maid and my father the laborer had a place.
There has never been a sense of shame in what my parents have done for work over the years. They were working honradamente and that allowed us to put food on the table. When we moved to Houston – I was older of course – my mother and I would canvas more affluent neighborhoods passing out fliers and asking people if they needed someone to clean their houses. This was in middle school and high school mostly. At this age there was a little bit more embarrassment in seeking this type work, but I avoided it mostly by making sure the neighborhoods we canvassed weren’t within the boundaries of my schools’ zoning. As long as I didn’t have to see my schoolmates’ faces at the door of one of these houses I was fine.
Fortunately we never did.
This week, when I first heard about Eva Longoria’s upcoming show Devious Maids I was a little apprehensive about what it might be about. I’m still not entirely sure how the show will be executed, but from this interview with Eva Longoria it sounds like it might finally be a realistic portrayal of the thousands of Latinas in the United States who earn their living cleaning other people’s houses, honradamente. I hope so, because it’s about time we treat this archetype of a character without all of the stereotypes! I love her defense of the show también.
The Longoria produced project is slated to air on ABC this fall and stars Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty), Roselyn Sanchez (Without a Trace), Dania Ramirez (Heroes), and Judy Reyes (Scrubs). The show, which is being produced by “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry, will tell the story of four maids with big dreams who work for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills.