Araceli and her 7-year-old daughter are dressed up in Christmas clothes, coming from a school Christmas recital. Araceli’s 1st grader sang in front of the entire school this year, which she so much enjoys. Araceli smiles with joy as she recounts the performance and shows pride in her daughter.
Araceli grew up in Tijuana, spending almost her entire life in the neighborhood of Pedregal de Santa Julia. She is the third of six kids, who grew up at Hogar de los Niños orphanage. She recounts that her family was the orphanage, as she never knew anything else. Some of her siblings still live there all these years later. She talks about the orphanage with a heart full of gratitude. Hogar de los Niños filled a void for her, not just one of physical needs with food and clothes, but also the necessary intangibles of love, growing up with family, and role models.
Rosa and Eduvigues, who worked in the orphanage, practically became her parents. Rosa taught her to read, write, and memorize math tables. Araceli recounts that she was never really a good student, but always tried hard and Rosa did see value in that. Araceli gets emotional when talking about Rosa, as she passed away a couple years ago. Rosa left a strong impression on her that she still carries with her to this day. Perhaps that’s where her strong work ethic came from.
What Araceli lacked in study skills, she made up for with her love of physical activity, exercise, and spirit of determination. Putting all that together led her to open a neighborhood Zumba studio. Not bad for someone who didn’t finish middle school. She operated the Zumba studio for years, teaching many in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, she had to close that business due to the pandemic, but her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in again as she went back to school to be a masseuse.
Araceli shares that she wants to open her own Zumba and spa business once her house is built. She already has it planned out, where the house will be on one side of her property and the other will be dedicated to studio and spa. She hopes rent payments for housing and business space will finally be a thing of the past.
When talking about her daughter, Araceli’s face starts to brighten up. She says she wants to impart humility, a good work ethic, and persistence onto her young daughter. All qualities that have served her well throughout her life. Araceli also shares of a deep desire to break the cycle of family trauma, specifically of absent biological parents. She starts to get emotional again when explaining her motivation to be an active and present parent in her daughter’s life. Wanting her daughter to have access to family in all its fullness.
Taking a moment to reflect on her life, Araceli says that she’s learned to recognize when things change, it is always for the better. Even when it doesn’t seem like it at the time, change brings opportunity. Whether its leaving Hogar de los Niños, starting a new business, becoming a mother, or dealing with a pandemic. She shares that each stage in life should be used as a step that leads to bigger and better things. Moving on before dependence and complacency have a chance to creep into the picture. Better days are always ahead for Araceli.
In hearing how Araceli describes change in her life, I can’t help but think of her on the waiting list for a Doxa house. How a house will be another big change in her life and how it will fulfill a need that will help catapult her and her daughter to better things.