Eli (name changed, 50 years old, Honduras) came to Spain more than three years ago. In Honduras she worked as an administrative employee in companies related to US military services. This job allowed her to travel a lot: Singapore, Mexico, even in the Middle East, where she spent a year and a half on her last mission. When these contracts ended, and since she has a very high level of English, she got a job as an English teacher in a public school in Honduras.

Eli is a single mother and the education of her daughter, who is now 23 years old, was always of primary concern to her. That is why, more than three years ago, she decided to emigrate to Spain. She had savings to pay for her daughter's university, but on the condition that nothing unforeseen happens, which in normal life is impossible, even more so considering that her daughter needs more attention for being a poor listener.

She has no papers and since she came to Spain she has been working as an intern domestic maid for a very high class and well-connected family, taking care of a family with four children. Once a week, on the day of her rest, she goes to a room she rents in a house where 6 other people live.

For Eli, the hardest thing was to adapt to the reality of a domestic workers, or rather to the treatment that many of them receive from their employers. They are often treated badly, and with no consideration due to a human being. To this add endless hours of daily work, poorly paid and the feeling of being a simple appliance at the total disposal of employers. Eli also has osteoarthritis and, in barely 3 and a half years, the work left her strong varicose veins in her legs.

“I look at my boss, she is a woman who looks very nice: she is well cared for, always perfectly arranged ... and I say to myself - how is it possible that we are almost the same age and yet we look so different?; -and of course…. I am the one who carries all the physical difficulties in the house, with cleaning, with problems, with children. It is normal for me to be worn out… but I feel proud. When I look at my destroyed hands, I tell myself: my hands are destroyed, my entire system is destroyed but I achieved my goal and as a human being I have risen. As human beings in the end we have to learn to value life, nothing is shameful if you do it with dignity.” – Eli

Eli works 15 hours a day and during the pandemic she had to stay locked in the house with her bosses. It was hard, because neither physically nor psychologically she was able to rest at any time. - “I think that during the confinement, those of us who were locked up with our employers, we went through a very hard time. Psychologically, physically, we wear ourselves out, terrible ... I think we wear ourselves out a lot. And most of us were paid nothing for overtime. Many women were later fired, because some of them asked to be paid for their additional working time. Some were promised to be paid and they were fired after, and to some other employers refused to pay if they don't like it, they risk find themselves on the street also.” – Eli

Eli says she still has a year to endure, but wants to go back to her country as soon as she can. Here, if she resisted all this time, it is thanks to the support of other colleagues. She met an association Senda de Cuidados*, which helped her with registration and now with the procedure to obtain legal papers. She also joined the association of domestic workers Territorio Domestico**, where she met other women who live the same or even worse situation than her. Together they support each other, share stories, advice, help each other. They see that what happens to them is not their fault and above all, they feel less alone.

“In the association Path of Care I met Maite (a social worker-h.j), that day was a very beautiful moment for me because the way Maite treated me was very warm. The expression in her eyes, her affection, made me feel again that I was a person and, after these years working and being treated like a machine without a soul, to feel that someone looks at you as a person, as a human being ... that it is wonderful.

I thought that since people read so many masterpieces, so much philosophy, and so many ideas others translate into books, I thought that this makes you a better person. So it has also been difficult for me to understand what I can see here. Because almost in all of the houses where we work, the owners have beautiful libraries, with precious literature, and I ask myself: what the hell do they do with what they have read? It doesn't make them better people! And that's shocking.” - Eli

PODCAST (in Spanish)

To know more: 

*SENDA DE CUIDADOSdecent work and care - non-profit association (Madrid).

**TERRITORIO DOMÉSTICOFeminist and mestizo collective of women, many of whom are domestic workers, who demand the visibility and social reorganization of domestic care (Madrid).

Hanna Jarzabek - Photography & Documentary Storytelling

Documentary photographer and Multimedia Storyteller specialized in projects addressing discrimination and societal dysfunctions, with accent on Europe.
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