Ana Celia sits back in her cushioned office chair outside a shop on 2141 Mission St. selling an assortment of miscellaneous goods, including stuffed animals, well-priced jeans and helium balloons. She laughs as she talks to a friend wearing bright pink lipstick and a tan sweat suit. Latin music blares from a boombox behind her while locals and commuters alike march towards their destinations with varying levels of purpose.

My Spanish is clunky, but she patiently listens with a kind, dignified smile.

“I’m from El Salvador,” she tells me, “I came to the United States 15 years ago.” Her voice turns grave when she explains she did not flee to this country by choice, but to escape the violence that broke apart her family. 

“Bad people,” she says, “they killed my four children: my twenty-year-old son in 2000, the other in 2002, my daughter in 2004. Then, my fourth son was deported from [the U.S.] and killed in [El Salvador] in 2010.” 

Her eyes remain steady, her chin up.

I ask her how her experience has been living here. She tells me she doesn’t like it very much: “People are racist against immigrants that are undocumented,” but leaving El Salvador was a necessity, she says.