Mission family of 7 living in small home hope for brighter Christmas

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Katalina Escobedo-Flores, 3, outside her grandmother’s apartment on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in Alton. Katalina and six others share a two-bedroom apartment. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

MISSION — On the corner of Inspiration Road sits a small yellow apartment that a family of seven calls home.

Inside the residence sits a small kitchen and dining table, a couch and coffee table in the living room, and two rooms at the far end of the apartment.

With seven people in the household and only one bed in each room, the family sleeps with three people in each bed and the baby in a crib.

“We’re all cramped in here,” Marisela Garza said in Spanish on Wednesday. “If we look for something bigger the rent would be more expensive. We barely have enough to pay rent here.”

The 40-year-old Mission resident lives with her husband, Tomas Flores, and her four children — 1-year-old Elian Flores, 8-year-old Gael Flores-Garza, 16-year-old Jasmin Flores-Garza and 21-year-old Yovana Flores Garza, who has a 3-year-old daughter, Katalina Escobedo-Flores.

The family is originally from Zacatecas, Mexico and moved to the U.S. three years ago in hopes of finding more work.

“We came here from over there because there is nothing over there, no work. We wouldn’t even make enough for food,” Marisela said.

Now Marisela and Tomas are the sole breadwinners of their family, often working long hours to make ends meet.

Maricela Garza, 40, talks with her daughter, Yovana, 21, while they come up with telenovela names for the kittens at her apartment on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, in Alton. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Tomas, 40, who worked in construction in Mexico now works in the fields from 7 a.m. to about 6 p.m. every day.

Although Tomas suffered a fall that fractured both his ankles, causing him to struggle to walk, he continues to work in a physically demanding job to make ends meet.

“He gets home really tired with his feet aching,” Marisela said with sadness in her voice.

Marisela cleans homes for a living but it’s an unsteady flow of income due to work being available only on an as-needed basis.

“Sometimes we go all the way to Port Isabel for work,” Marisela said, adding she often works in the evenings.

Since Tomas is the only family member who knows how to drive he often takes the family’s only vehicle to attend work.

This is why Marisela has to depend on others for a ride to work and even medical appointments.

“It’s difficult because I have to constantly be looking for a ride,” Marisela said.

Yovana Flores Garza, Marisela’s 21-year-old daughter, is a single mom caring for her 3-year-old girl at her parents’ house. But she also pitches in by looking after her siblings.

With Yovana’s daughter’s father out of the picture, it’s been difficult for her to manage things on her own.

She hopes to one day return to school and study to become a veterinarian.

This holiday season, Marisela and her family say they could use some help to make spirits bright, but aren’t asking for much. They need financial assistance to pay rent and the light bill, to buy diapers for the babies and some sweaters to keep them warm when it’s cold, and for items like a battery for one child’s toy car.

To help, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331 and inquire about this family and the Spirit of Christmas campaign. The Monitor has partnered with the United Way of South Texas to garner support for Rio Grande Valley families in need of monetary donations, or other items and gifts specified in this story.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Yovana Flores Garza’s name.