Life has not been easy for Alicia. Her father passed away when she was 7 years old, leaving her mother to raise four children. Within a year of her father’s death, Alicia and her 10-year-old brother entered the workforce to help support their two younger siblings.
“Life was hard for me,” Alicia shared. “I did not have time to be a child.”
Alicia grew up cleaning homes instead of attending school, and started her adult life with a very limited set of skills. Her husband, Julio, had a similar upbringing, and though he worked hard, found it difficult to provide for his family as a seasonal worker.
“Life was difficult because we did not have jobs, we didn’t even have the knowledge or skill to start a business,” Alicia said of herself and her husband.
“I felt I had my hands tied up, there was no way to provide for my family, and it seemed that all doors were closed for me.”
Those doors started to open when her two sons were sponsored through Unbound. And it wasn’t just the financial support, which ensured her sons could keep going to school, that created a positive change in Alicia’s life.
“When [my son’s] became sponsored, we received hope,” Alicia said. “I started to attend discussions [at Unbound] about self-esteem and motivation. Then one day, Unbound offered workshops to learn a trade, and there were many options. … I became interested in bread making because I like the kitchen and I thought this would be something I could do.
“I learned how to make cakes, bread and cake decorations, and I felt good about myself. Now I knew something; now I had a skill.”
Alicia received counseling and support from her mothers group when she decided to take the next step and start her own business. She received an oven through Unbound. That same day she bought the materials she needed to get started. The mothers from her group helped her carry everything home around noon, and by 6:00 p.m. Alicia was out selling her goods.
“I made cake and bread and I sold everything,” she said, smiling.
At first, Alicia sold in her neighborhood. Her mothers group offered expansion suggestions, and she was soon selling in local schools and parks. Alicia trained her husband so he could help her meet the increasing demand.
With the extra set of hands, Alicia decided to expand her business further and took a loan from her mothers group to purchase a tricycle, baking pans and molds. The tricycle allowed her business to reach new neighborhoods, and Alicia was able to pay off the $370 loan within a year.
Alicia’s confidence grew and so has her future goals. She dreams of building a bakery and having her own home, instead of living with her mother. In addition to seeing her sons finish high school and college, Alicia would like to go back to finish middle school and high school.
“I think the greatest benefit [from Unbound] is feeling that we have the love and support of many people,” Alicia said. “And we feel confident and encouraged to continue working hard for our children. We have hopes for a better future for them.”
With a business and a family to care for, Alicia is typically up around 5 a.m. and doesn’t go to bed until 11 p.m. But that doesn’t stop her joy at being able to provide for her family. Alicia is now the one giving support to other mothers in difficult situations, and offers this piece of advice:
“Don’t shelter yourself in your anguish; find inspiration, support and solidarity with your loved ones. You can do great things; adversity is the opportunity for you to find your potential. You are what you want to be, not what others say you are. Believe in you.”
Alicia’s hojaldras [pastry] recipe
Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours
Prepared dough (instructions below)
4 tomatoes, diced
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup tomato paste
7 ¾ cups sausage, diced
2 cups manchego cheese, shredded
1 cup pineapple, diced
2 egg whites
Tip: Manchego cheese can often be found in the artisan cheese isle of your local grocery store. However, Mozzarella cheese can be used as a substitute.
2. In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add tomatoes, onion, garlic and black pepper. Cook vegetables about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add tomato paste to mixture and simmer over low for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
4. Once cooled, add vegetable mixture to blender or food processor and liquefy. Set aside.
5. Remove prepared dough from refrigerator. On a floured surface, roll out dough into a thin sheet. Cut dough into circles, approximately 7 inches in diameter.
6. Put a spoonful of vegetable mixture in center of each circle. Add sausage, cheese and pineapple, being careful not to overstuff dough.
7. Brush edges with egg white, then fold each circle in half. Using a fork or your fingers, seal the edges.
8. Brush the outside of each pastry with egg white to give them a golden shine when baked.
9. Place pastries on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 F until they are golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.
10. Serve and enjoy!
Dough for hojaldras [pastry]
Start to finish: 2 days (1 hour prep time)
8 cups flour
8 4/5 sticks of butter
1 cup water
Salt to taste
2. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a square shape. Divide remaining butter into smaller pieces and place them evenly over the rolled-out dough.
3. Fold dough in half, from one side to another, then in half again from top to bottom. Repeat with remaining 2 sides, until dough is a square roughly 1/16 original size.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 an additional 4 times.
5. Place dough in refrigerator and let rest for 2 days before using.