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Viviana Reyes


Viviana's journey from her humble hometown of Ibarra, Ecuador, nestled at the foot of the Imbabura volcano, to Calahonda, Spain, has been an arduous one in more ways than one.

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Born into a poverty-stricken region 43 years ago, Viviana identifies herself as "mestiza," a blend of European colonists and indigenous heritage. Life was never kind, especially after losing her father at the tender age of 8.


Despite being an eager student, love struck Viviana at 16, and by 17, she embraced motherhood—an age that, although relatively older than her peers, still arrived years too soon. The Catholic Church, always looming in the background with its moral judgments, had little influence on her generation. Only later in life did Viviana discover a vibrant evangelical faith that continues to sustain her. She cherishes the "personal connection with God" within a community of fellow believers in Fuengirola, where many of her compatriots gather.


As Viviana's marriage and the arrival of her son put an end to her formal education, she and her husband embarked on a bakery venture. Their bakery churned out bread, rolls, and cakes for the local community, garnering success. Yet, it demanded grueling work—hand-kneading dough and starting early in the morning. And amidst it all, they had a little one to care for.


In those trying times, when financial struggles loomed large, many risked it all and sought opportunities abroad. The USA, with its unforgiving visa system, paled in comparison to the allure of Europe. And where better to go than a country where language posed no barrier? One day, Viviana received a call from her former neighbour, already settled in Spain, urging her to take the leap. However, the hefty sum of around $2000 needed for the journey felt like an insurmountable fortune. Multiple loans and the heart-wrenching task of leaving her family behind weighed heavily on her mind. Yet, driven by ambition, an insatiable thirst for adventure, and a craving for novelty, Viviana embraced the unknown and took the plunge.


The reality proved to be a daunting challenge. Her husband's reluctance to follow her, and tales reaching her of his roving eye added to the bureaucratic hurdles, disorientation, job scarcity, and occasional hostility she faced as a Latin American in Spain.


She found work as a maid, but the dissatisfaction with her first employers pushed her to move to another family, who helped her obtain her papers. Up until then, without proper documentation, she’d lived in constant fear of being questioned or forced to return home. Despite the improved situation with the second family, her husband, who had finally decided to join her, resented being left alone most of the week. Viviana's longing for her son led her to bring him and her mother to Spain, all in one flat, with her sister too – straining their marriage further.


Attempts to salvage their relationship, including having a second child, predictably failed. Viviana's difficult childbirth and “miraculous” recovery reignited her faith, and over the years she grew more independent and less tolerant of her husband's behaviour. After 17 years together, she finally stood her ground and ended the relationship,  leaving her dreams in tatters, torn between sadness and anger, plus an enduring distrust in men.

With two children to support, Viviana had no choice but to dive back into work. She spent years at a laundry in the Zoco, learning a little English along the way, until it succumbed to the crisis. Forced to return to cleaning, Viviana and her mother now work at the Oxygen gym, but her day doesn’t end with her shift – there are more jobs to get done, apart from managing her own household, It’s tiring work, beset by frequent back pains, not made any easier by daily exposure to industrial products and sprays.

Ironically, those who stayed behind in Ecuador seemed to have found the happiness and stability Viviana had sought in Spain. As a single mother juggling multiple jobs,  and deprived of personal time, Viviana's life still revolves around others' needs. Despite the challenges, going back to Ecuador is not an option after all these years with her children settled in Spain, besides which it’s no longer home.

And yet, when asked if she would do it all again, Viviana looks into the distance and quietly utters, "No."


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