Jennifer Lopez is a 66-year-old woman who immigrated to the United States in 1979 when she was 20 years old. As a single mom in the United States, Jennifer worked extremely hard to support her and her daughter. She worked as a housekeeper, retail store employee, and a babysitter in America.
Where is your hometown?
I’m from El Salvador. I don’t remember that much about El Salvador because I was young when I came [to the U.S.], but it’s really nice. [One of my favorite memories there would be when] my mom put me and my siblings to sleep around 7 o’clock. But when my mom was asleep, we’d get out of the bed and go outside and play every night. I have two sisters and one brother. When I go visit my mom, we go to the rivers and the swimming pools, but we never go to the beach. They say El Salvador’s beaches are nice but I don’t like to go.
I was 25 years old when I came to America in 1979. I came here by myself. My siblings are still in El Salvador. I miss them. I call them, I write to them, I video call them…but it’s not the same.
Do you live or work in Koreatown?
I worked in Hollywood as a housekeeper when I came here. I worked in John Smith*’s house. I took care of the mom and cleaned the house. Then, I worked in Agoura Hills. It’s near Calabasas. I lived and worked in the house every day and I took care of the baby. The baby’s name is Jesse. Right now, he’s 29 years old. He was 18 months old when I started taking care of him. I left him when he was 6 and a half years old.
Afterwards, I started working with a Korean lady at Wilshire/Vermont at a clothing store. I was 35 or 36. I cleaned, organized clothing, and tried to sell things. There were three of us: Milly, Molly, and Mac.
We were at home when the LA 1992 Riots started. When we came back to the store the next day, there was nothing there. Only the hangers. They threw the register through the glass window. There was nothing left. Not even one pin. My boss fainted when she got there. When she woke up, she kept crying and crying and crying.
After all that, she got a loan from somebody and reopened the store. Her baby was five to six months old when I started working with her. I worked with her for 25 years. My daughter and her daughter would always go to Las Vegas, go to the sauna…she’d always take me places with her because it was always my daughter and I.
As of now, we don’t talk anymore but I know she’s downtown. I don’t want to bring back wrong memories. I don’t think she did the right thing.
One day, a man came inside the store and said, “You can’t sell anything. This is my store.” I said, “What?” “This is my store,” the man said. So I was scared and I called my boss, confused. “What happened? You sold the store? Why didn’t you tell us? We were trying to sell clothes but this man told us not to.” “What guy?” my boss said. “I don’t know. He’s right here.” I said. “I’m coming right now. I’m in the parking lot,” she said. But she already knew she sold the store.
I felt so much pain in my heart. I told my boss, “[I spent] so many years working for you. So many. And you don’t trust us to tell us that you sold the store yesterday?” We worked everyday, Sunday to Sunday. I never left her. I never had time for myself, except on the holidays when they closed the store.
The other girls were telling me not to cry because I was already sick. I was 38 or 39 when I got my surgery and it still affected me.
I had no other place to go. I was jobless. I started crying. I was old and I couldn’t find a job. I was trying to keep my job. It was really bad. My daughter was asking me, “Mommy, what happened?” because I was crying really bad. I told her what happened. My daughter said, “Mommy, don’t worry about it. I got you, I’m behind you, mommy.”
She only gave me $400 for my last check. I couldn’t sustain myself with that. I paid my rent, I paid my bills, I paid for my daughter, I paid for everything. I asked her, “That’s it? What am I going to do with $400? I have no job, nowhere to go.” And she said, “That’s all I have.” But she had just sold the store.
I was 55 when I left the store. It’s been 8 years since I left the store and I never called her back. But it’s OK. I asked God to bless her. If my daughter didn’t have a job at that time, I don’t know what would have happened. After that, I never worked again. I went to Downtown LA so many times and other stores but I never found another job.
What have you been during quarantine?
Sometimes I take care of kids. But I’m too stupid. I get too attached with my kids. I actually babysat a kid last month. I made him slippers, a scarf, a hat, a little face mask…But the lady’s granddaughter was back in town and so they didn’t need me anymore. So right now, I’m on vacation.
I’ve been taking care of so many kids. One of them is already in high school. I took care of Christian, Leo, Justin, Vicki, Aiden, Javier, Naomi…When I wasn’t employed, I used to babysit kids. When my daughter was young, I didn’t want to work because I wanted to stay home with my daughter.
I tell my aunts to tell her friends and her friends tell her friends…that’s how I find kids to babysit. My daughter says, “Maybe one day, they’ll take care of you.”
Are you married?
I married my husband in December when I was four months pregnant in 1987. He tried to beat me up, but the police took him. We separated from there.
After I gave birth, he came to the house drunk. I opened the door a little bit because I was in the night gown and he pushed the door open and pushed me down. He wanted to see my daughter but she was in my aunt’s house. When he found out that my daughter wasn’t there, he slapped me and I ran away to my aunt’s house.
My aunt confronted him and said, “Never hit Jennifer again. Never come again. If you want to see your daughter, come sober.”
Then he saw the baby and he told me, “If you don’t take care of the baby, I’m going to take her away. And I was scared. Really scared. But I was angry. I told him, “I carried her for nine months in my stomach. She’s my baby. The police are coming so go away.”
He left and he came back later that night to say goodbye to the baby because he was going to leave.
I didn’t see him again until my daughter was five years old.