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Editor’s Note: The following story comes from a transcript of a speech given by Azucena Santillanes (shown left in photo), owner of La Plaza, in Auburn, Alabama, at a recent Women’s Workshop sponsored by the Christian Women’s Job Corps of Lee County and the New Venture Accelerator at Auburn University. Her words we’re so inspiring that we wanted to share.
My name Is Azucena Santillanes; I’m Mexican, and I’m going to talk about my life in the United States.
I came to this country 10 years ago from Mexico with dreams and big challenges. I left my country with the hope that living here will give me the opportunity to reach my goals. And it has. Here, I’ve learned that dreams can come true, but of course, everything has its sacrifice. Mine was leaving my home and having to find a new one here in the U.S. which wasn’t easy. But I knew my dream could be accomplished with constancy, perseverance, and faith.
When I arrived in this country, my family on my mom’s side, had already established themselves here, so it wasn’t hard for me to find a job. I worked as a hostess, waitress, bus girl, and dish washer for 8 years. During that time, I got pregnant, and I had to go on my own. It was my son Sebastian that pushed me to pursue this project called La Plaza so that I could have a source of income and a future for my son.
It wasn’t easy at first and there were times where I wanted to give up. There were hard times in the country’s economy, and authentic Mexican food wasn’t known in this area. I still remember a time where, for about 2 weeks, no one, not a single person, came into the store. It was at that time that I feared I had invested the little I had and that I was going to lose it all.
But every day I would start with my best attitude and think that today was going to be the day, and that’s how I would spend my time from 9:30 am to 9:00 pm Monday through Sunday with my son (although it wasn’t all bad since I had more time to spend with my son due to the lack of clients.)
Today, after 12 years at La Plaza Supermarket & Taqueria, I’m convinced that whenever you work from the heart, with passion and thankfulness, everything is possible. I started back in 2011 with my little son, and now in 2022, La Plaza is a source of income for 8 people.
Being consistent with my work has been very important to me. I believe that it doesn’t matter how hard your life might seem; everything in life are just moments. The most important thing is that nothing forces you to go backwards.
I am thankful to God, my family, and this community for being so supportive of us and giving us the opportunity to share authentic Mexican food. And I thank you for inviting me to speak with you today and for thinking that I am an inspiration to other people. I can tell you that if I can do it, you also are going to be able to do it. If I can, you can, no matter where you are from.
This is a beautiful country that gives you the freedom to spread your wings as far as you want to go.
Thank you so much!
NOTE: La Plaza is in the Tiger Crossing Shopping Center, 1625 South College Street, Auburn, AL. Phone: 334-466-4975