By Pat Nelson
Valley Bugler Columnist
Twenty-five years ago, my husband, Bob, and I became friends with Ramon and Rafaela Hernandez and their family when we visited Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It all started when I wasn’t sure how to get back to our rented vacation villa, and 8-year-old Liliana Hernandez pointed the way. That led to meeting Liliana’s family, and we formed a lasting friendship.
When Liliana became a teenager, her parents suggested that we take their daughter to Woodland for a school year. We thought that would be a good opportunity for Liliana.
Shortly before the 1998 school year, my husband and I had completed the necessary paperwork for the Woodland School District, but we still needed to have a visa approved for Liliana to visit the U.S. I flew to Puerto Vallarta, not knowing whether or not I would return to Woodland with a high-school student. Liliana and I traveled by bus with her father, Ramon, to Guadalajara during the night so that we would be at the visa office when it opened at 6 a.m. After a long wait, we were interviewed, but her visa was not approved. We were told we would be called again later in the day. Around 4 p.m., all of the other applicants had been processed. We were the only people left in the waiting area. Finally, we were called. I was asked, “Why do you want this girl to go to the United States to live with you?” I replied, “She has been a friend for eight years. I want her to learn English well so that when she returns to Mexico, she can get a good job.” After waiting all day, the officer stamped the paperwork and we returned to Vallarta to prepare for Liliana’s trip to Woodland and the beginning of her junior year of high school.
When Liliana returned home from Woodland, her new English-language skills paid off with a job at a tourist shop in Puerto Vallarta. And eight years ago, she landed her career job. Today, Liliana manages an upscale 5-bedroom, 9000 sq. ft. villa, Casa Abrayo. The villa manager needed someone she could count on, someone who spoke both Spanish and English. She needed someone who could live at the villa and work independently to care for it, and she hired Liliana.
When asked if she thought it helped her to go to school in Woodland, Liliana replied, “Thanks to that, I have a good job and a good salary. I am responsible for the villa in Nuevo Vallarta. I live there and take care of the villa for the owners and guests. It can be a big job when I have 10 guests, keeping the house clean and organizing breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it is worth it because when we have guests, I get to learn and practice more English.”
Pictured at left, working at Casa Abrayo, Liliana has been able to save money and buy a house, which she rents out. She would like to visit Woodland again in the future, but right now, she’s so busy working for her boss, both at Casa Abrayo and on other jobs, that she has little free time.
She still calls me her second mom and Woodland her second home, and one day when she’s not so busy, she will return “home” for a visit.
Pat Nelson, is co-creator of three humorous and sometimes edgy anthologies: ‘Not Your Mother’s Book: On Being a Parent’ (Amazon.com & retailers); On Being a Grandparent; and On Working for a Living.