Bernardina Flores is a ball of energy. She runs the only restaurant in San Martin Peras, Comedor Las Rosas, named after the yellow roses that spill out from the balcony above the restaurant. She too has crossed the border, just to see what it was like, but she says she is back for good. It was too hard, too far away from her family.
Bernardina left San Martin Peras before she finished elementary school and went to Mexico City, where she learned to cook. She speaks in rapid-fire Spanish. She is sure of herself. ‘Soy muy metiche,’ she jokes. “I don’t like to sit still.”
Now she is picking up her petulant toddler. Now she is pushing onions around a frying pan in the restaurant kitchen. Her clients here at the restaurant are mostly vendors passing through town and teachers who live above the elementary school, which she tells me is the biggest school in the state of Oaxaca.
She used to teach other women here how to read and write in Spanish. When a local non-profit tried to start a women’s bakery cooperative, they added her to the list without even asking her. She is this kind of woman. Now she is describing her latest job— selling juice in the morning at the market before returning to the restaurant for a full day of work.
The only way to get ahead here is to “echarle muchas ganas.” “You’ve got to put a lot of effort into it,” she says. "The people who stay here work really hard."
I ask her why she speaks Spanish so well. And why she seems different from other women here.
“I left,” she says. “So I think a little differently.”
When I tell Bernardina she might make a good candidate for presidente municipal, she hides her smile behind her hand. That is not her place, she tells me. She is a woman. She will do other things to help her community.