The choice between food and rent
By Luis Erazo, as told to Jeff Howe
My wife, Marta, and I are both from El Salvador. We met when we both were working at Stacy’s Pita Chips. We were cleaning at nights, and I’d brought in a cake, and gave some to the other girls. I could tell she was jealous, but she was the one I liked. We were married later that year.
The company I work for has been pretty good. I’ve worked for them for 18 years now. I’ve almost always worked an 80-hour week. Marta doesn’t work. We have four kids. When COVID-19 hit, it was definitely hard in the beginning, but it got even harder: My schedule went down to 40 hours, then 20 hours, and now I’m lucky to get any work. There have been times when we’ve had to choose between paying the rent, or paying the utility bill, or buying food.
No one should have to make that choice. We’ve been lucky because I’ve been active in the community, so I know people. We’ve been able to get food from Eastie Farm. And when our landlord tried to evict us, I called (Boston city councilor) Lydia Edwards, and she was able to help us out. But right now June and July are unpaid, and I don’t know what will happen next month. Our landlord wants to tear down the buildings and sell them to a developer.
It’s a huge issue in East Boston. A lot of people, maybe they’re undocumented, or just not familiar with the law, they don’t know their rights as tenants. I’m scared for what’s going to happen this fall. I think there are going to be a lot of evictions.
Luis O. Erazo is an office cleaner who lives in East Boston. The interview was translated from Spanish by Bruno Muñoz.