A petite woman. Dark yet fair, small yet strong. You might have seen her smiling eyes while she sweeps the stairs up to the dining commons. Or when she cleans the bathrooms. Or the hallway. Well, you probably see her pretty much everywhere in Walton Hall. Taking out the garbage, vacuuming; you name it, she does it. This busy, hard-working woman’s name is María Arizmendi, and my good friend Mónica Martínez interviewed her for us the other day. Martínez is from San Salvador, El Salvador and is fluent in Spanish. I thought it would be more comfortable to have the interview in Spanish, since Arizmendi comes from Guerrero, Mexico and Martínez graciously offered to help me. I am so grateful for Martínez’s assistance, since I think Arizmendi’s thoughts and feelings have been best expressed in the language she is most comfortable speaking. Arizmendi and Martínez sat down to talk on Friday, Sept. 15, and Martínez translated and relayed Arizmendi’s responses back to me.
Martínez first asked Arizmendi if she had any family here in the United States. She answered, “Yes, my brother and his wife and son and then my son and his family.” Martínez then asked what differences there are in her culture compared to ours. At first, Arizmendi said she didn’t see any because she only eats Mexican food, but then she answered, “We eat tortilla instead of bread. No pizza. No fast food. Everything is homemade.” She continues, “people here [in the United States of America] are friendlier and they’re more sociable. Random people or strangers actually say hi.” I was curious to know how she ended up at Eastern, to which she replied that a friend of hers worked here before. Martínez asked her what her hobbies are and she replied, “I don’t have any hobbies but I would really want one. It would be to rest in my house.”
Even though we know Arizmendi works hard keeping our campus clean, I think a lot of us do not really know how much she actually does. In order to appreciate her work and efforts more, I asked what Arizmendi does here at Eastern University. She wittily replied, “What don’t I do?” She goes on to say, ¨I clean the classes, the bathrooms, the carpets. I mop. I clean and dust and make sure everything is okay for when you guys get here. And I also teach Spanish.¨ It really is amazing how much Arizmendi is able to do. Martínez then asked Arizmendi what makes her happy. ¨What makes me happy are the students that call me by my name and they thank me and some of them even hug me.¨ Of all the things in the world, this is what makes Arizmendi happy: people smiling and thanking her for the work she does. What a beautiful thing to be happy about.
My hope is that more people would say thank you to Arizmendi, since she deserves that and so much more. I think what she does goes unnoticed by most, and I would really like that to change. People like Arizmendi, who work hard everyday without rest, deserve recognition. So let us all thank Arizmendi for what she does; not only for keeping our campus clean, but for brightening up the day with her beautiful and optimistic presence.