People of Chelsea

By Darlene DeVita

(The following is one in a series of sneak peeks at the upcoming People of Chelsea additions by Photographer Darlene DeVita. The new work will ultimately appear on the fence of the Chelsea Public Library (CPL) this fall in a collaboration between the People of Chelsea project and the CPL.)

We’re Salvadorian. I grew up in Chelsea, but I was born in Boston. We lived in Boston and moved to Chelsea in 2016 because our house caught on fire. It wasn’t a bad fire, but we had to live with friends; it was uncomfortable, we had no space. My mom found an apartment here for us, me, my brother, sister, grandmother. Mom and dad got divorced, but he’s with us now until he finds a room to stay.  My grandmother just moved to East Boston. My brother and I share the big room, and my mom and my sister share it. Mom is renting the other room to a lady from Columbia.

My mom had to go through the border [to get to the states]. Thank God she didn’t get caught. My dad got caught twice. He was sent back to El Salvador, but the 3rd time he made it to California without getting sent back.

Right now, my mom is looking for a job. She was working in a cleaning place, and they let her go because of COVID. [They] said they’d get back to her but [they] never did.

We owed 8-10 thousand dollars for overdue rent. The lady from management was rude to my mother because she couldn’t speak English. My mom felt that was racist. We would get tickets if there was trash [left outside] even if it wasn’t us.  My mom applied for RAFT [Residential Assistance for Families in Transition] at La Colaborativa. One night at 3 AM she got a message saying that her overdue rent was paid and she didn’t owe anymore! At this moment, we’re not struggling with the rent.

I’m part of a youth support group at Brown Middle school. My counselor introduced me to the RIOT [La Colaborativa paid internship] and my teacher helped me send the email to Angela, my boss. They gave me things to choose: mental health, I forget the other, and Black Lives Matter; I wanted that one. 

My mom didn’t want me to go to the marches here because of what happened in Boston. She was afraid I’d go into the stores. I’m not that type of person. If there’s going to be a March, do it peacefully. When I heard about George Floyd and Briana Taylor and when I saw the video, I got upset. You’re telling me that this policeman killed an innocent man, and you’re not going to get arrested? It was the worst day. I hate it when people are racist. I hated the way [President] Trump talked about black people, immigrants, Asians. We’re all human beings. 

SIDE SALAD: Ironically, while we were with Bryan we heard that Derek Chauvin was convicted of George Floyd’s death!

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