Work Here, Live Here: Working 80-hour weeks and multiple jobs to have a home
A look at some of the struggles Latino workers face to survive in the valley
Editor’s note: This is Part 2 in a weekly series that takes a hard look at the challenges locals face when it comes to making it in the mountains.
There is a running joke that people in the valley either have three jobs or two houses.
Cesario and Daisy, husband and wife, are home owners in Edwards, but it took three jobs to get there.
Cesario is from Mexico and Daisy is from Ecuador. They both came to Eagle County when they were young in search of opportunity. Both said they are United States citizens, but asked that their last names not be used.
Daisy used to work at a hotel and a Shop & Hop and was a seamstress. All while raising three boys. Cesario has two daughters from Mexico and sends money home to his family.
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Daisy and Cesario each continue to work hard to sustain a life here. Cesario puts in about 80 hours a week as a cook between the Minturn Country Club and The Gashouse in Edwards. Daisy splits her time between the Minturn Country Club and night shifts at a local grocery store.
When asked to describe his daily life, Cesario simply responded with: “I work.”
Alex Sanchez, the founder of Voces Unidas de las Montañas — a nonprofit that advocates and provides resources for Latinos — said the couple’s story is a common one when it comes to Latino workers in Colorado’s mountain resort communities.
“People are forced to work two or three jobs at a time just to survive,” he said. “It’s innately wrong when workers struggle to live in their own community.”
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 55,127 people live in Eagle County, according to the most recent estimates. There are an estimated 33,147 housing units. That includes second homes and investment properties that often have the lights out for most of the year.
Prices of single-family homes in Eagle County grew by over 50% in four years, from around $900,000 (2016) to $1,489,028 (2020,) according to Land Title Guarantee Company. And the average price per square foot where Daisy and Cesario live is currently $809.38.
Still, being a home owner is possible with a lot of hard work.
Daisy said her biggest accomplishment was purchasing her home in 2007. She purchased the home on the north side of Interstate 70 in Edwards for around $270,000 and she said it is worth around $900,000 today.
When asked how she was able to afford her down payment while supporting her family, Daisy was blunt. “I didn’t party, I didn’t shop, I didn’t eat well, I didn’t even have any furniture,” ,” she said. “All the money I had went to my home.”
Daisy explains how she is one of the only people in her circle who is a home owner. That’s a rarity considering only 69.8% of homes in Eagle County are owner-occupied, according to Census daa.
“The affordable housing units exist,” said Sanchez. “But how many of them are accessible? How many of the units are actually affordable? We cannot keep the backbone of Vail’s economy in housing that is A, too expensive, or B, substandard. That is not a solution, that is the status quo — and it is racist.”
According to Census data, 29.7% of Eagle County residents identify as Hispanic or Latino and that number is only growing. Many in the Latino community are employed in the largest industries in the county, including Accommodation & Food Services, Construction, and Retail Trade.
Even though Daisy and Cesario are home owners, work endless hours, put their children through school, and are legal U.S. citizens, they still face hardship.
Daisy recalls discrimination she experienced in one of her jobs.
“I have been working at [the grocery store] for 17 years. The white girl who has worked there for four months breaks rules that brown people would be fired for would get the promotion over me,” she said. “We (other Latinos and Latinas) have reported to our managers, but have been ignored many times.”
Sanchez has been advocating for the Hispanic community his whole life. He grew up in Jalisco, Mexico, and moved to the Roaring Fork Valley when he was 9.
“I was the first one in my family to go to college,” he said. “I was lucky enough to leave the valley, but when I came back 20 years later, nothing changed.”
Sanchez recounts a time when he was denied service because of his race. “I went to a dry cleaning place for same-day service in Vail. The woman behind the counter denied me because they ‘don’t serve illegals…’ and I should ‘go to Aspen where the Chinese are.’ Obviously I never went there again,” he said.
Still, despite the frustrations, Daisy and Cesario stay.
“I want to say thank you to America,” Cesario said. “I make money for my family and that money comes from the United States. But I don’t feel that America is my country. I have the United States in my head and Mexico in my heart.”
He added: “I want better for my family. That’s the reason we came to United States. My daughters have both been through school.”
One of his daughters is a nurse and the other is a teacher in Philadelphia. She also has a law degree in Mexico. He credits these accomplishments to his hard work in America.
Cesario and Daisy plan to move back to Mexico and build their own ranch someday. Until then, they will continue working 80-hour weeks, holding more than four jobs together, and dancing once a month during Latino night in Vail Village.
Vail Daily intern Noelle Harff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.