Posted: Oct 30, 2012 9:13 PM
Updated: Oct 31, 2012 7:21 AM
HIDALGO COUNTY - Francisca Salazar's children are rambunctious. They are full of personality and hope despite their dire economic reality.
The family lives in poverty in one of the Rio Grande Valley's many colonias.
The children walk around shoeless. They have no bed of their own.
Reaching the family required a trek trough mud, into an area of the Valley where the family of six lives in a small apartment.
Salazar sat on a couch flanked by her five children during an interview with CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
It was the night before the first day of classes. The children were running free into the evening hours.
Salazar was busy coordinating the next day's commute. The family doesn't own a car and they rely on the kindness of neighbors to take them where they need to go.
The children prepared their few belongings for the start of classes. Each child showed their new school uniform.
The girls modeled hair clips while the boys sprayed on cologne from a sample-size bottle.
Each child showed their new backpacks.
The school supply list from Rudy Silva Elementary School is more like a suggestion than a requirement for many colonia residents.
It took the family six months to collect the money needed to buy the supplies.
Some of the children got new shoes, others got used footwear.
Daniella, the self-proclaimed princess of the family wasn't happy with her pair of used tennis shoes.
"When my mom doesn't have money, when we can't afford things, I feel sad," the 7-year-old said.
The first-grader knows the sense of helplessness.
Life in their colonia is a continuous struggle. Salazar and her children are fighting battles on every front.
"When I went to school, students told me things. I didn't want to go because of those things they were saying," Daniella said.
"They tell me I'm poor. That's why they don't want to play with me," she said.
"(I know) that it's the truth, and I play by myself," Daniella said.
The little girl said she is branded by poverty.
"I cry for my mother. I don't want her to worry," Daniella said.
"I want to study and help her with things. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a doctor to help people," she said.
Daniella said she is more than a poor girl, but she struggles with the way society defines her.
When asked what she would do with $100, Daniella said she would give the money to her mother.
"So she can buy the things that we need," Daniella said.
Daniella, her two sisters and two brothers want to help their mother.
Their mother faces harsh challenges.
The 27-year-old woman used to clean houses to support her children. Now her high-risk pregnancy has made that endeavor impossible.
"I want to have more, I would want to do more for my children. So they can be good," Salazar said.
"With the one room we can have, we are okay," she said of their dwelling.
The family shares a small space where an old air-conditioning unit struggles to tame the South Texas heat.
Their closet is a tower of duffle bags. Each bag holds the family's clothes and shoes.
Their couch is the only piece of furniture in the room. The cushions are covered with stains. The recycled piece of furniture doubles as a bed for the family's two boys.
The girls share a thin, full-size mattress. Rolled up blankets are used as pillows.
A small television sits on a paint bucket. The images fade in an out.
The floors are constantly swept, yet they are always dirty.
The children's backpacks hang from nails punched into the cinderblock walls.
The children finally go to bed, hopeful for the next day and the start of classes.
In the morning a single guava fruit serves as breakfast for Sergio and Victor.
The key lime-size fruit was the last thing in the refrigerator.
After a meager breakfast, the children rush out and into an old blue sedan.
The children typically ride the school bus, but their mother wanted to accompany them on their fist day of classes.
"Sometimes there are people who have money, but they don't have the unity of a family. They don't have the love within," Salazar said.
"I always have in my mind, that they will finish school," she said.
Education is considered a luxury for many colonia residents. Many children never attend school.
For Salazar's children the battle to get there pales in comparison to their battle to stay.