Mexican Immigrant in Baltimore County Runs a Business and Teen Training Program

Rocio Herrera

Owner, Herrera’s Cleaning Service

Rocio Herrera grew up in the shadow of an active volcano in a picturesque but impoverished region of central Mexico. She and her husband worked hard—she sold beauty products and cared for elderly people, and her husband was a carpenter—but they struggled to make ends meet. In 2004, they crossed the border wall into the United States in search of a better life.

“We dreamed of having a house—just a place of our own, with a kitchen and a bedroom,” Herrera says.

Building a life in Baltimore was hard. Herrera had previously enjoyed being her own boss, but in America she had to work backbreaking shifts in laundries and factories. “I’d work from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with just a 30-minute break for lunch, ironing 450 shirts every day,” she recalls. “I’d come home saying, ‘I can’t go back!’”

Things got even harder when Herrera’s husband, a carpenter, injured his hand and was unable to work. But the couple persisted, and Herrera worked night shifts in a variety of different jobs to support the family—including her two young U.S.-born daughters—while her husband went through surgery and rehabilitation.

Finding support wasn’t always easy, especially early on. Many organizations in Baltimore County offer language classes and help newcomers access government services, but Herrera would like to see more targeted support for Spanish speakers, especially those who are undocumented and nervous about using public services. “I was lucky—we had a neighbor who’d help out with things I didn’t understand,” she says. “But it isn’t easy if you don’t speak good English.”  

Over time, though, Herrera was able to volunteer with church and neighborhood groups, work on her English skills, and take a computer class. “I was always looking for ways to grow,” she explains. With her daughters in school, Herrera also began thinking about starting a business. “I’d been working on other people’s schedules for years,” she explains. “I wanted to do something of my own.”

Today, Herrera runs a cleaning service for local homes and offices. Her daughters and husband pitch in, and Herrera employs two people full time, and also offers a training program for local teenagers. “It’s important for young people to see what it’s like to work,” she explains. “It encourages them to study hard.”

After many years of renting cramped apartments, Herrera was recently able to buy her own home. “It’s been a difficult journey, but we’re so grateful and fortunate,” she says. “We achieved our dream, and we’ve given my daughters the opportunity to study and have careers here in America.”

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