The Relentless Search for Happiness

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Life isn’t easy. This could be one of the most cliché and frequently repeated phrases that human beings use. However, no one contradicts it. This sentence probably passed through Mayra Rosales Villafuerte’s mind many times. At age 64, she has known poverty, violence and darkness firsthand but has never allowed her dreams to dim.

With a wave of obstacles that could be listed from A to Z, Rosales raised her ten children in unimaginable conditions and today, with her bachelor’s degree under her arm, she is striving to have her own house— her ultimate dream.

Rosales was born in 1951 in what is now Barco Quebrado and is the eldest of nine children. She doesn’t have the best memories of her father and mother. It’s sufficient to relate that, at age 16, she gave birth to her second child under an almond tree, completely alone, because this pregnancy  was not accepted by her parents. Her parents understood her first pregnancy, since she was only 14 years old, but they did not support the second one.

“It was 9 at night and I could not bear the pain. Since my parents did not accept me, I ran as best as I could that night a few meters from the house, and beneath an almond tree, I couldn’t stand it anymore and my son was born. I was alone, by myself. When he had just been born, I took him, wrapped him in the dress I was wearing and walked to the house amidst the darkness. My father, upon hearing the baby’s cries, simply got up, brought some rags and put them on the ground, cut the umbilical cord and left me there without saying much. I felt like a dog. Four days after giving birth, he sent me to wash clothes in the creek, risking something happening to me, but I’m here,” Mayra remembered.

As a child, she worked hauling rice from the mountains that are between Barco Quebrado and the beach to her house. “I walked alone through the mountains, afraid that a lion would come out at me.” In addition to transporting rice, she hulled it since she was the eldest daughter. She also looked after her siblings and was the one who received the most physical punishment from their parents.

Odd jobs were never lacking. She worked mainly as a maid, although in her youth, she worked more in the field because there were hardly any people in her area.

Poverty and aggression have always pursued her. The man who was her husband for 45 years and the father of eight of her children never treated her well, and he kicked her out of the house a few years before falling ill with cancer. Then she had to build a humble ranch next to his house, where she lives down to today. Even so, she sat with him for three months in the hospital in Nicoya, until he died.

Mayra moved in with this man at age 16 to escape the martyrdom of living with her parents, but her new path was perhaps worse. He was 26 years older than her, and from the beginning, she was like his slave.

Economic hardship have not been the only hardship for Mayra, as she also suffers from hypertension, diabetes and lately has been afflicted by a problem of her knees wearing out, but every day she goes to her current job in the recycling center in Nosara, about 20 kilometers from her home in Barco Quebrado. From the moment she arrives at work, Mayra takes her rudimentary tools, like the manual crusher to crush cans, a heavy and rustic artifact, or compacting paper, and she works from 7 a.m. to 12 noon Monday through Friday.

As if she were a chameleon, the glow in Mayra’s eyes changes depending on the time in her life that she is remembering. The stories of her childhood make some tears well up with a bit of a lost look, whereas the present makes the luster increase, with a face full of motivation and gratitude toward God. “God takes his time, but he does not forget,” she says.

At age 64, her face reflects the hard life she has lived. Although she has problems with her knees, she only thinks about going to work every day.

Her great passion is to study and learn. “As you see me, I have eight diplomas from INA and I have a bachelor’s degree.” The degree was earned with great sacrifice, but nothing stopped her. Math was her favorite subject as well as the most difficult for her.

Being in high school was a great experience. Her classmates treated her very well, pampered her and helped her a lot. She would have liked to have been an obstetrician. For many years, she has served as a midwife in her neighborhood. The last birth she oversaw was a pair of premature twins who unfortunately died due to the lack of a medical professional. She learned to be a midwife from her own experiences since she had nine of her ten children at home. Only the last one was born by caesarean in the hospital.

Today, she considers herself an easy-going person, to whom people can say anything and she forgives them. “I am calm and easy-going as long as they don’t touch me. That is something I can’t stand.” That is how sincere this woman is when she talks about herself. She is a woman who recognizes his mistakes, tries to improve and therefore does not think about giving up on working or striving to achieve her dreams: to work and to learn.

She doesn’t know how many years she wants to live. “Only God [knows] that,” and she says that “it is good to live but to make the most of it oneself.” Now, at 64, she is catching a glimpse of light after a lifetime in which darkness prevailed. Mayra’s life had few moments of light and even fewer that were rose-colored, but today she walks silently among those who are building her new house. She obtained it thanks to a donation from the evangelical church that she attends. She looks at them and gives them a smile that comes from the heart. I ask her what color she wants her house to be and without thinking twice, she answers, “I want it to be fuchsia pink.”