At 2:30 in the morning Adelita stands silhouetted in her humble dining room pulling her dark hair into an efficient ponytail. Each morning she begins her paper route, waking long before sunrise, and returning around six in the morning.
At three in the morning, Adelita and her son climb into the navy car they use for the paper route and shift a folded pile of plush blankets to the back seat of the small car. A faint stream of accordion music flows from the radio and icy morning air courses through the half-open windows.
When Adelita and her son finish delivering papers to their assigned zones she returns home. The paper route pays little and when the season for phonebooks arrives, hefting stacks of the yellow-bound volumes is exhausting. She eats breakfast and then begins the next job of the day. A friend who owns houses and knows she is undocumented hires her to clean houses rented by students during the school year. With the help of her daughters, Adelita scours the house using eco-friendly cleansers and then she leaves to start her third job cleaning offices. Without documents declaring her citizenship, work is difficult to find.
Twenty years ago she undertook a forty-hour journey from Mexico City to Nogales, Mexico where she hiked up and down the mountains bordering Arizona and crossed the waist high fences with a two daughters, aged seven and four, all while 3 months pregnant. Once in Nogales, Arizona she boarded a bus to Tucson, reuniting with her husband and siblings. On the bus, the conductor walked down the center aisle checking each passenger for documentation. Adelita panicked, rifling through her bag stalling and thinking. The conductor, who struck up a conversation with her two daughters, never did ask for her documents.
Adelita settled in Tucson with her family and none of her material possessions. She recalls using Dairy Queen plates and plastic forks and knives to feed her.
Adelita’s first neighbor in Tucson warned that if she left the house Immigration and Naturalization Services would detain and deport her. Terrified of losing her family, she remained in her house with her two young daughters. Only leaving the house at night to grocery shop and always visiting the supermarket between eleven in the evening and two in the morning. The first time Adelita left the house was to deliver her son, six months after arriving in Tucson. After delivering her son, she realized that her daughters needed to attend school. She enrolled them in a local school and began volunteering.
Fifteen years ago, after arriving and settling in Tucson, Adelita applied for legal citizenship for herself and her two eldest daughters. She has never received a response. In that time she has worked to build a life, saving and purchasing a home and sending her children to college. The only goal that she has yet to fulfill is to build her own cake-making business.
Adelita and two of her daughters scrub the kitchen of a house rented out to University of Arizona students. The owner of the home is an acquaintance of Adelita who knows hat it is difficult for her to find work without documentation.
In the passenger seat of the family car Adelita folds the daily paper in thirds and binds them binds them with rubber bands in preparation for their delivery.
Adelita delivers the morning papers to a small neighborhood of mobile homes in Tucson.
In one of Tucson’s gated communities Adelita tosses a bundled paper up to a second floor apartment.
Adelita sits in her living room with her husband, daughters, sons and three grandchildren.