By Abigail Delgado
When is a better time to talk about a love story than February? Love stories are not always perfect, and if you are living your own, you probably already know that they also don’t always happen as planned.
Sometimes, we have to try different shoes until we find the right ones. A pair that is just right is able to walk with us for the rest of our lives. Rosa and Rafael Rodriguez were the right fit for each other but years had to pass until life had broken in their shoes and united them as one in the path to achieve and build their American Dream.
They came to the United States at different points in their lives from the Dominican Republic. Rafael Rodriguez was 32 years old when he decided to come to the United States in 1992, looking for more favorable circumstances that would let him help his children back in his country; he was already the father of four.
Rafael set his sights on New York City, where he experienced some of the toughest moments of his life in this country. “I had two full time jobs, one from 12 am until 8 am, and the other one from 10am to 10 pm and my bed was whatever place I could put my head to rest. But I had to stop working that way; it was not good for me,” narrated Rafael, who later on moved to Connecticut, where he was able to find more stable jobs.
Rosa’s story is different. In 1970, when she was eleven years old, her parents decided to leave the Dominican Republic to look for a better life in the United States. Rosa had the opportunity to go to school and learn the language; however, when the time came to go to college, her parents did not let her do it. And even though she wanted to further her education, she decided to obey her parents’ wishes. “My parents were very strict and jealous and did not want me to go to college so during high school I took all the business classes that I could,” said Rosa. Later, she was married and had a child, but the marriage did not last and she had to return to live with her parents. However, while she was married, she had the freedom to make her own decisions – she went to beauty school and also became a real estate agent, a profession that she practiced for over ten years.
Rosa and Rafael were each on their own path to accomplish all their goals; they did not know that the missing piece that would propel them to achieve their goals would be meeting each other. At Squantz Pond, a mutual friend introduced them but at that moment, they did not see sparks in the air, since both were in other relationships. As time went by, their friendship turned into love and in 2004, they decided to join their lives forever.
“When I started knowing him, I felt that he had a good spirit and that he was a genuine person and this caught my attention. He is not like many people who want to appear to be what they are not,” said Rosa while looking at him and laughing.
Rafael, on his side, saw in her the spirit of a warrior. “She is not a person who does not expect people to give her anything. She has worked hard to have what she has,” he said, explaining, “Now that we are together, we are there for each other and discuss different ideas without hurting one another. We always knew that we wanted to be independent and own our own business and we had the vision and the good relationship necessary to start a business together.”
Working as a team, this goal became a reality in 2007, when they bought a convenience store at 78 White Street, which they named “Lula’s Market” in honor of Rosa’s mother. “The first months were hard, but taking money from here to put it there we were able to pay our bills,” said the couple, who counted in the beginning on the support of family and friends. Mango, yucca and cheese are some of the large variety of products that you can find in the store. Lula’s Market has grown little by little to the point that last year Rosa and Rafael were able to open a second store called Spring Market. “Buying a second store was a real challenge. The store was in really bad shape in all senses. We are now improving the store to better serve our customers.”
Rafael and Rosa are grateful for all the opportunities that this country has given them but they believe that they have not yet been able to achieve their American Dream.
“My American dream is to wake up knowing that we don’t have to work as much as we do now,” said Rafael. Rosa finishes his words, saying, “The day when we can say that we are doing what we want to do, and not what we have to do, is the day I will say that we have achieved our American dream.”
Until then, they plan to continue to work together and enjoy the love that this country made possible.