Mercedes Somarriba has finally returned to her native Nicaraguan home, and is very happy to be back. More importantly, after all her time away, she can now give back to her country and its’ people. This story will walk you through her life’s journey, which inevitably, led her home again.
Mercedes spent her childhood years in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. After the devastating earthquake of 1972, her father abandoned the family. She was only 9 years old when her parents got divorced and her mother became the sole provider of three children. As a teenager, it bothered Mercedes to see her mother work so hard to support the family. She decided that she needed to take care of herself.
Mercedes quit school in the 10th grade. Fortunately, she had won a scholarship which taught her to speak some English. This inspired her to learn a skill set, so she registered for a short typing course. At the age of seventeen, she enlisted as a secretary for the army, earning only 2000 Córdoba a month. After two years of employment, her father contacted her about an immigration plan and enticed her to move to Costa Rica. The idea was to immigrate to Australia with him and his new family.
Being a trusting daughter, Mercedes quit her job and left for Costa Rica. Upon her arrival, she found out that her father had already left for Australia! His departing gift was $20.00 in U.S. currency and some help offered from a Nicaraguan family. She was devastated. How could her father leave a 19 year old woman in a strange city like San Jose without money or a job? She was catapulted into adulthood all in one day.
“PASO DE SER LA NINA CONSENTIDA DE LA CASA A SER COMO AMA DE CASA.”
THINGS BECAME TOTALLY DIFFERENT FOR MERCEDES. SHE WAS TREATED LIKE A QUEEN, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN, SHE HAD TO TAKE ON ADULT RESPONSIBILITIES.
Being a smart and persistent woman, Mercedes applied for immigration to Australia on her own accord after her initial application was turned down by the Australian Consulate. Her second attempt was once again denied. One evening in 1984, while working at a bar in San Jose, she overheard that Canada was accepting applications for immigration.
She managed to get an interview at the Canadian consulate in San Jose, where Mercedes poured her heart out to a young lady, who just happened to speak a little Spanish and was able to communicate with her. She recalled pleading with the consulate, “I deserted the army! If I go back to my home country, I will be put in jail. If you do not accept me, then I will have to try and save money so I can pay a ‘coyote’ to sneak me into the United States illegally”. This was the meeting that began her transformation.
A few months later, Mercedes and a small group of others from El Salvador and Nicaragua, were given a one-way ticket to Canada. Upon arrival, she was welcomed by a Canadian Immigration Officer, presented with a document that accredited her permanent residency, and received a 1-year stipend to learn English. Of course, the stipend was a loan that had to be repaid. Because she spoke very little English, her only choice for work at the time was in a factory located in Windsor, Ontario.
As life happens, going back to school was put on hold. Mercedes fell in love, got married, and bore two beautiful children. She eventually resigned from the factory in order to complete her high school education, having to finish only 4 credits. Sadly, her marriage was abusive, and divorce became imminent. She became a single mother with two children to support. Due to her never-ending persistence, Mercedes eventually paid back the loan to the Canadian government, and pursued more education as the years passed. All her work had finally paid off. She was awarded a college degree in Accounting & Payroll Administration.
Mercedes longed to see her mother again, so she arranged a trip to Nicaragua. When she opened the door for a surprise visit, her mother greeted her with anger instead of joy. She was terribly hurt that Mercedes didn’t stay in touch. Her anger didn’t last long though. She was ecstatic that her daughter had finally returned home.
Mercedes had been looking online for vacation spots in Nicaragua, and one day decided to look for job prospects too. She spotted a position with Gran Pacifica Resort, so she applied. As it happened, the interviewer shared the same name as Mercedes’ mother, Angela. She thought it must be a sign! The interview was successful and Mercedes was offered the position to work in the accounting department.
Even throughout her many devastating experiences, Mercedes has always kept a positive outlook on life. At 53 years old, her dream to be back in her native country, live on the beach, and work for a company that helps Nicaraguans flourish, have all finally come true.
Welcome home Mercedes!