A Bodeguero’s Wife

Note: The below story is about my mother.

Marriage, like for many couples, did not start off very smoothly for Damaris Castillo and her husband, Freddy.

In the beginning, he worked long days at a bodega in Brooklyn, NY, where they began their life together. It was hard, Damaris said. Freddy would open the business at 8 a.m. and work until its doors were shuttered at 10 p.m. Damaris also worked in a bodega at one point.

“When he’d get home, it would be 11 p.m. or sometimes almost midnight,” the 52-year-old recalled. “He only had one day off. It was hard because we were newlyweds and I would often have to go to places alone.”

All of Damaris’ friends would step out with their husbands on outings. Once the couple’s two children were in the picture, Damaris said she often brought them to birthday parties by herself.

“Freddy was never there because of work and work,” she said. “I think being the wife of a bodeguero is a bit difficult, but we’ve had bodegas our whole lives.”

Damaris and Freddy have owned Orlando Latin Market, a bodega in Saint Petersburg, Florida, for nine years. She often navigates her way around the store rapidly, a white plastic apron snug to her body swishing loudly as she moves. Through the stress, Damaris maintains a warm nature towards customers.

“When you’re a bodega owner, you carry the responsibility,” she said.

In one way, she said it’s hard but she often thinks to herself “one has to work anyway.”

“It’s very hard, but at the end, there are results,” Damaris said. “With this work, we’ve accomplished a lot.”