Maria Colon has a fragile past. The 69-year-old has undergone several surgeries on her heart and has issues with her vascular system. As she sat in an office at Orlando Latin Market, the Puerto Rican-born Colon spoke about her health problems, which surfaced two years ago.
“It has affected me a lot emotionally but thank God, I’m a Christian woman,” she said.
Going to church lifts her spirits, she said. So does coming to the bodega.
“I have people here in the bodega who, when I come, change my life because they treat me so well,” Colon said, her hands clasped together on her lap. “They give me hugs and a lot of affection and that makes me feel better — a lot better.”
Colon has four children — three sons and one daughter. She said they have all taken good care of her in her poor health.
“I’m surrounded by a lot of love. I love hugs,” she said, her thin mouth stretching into a shy smile.
When she speaks, Colon’s voice sounds small. Singing is different. At the tender age of 7 in her hometown of Guayama, Colon began singing alabanzas a Dios — praises for God.
She never stopped. When she visits the bodega, Colon is often asked to sing ranchera songs. On this particular day, she picked a love song — and sang it with vibrato:
“Porque la fuerza del amor da vida,” (Because the strength of love gives life)
“Porque la fuerza del amor es ilusión,” (Because the strength of love is hope)
“El amor…” (Love…)”
“Love changes everything,” Colon said. “Here in the bodega, that’s what’s here — a lot of love.”
(LISTEN: Colon sings in the below audio clip and speaks about her love of singing)