May 15, 2005
Minneapolis, Minn. — Manuel Marcatoma, 42, arrived in Minnesota in 1998. He's from a rural area outside the city of Cuenca, Ecuador. He worked there in house construction as a carpenter.
Marcatoma says he left Ecuador because life there was hard. But his experience in the U.S. hasn't gone that well either.
Marcatoma and his wife came went to New York first, and quickly amassed $40,000 in debt because of some medical bills. He says he and his wife split up during that difficult time.
Marcatoma ended up on the street, totally broke. A counselor suggested he move to another state. He had cousins in Minnesota who had said good things about the area, so he came here.
Marcatoma says the scene was better in New York since there were a lot of Ecuadorians there, but Minnesota is more calm. He found work, and paid off all of the debt he had accumulated.
Marcatoma works in the kitchen at a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. He works about 12 hours each day, five days a week. Before he used to work all seven days.
Marcatoma says the rest of his family is still in Ecuador. He says he misses his mother most of all -- he hasn't seen her in 10 years.