Day Worker Center's Marroquin named 'local hero'

For those who are familiar with Maria Marroquin, the charismatic director of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View, it's hard to describe her without using platitudes.

"Honestly, I'm guilty of comparing her to Mother Teresa during introductions," says Craig Sherod, the center's board chair.

Marroquin has been executive director of the center since 2005, and was the center's manager before that. Prior to that, she informally organized the workers on the street. She was the driving force behind the 2009 fundraising effort to buy the center's building at 117 Escuela Ave., which was transformed from an abandoned building into a thriving center.

Under her leadership, the center recently broke its record for job placements -- 950 in a single month this year -- has a nest egg in the bank and a staff of three.

It wasn't always such smooth sailing. At one point, Marroquin was accused of mistreating workers by St. Vincent De Paul, the charity which had run the center in one of its several church locations until 2004, though there was no proof. The charity left the operation behind in a conflict that had numerous workers and the community rallying behind Marroquin and making her executive director.

"It's not a job for Maria, it's her life," Sherod said. "I have to remind her to take a vacation. She used some of her vacation time this year to do a hunger strike."

In March, Marroquin participated in the hunger strike in support of immigration reforms, fasting for 11 days. Marroquin arranged for hunger strikes to continue across the country, an effort that undoubtedly was helped by her being in her second term as director of the National Day Labor Organizing Network.

"That's become my mission in life," Marroquin said of her work to improve the lives of immigrants. "There's still a lot of misperceptions." Sometimes people come to the center and express concerns about bringing a worker to their homes. Marroquin responds by saying, "I would put my life in their hands."

In 1997 Marroquin took a vacation to the U.S., visiting family members who were well established in Redwood City. "I immediately fell in love with this country," she said. She ended up staying after her six month visa expired, making her an undocumented immigrant. She worked various low-paying jobs, selling cookware and tamales door-to-door, working simultaneously at a thrift store and at the San Francisco airport. After an immigration raid happened shortly after her graveyard shift at the airport ended, she said she felt she needed to quit.

"I decide to quit that job because I was really scared," she said. "I had nightmares. It was so horrible, kind of like a horror movie."

She was soon working as a house cleaner at the Day Worker Center's original location in Los Altos, when the stage was set for her to become its director. The Center's lease expired in October of 2001 and the workers found themselves on the street. Marroquin would bring coffee and bread to the workers every day and keep a list of who was next in line for work, doing it all without a paycheck.

"I was everyday going to the street, helping the workers in the morning making the list of workers waiting for jobs, (asking) who was here first? I would negotiate with the employers. It was kind of crazy. I look back and think, 'What was going on in my mind?' But I did it."

"She understands the people she supports because that's who she is," said Yo Ann Martinez of KQED, which recently selected her as one of four "local heroes" for Latino Heritage Month. "That makes her a way better executive director."

"She has always been a very charismatic, strong and powerful woman, a pillar of the family and now the Day Worker Center," said her 32 year old son, Angel Santuario, who she raised as a single mother since his father died from a stroke when he was a boy. He recalls her working two jobs in the U.S. at one point, 16 hours a day, to help pay a family member's medical expenses.

Marroquin is from Huauchinango, a small city in the rugged mountains of central Mexico known for its waterfalls, flowers and numerous churches. Marroquin says she is no longer the strict Catholic she was raised to be, attending Mass every Sunday and reciting an hour-long "Rosario" every day at her mother's insistence.

Marroquin's mother came from an established, wealthy family which she recalls was often visited by Catholic church elders. Her mother was a teacher, a profession which Maria herself would later take on in Mexico in an elementary school, also working for a teachers union. Her father came from a quite different background. He was a laborer who had made a trip to the U.S. in the Bracero program as a farm worker, and met Marroquin's mother while working on her family's property. Marroquin's mother taught him how to read and write. A handsome man, Marroquin says her father looked like a cross between Richard Gere and Clark Gable.

When Marroquin was 12, her father died in accident while working on a train track, killed by a piece of heavy equipment. She easily recalls the date "It was 43 years ago yesterday," she said on Sept. 6. "I thought I would never recover from that pain. He was wonderful. We were partners in many things."

Perhaps it is fitting that today Marroquin works with laborers like her father. They learn to read and write in English at the center, and receive free food, donated goods and other services, along with a welcome from Marroquin, whose warmth and magnetic personality Sherod credits with much of the Day Worker Center's success in fund-raising and attracting volunteers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. DeCorum
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 16, 2013 at 10:50 am

Kudos to this lady!

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Castro City
on Sep 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Maria is a truly precious human being who I am proud to call a friend! The Day Worker Center has been a quiet addition to the neighborhood. Visitors are welcome to stop in and say hello and see the Center for themselves. It is impressive and very friendly. Much success in the future!!!

 +   Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

A criminal is still a criminal. I sympathize with the "workers", but it is/was their choice to come here... better they stay in their home country and revolt/organize/demonstrate for better lives there...

What is she doing to raise the standards in her native country ?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by LM
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Our congratulations to Maria! She is truly a special human being.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Doug
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm

And George what are you doing to help the country your parents immigrated from. Use your energy to be positive and supportive.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 16, 2013 at 2:57 pm

She is a director? Who is paying for her salary? Must be the taxpayers.

ICE should be called?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wendee
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Sep 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm

So glad that Maria is in Mountain View. This is long overdue. Maria, thank you for all that you do to make MV a better place.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. DePortum
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Sep 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm

She is operating an ongoing criminal enterprise, I N S where are you?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm

How is she celebrated as a hero? Her heroics:
- Supporting criminal activity
- Taking away jobs from American citizens (including many who have waited for years to become citizens, rather than to cross the border illegally and skip the line)
- Reducing tax revenue by supporting cash-only transactions
- Bringing more crime to Mountain View

Someone should call INS, as well as the IRS on those who hire these illegals.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Daniel, seriously dude? OK, we get it. The MV Voice likes to push its political view on illegal immigration, but really? You might want to have a little discretion.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm

"She understands the people she supports because that's who she is" Much the same way as the Unibomber understand Al-Queda.

She is no hero. She is a criminal abetting other criminals.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by WagTheirTails
a resident of Bailey Park
on Sep 16, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Maria Marroquin not MarroQUEEN has high aspirations. Should try to run Dog Shelters where Dogs Wait and WagTheir Tails to New Owners.

Worker has to share $40.00 an Hour? with How Many People?

How MarroQUEEN manage to convince these workers that this is the best place for them.

Publish it right here. Maybe some citizens would like to read that same offer given to the Day Workers, again and maybe they would like to be added to the list of Day Citizens/Workers.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm

The United States is truly the land of opertunity. Where else in the world could a criminal attain respectability by helping other criminals continue there illegal activities?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Sorry, not 'there', but 'their'

 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Where else in the world could a criminal attain respectability by helping other criminals continue their illegal activities?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by to steve
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 25, 2013 at 10:57 pm

what is opertunity? I would really advice you to learn how to write before you try to make an argument. Just shows how people are so ignorant!!

I dont know why people can't just be supportive.

BTW to the ones that say that why can't they help citizens who need the help the answer to that is because they are not seeking help instead they are just filing for unemployment and going to the streets asking for money intead of working for it.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Oct 28, 2013 at 7:44 am

Marroquin should be deported she has no right to be in this country. It is a sad day in America when the government cares more about illegal aliens then it does for it's citizens. Shame on Obama and the politicians that are allowing this to happen. The American citizen is fed up and will not tolerate this illegal alien invasion any longer. Obama and his cronies have divided the country and the illegal aliens will never get the respect they want. No matter if the illegal aliens get amnesty they will not be respected in this country. This people are brazen, demanding and are breaking the laws of this nation. This illegal aliens should be deported!!!! NO to illegal immigration!!!!!

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