Lupe Cua’s most dear possession is her small electric skillet. Without it, she would not be able to make those much-loved tortillas for her husband and two daughters. Not only is the skillet one of the few possessions Cua owns, it is the closest thing she has to a stove.
Cua is one of the 36.9 percent of San Marcos residents living in poverty.
Accompanying Cua’s skillet in a small corner designated as a kitchen area in her one bedroom home is a microwave, a two-pan burner, a toaster and a coffee pot. Atop the small triangular counter is a stack of clean plates, a sink and various spices and snacks covering every square inch of space.
Three steps from the skillet, the living room area consists of a couch covered with stuffed animals and toys. Seating is not the couch’s sole purpose. At night, it serves as a small bed shared by Cua and her husband, Angel.
Angel is currently employed, though not steadily. Lupe is unemployed, making her part of the 5.8 percent of San Marcos citizens without jobs.
A mattress covered with a pile of mismatched blankets sits less than two feet away from the couch. ten-year-old Gabby Saucedo and her half-sister Angelica Cua, 2, share the bed every night.
Saucedo is constantly reminding Cua about how she wants to have her own room.
“When I get my room, I am going to kick my sister out, and I am going to have posters and invite friends to sleep over,” Saucedo said.
In an attempt to fulfill Saucedo’s request, the family hung curtains from the ceiling between the bed and the couch.
“Nope, that’s not what I wanted,” Saucedo said to Cua. “I wanted my own room.”
Cua said she tries to explain to her ten-year-old it might be awhile before she can have her own room.
“You have to be patient, mi hija,” Cua said to Saucedo. “Saving takes time.”
Cua and her husband pay $500 a month, electricity and water included, for their small one-bedroom home. Cua’s husband’s income varies from $200 to $600 during a good week.
Despite the small quarters, Cua said the home is a major upgrade compared to the last one-bedroom home she and her family rented on Gravel Street. The previous property was stricken with gaps and holes in the ceiling and walls, Cua said.
For the past two years, Cua and her family have been in and out of hotel rooms, and once had to live in Southside Community Center’s shelter for six months. Having lived in her current home since Nov. 19, 2011, Cua said she is doing everything she can to save up and move out.
“This place is too small,” Cua said. “I miss my stove.”
The government services Cua and her family utilize make it possible to save little by little every month.
Cua is eligible to receive both food stamps and Medicaid from the state. According to the 2008-2010 American Community Survey 3-year estimate, Cua is among 1,366 people in a sample size of 16,437 in San Marcos receiving food stamps. Saucedo is one of 770 six to 17 year-old females on Medicaid, and her younger sister is among the 752 girls ages six and under on Medicaid, according to the estimate.
In addition, Cua and her family utilize local services in San Marcos. Janis Hendrix, community initiatives administrator, said 22 local non-profit organizations are eligible for Community Development Block Grant funding for people in need in San Marcos.
One service Cua is seeking in particular is counseling for Saucedo. Cua said her daughter is suffering emotionally due to the past two tumultuous years.
“Gabby is going through a lot of depression,” Cua said, shedding a tear. “For her age she is going through too much, and it hurts me.”
Education is a particular concern for Cua. Saucedo is currently repeating the third grade.
Saucedo nods enthusiastically and smiles ear-to-ear when talking about college, but her excitement is brief, saying, “but I am not smart.”
Cua said children at school call Saucedo stupid. The 10-year-old has taken the name to heart.
“The other day she was talking to me and goes, ‘are you listening to me? Or am I just stupid?’” Cua said. “I looked at her and said ‘I don’t ever want you using that word again. No ma’am, don’t you ever put yourself down like that.’”
Cua never finished high school, and encourages Saucedo to work toward a high school diploma.
Cua said her No. 1 priority is her children, and is doing everything she can to help them financially and emotionally. With one pair of pants, three pairs of shorts and a number of shirts that can be counted on two hands, Cua said she would rather spend any extra money on her daughters.
“I don’t like to see or know that they are in need of something,” Cua said.
Cua does not wish for lavish things. Her ultimate desire in life is modest.
“I just want a home that has two bedrooms, so (Saucedo) can have her own room,” she said.