Maclovia San Martín

Leila Merzenich - Ecuador


June 22, 2018

The thing that’s been hardest about being back home is how much I miss my host mom Maclovia, or Maco. Maco showed me how to be compassionate even when it might be easier to think of only yourself and how to be a strong leader within the community.
To support her own family of 5 daughters and 5 grand children, Maco runs a tiny restaurant in our small rural community, which is open from 10am to 9pm every day of the year, including Christmas or New year. She works with the women’s group in the town to make yogurt to sell within the community and in other nearby towns and cities. Every morning she wakes up at 6am to go take care of the cows before she has to make lunch in the restaurant. My last week in Ecuador, Maco started to cater at a nearby college. She is always working, always busy, but she is satisfied with her life because it means she is not only self sufficient but able to support her daughters. She values family above all else, and I was so lucky to be able to be embraced into that family.
On top of all these responsibilities, she goes out of her way to take care of her community whenever someone is in need. When a family in our community ran out of money between paychecks, Maco made them enough food to last a week for free, not expecting to be paid back. When her nephew got hit by a car in Guayaquil, she dropped everything to be at his side in the hospital 4 hours away. Every New Year’s Eve, Maco organizes a celebratory lunch for all of the elderly people in our community, many of which are too old to work and have little to no income. She accepted my neighbor Samantha into her family when Sami was rejected by her own family because she is transgender. Sami goes to the restaurant every night for dinner, and even celebrates Christmas with Maco’s family every year. Maco was incredibly empathetic to the needs of all those around her, always considering how she could help before thinking of the toll it would have on her. She showed me that wherever I am in life, whether I’m having a bad day or a bad year, I can and should go out of my way to help others, and that I can get joy from doing so.
And with all of Maco’s responsibilities, Maco still managed to make time to host me. Because for her what is most important is connection, be that with another person in her community, or with a nineteen year old from the United States. I am so grateful for everything she has taught me and that I have such a powerful role model all the way in Ecuador. I just hope I can learn to be half as brave and half as good of a leader as Maco is.

Leila Merzenich