Elsa Ortiz Online (EOO) is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) founded in 2019 by Randy and Christina Carter on the motto "We Care". Our motivation to form the company was rooted in the heart-wrenching separation of Elsa Ortiz and her son Antony when they tried to immigrate to the United States in 2018. We read about it in the New York Times about a week before our planned vacation in Guatemala. The headline read "‘I Can’t Go Without My Son,’ a Mother Pleaded as She Was Deported to Guatemala". She was escorted across the tarmac to a deporting flight by an American immigration officer, also in tears. "Please don’t put me on the plane" she begged repeatedly, "I can’t go without my son". She feared that she may never see Antony again. We learned that other parents seeking asylum in the U.S. had suffered similarly. As proud Americans who believe in the ideals of our country, we wanted to help reunite these families. We would be in Guatemala the following week. Maybe we could connect some of them with lawyers in the States while there. First, we found lawyers who agreed to take such cases pro bono. Working with Sylvia Rodriguez and Pedro Solares, we contacted Elsa and two others in the same predicament and then worked to facilitate the return of their children. Antony, age 8, was the last to be reunited after 81 days of separation. It was a joyous moment for all involved! [You can read detailed reports of Elsa's agonizing story of attempted immigration in Newsweek magazine, the New York Times, or Prensa Libre (Spanish).]
Through it all, we learned about Elsa's aspirations and dreams, her dedication to Antony, her inherent potential, and her willingness to work hard to achieve her goals. We also saw that neither she nor Antony could achieve their full potential without help. Although Elsa and Antony were back together, they still faced a life of poverty in Guatemala with no economic or educational opportunities. While leading a community effort to pay for Antony to get a good education, we brainstormed with Elsa about the possibilities for her to rise out of poverty. She loved the idea of starting an export business. We liked the idea too and believed it was possible. We would help her start her business by using her as a buyer for an online store that we would create, This would sustain her while she continued her education. She would buy handmade products for the store in the Mayan villages of the Guatemalan highlands. We would find retail outlets for them in the U.S.. Over time, we would transition out of our middle-man volunteer role, leaving Elsa with an export business exporting to U.S. retailers directly. It seemed feasible, but it would take time to get our business, and Elsa's, off the ground. Elsa would need part-time employment that allowed her to go to school while also serving as our buyer. She diligently searched for jobs in Guatemala City, but with only a sixth grade education there was almost no opportunity. The one job she was offered involved back-breaking work for 11 hours a day, six days a week for $0.69 an hour, or $45.54 per month (in spite of Guatemala's mandated minimum wage of $346/month). It was slave labor! It left no time for Antony, no time for buying, no time for school, and no time even to search for a better paying job. It was time to implement our brainstormed business plan!
We formed Elsa Ortiz Online LLC to quick-start Elsa's efforts to build an export business, or at least to provide her a sustenance income while she prepared herself to run a business. Several merchants in our city now sell her products and Elsa is earning a livable wage as a buyer in Guatemala for EOO. Antony is in school and doing well and Elsa is beginning to learn how to use computers and business software in addition to gaining experience as a buyer to embark on her journey toward entrepreneurship.
Our long-term goal is that, after gaining experience and additional education, Elsa will own her own export business in Guatemala and/or will be the owner of a profitable Elsa Ortiz Online. She is working toward that goal and, with your participation, we will make it happen! In September, 2018, the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre ran an editorial about the zero tolerance policy headlined "Un país, no un pueblo, sin corazón"; "A country, not a people, without a heart". Conversations with friends, neighbors, and small businesses in our community have resoundingly reaffirmed the view of the Prensa Libre editors that the people of the United States have big hearts. Elsa and Antony will have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. They are seizing the opportunity! They are anxious to succeed and to offer others the chance to work for a fair wage.