Despite Poverty Today, Latinos May Define Rules in Aging America

For Paula and Manuel Cisneros, every day is a challenge of survival. At 73, he cuts and bag cactus to sell on the street to pay for basic expenses and she is looking for a job. A peaceful retirement for them just looks like a very distant dream.

"Aging is very easy, but to do it with dignity and wellness is not that easy," said Manuel, who came from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant in 1972, worked as a construction worker and after a dozen years became a United States citizen.

The Mexican immigrant couple is barely makes ends meet with a $900 monthly Social Security check. They also receive assistance from the Dallas public housing authority that pays half of their apartment rent.

Cactus and Computers

Lately, the Cisneroses, who and have no savings, have lacked money they need to pay for their telephone service or more food. For that reason, over a year ago they found a way to get more income by selling cinnamon, pepper and other spices. Now they only sell fresh cactus—nopales used in Mexican cooking--cleaned, cut and put in bags of one or two dollars each.

“We use such an alternative because no one employs us,” they said. The reasons their opportunities for getting by financially include being old, lacking of English proficiency, having little education—and being Mexican.

"In this country you must work very hard, as I did, but I don’t feel I got enough benefits for my old age or perhaps did not understand the proper way to do it," said Manuel, who is considering taking computer classes to see if he can get a job.

"The sale of cactus has become indispensable for our budget, it’s how we gain $5 or $ 10 for gasoline now and then, for our vehicle payments and insurance and the cost of our medicines," said Paula, 63. READ MORE

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