By: Lilliam Z. Morales Rodriguez
It was Thursday, April 3 at approximately 4:00 p.m.. The rainy weather was perfect for drinking hot chocolate and watching Netflix but instead the campus of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez was full as students geared up for a Calculus II departmental exam. You could feel the stress and pressure just by just walking around the college students in the library.
“Kids these days should take it easy, if they don’t, they’ll end up getting sick and even dying before me and that’s a lot to say,” said 67 year old María Sanabria. When she studied at Colegio in 1949 there were less ways of communicating and resources for homework and all.
While touching her gray hair and shaking her head sideways she added, “ You want to study, you are studying but you want to let it go and pick up your phone or computer and then say you don’t have enough time, she commented in reference to the distractions students have at their disposal. “ I’m not saying it is bad, I’m simply saying that if you aspire to be the best, then you might as well not place your own obstacles in the road.”
María Sanabria, 67, 5’3 is a retired Spanish teacher who never got to graduate from “El Colegio.” She was busy taking care of her mother and supporting her mother and four siblings. She would wake up everyday at 4:30 a.m., to take a bus from Aguadilla to Mayagüez to work as a secretary, where she translated for her boss who was from the United States. Without communication whatsoever she left her younger sister in care of her mother until she got home at 4:00 p.m. Getting paid $ 2.00 an hour she still managed to support her family.
Professor María Sanabria studied, her sisters grew up and moved away, she got married, took care of her mother until she passed away, had children and still managed to keep studying but in order to take care of them she took time off college and as soon as the kids were big enough, she continued in another college. This time she chose special education.
She had always wanted to study this profession, inspired by a cousin who had down syndrome and she witnessed how he and his teachers struggled everyday. María wanted to help kids in similar situations, by learning sign language, braille, all in order to assist the children in such situations. Everyday she managed to take advantage of every resource such as books and professors in order to gain more knowledge and wisdom.
As things took a toll for her she didn’t know what to do, “ I struggled with staying with the kids, but I wanted to move forward and make something of myself, I sacrificed my teens, my twenties but in the end I prevailed,” said Ms. Sanabria
“ I learned that in life you must not sit down and wait for an answer, because you might as well wait for death to knock on your door,” she added
“My kids became my inspiration” María said while stroking her gray hair in deep thought.”
María added with a powerful look on her chocolate brown eyes, that up until this day she is proud of what became of her kids. “ My oldest daughter studied engineering in this very university, UPRM, she soon joined the ROTC, went to Iraq, was in war and became captain.” “My son became a Marshall, keeping people safe and those who threaten others away just like his father and my daughter became a teacher and a few years later a social worker.” She said with a gentle smirk on her face “To this day I continue to learn from my kids, they had their own children, and are living the best life I could ever imagined. Although it is so I do not have any remorse, I went ahead.” María said.
Reflecting upon his life, María added, “in the end kid, it’s all about what you can and want to do and if you are ready to take on the challenge and rise above your own obstacles. At the end of it all you won’t regret it, just breathe in, stay calm, don’t let pressure get to you and continue moving forward.”
As soon as she left college around 8:00 p.m., she met up with her husband at her house; her dog gladly welcomed her home and her grandchildren also. The happiness in her eyes was evident mistaken, she was grateful for what she had. While she was upstairs, her husband Max Morales talked about how proud he is of all of her achievements as well as her abilities to continue moving.
Max firmly but with a smirk on his face said “Although she may not be the sweetest in the morning or the best at driving, and many years have passed, she is one hell of a woman, mother and teacher. I am proud to call her the mother of my children and my wife.”