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'Dreamer' has been selling tamales in Little Village since she was 9--and is now able to pay for college because of it

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Elizeth Arguelles is determined to get a college education--juggling full-time coursework with a part-time job at a nonprofit organization and another part-time job as a tamalera or tamale maker. An undocumented immigrant, Elizeth is protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program but must come up with the funds that aren't provided by the federal or state governments.

Brought to the United States from Veracruz, Mexico at the age of nine, Elizeth has helped her mother make tamales for several years, often getting up at 3:30 a.m. to sell their product in their Little Village neighborhood. Her mother sells tamales every day, 365 days a year, in the rain, the sleet and the cold.

In December, Elizeth held a fundraising event to "honor the tamal," during which she shared the significance of the tamal in her life. Once embarassed about being a tamalera, she now realizes her job has been a means to a successful end. She claims that she has "resilience running through her veins" and credits her mother for her determination to get a college degree. She expects to graduate from Dominican in 2020 with a degree in international business.

"I'm not letting my status as a DACA student define who I am but I'm lettting it empower me," Elizeth says in an article in the Chicago Tribune by Laura Rodriguez. Photo by Abel Uribe.