Working Her Way Up



Yesenia was 16 years old when she boarded a city bus in her home city of Mante, in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, and sat in an open seat next to a young man. Little did she know that her decision to take that seat would start a chain reaction that would eventually lead to her moving nearly 2,000 miles north to Wisconsin. 

She struck up a conversation with the man, who was visiting his hometown after moving to the United States, and the pair soon fell in love. But he was only visiting friends and family in Mante temporarily; he and his brother had been living and working in Wisconsin for several years and he needed to go back to work. “For four years we had a romance,” she said. “I saw him like three times a year, when he came to Mexico for vacation, and then we married.”

After their marriage in 1995, Yesenia moved with him to Fort Atkinson. They stayed at his brother’s apartment for about a month, and then they moved into a place of their own. He worked at the Jones Dairy Farm and she got a job at the Tyson Foods plant in Jefferson, though she disliked the work. The couple saved up and eventually purchased a duplex in Fort Atkinson, living on the ground floor and renting out the apartment above to help pay down their mortgage. Seven years later they purchased the home where they still live today.

Yesenia worked at Tyson until the plant closed in 2016, and then she took advantage of the opportunity to earn her Commercial Driver’s License. She currently works as a truck driver for John’s Disposal Service in Whitewater. Their daughter graduated from Madison College and works as a translator at Premier Bank, and she wants to pursue a career in criminal justice.

This portrait and story are part of "A Place to Call Home," a special exhibition by writer and photographer Lori Compas at the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.