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Columbia Inspired

Surviving the Storm

May 19, 2023 03:12PM ● By Bethany Good

Blanca (Ellis) Cervantes knows what it takes to survive and flourish. In her 60-plus years on this planet, she has faced many tragedies and learned how to overcome them. As a Mexican American immigrant, Blanca’s story is about family, sacrifice, perseverance, and reinvention. It’s a story about the strength it takes to transform your life into something new again and again.

Blanca’s mother passed away when she was only three. Her father abandoned the family, leaving her oldest brother, Roberto, age 18, and her grandmother to care for all eight children. Times were hard for a while, but things changed when Blanca was 13. 

Her family came to the United States, and she started working at her Aunt Carmen’s restaurant in Louisiana. “My aunt would always say she wanted us to have the same opportunities she had to get an education and a job to become an independent and self-sufficient woman and create a better life for our family.”

Blanca got married young and had two children with her husband. When he joined the Navy, Blanca was devastated. Being a Navy wife meant moving far away from her family in Louisiana. “It was tough for me just to leave them behind. In my culture, families stick together forever.”

Blanca rebuilt her life as a Navy wife. She rebuilt it again after her marriage ended. She worked three jobs for years to support her family and save money to buy a home. Tragedy struck when Blanca and her best friend, Patricia, were in a horrific car accident. Blanca was seriously injured. Patricia didn’t make it through. There were no words for the pain of losing her closest friend. “This was a huge loss in my life, and it made me realize so many things. When I woke up in the hospital, I felt so grateful to see my kids again and have another opportunity to change my life. I was committed to living life to the fullest – for both of us.”

Blanca has survived many challenges and difficulties. “I am stronger than I think. I am a warrior like my ancestors and all the women who came before me.” After twenty-three years of service as an Outreach Community Specialist with the Prince George’s County School System, Blanca is semi-retired and thriving. Today, she works part-time in special education in the Howard County School System. What is her advice for life? “Rely on people that believe in you, and don’t be afraid to ask for support. Believe in yourself and the people around you, and you’ll get through the storm.”

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