The Story of Elsa Merlo Fernandez

The Texas Story Project.

When you walk in the cafeteria at St. Mary’s University, the first person you see is Elsa. Most students at St. Mary’s call her Elsita.

Elsa Merlo Fernandez, daughter of Fermín Francisco Merlo and Aurora Ramirez de Merlo was born in Mendoza, Argentina. She had a beautiful childhood, and enjoyed playing sports. When she got married to her husband Daniel, they went to live to Ushuaia, Argentina. Elsa describes living Ushuaia in as living in Antarctica, it was always snowy, rainy and windy. Her daughter Maria Sol, was born five years after Elsa and Daniel were married.

When Maria Sol was five, Elsa planned a vacation with her family. Unfortunately, her husband was not able to go because he had to work. Elsa, her daughter, and her sister went to Orlando for a month. While Elsa was in Orlando she fell in love with the city, and when she went back to Argentina, she told her husband they should move there. Daniel thought she was crazy, leaving everything behind and just moving to another country. Nevertheless, she convinced him, and 29 years ago Elsa, Daniel, and Maria Sol left Argentina and went to live to Orlando.

They entered the country with a business visa, since they were going to establish a transportation company in Orlando, like the one they had in Argentina. Elsa and Daniel bought a house in Orlando and with their daughter they lived there for about thirteen years.

Maria Sol went to elementary, middle and high school in Orlando. Elsa says that her daughter always made her proud. By the time Maria Sol graduated high school, big hurricanes entered the state of Florida. The family and the company were affected. And the economy in Orlando started changing, so Elsa and her husband started to consider moving to Texas. Elsa describes Texas as being the perfect place to be for the company since it is next to Mexico, and their company transports products. It is a good place to distribute products.

Maria Sol started looking for universities in Texas, Elsa and Daniel went with her to visit several universities in Texas, including St. Mary’s University. Maria Sol always went to small private Catholic schools, so when she visited St. Mary’s she instantly felt in love with it, and decided that was the place she wanted to be.

Elsa and her husband sold everything they had in Orlando and moved to San Antonio. They have been there for fifteen years. Maria Sol graduated from St. Mary’s University and then went to Florida to get her master degree at the University of Miami. When she finished, she went back to San Antonio and decided to go back to St. Mary’s University to attend law school.

When Maria Sol went to Florida to start her master degree, Elsa felt alone at home. She was alone with her dog, while her husband was traveling for work. One day she went with her daughter to visit St. Mary’s and when they were in the cafeteria, she remembers telling her daughter “it would be nice to work here.” Elsa says she doesn’t know why she said that at the time, she doesn’t like cooking. Maria Sol told here she should apply for a job there. So Elsa applied for a job and got a job in the cafeteria two days later as a cashier. And that has been her job for the last six years. Elsa loves her job, interacting with every student as they walk in the cafeteria, asking them how their day has been, talking with them. She says “Being here in St. Mary’s, I have the luck to work in a position where I can meet many students. For me, it is a gift that God let me live in this stage of my life. To be like a mom to many of the students who come from far away, and are away from their mothers”. She says the connection she has had with her students is something very special to her. Elsa says that she still keeps in touch with students who graduated four years ago, and she has even been invited to weddings of students who have already graduated.

During the summer Elsa enjoys traveling, visiting other countries. She says those experiences have been spectacular. Getting to know other cultures are the experiences she will always have with her. She believes that the best way to be happy is to show others the way you are. To try to be better each day. For Elsa, respect is the fundamental base of everything. To respect other people’s religions, beliefs, and political views.

Daniela Canahuati is a freshman at St. Mary’s University, majoring in Industrial Engineering. Daniela was born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

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