On a New York morning in May, I left my hotel room and headed down the hallway towards the elevator.
I was greeted by a voice coming from another guest room. “Good morning” came to me in a sing-song kind of a way from the housekeeper.
She was dressed in a black and white uniform with her auburn-coloured hair pulled back in a bun. Her nametag had Luciana stamped on it in cursive.
During my stay, I saw her a few more times as we exchanged pleasantries.
On each of our encounters, she was either vacuuming a room, stepping out of a guest room or in the supplies closet at the end of the hall.
That’s where we began our conversation. With the door wide open, something peeked my interest to move in closer.
“I really like the artwork on the walls here,” I said. The windowless room was roughly four by five feet as she invited me to step inside.
With a wide grin she said, “These are my angels. I love them so much.” Plaques and photos of them were everywhere.
Luciana told me that thirty years ago she moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic.
She was divorced with two young children and living on welfare in New York. Back home she was a journalist.
I asked her what it was like to leave that behind and move to the US.
“Spanish women are used to a man making things happen but it was all on me,” she said. “I had no one to push for me so I pushed for myself – and when you live in New York, the city pushes you.”
She found a job working in housekeeping for a popular hotel and has stayed there for over 20 years.
She greets all guests in the same friendly way as she did for me.
“I like to make people happy and comfortable,” she said. But sometimes that friendliness isn't always reciprocated by the guests she sees most days.
Looking me straight in the eyes, she says, “Guests treat housekeepers like they are invisible, but we see a lot.”