A broom in constant motion and the consummate jingling of store bells accompanied Martin Noriega. He was busy sweeping the floor at Estetica Ivette Salon when we first arrived at his North Side business. Ivette is his mother, the salon Noriega’s gift to her. Once finished at the salon, Noriega dashed next door to answer phone calls and stock the shelves of his newest endeavor – a small Mexican styled grocery store. During our visit, he continued darting between the brick and mortar realities of Noriega’s decade long dream to one day own a business.
Noriega traveled solo from Mexico to Columbus at the age of 14, moving in with his uncle on the West Side. Noriega’s parents saw the United States as a land of opportunity. There, he could get an education and “make something” of himself. His family in Mexico was supportive, yet unaware of the unique challenges facing Noriega. Extreme bouts of loneliness coupled with a lack of financial support caused him to quit school shortly after arriving in Columbus.
He began supporting himself by working a construction job – equipped only with a truck and tools he worked on private orders throughout the city. That is until his tools were stolen and his livelihood threatened. He had no money, was facing the threat of eviction, and could barely afford gas for his truck. Calling on a past mentor and boss, Anamaria Perales-Lang, for assistance – she found him a job as a groundskeeper at an apartment complex on the North Side. For more on his story view this special video feature for ¡Dímelo, Columbus!:
View Noriega and Anamaria Perales-Lang’s interviews in Columbus Neighborhood’s feature on Latino migration to the city:
Special thanks to WOSU’s Columbus Neighborhoods for videography and studio support on this feature!
Unless otherwise noted, all photos and text are copyrighted to Leticia Wiggins.