Crew Member Spotlight: Rosa Flores

 Rosa works on shaping the contours of the Native Gathering Garden at Cully Park. Naim Hasan Photography.

Rosa works on shaping the contours of the Native Gathering Garden at Cully Park. Naim Hasan Photography.

Rosa Flores loves to plant. Since she began working as an on-call Verde Landscape crewmember in October 2016, she expressed how much she gets to learn while on the job. While working on rain gardens—Rosa’s favorite landscape project—crewmembers get training on watershed health and hands-on experience with sustainable methods for maintaining clean water.

“Programs like Verde don’t exist elsewhere. [Other programs] offer education and training, but don’t offer paid work too, like Verde offers,” reflected Rosa.

Verde Landscape works to connect low-income people of color in the Cully neighborhood with access to good jobs in the green economy. In October of 2016, Verde enlarged this effort to connect low-income women of color to landscape jobs and training. Rosa applied for Verde Landscape at this time and has been a part of the Verde Landscape team ever since.

Rosa highlights that job opportunities for women are limited. She lived in Mexico City for 25 years, and while she began working at a young age, there were not a lot of good jobs for women, according to Rosa. She began working when she was eight at a tortilleria (tortilla bakery). At age nine, she worked making brides’ dresses, and then at age ten she began working in construction for the federal district, as well as the metro public transit lines. She worked in the construction field in Mexico City for over ten years.

When Rosa moved to L.A. at age 25, she worked cleaning hotels. Here, Rosa received crucial trainings on labor rights. She moved to Portland in 2015 with her husband after living in L.A. for 15 years and found working conditions at a hotel in Portland much worse. Her boss increased her workload without increasing her pay, expecting her to clean more than 20 rooms in the allotted three-hour window every day. Not only was the job underpaid, it was part-time—far from a livable income. Knowing she deserved better working conditions, Rosa left the job.

Rosa found Verde Landscape through her advocacy work with Living Cully. She volunteered with the Cully Housing Action Team distributing flyers in the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park as part of the campaign to save the Oak Leaf from redevelopment and displacement in 2016. Her neighbor told her about the job opportunities at Verde Landscape.

Verde Landscape appealed to Rosa because it is a career related to her previous work experience in Mexico City working in construction. Rosa likes being out in nature and spends her free time with her kids in the forest and near rivers.

Rosa now lives with two of her sons in Portland, the youngest of which she endearingly refers to as “mama’s boy.” The son of her late-husband, her son is very affectionate; they have a close relationship. Rosa’s husband passed away in a tragic work accident shortly after she joined the Verde Landscape team: it was and still is heartbreaking for Rosa to have lost the love of her life.

Rosa has three other adult children, and she dreams of returning to Mexico to see her 18-year-old daughter for the first time in 17 years. She also dreams of owning her own house in Portland or Mexico and hopes her children see their aspirations come to fruition.

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