Thursday, October 28, 2021

the last book I ever read (The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, excerpt nine)

from The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio:

But his favorite place to work was at a a chocolate and sweets factory in Detroit, where he spent ten years. He started out cleaning bathrooms, but the couple who owned the factory saw that he was a good worker and said, Theodoro, leave that alone. You can go work in the granola station now, so he put on a blue lab coat and became a sweets man.

“My years at the chocolate factory were the most beautiful time of my life,” Theodoro tells me. He learned how to make caramel-covered popcorn, pecan pies, cherry-center bonbons, little chocolate turtles with nuts inside. The aromas, of course, were incredible, but what he loved most were the machine. “At the start of the assembly line, I mixed in honey with the peanuts, then saw them go into the chocolate machine where chocolate cascaded down like a curtain but also up like a geyser; it showered chocolate from both directions, if you can imagine that. Now, at this point the chocolate was very hot, and I went into a cooling tunnel. There were times when I worked the night shift to make chocolate overnight, and the factory was quiet and cold, a few people making sweets for the world. I was very good at my job and I helped everyone around me, even though my supervisor said, That’s not your job. But I wanted us to work as a team, so if I had a second, and my co-workers were slowing down, I ignored him. The last year I was there, they got these really old ovens tha toasted the granola for a really long time and out I came, toasted and brown, smelling like heaven, and you had ten people working on eighty trays at a time. There were metal detectors in the cooling station, to make sure the batch was clean. It smelled like paradise. When I talk about it, it sounds impossible, but I saw it happen.”

Then the company was sold to an owner from Ohio who was going to hire only American citizens. Theodoro’s bosses broke the news to him on New Year’s Day 2012. “I had been working for just about two hours and they sent for me. Theodoro, they said, we can’t keep you here. This company isn’t ours anymore.” They gave him a certificate saying he was one of the best employees they’d ever had, and they hoped that when he showed it to future employers he wouldn’t have to wash bathrooms anymore.

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