It wasn't too long ago that Blanca thought it was all over.
Born in Puerto Rico, Blanca lived in New York most of her life. Recently, a reporter from the Daily Mail sent a reporter to interview Blanca. When the reporter arrived, Blanca was calmly sculpting wood in the front yard of her modest, 860-square-foot home down the street from a cemetery. Occasionally, a drug deal takes place out front, and the house is crumbling in parts, but Blanca has been fixing it up since she moved in a couple years ago, and this is home.
Reading the article, you can feel the writer's surprise, you can feel an unsuspecting writer being wrapped in Blanca's story.
By day, Blanca works for the Lake County School District as a clerical assistant.
This is a story about mothers.
Blanca is a woman who makes lasagna for visiting relatives and watches over her 78-year-old mother, "who suffers from pulmonary fibrosis and often breathes oxygen from a concentrator, and a loud rescue mutt named Tammy."
This is a story about daughters.
Because Blanca always believed in her daughter. Believed her daughter would be important. And, regardless of your opinion on her daughter—and, believe me, you have an opinion about her daughter, because everybody has an opinion about her daughter—there's no denying the wholesomeness of this story, so hear me out.
"Her dad and I were preparing for Alexandria's birth and still picking names," Blanca told the reporter. "And he came up with 'Alexandria.' I thought about it for a while and I said: 'Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That sounds very powerful. That'll be her name.'"
Yes, that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the infamous millennial Democratic Socialist who represents New York's 14th district (covering the Bronx and Queens) in the House of Representatives.
And her mother is Blanca Ocasio-Cortez.
Blanca married Sergio Ocasio in Puerto Rico, then moved to New York. She knew very little English, but she learned. She worked the jobs nobody else wanted. She mopped floors at night, she drove school buses, she answered phones, took orders.
In 1989, she gave birth to her first child, a girl, in The Bronx, New York City. Two years later, she gave birth to a boy.
Until Alexandria was five, the family lived in a one-bedroom condo in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx.
Theirs was an American struggle.
Theirs was an American struggle. Sergio worked hard until he had his own business, and the small family pooled together their resources and took out a mortgage, and moved into "a small single-family house with a yard in nearby Yorktown Heights."
"We had a great life there," Blanca said. "Alexandria was very social, so she always had a bunch of girls over. She took over the shed in the backyard. She cleaned it up, put up curtains and photos and made it look nice, and that was like a clubhouse for her and her friends."
Blanca talks about her daughter the way any good mother does, recalling that her daughter was always talkative.
"When I took her to her pre-K interview, she didn't let me talk much. She was going on and on about knowing the alphabet and being able to count."
In 2008, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a sophomore at Boston University, her father, Blanca's husband, died of lung cancer.
Overnight, Blanca had to become the breadwinner.
I was cleaning houses in the morning and working as a secretary at a hospital in the afternoon... it was still difficult making ends meet. At one point, I was skipping mortgage payments and we almost lost the house.
This is a story about a single mother who raised her family after her husband died of lung cancer.
As the Daily Mail notes:
Sergio's death put the family into a tailspin. He had no life insurance, two years of health care bills due and the money his business brought in dried out. Blanca recalls she faced foreclosure not just once, but twice.
"It was scary," Blanca told the reporter. "I had to take medicine I was so scared. I had to stop paying for the mortgage for almost a year. I was expecting someone knocking on the door to kick me out at any time. There were even real estate people coming around to take photos of the house for when it was going to be auctioned. The worst is that I only had $50,000 left to pay on the loan."
Funny enough, it was the bank, not the welfare office or the local church that helped her.
Blanca worked from 6am until 11pm.
And I prayed and prayed, and things worked out. After the children graduated from college, I figured it was time for me to move to Florida.
These days, Blanca lives in Eustis, Florida, a lakefront community of about 16,000 people near Orlando. She moved here just before Christmas in 2016. She'd been paying $10,000 a year in real estate taxes in New York. Now, she pays $600 a year.
When she first got here, the world, her world was much different. Her daughter was a bartender in New York and hadn't filed paperwork to become a Representative.
Really, though, this is a story about what it means to live in America.
"I love privacy and calm," Blanca said. "I don't like the limelight for myself and my family. But it seems that God played quite a joke on me with this politics stuff."
The Daily Mail sent reporter Jose Lambiet, presumably to do a hatchet job. The story is tempting: taxes are so severe in New York that even the mother of the wild-eyed Democratic Socialist representing that area can't even afford to live there. Really, though, this is a story about what it means to live in America.
And while liberal media has paraded the story around with that smug look on their faces, so have conservative outlets, and in both cases they've missed the real story. The human story. The story of all of us. Because Blanca is an American, same as you and me.