Hilda Chiquito: The Opportunity Costs of Life in New York City

Hilda Chiquito, a petite woman with a dazzling smile, works as an accountant for MRY. Having immigrated to the United States at nineteen with her mom and her two brothers from Manabí, Ecuador, her life changed drastically after settling into New York City. The decision for her to come to the United States was not one she made her own, “the decision was made for me”.

Compared to life in Ecuador, life in New York City is a lot more hectic. At nineteen, she had already finished high school and was in her second year of medical school. In countries in South America, such as Ecuador, students often do not go to college and go straight to graduate school, because career decisions are often made prior to high school graduation. In Ecuador, her life was composed of friends, school, and family; that was her life there. When coming to New York, it was not easy to adjust because she did not speak English. In her first few years in New York, she thought about returning to her comfortable life in Ecuador. However, she is “not a quitter so [I] tried harder”. She went to school, and slowly started to meet people and to “embrace this new life, new culture, new language, new everything”

Upon arrival to the United States, Chiquito attended night school to learn English and worked during the day. The first job she had was at a factory in Queens, working as a manufacturer of products for The Lighthouse for the Blind, which is a company that produces products that make day to day life easier for people with poor vision. After learned a sufficient amount of English, she was offered a job with Sterling Brands, a company that deals with brand design, strategy and innovation, as an accountant.

After having worked as an accountant for Sterling Brands for five years, Chiquito was offered a position with MRY, another branding company, and began work there yesterday. In her cubicle, on her desk sits a computer and piles upon piles of papers, no doubt accounts of clients she needs to do accounting for. As an accountant, she does more than just input numbers into a computer; she makes sure all of the company’s finances are in order. Reflecting on her first job in the United States, her current job requires constant usage of her mind to do work and to solve issues, instead of doing mind numbing physical work with her hands. There are the only two jobs she has ever held in her life, being that she came to the United States as a student from Ecuador. Prior to her immigration to New York City, Chiquito wanted to be a doctor. However, she soon realized that learning a language as an adult would not be an easy feat and needed to find a job quickly to make money while she was in school.

After becoming a single mother, Chiquito realized the importance of her salary. Being the sole breadwinner in her household, she always had to make sure she had a job. “It was difficult juggling my professional and personal life.” Because she always had to make sure she maintained a career, she often had to sacrifice time with her daughter. As she gets older, she realized that family should always come first. Regarding her daughter, Kristell, who is now a sophomore at Vassar College aspiring to be a doctor, she often regrets not spending as much time as Kristell as she wanted. However, Chiquito eloquently stated this sacrifice in terms of economics, something she learned in economics class.

“As I learned in my economics class, you often have to give something up to get something else. This is called Opportunity Cost. Making decisions often requires giving up something for something else. However, I think Kristell turned out ok. She’s going to college and some day, she will be a successful young woman”.

Overall, Chiquito is quite satisfied with the way her life turned out. After several decades of residence in New York City, Chiquito has found her roots here and she cannot imagine living anywhere else. When she first returned to Ecuador after having settled in New York, she realized that she no longer belonged there. “The city where I grew up had changed so much I don’t know it anymore. I can’t even get around, and although I speak the language, I found that they use some terminology that I am not familiar with anymore. I constantly had to ask my relatives what certain words meant.” However, Chiquito acknowledges she does not know what life has in store for her, so she cannot say that she will never return to Ecuador.