Last month, like many months before, Hortencia Hernandez had to contend with flooding inside her modest single bedroom home.

The Starr County resident, who is about to celebrate her 70th birthday next month, described how the one bathroom home, which sits downstream in the outskirts of her community, is susceptible to the water anytime it rains for more than a few hours.

A quick glance inside the home and a visitor’s eyes are drawn to some out of place surroundings, as the home’s interior appears to be in dire need of repair.

Worth taking note, Hernandez’s claim of water damage is apparent, as the structure appears to be collapsing on itself; there are numerous leaks in the roof, and wires protrude from the wall.

“It fills the entire room, which spills into the rest of the home,” Hernandez said softly in Spanish. “It’s because the water comes down (the road).”

Despite this, Hernandez, along with her 22-year-old granddaughter, Melissa Garcia, keep their home clean, and organized, but it lacks some of the most basic appliances, like a stove, which is currently substituted by a hot plate.

Hernandez, a native of La Parada Zacatecas, Mexico has lived in Starr County since the late 90s, said she was roughly 59 years old, working as a caretaker at the time when she said she took a nasty fall at the home of a longtime employer.

The result for the nearly 60-year-old woman was a broken shoulder, that her daughter, Cecilia Menchaca said, only led to more issues, and eventually a second broken shoulder after again injuring herself working.

Compounding issues, Hernandez also had her right leg amputated two years ago in April as a result of multiple health issues, according to the family.

Sitting in a hand-me-down wheelchair, her third since the amputation, Hernandez said the home is not designed to allow for her to move around with ease.

Making matters worse, Hernandez has experienced the loss of three of her five adult children to untimely deaths in the last five years.

Religious imagery hangs on a door at their home on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Star county. (Joel Martinez |

Most recently, Hernandez’s son, Luis Ricardo Garcia, 42, died in January 2017, she said. Before that, two of Hernandez’s adult daughters died in separate incidents.

The 38-year-old, who is Melissa’s aunt, said she has three of her own kids she supports on top of helping with her mother. She said her mother only has a space heater for the coldest of months throughout the year.

Garcia, who works at a local grocery store to support herself and her grandmother, said she spends a lot of her earnings on medications for Hernandez in Mexico because of the high cost of the medication.

Despite recent tragedy, and the realization of her own physical limitations, Hortencia spends her days enjoying the patio area of her home, which lacks a wheelchair access ramp, as the inside can become uncomfortably warm during the day.

Hortencia sheepishly said that a more durable wheelchair would allow her to move with more ease around the home, and patio area, a ramp would make that easier, a sufficient heat source for her and her granddaughter would make the quality of life appreciatively better, and repairs to her modest home’s infrastructure would keep the rain away during stormy days.

For information on how you can donate to the family, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and inquire about contributing to the Spirit of Christmas campaign.

All donations go to the family. United Way does not keep any of the proceeds donated.