I met Maria near an area of Skid Row known as Cuban corner, because it’s where most of the Cubans congregate. She’s been off the streets for a few years now, after spending a year in jail at the age of 58. It was her first time in jail she tells me, and that’s where she finally decided to turn her life around. She had a bad drinking problem that led her to have other problems and finally landed her in jail. She pointed to a tent in the same spot where she used to pitch her own tent for many years. Now she lives with her sister in another part of LA, but she comes to Skid Row to pray for those who are still here and whatever else she can do to give back to the neighborhood. She left me with these parting words: “Happiness is here in all of us, we just have to peel back the layers of guilt, shame, and pain and allow ourselves to have it, regardless of what we’ve done or been through.” Maria is a beautiful person, inward and out, and it radiated out of her when I was around her. You could just feel it in her presence.
Suitcase Joe is a Los Angeles photographer who lives anonymously in our amongst. His Instagram page is an important document of our times. @suitcase_joe