When she moved to Sarasota from Texas as a teenager 21 years ago, Yarumi Espana says the city’s Hispanic community was small and tight-knit. There were only a handful of hangouts, and the population was mostly Mexican, like her. Since then, she says, the number of Spanish-speaking people living here has grown, and it’s also become increasingly diverse—with many more people from Cuba, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela and other Latin American countries.
After attending Booker High School, Espana found her first job working in a Mexican restaurant, and since then has held a string of jobs, from cleaning homes and businesses to managing a pawn shop. In 2016, she started selling Herbalife Nutrition products, and for two years has been selling the company’s nutritional products in a Bradenton smoothie shop.
Espana, who has five children, says that when she was young, no one pushed her to go to college. Her oldest daughter, 19, now attends State College of Florida, thanks in part to the nonprofit UnidosNow, which educates Hispanic students about scholarships and college programs like dual enrollment. Espana says her children’s experience growing up in Sarasota is “way different” from hers.
According to Espana, there’s plenty of opportunity here. “If you’re willing to work and you’re willing to put some sweat into it,” she says, “you can get a fair enough job.” She plans to expand her Herbalife business. “I see myself doing it for quite a long time,” she says. “I have plenty of goals and plenty of dreams.”