Her family has given her and her husband strength to face the challenges.
Raquel Suárez is the mother of 12 children. Her husband, Jesús, was a fish salesman. The family fell on hard times. “In 2010, a [woman] swindled him,” she explains—the woman made a very expensive order and then didn’t pay. That was the family’s financial downfall.
Raquel, who until then had devoted herself exclusively to being a mother and housewife, found herself with 12 mouths to feed and a 46-year-old husband in a state of anxiety and depression. “We went to the doctor because I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack and die,” she says.
That situation forced Raquel to summon up more courage than ever before. “We had two options: either to become bitter about life, or to think about what we could do to get ahead.”
People who trust them
In the Las Ventas neighborhood of Madrid where they live, they were well-known. “Since Jesús knew the area well, and in those years the texting app WhatsApp began to spread, we thought of selling fish to family and friends through that network,” Suarez says.
First, two friends ordered fish from them. Two quickly became four, and then dozens more. “Thanks to the trust [they have in us], the network has been growing.”
Raquel and Jesús go daily to Mercamadrid (the fish market) and buy what people have ordered from them. “We work from Tuesday to Saturday,” she explains. They go in their van, buy what has been requested through WhatsApp, and take it clients’ homes. They cover Madrid from north to south.
It is a job based on trust, because the clients know that they’re going to get top quality products—“Jesús is an expert on fish”—and at a good price. They’ve already expanded the business to include fruit, vegetables, and meat as well.
“Having a big family is wonderful”
With this business, they’ve been able to get back on their feet and create the company “Twelve Fish” (“Doce Peces” in Spanish), using Raquel’s cell phone and a Facebook page. The name “Twelve Fish” refers to her children, whom she loves with a passion.
“Having a large family is wonderful. Large families had always drawn my attention because of the affection you see in the parents and because everyone helps everyone else. You’re never alone,” she says.
“Some people say terrible things to you when they find out you have 12 children, but I don’t care,” she says. “The state should help us large families because of how much we contribute.”
Did they decide ahead of time to have 12 children? “I got married when I was 23. When Jesús and I got married, we hadn’t thought about it. We’re believers and I never used any means to avoid children; it’s that simple.” Although they take their faith seriously, they aren’t affiliated with any particular religious group within the Church.
Raquel is passionate, outgoing, friendly, brave, and jovial. She’s now 52 years old and Jesus is 56. “Jesús is the expert, the one who decides when to buy and the one who drives the van. I take care of the WhatsApp messages and customer service. Now, I’m enjoying the media interviews.” She’s passionate about what life has to offer, both the fun and the challenges.
Children grow and the house feels small
Raquel and Jesus continue to live in a 100 square meter apartment, but they say, “we dream of going to live in the country someday.” In the house there’s only one complete bathroom and one half bathroom. Showers are organized at different times. The children live in shared rooms “and you can see that they’re growing up and the house has become too small for us.” The youngest is already 10 years old.
A child with a disability
They’ve faced challenges, but they’re doing fine. “The eldest, who is 28 years old, has become a Daughter of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. The second—Ainhoa—is a journalist; she’s the community manager of our small company and has become independent. The other ten live with us.” Among them is Juanito, who has a disability, “and we’ve never received any help with him.”
Raquel encourages everyone who has suffered a major setback in their life not to throw in the towel. “Throw yourself into the pool and you’ll come out on top,” she says.
Raquel is optimistic and believes that “there are many good people in the world. That’s what keeps her going. She’s created a WhatsApp group called “There’s Work Here” (“Aquí hay trabajo”) to publicize job offers that might help someone in her neighborhood.
Above all, her children are her driving force: “I wouldn’t trade the love that we experience in our family for anything. That’s what gives me strength every day.”