Vacation led Flores from Honduras to Lowcountry
One on the happiest days of Esmeralda Flores’ life was the day she was sworn in as an American citizen.
“The man who swore us in said, ‘Remember to love this country as much as it loves you. Know that this flag will always protect you,’ “ said Flores, still visibly moved by that moment.
However, that doesn’t mean Flores doesn’t still have a huge place in her heart for her home country of Honduras. In fact, there is a small Honduran flag on the front window sill of her business, Esmeralda's Massage Therapy & Pilates Center on New Orleans Road on Hilton Head Island.
“I’m proud to be from Honduras,” she said. “It’s a country that is rich, but its people are poor.”
Flores journey from the Central American country to Hilton Head actually started - as it does for so many people who have discovered this little paradise – with a family vacation.
However, she took a bit more of roundabout way than most people.
Flores grew up in Honduras, and from a very young age she pitched in with the family grocery business selling fruit in her neighborhood. It was an experience, she said, that proved very helpful when she opened her own business.
She married her husband, Luis, at a young age, and then at 19, she went to Mexico City, Mexico, to attend school for physical education and massage therapy.
Her husband had a scholarship to attend school in Miami, and their first child was born there. Flores traveled back and forth from the Honduras to the States for several years on a travel visa.
Her son, Wilson, was living in New Orleans and they all came to Hilton Head for a family vacation.
“We rode bikes and fell in love,” said Flores. “I told my husband, ‘We’re moving here!’ “
And they did just that.
Flores, who then applied for citizenship, worked at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa for one year as a massage therapist. She also got certified to teach aerobics and did that for eight years.
“I could read English, but not speak it. So in my classes, it was ‘do as I do, not as I say,’ ” she said with a chuckle, adding that she studied the language five to six hours a day.
After eight years at the Westin, Flores decided to open her own business, and Esmeralda’s Massage Therapy & Pilates Center was born.
She started in the Lancaster Building on William Hilton Parkway before setting into the building at 14 New Orleans Road.
Flores has grown her business substantially over the years, building a very loyal clientele.
“I have wonderful clients who have become my friends,” she said. “They – and other friends on the Hilton Head – have always made me feel so welcome. Americans are very caring.”
Of course, she misses home and her family and friends and tries to get back there when she can.
But this is her home now and she loves America and adores Hilton Head Island.
“It is such a joy to be here,” she said. “And I feel like I have a lot to give. God has given me many gifts and I need to share those gifts.”
It took courage for Flores to move to a new country and learn a new language and make new friends.
“But,” she said, “I believe that when something is in your heart, you can do anything.”