Monica Cardenas Leal was living the Mexican dream.



a man and a woman looking at the camera: Monica Cardenas was laid off in June from the factory where she assembled parts for helicopters and airplanes, one of millions of Mexicans who have lost work because of COVID-19. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)


© Provided by The LA Times
Monica Cardenas was laid off in June from the factory where she assembled parts for helicopters and airplanes, one of millions of Mexicans who have lost work because of COVID-19. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As her once-sleepy hometown of Querétaro transformed into an international hub of the aerospace industry, Cardenas grew with it. The daughter of a carpenter who worked multiple jobs to put food on the table, she graduated from a state aeronautics university and went to work for a Spanish firm assembling parts for Cessna jets and Sikorsky helicopters.

Her $500-a-month salary lifted her family into Mexico’s middle class.

She and her truck-driver husband took beach vacations and bought a house in the suburbs. Their children, outfitted in name-brand sneakers and braces, aspired to careers in architecture and psychology.

The coronavirus threatens

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