WEST TAMPA — Nancy Salegio's jet black ponytail swished back and forth as she delegated in Spanish and English, and bustled to make sure food was hot, people were served and money was collected to help raise $15,000 to send Alfredo Jimenez's body back to his homeland, Guatemala.
For the fundraiser at Al Lopez Park on Sunday, food such as tamales, pollo homeado, chuchiroitos and rice were sold to about 60 people.
On June 12, Jimenez, 32, was electrocuted while trimming trees when his ladder struck a power line. He was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died Tuesday. Another man was injured and is in intensive care.
Jimenez arrived in Tampa 14 years ago on a work visa.
"He came to be able to help his family," said Salegio, who is Jimenez's cousin.
Jimenez's younger brother, William, dreamed of being a lawyer, but his family was poor, which made a career in law seemed unattainable. Jimenez wanted his brother to succeed so the money he made in the United States was sent to Guatemala to pay for his parents' home, to cover his brother's law school costs and pay for his own son's education, a son he's never been able to meet. After arriving in Florida, Jimenez learned he was going to be a father.
"He had a lot of dreams," William said, in Spanish, on Sunday. "He's a man that came to this country to evolve."
A week before his accident, Jimenez was finally able to see his younger brother after 14 years of separation. Jimenez also met his brother's son for the first time. He worked overtime so he was able to take his brother and family to SeaWorld, Legoland and Disney World.
The day after the family went to Disney, Jimenez was in the hospital with severe burns and 90 percent brain dead from the electric shock, Salegio said.
Now, he will return to Guatemala with his brother.
Jimenez's best friend, Margie Perez, said his dream was to bring his whole family to Tampa.
"He was very humble," she said. "I can talk to him about anything."
While Perez, 54, and other friends were clearing Jimenez's room, she found money order receipts for remittances he mailed back home. He would send about $400 each month to his family. He tried sending more, so he worked seven days a week, she said.
Perez said Jimenez's landscaping business was just starting to take off. "His business grew by word of mouth," she said.
Salegio just hopes she can raise enough money to send Jimenez back to his family.
Contact Ariana Figueroa at [email protected] or (813) 226-3350. Follow @ArianaLFigueroa.