55-years-old, Estrella Benavides was born in Nicaragua. In 1976, she came to the US for a 3-month stay and immediately fell in love with the country. "I've always felt more American," she proclaimed with an accent. In 1986, Estrella returned to the US to live. She bought used American cars, sold them in Nicaragua and made enough money to buy six houses, in Redwood City, San Mateo, Belmont and San Bruno. By 2010, she has lost them all, along with her husband and chidren. For a while, she lived in her car, but that too is gone. Though raised Catholic and without any Jewish blood, Estrella claims to be a Jew. God talks to her regularly while the evil elites of this world are after her. They can even cause her physical pain from a remote distance. She will win in the end, Estrella believes, because God is on her side. "God told me I will be able to fly soon."
This day, I found Estrella in East San Jose as she was pushing her cumbersome, much modified bike to Redwood City, 27 miles away. It would take her all day. She once had two houses in Redwood City, but now she goes there to eat and take a shower in a homeless shelter.
"Why don't you just stay in Redwood City?"
"But my son is here."
Though she's not always allowed to see her son, Estrella constantly goes back and forth between San Jose and Redwood City. She has two other children. They communicate sporadically via cell phones.
In a basket attached to her bike's handlebar, there was a little chihuahua under a thin blanket. He didn't look very happy.
Noticing her NBA wristbands, I asked about their meaning. Smiling, Estrella said, "I bought them because they're cheap. I have very little money."