Monday, April 7, 2008

Border Crossing

"Amá, why are we running? Why do we have to hide?”

"We have to run, so they don't catch us."

"But who's trying to catch us, Mami?"

"The people that don't want us to come."

"Come where? Where are we going Mami?"

"We're going to go see your Papi."

"But why do we have to run so much? Mami, why are you scared?"

"Mi’jita, right now I can't explain it all. We have to keep running. When we get there I'll tell you everything. Now your brother is gonna carry you on his shoulders, okay? You're too little to keep up with our running."

"Okay, Mami."

* * *

My father left us when I was three years old. He left my mom, brother, and sister behind. He left on his own. I don't know why, but he left. He came to America to work for a year, along with my uncles and aunts on my mom's side of the family.

There was such fear in my mother's face. It was more of a combination of fear and worry that I have never seen in my mother except for that day; the day we came to America.

"We're going to go visit your dad," my mom said one day, “We will leave to go see him in a few days.” This was the best news I had ever heard. I missed my dad so much. Every day I would stare out the window when the clock struck five o'clock waiting to see him come home. He never came, though.

During the next few days I repeatedly told my cousins, "We're going to go see my dad. We're going to go on an airplane to see him, and we'll all be together again, and then we're going to come back, and my daddy will be with us again." My cousins simply smiled at me.

A few days later we all said goodbye to each other. It was a Sunday in September, eighteen years ago. The smell of burning cooking oil and the sound of soccer games on TV always remind me of that day. Every Sunday, my family visited my grandmother and she cooked the best food. There was nothing like her food. That day I kissed my grandmother and grandfather and hugged all my uncles and aunts.

"Don't cry grandma, we're just going to go get my dad and then we're going to be back," I exclaimed. That was the last time I ever saw my grandmother and I will never see her again.

The entire trip took three days. It began with an airplane ride from Mexico City to Tijuana. In Tijuana, we spent a day in a hotel waiting for the long journey. Even as a small child I knew there was something approaching, but I didn't know what. My mom kept dropping things and zoning off when I asked her questions. We woke up early the next morning and met up with our coyotes. I couldn't help but stare at one of the coyote's massive mustache. It took over his entire face. I could hardly see him or his tiny eyes. He was a tall, lanky man with a blue cap and khaki-colored pants. The other coyote was wearing a brown cap and blue jeans. These two coyotes would help us cross the desert; while a third one waited for us in San Diego.

Early in the morning we drove to the U.S.-Mexico border. Back then, there was no eight-foot fence stretching over the entire border. We drove down a long isolated road, like those roads on your way to Las Vegas. This road ran parallel to the massive green fence. We got out of the car and one coyote wandered along the fence, while another coyote stood close to us. Everyone stood with one foot behind the other, how Olympic runners prepare for the run of their careers. Well, this was the run of our entire lives. The coyote waited for a signal from the other coyote. My brother tied his shoes in a tight knot and then placed me on his shoulders. We waited in silence a few minutes. The coyote waved his hand in the air in an abrupt motion from the left to right side. We finally got our signal and off we were. We entered into the U.S. territory in a matter of seconds, but it took us two hours of continuous, non-stop running to get close to San Diego and close to the nearest road.

Running for two hours through an isolated, barren, dry desert was not easy. At first there was hardly anything in our path. The heat from the sun baked everything around us to the point that we could see several mirages in the distance. Everything was dirt and then some more dirt. A series of bushes began to occasionally appear. We expected to see some sign, or remnants of forgotten shoes or sweaters; we were waiting for a sign that other people had passed through the same place. The sign of other people's belongings would give us some hope. We needed to know that other people had successfully passed through the same path as us. We saw nothing.

* * *

"'¿Amá, que tiene Doña Mari? ¿Porque esta tirada en el piso llorando?" I asked as I stared at our neighbor. Her face was shiny from her own sweat and tears. She had black streaks across her face from the dirt on her hands. She had been sitting on the floor for some time now and her hands, along with the rest of her body, were completely collapsed on the dirt. Every time she tried to wipe her tears and sweat, more and more black streaks appeared on her face.

"Her body just can't keep going; she just can't run anymore."

"Why are they saying that we're gonna leave her? Mom, are we really leaving her
here all alone?"

"Yes, we do have to leave her here, but that nice man is gonna stay with her until she feels better."

My mother pointed to one of the two men guiding us through the desolate desert we were crossing. The man simply looked at me and said, "Si mi’jita, Doña Mari nadamas necesita descansar un poquito."

The only time we stopped was right before leaving Doña Mari. It was a quick ten-minute break near the most shrub-rich place we could find.

We left Doña Mari. The coyotes told us to keep running. They were going to wait for her. When the coyote saw that were losing energy he would say, "We're almost there. Falta poco."
We ran for a long time, as quickly and quietly as we could. The two men kept telling us, "¡Ahí vienen! ¡Corran mas rapido!"

Every time we heard the coyotes shout at each other we knew that there might be someone behind us. The fear of getting caught was the boost of energy we needed to keep going. I sat on my sixteen-year-old brother's shoulders through the entire chase. I could feel his temples pulsating quickly, along with his warm forehead. I leaned my stomach on the back of his head and wrapped my hands around the circumference of his head, just above his forehead. I was careful to make sure I didn't cover his eyes. Up to this day I still don't know how he did it. How could he have carried a small three-year-old child while running through a desert full of hazardous obstacles?

We felt relieved when we started to see a road in the distance. A gray Oldsmobile came driving down the road and the coyotes quickly said, "¡Metanse, rapido!" That was our third coyote. The coyote never looked back or even greeted us. We could just see his eyes reflected from the mirror. We noticed that he kept scanning the road behind us, though.

* * *

Burritos and Sunny Delight were our first meals in Los Estados Unidos, in San Diego. The coyotes were kind enough to offer us their homes. It was a quick visit before we had to get on our last and final plane ride to LAX. The food they brought us was new to us. It had an awkward taste to all of us too. My mom hated the sweetness of Sunny Delight; I just frowned when my burrito became unwrapped and I couldn't wrap it again.
"¿Que es esto?" I asked my sister.
"No se, pero parece un taco con una tortilla gigante," responded my brother.

* * *

The light from the city lamps kept shining over my heavy, closed eyes and I kept squeezing them tightly as the car kept moving. I couldn't open my eyes even though I was curious to look at everything outside the window. I kept dozing in and out of sleep. I was tired, but I still could not completely fall asleep. I finally felt the car stop and the car door open. Rough, callous hands lifted me from my mom's lap. I managed to slowly open my eyes, first the left, then the right.

"Hola, mi chiquita."

With my vision still a bit blurry, I smiled and squinted to open my eyes,

"Hola, Papi."

I held on tightly to my daddy's neck and felt him carry me up a flight of stairs. I looked over my dad's shoulders to make sure that I could see my mom, sister, and brother who were close behind. I held on to my dad even tighter and rested my head on him and I finally fell asleep.

Under the Same Moon

Fernando Romero

Under the Same Moon.

La Misma Luna is a heart-wrenching film layered with sociopolitical topics centered on the thematic story of the bond of two distanced souls; that of a mother and her son.

Under the Same Moon revolves around 9-year-old Carlitos. He hasn’t seen his mother Rosario (Kate Del Castillo) in four years after she left him in the care of his grandmother and headed to “the other side” to look for work and a better life for both. After the grandmother passes away, Carlitos (13-year-old Adrian Alonso) is fixed on being reunited with his mom even though he doesn’t even know her address. And so begins a journey of epic proportions as Carlitos makes his way north encountering the realistic tribulations many migrant workers endure to set foot on American soil.

Seven moons and seven suns rise and fall as Carlitos searches for his mom and she toils away as a maid in Los Angeles. Amidst his odyssey, Carlitos meets a migrant worker named Enrique (Eugenio Derbez).

The movie is a crowd-pleaser and feeds to people’s innate feelings balanced with moments of glee and melancholy. It was raw and touching and because of its core story is undeniably affecting.

Not since the Lion King had there been the pervasive futility of tears strolling down cheeks. The movie does a superb task of engaging the viewers with emotionality that sometimes brinks on the abyss of sappiness.

The movie’s poignancy was fueled by its debatable topic but devoid of any polarization brought on by politics. It is a movie that speaks to Latin Americans depicting the harsh realities of migrant workers crossing over, the complexities of life, of death, of sacrifices; but most importantly it is about family and the unequivocal bond of a mother and her son. But it even speaks to outsiders saying, “Yeah… it is that fucked up!”

Moments of great acting and raw emotions are weaved throughout. The levy of waterworks broke five minutes into the film when Rosario herself bursts into tears. In a weekly phone call between mother and son, a saddened Rosario tells Carlitos she loves him “te quiero mi amor” and sets down a palpable bond between the two. The audience can’t help but empathize with Carlitos. When both Enrique and Carlitos reach Los Angeles, they search up and down for Rosario only to literally walk right past her while she sat on a bench; a scene which beckons any audience to gasp with a quasi-dying breath of anxiety.

The actors delivered strong performances. Del Castillo aptly epitomized the beautiful and struggling mother. Carlitos is the quintessential tyke with sad big brown eyes and has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Derbez stood out for his lone-wolf archetype characterization of migrant worker Enrique. Derbez, known for his humor, shows that comedians know funny, but they also know sad as he takes the audience on the transgression of Enrique’s character and commits the ultimate sacrifice to ensure Carlitos sees his mother one again.

Albeit the movie falls a bit short of perfection. Too many coincidences along the way. Abundance of stock characters. It relies heavily on too many plot devices including a “Chekhov’s Gun” in the form of a street corner where Rosario calls Carlitos every Sunday.

Nonetheless, La Misma Luna is definitely worth checking out because it is a movie the importance of family bonds. A well-done film about an all-important topic which deserves light to be shed upon. In the end, it numbs the issue of immigration and reminds us we’re all human, stating that it is love which makes the world go round.

Corroded Coral Pink

Yadira Arroyo

The night was just beginning. We went to Foufoune's and sat on the second floor, where we could look down into the dance floor/mosh pit. After about three pitchers, we had some sort of liquor. It was dizzy dizzy, but I ain't no fool -- or so I thought. He cupped my chin with his hand and leaned his head in. I pulled away.

"Why don't you want to kiss me?" he asked. I told him that I just didn't want to.

I got up from my seat, determined to keep enjoying my buzz, and leaned against the rail to look over the crowd. Intoxicated, the thumping punk rock and the stimulating movement of the young ones below gradually propelled me towards sensory bliss. I closed my eyes. Taking it all in, I ignored his presence in order to fully live the moment. With the streaks of light bearing upon me, I began to sway my hips and dance alone. Shut out from the world yet thoroughly alive in it, I smiled to myself. Mmm.

It was nearing midnight and not wanting him in my apartment again, I urged him to be on his way so he could catch the last bus to Kahnawake. He, however, thought it better to prolong the fun. He thought that he could stay at my place. And I? I was drunk. I agreed on the condition that he would have a spot on my floor -- not my bed, not again. So, we stayed until closing and then got into a cab; he was broke -- how nice.

We entered my apartment and lacking the most minimal courtesy, he helped himself to a glass of water. Or was it James who would so obnoxiously take? Anyway, he had something from my kitchen -- how nice. I went into my bedroom to change into my pajamas where I rolled my eyes; I was tired. Not knowing if Heather was home, I did not want to have him roam the apartment unsupervised. After all: my guest, my responsibility; that was my logic. I pointed at the hardwood floor in a corner of my room and, slurring, informed him that he would sleep there. He complained that it was too cold to crash there, but he wasn't really complaining.

I was drunk. I failed. I, whose poise is by sistahs thoroughly exalted in the daytime world, caved. Easily convinced in this state, I told him that he could sleep on the opposite end of my queen-sized bed. I crawled into it and covered myself in order to shield myself from the atmosphere. He took off his shoes, his jacket, then his shirt and his pants. Yeah, to my surprise and utter disgust, I watched as he undressed completely. I stared blankly at the floor, becoming cognizant of the blood draining itself from my body. He walked over and crept into my bed; I could feel the intrusive pressure that he applied to the mattress as he invaded and I could hear every creak of the springs. Facing away from him, I held my eyes wide open. My bed. Mine. My safety. My room. I closed my eyes tight. I heard and felt the mattress again as he crept closer. Even at that point, I give people the benefit of the doubt. Like, perhaps there is some eternal good in people and so maybe I was misunderstanding everything. However, as if on some unimaginative horror movie cue, his fat white body pressed against mine. Shit. Expecting it, sensing it, I next felt his erect penis on my lower back, and then sliding down to my ass. I scooted to the edge of the bed; alert, quiet. I felt his fat white hand creeping over my abdomen. I flung it away, trembling violently inside although I was in fact, still as a rock. He did it again. I removed the perverse filth from my temple. I hung on the edge of my bed; scared, sickened. Whatever it took to keep that thing away from me…

In the morning, I woke up and didn't dare look over my shoulder. I didn't want to risk engraving the repulsing scene into my ever-keen visual memory. I went to the bathroom and stayed there for a long time. To look at him would be to admit that it had really happened, and yet, I couldn't wait to acknowledge the thing that was lying on my bed so that I could throw it out. Of course, I wasn’t about to actually do anything proactive about it, was I? No. Instead, I sat at the dinner table, somberly watching the dreary day through the kitchen window.

He soon woke and smiled. Like nothing. He put on his nasty black leather jacket and met me in the kitchen. Honestly, I was in some sort of shock. He acted like nothing had happened. Not even a fucking apology. He was hungry. In a curious expression of my unscathed humanity, I offered him waffles and the last two eggs in my refrigerator. I watched irately as he flavored the eggs with basil that he decided to steal from my roommate's cabinet, and then merrily fixed himself breakfast. I stared blankly, abused really, at my plate. I made some excuse about having to run some errands and he fuck-finally got the message. He left, but not before taking some more from me – he needed money for the bus. (Yes, yes, take it!) When I shut the door downstairs after he exited, I was extremely relieved.

Climbing up the stairs though, I suddenly felt sick; I was dirty. Cleansing my body suddenly became my most immediate need, so I proceeded accordingly. Standing under the showerhead, my tears ran along with the steamy water in the wet and foggy blur that was being produced. I scoured my soft, loyal skin while simultaneously apologizing to my own body for having let it down in such a manner that at that moment, its honey-brown tone looked more like a corroded coral pink. I scrubbed once, twice, and still, his putrid scent would not begin to fade! I washed my hair with wicked desperation. Panting and realizing that I had done all that I could in the shower, I wrapped a towel around myself and walked feebly to my bedroom. I sat on my bed staring at nothing, but thinking of everything. Miserably sobbing, I clothed myself. I stood in the middle of the room. Then, in a sudden fit of fury and disgust, I tore the blankets and comforter off my bed, carried them in a bundle and tossed them into the washing machine. Unfulfilled, it next occurred to me to wash those tainted dishes. To hell with it, so I threw away the cup. I swept. I cleaned. I tidied. I sanitized. What did I need to do to crawl out of my skin and rid myself of his permeating stench? There were flashes of memory, of the spectre’s flaccid naked body against my back. How could I get rid of his rotten touch?


Well, they say that time is the best cure, and I’ve lived long enough to know that it sure as hell is. But you know, I’d like to expand on that concept. I didn’t know that it also made the best friggin’ sanitizer.