Buenos dias, Estimados Senores.
Yo tengo nueve anos, y…
(Psst! Ingles, por favor!)
Okay. Nine years old.
Behind bars como animales peligrosos.
Been here a week or two.
The angry guards,
they do not give us much food.
All night I am so hungry.
Bright lights all day, all night.
I do not sleep much.
Dirty cement is a cold bed.
I curl up next to little Diego,
to keep him warm.
But he has no diaper.
Sometimes he pees on us both.
We stink. We itch. We shiver.
He cries for his Mama.
He cries because he is hungry, too.
I hug him and pull bugs out of his hair.
Back home we had warm water.
We could wash with soap.
We had a blanket.
We had a toilet to use.
Abuela would brush my hair and braid it.
I was una nina.
Now I am Mamacita.
We ran away in the night
because the bad people were coming.
Maybe the bad people caught us.
Maybe that is why we are all here.
This cage is small.
There are so many on the floor,
I can not walk without tripping on an arm or leg.
Someone threw up.
We step around it.
I think about Mama, Papa, Tia Rosa,
Tia Inez y Tio Guillermo, y mi Abuela.
When Diego is not looking, I cry a little, too.
Where did they go?
Maybe the bad people killed todas las familias…?
Poor Diego, he is just a baby.
And he is hungry.
Okay, I told my story.
Crusty dirt, dusty turf
With a scattering of gold nuggets:
The land flashes neon promises
To the tired, the poor, the wretched…
But there is no welcome: instead,
Children are locked up with strangers
Lest their parents be drug lords or rapists.
Yet they come by the thousands.
Many workers fear for their jobs,
For when there are thousands,
Wages will be low.
Others fear for their bloodlines,
For when there are thousands,
Some will be grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Many simply do not want us
Invaded by them.
The wall in the mind is already built.
Watch and listen: crying children,
Distraught families, exhaustion mixed with hope…
Big bucks for holding pens.
On the brown borderlands,
Dandelions fade to white, dry fluff.
But at the slightest puff, the froth explodes—
Spreads out, leaps boundaries.
Seeds come by the thousands….
The soldiers came at night.
Raped her 10 her old daughter.
Finished her off with a machete.
Turned towards the mother, but
there was a shout outside. Shots.
The soldiers reorganized,
dragging away two old men they called spies.
Just another raid.
A way of life. A life of fear.
No more! Not much to pack.
The mother bundled her baby in a rebozo,
began walking. A few joined her.
Nothing to lose. Move on.
The mirage of a better life.
Out of the hills,
village after village,
foot traffic grows.
Ten. Twenty-five. Seventy.
Numbers doubled daily.
Women with children. Broken men.
Avoid main roads. Dodge soldiers.
Hide when you hear a jeep.
Look for water.
Don’t let the children cry.
Keep the sun over your shoulder.
Better life ahead: a shared mirage.
In the rich country,
pumpkin-man faces elections.
But there are factions.
How to bring them together?
Common foe, a bonding fear:
Invasion, he says.
Huge army. Buff young studs with guns.
Antichrists hiding in the ragged mob.
Sick with smallpox and leprosy.
Attacking our borders.
Bringing our nightmares to life.
A shared mirage of terror.
The woman settles her baby on a sore hip.
Both are hungry.
She rests bleeding feet in a stream.
Washes. Nurses the baby.
She hopes for better luck.
A thousand miles away,
15,000 troops mass at the border,
weapons loaded against brown-skinned pilgrims.
If she manages to walk a few more weeks,
the woman will meet soldiers once again.
Mirage meets mirage.
Tell the children not to play with rocks.