29 July 2010
The Mountain Route
Whether the illegal border crossings are down or not, here are some things that I know personally.
One of the great con men whom I have ever met, Fortino, has hit hard times. Currently, tourists are terrified of driving across the border. As a consequence, there are not enough gringo SUV's and automobiles for Fortino to wash and wax at curbside. He is trying to raise the money to finance a coyote and head to Texas for awhile to earn some money. He is sure he can find work there. In his opinion I am just the man deserving of the honor of financing that trip. Of course, he will repay me immediately upon his return.
I am not going to finance Fortino's coyote. I will, however, probably have to purchase some shoes for his children. Do not worry. I have been around for awhile. I will not give Fortino the money for that. I will go with him to the shoe store.
I met Laura through La Mexicana. Laura is La Mexicana's long time housekeeper, and that relationship is very close, as those relationships are in Mexico. Laura is about 25 years old, a little too old to be my granddaughter but not by much. Laura's father has been up north to work and back several times. He goes there when he goes via the mountain route into Arizona. National Guard troops will be waiting on the other side to under orders to stop him.
The mountain route. We are talking some rugged, remote stuff here, folks. Once you step off the road in Mexico and head into the mountains to make a crossing, it will be days before you ever see another road again. It is essential that you know what you are doing and prepare properly. Many Mexicans try it without appreciating what they are getting into and without proper preparations. The morgues of Arizona are filling up with the bones of Mexicans found in the desert on the other side, particularly now that the heat combined with a drought is hammering that area.
I have also become acquainted with Laura's boyfriend, Salvador. Salvador is a carpenter and all around handyman. I would prefer the word “artisan” to the word “handyman,” but “artisan” seems a bit pretentious to me. I will explain.
Let us say that you have hired Salvador to mount a screen door on your back door, as La Mexicana did recently. Salvador does not go to Dom Pedro's Ferreteria, the local hardware chain, to buy a screen door. Salvador fabricates the screen door himself. This is necessary because not one door in Mexico measures the same as any other door.
Only the screening itself comes from the hardware store. He fabricates the frame, the latch, and the spring from found materials. (Come to think of it, I guess he did purchase the hinges and the screws from the hardware store, too) The spring, for example, is made from a small discarded bungee cord. The frame is made from the hard, cane-like stems of plants that grow along the road to the reservoir. The result is not just a screen door. It is a warm, unique artifact of simple beauty. It works well as a screen door, too.
I was in the same room with Salvador during this job, which took a day. He never took a break, not a lunch break, not a coffee break, not any kind of break until the job was done at the end of that day. Laura was there, too, doing what she does. It is a delight for me, an old man, to listen to Laura and Salvador chirp at each other in Spanish.
Nonetheless, their future depends upon Salvador working in the construction industry, not working on screen doors. He owns his own tools, as many construction workers do, and the construction industry is his trade. He cannot find work here right now. I suspect that La Mexicana is inventing some of these little carpentry projects at her house for him to do. Salvador, too, has been up north to work construction. I fear that he is getting ready to leave Laura and go again, waiting only for some word that work is there. In fact, I know that this is the case.
Salvador is a serious, talented young man who adores a young woman and who wants only to work in order to marry her and to make a family with her. He is not going to let anything stand in his way. He is going to do what he has to do. There is no construction work for him here right now. He, too, will take the mountain route into Arizona when he goes. National Guard troops and the Border Patrol will be waiting on the other side under orders to stop him.
There will be no pictures of Laura, Laura's father, or Salvador here for several reasons. [I lied here. See next entry.] Therefore, they will have to remain abstractions for you. Let me only say that if you were to meet Salvador and Laura and did not soon come to love them as I do now, I would have to question your basic humanity. They are a young couple who project a certain rectitude and gravity—this is a proper courtship--and at the same time radiate the joy they derive from each other. And they work their butts off. Both of them.
I write about this in order to explain my personal bias that, try as I might, I cannot overcome when writing about illegal immigration, undocumented workers, amnesty, “getting right with the law”. . . .phrases, only phrases that are so ill-understood and mean so little to so many up north. And here I am. . . I did not ask for this. I was singularly uninterested myself. I came here for my own selfish purposes not caring whether I actually became acquainted with one single damned Mexican person or not. And what happens? Purely by accident I come to know and love two young Mexicans caught up in all this.
It was a dark day for the solipsist when that happened.