Translated by Katrina Hassan
A huge cloud appears all of a sudden. What was once a sunny morning becomes a typical winter day. People run frantically from the parking lot towards the supermarket. The rain is from a great big storm. In a matter of seconds the sky darkens and huge drops fall as heavily as hail from the sky.
I take my shopping cart and enter the store, shaking the rain off my sweater. I walk towards the vitamin aisle. I search for what I need, but it is difficult because there are two shopping carts in the way. They belong to what looks to be a latin couple. I wait patiently for them to move, it looks as if they are busily shopping for things to send back to their home country. Nearby, a teenage girl sits on a bench, far from this world, with her headphones on and a phone in her hand.
They have a Mexican accent. Each one will send something to their respective families. By the looks of their shopping cart, they are sending boxes of gifts or items they’ve been asked for. The business of sending money to the original countries makes banks and money exchanges very rich. Undocumented migrants finish work and directly go send the money back home. Every day millions of dollars are sent soley in remittance transactions. Money made (and enjoyed by others) with sweat, exploitative labor, longing and sacrifice.
These type of money transfering businesses that have grown a lot. Every corner shop offers money transfers. They charge a percentage for the amount of money sent and the bank receiving it charges another amount to the receiver. The same goes for businesses that send and receive packages. There you send your love, commitment and nostalgia all weighed in pounds and charged in dollars.
The woman wants to send certain vitamins to the women in the family and certain ones to the men. I hear them say that so and so is getting more because she works harder than so and so. So and so has to walk more the lady adds, with one hand holding the shopping cart. Another hand is on the shelves checking the prices.
The man on his part, is looking for diabetes pills and other vitamins for his brothers. They have many bottles by now and they keep adding without stopping to think about the prices. This scene is so common. The undocumented individual stops eating in order to send money and parcels back to their country.
I am a bit saddened to see them so enthusiastic. I wonder how many years they’ve lived here. I wonder how many times they’ve been doing this parcel sending ritual. I am saddened because most people you send stuff to do not appreciate the enormous sacrifice that is made by the sender. The receivers only stretch out their hand and get the claws out to scratch. There are, of course, people that do appreciate the parcels or money. They use the money wisely or save it hoping for the sender to come back. They will help them start over again when they go back. Those are rare cases, one in a million. Very few people save the money and not waste it.
I ask permission to pass because their carts are right in front of the items that I need. This is when the woman asks me about something that is written in English. She asks if I can help translate it. This is how our conversation starts. They are married and from the Mexican state of Guerrero. They have been living in the USA for 20 years. They are undocumented and with 5 kids. Yes, they are definitely buying items to send back to family members in Mexico.
I say my goodbyes and continue with my shopping. They stay behind figuring out doses of grams and milligrams, counting containers of oils, pills and potions. Who the hell knows if the receivers will appreciate them in their native Guerrero. The couple, like millions of undocumented people, continue to send their packages back home with much love and sacrifice.
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Ilka Oliva Corado. @ilkaolivacorado