Silvestre’s Labor

Translated by Katrina Hassan

Silvestre switches on the grass cutting machine. He feels as if he is atop a tractor, but is an industrial grass trimmer. He had never been atop a machine like this before in his life. In the United States, he has had to work in fields that have nothing to do with his master baker job he had back home in Nayarit, Mexico. Now he works as a gardener. He is in charge of working the grass cutting machine because of 20 years of experience on the job. The newbies start off by blowing the cut grass with machines that they hang on their shoulders or with the hand held grass trimmers. Those machines run on diesel or gasoline and at the end of their shift the guys smell of fuel too.

Silvestre puts on glasses, to cover his eyes from any flying object. Many times there are splinters hidden in the grass and the machine blows them up to smithereens. The trees get chopped up into wood chips, which are used for mulch. Curiously for Silvestre, the mulch even gets colored sometimes. In his hometown, the locals would ask for forgiveness of the tree they were about to cut. They tell it that it is needed for firewood and plant another in its place so that the forest never dies.

Silvestre works long shifts that seem never ending in the summer. He ends up with sunstroke, his back ruined, and blistered skin no matter how much long sleeves and sunblock he wears. In spring and fall he has to deal with low temperatures, cold rain that feels like sleet and sudden snowfalls. He works from Monday to Sunday. He starts before sun up and finishes after the sun goes down. Everyday, without fail, he calls his wife and kids back in Nayarit. I think he will go back one day when he finishes building his house and saves up enough money to open a business.

Silvestre puts his gloves on. Today is a drizzly rain kind of day. He is wearing two sweaters and a waterproof jacket. He starts to cut the grass. From warm Nayarit, the aromas of nance and mango trees make their presence. That place where the ripe fruit falls off the trees, one after another. Today is the first of May, International Labor day.

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Ilka Oliva-Corado @ilkaolivacorado

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