The Freeloaders

Translated by Marvin Najarro

For twenty-seven years Sabina sent parcel boxes full of clothes and gifts for her four children in Guatemala. She was an undocumented immigrant whose spinal bones suffered as a consequence of excessive cleaning of bathtubs and toilets; bleach and other chemicals had her hands cracked. Sharing an apartment with seven more people, Sabina worked three jobs at day; cleaning bathrooms in restaurants, office buildings, shopping malls and homes. No doubt, she knows how dirty people is inside and outside their homes.

Widowed with four children, she decided to emigrate so that she would be able to provide her children with a better future, not like her who not even reached second grade. She left them in the care of her parents, and set off for El Norte as a wet back. She was able to pay for all her children college education, and also sent remittances so that each of them could have a bank account, while she in the United States only had four changes of clothes and two pairs of shoes, and barely slept three hours a day.

The clothes and shoes her employers gave her, which belonged to their children, were received with joy by Sabina, who packed them for the parcels she would send to her children, she also sent them used clothes that she bought in second hand stores, which was the only thing she could afford.

One day they tried to get a visa to travel to the United States to visit her mother, they were all granted visas because the money from the remittances they had saved in the bank was very useful. When Sabina was told the news she jumped for joy. She received them in the apartment she shared with the seven Central American undocumented. When her children saw the place where she lived, a suitcase with her clothes and her mattress lying on the floor, they felt disappointed, they expected her to welcome them in a house similar to those of the successful immigrants who appear on television.

Sabina had several used changes o clothes that she had bought for them as soon as she learned that they would travel, she also paid for their plane tickets. She felt so sad when her college graduate children didn’t want to receive the clothing and instead asked her to go to the mall and buy then new clothes. Something she could not afford during the 27 years of living in the country because of her precarious economy. With displeasure they ate the meals she prepared for them, none of them wanted to go with her to work to help her, let alone to know where the money she sent them came from. They expected their mother to welcome them in a brand-new car and take them to the best restaurants.

The trip, which was to last a month her children shortened it to 10 days because they didn’t expect such welcoming, much less the condition in which their mother lived. Sabina’s well-educated children returned to Guatemala, and she cried day and night for months on end, until one day she decided to change her phone number and rent in another place — to lose touch with those she called: “the great freeloaders”. She still cleans bathrooms at the three jobs she has a day, and for the first time in her life, at the age of 52, she started to save money, and also for the first time she has thought about never returning to her home country.

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Ilka Oliva-Corado @ilkaolivacorado

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