Translated by Katrina Hassan
Guillermina leaves the grocery shopping on the table and urgently gets a plum out of one if the the bags. She washes and bites it. It’s juice spills from the sides of her lips. She closes her eyes and thanks the hands that cared for the plant, from seedling until tree. Ever since she was little, her grandparents taught her to appreciate the work of those who cultivate the land.
Guillermina who is originally from Parramos, Chimaltenango, Guatemala, hardly spoke anything other than her mother tongue Chakchikel when she arrived in the US. She knew a few words in Spanish but had never ever heard English in her life. She has been a domestic employee for 20 years in New York City now. Here is where she learned to travel by train. The first time she ever travelled by train she was surprised at the hordes of people, the technology and the vast amounts of people travelling on it. She had never travelled by train in Guatemala. She had only heard the song El Ferrocarril by Los Altos, a song her grandparents loved to hear on the radio. She remembers they told her that there was once a train in Guatemala that was the most famous one in Central America.
Guillermina left Guatemala with her brother Jacobo in order to help their parents financially with the younger siblings. Their story doesn’t vary from the thousands of other undocumented Guatemalans that are forced into migration. She was almost 15 years old when she left her traditional dress behind and put two t-shirts and two pairs of pants she bought at the used clothes sale into a backpack. She didn’t have enough money for shoes. She left with her sandals and her mom’s only sweater to keep her warm on her trajectory.
She doesn’t know how her mind has done it, but she has blocked all the memories from her trip beginning at Tapachula. Her brother Jacobo remembers them well though. He loves her so much that he is incapable of reminding her of the sexual abuse they both endured for 20 days at the hands of the coyotes. Later the coyotes went and dumped them in Tijuana. From those days on, Jacobo has never been able to sleep a whole night straight. Nightmares always wake him up.
Jacobo has three jobs. Every Friday he and Guillermina pool their money together to send home. None of them have ever authorised that their younger siblings emigrate. In Parramos, the family works their grandparents land. Miguel, the youngest, wouldn’t listen and emigrated with a group of friends. He wanted to help out his older sibling with the house’s expenses. He has disappeared and has not been heard of in three years.
Guillermina bites the plum that takes her back in time to the bean cultivation, growing in the shades of the avocado and orange trees. She remembers the furrows and corn fields where her younger siblings took their first steps while their parents worked.
The juice of the plum drips from the sides of her lips. Guillermina thanks the hands that took care of the plum tree seed. She gives thanks for the taste of the plum that her brother Miguel loved so much. This dislodges the pain that she has had stuck in her throat for three years and she begins to cry inconsolably. While at the supermarket, she received a call from Jacobo saying he had news of Miguel. A forensic team confirmed his identity. The team of humanitarian rescuers was looking for a missing migrant woman but found his bones in a dry river in Sonora instead. Finally her parents can bury their youngest son in the town’s cemetery.
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Ilka Oliva-Corado @ilkaolivacorado