The Return of Silverio 

Translated by Marvin Najarro

Silverio was two years old when his father immigrated to the United States as an undocumented immigrant, his sisters Bartola and Chucita were three and four years old. For a long time, they only knew his voice through the phone calls he used to make on weekends, and the two pictures their mother had next to him; there were no family pictures. 

By the time technology arrived in their native Lelá Chancó, Camotán, Chiquimula, Guatemala, they did not have money to buy a cell phone to make video calls, until their father who lived in Washington, where he worked as a bricklayer, sent them one in a parcel. That is how Silverio knew his father at the age of twelve, Bartola at thirteen, and Chucita at fourteen.  

The video calls became routines of instructions about the way to prepare the ground to sow the corn seeds, when and how to fertilize the plants, how to stack the wood in the kitchen, sharpen the machete, fix the house roof tile, and how to castrate the pigs, things he had already learned from his uncles and neighbors, but that his father wanted to reinforce. To the girls, their father would only say to avoid having boyfriends, because it was something he would not allow. 

In all those years neither Silverio nor his sisters heard a single word of affection from their parents, every time their father called, he would only ask how they were doing in school, and that they should get good grades, and obey their mother, otherwise they would face the consequences the day he returns home.  

When her sister, Chucita turned fifteen, his paternal grandmother called his father to let him know that there were some boys chasing her granddaughter, and so it was necessary for him to come back and bring order back in the house, since the lack of a father figure made the girls vulnerable in the eyes of men, who thought the girls were at their mercy. He was urged to return home as soon as possible, and not have to regret it latter; two girls had already been raped in the village. 

Without asking him if he agreed, his father called Silverio one afternoon, and told him that his trip was prepared for the end of the year, and that he had already made arrangements for him to take his job at the place where he worked, because it is time he becomes a man and work to support the family. A coyote would guide him through Mexico, and once he was on his way, he would take a flight to return to the village. That’s how things happened. By the end of the year, when Silverio finished school, he left with the coyote, and got to Washington to take his father’s job. One month later, Silverio died in an accident, he fell from the fourth floor of a building under construction; he was thirteen years old.  

Six months later, Silverio’s body arrived in the village of Lelá Chancó, his co-workers had made a collection to send his remains to his place of birth. His father together with his uncles placed the coffin in a pick-up truck that a neighbor had sent to his son from the United States, they had a wake for him in the house living room, when his father opened the coffin, he saw what remained of the face of the son he last hugged when he was two years old. Cecilia, his mother, devastated by the loss, reproached her husband for forcing him to leave when he only wanted to continue with his education. Silverio’s return was so different from what his father imagined; he fancied his son returning rich, with savings for a family business, brand new car, like his neighbor’s son, and a three-floor house in the village.  

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Ilka Oliva-Corado @ilkaolivacorado

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