Translated by Marvin Najarro
Whenever he can, Perfecto tells anyone he comes across that his entire family lives in the United States, and that he brought them all a long time ago, got papers for all his children, and that he even has grandchildren born in the United States. But the truth is different. Perfecto’s reality is similar to that of thousands of undocumented immigrants; he is ashamed to admit that he doesn’t have papers, and the fear of deportation makes him lie consistently about his life in the country.
He emigrated more than thirty years ago when he was still an adolescent. On his first night in el Norte, he couldn’t sleep, anxiety kept him awake. He was in a place thousands of miles away from home, where he did not speak the language, and without relatives nearby. Perfecto left with a small group of friends who one day decided to left San Francisco Cojonos in Oaxaca, Mexico, to venture in search of a better future for their families across the Río Bravo.
Having grown up in a village where people practice communal farming, the individualism and selfishness of urban life was demoralizing for Perfecto, he felt dismayed. Thirty years have passed, and he still feels alienated from that society with which he doesn’t share anything at all. He is among the thousands who has not learned English, since most of the time he works for Latin Americans who don’t speak it either.
The fear of deportation made him paranoid, it took a toll on his nerves, so one day he decided to invent a different life, he assumed that he was a legal resident and could travel to his native Oaxaca, that’s the reason why he has long been telling stories about his vacation trips and the businesses he owns in his native land. At night, after his working day is over, Perfecto arrives at the apartment he shares with twelve other men, he lies down on a mattress that he has laid on the living room’s floor, and try hard to get to sleep in the long nights of insomnia that have become increasingly frequent since he emigrated; like many of the undocumented immigrants that spend the nights awake until dawn.
The metropolis with its overwhelming noise, festive and chaotic, only quiets down in some way during the winter gelid nights. While the cold sneaks in through the apartment window, Perfecto dreams of the mountains of his native village, the smell of pine trees, the air-dried corn on the cob, and the family dinner. Only on winter nights, Perfecto becomes a child again, a child who does not feel the need to emigrate.
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Ilka Oliva-Corado @ilkaolivacorado