A Quiet Day

Translated by Marvin Najarro She sits down to rest for a while; she has been standing for ten hours with two ten-minute bathroom breaks, and half an hour lunch break. November weather is very cold in New York, these are the days of dressing in three layers of clothes, heavy winter gloves, two pair of socks, and truck driver boots. Nemesia always wears a cap and hat to protect her from the cold and the sun. The kerchief that covers his face she uses it all year round, it helps her somewhat as a protection against sun burns in summer,…

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The Plum

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…

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The Wound of Absence

Translated by Katrina Hassan He wakes up, prepares the coffee and opens a small window in his room. Instantly the cold autumnal air enters the room and it chills his bones. He never thought October could be so cold. His native town of Cabañas, Zacapa in Guatemala is an oven year round. Lindomar has homesickness seeping from his pores. He misses his land and his family with all his might. He has only been in the United States for one year. The wound is still fresh. He has wept every day and every night. He never thought being homesick could…

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Through The Heart’s Eyes

Translated by Katrina Hassan Last month she got fake eyelashes and dyed her hair platinum blonde, even though she knew she couldn’t hide her mestizo roots. She spent a ton of money on a perm. She saved money for five months in order to curl the straight hair that she inherited from her ancestors. If she could change her oak bark colored skin she would change it for a lighter tone. In reality Milagros would like to look like a Russian or a Polish woman. She likes that skin tone, the slim and tall physique.  She doesn’t want to look…

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The apple orchard

Translated by Marvin Najarro The fiesta de quinceañera of her eldest daughter will be celebrated in the night; the excitement has not let her to sleep a wink for the last week. Macarena worked overtime for a year to save money for the fiesta expenses. By video calls she was able to follow the preparations, from family meetings where grandparents, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, and close friends were present to the last details in which she had the last word. Macarena wants her daughter’s fiesta to be remembered throughout the town. It is the way she found to embrace her daughter tightly in her…

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Simona’s Trip

Translated by Katrina Hassan At twelve o’clock sharp an alarm goes off to signal it is lunchtime. The workers have half an hour to eat and get back to work. Simona has been working at this place for 20 years. She started off as a cleaner and in 4 years she moved up to kitchen assistant. In the beginning she was chopping up tons of onions. Now she is preparing gourmet foods that are sold in the well to do supermarkets.  Originally from the neighbourhood of Los Apante’s, Juayúa, El Salvador, Simona went to the United States to escape stigma.…

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The Dinner 

Translated by Marvin Najarro Fidelio stops and take a rest next to the ice cream cart, his feet are blistered – the shoes he wears barely have any sole. He has walked across most of the city since seven in the morning, soon it will get dark. It hasn’t been a good day; he couldn’t sell even a third part of the product. That is what happens when the autumn begins and the weather changes suddenly. He never imagined that El Norte would be something like that: pushing an ice cream cart from spring to fall and asking people to buy his…

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As the Incense Burns

Translated by Katrina Hassan Disiderio lights a candle for the altar he has at home in his living room. He has just come home from work. He lives in Colorado and works cleaning public toilets for the district’s parks. It has come to the end of the year in which his mother Modesta has died. She was the last survivor left from his family who were massacred by the military during their dictatorship of Guatemala. His parents would tell the story of how they and other families went into hiding, in the jungle, for months, in order for them not…

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Rue Leaves

Translated by Katrina Hassan Jesusa walks along the edge of the sidewalk as she admires the yellow colors emanating from the sunflowers that adorn people’s houses. In August, the heat makes the wildflower petals burst in bloom and it seasons the wild grass in the meadows. The smell of lavender makes the last days of summer unforgettably beautiful. The time when the sunflowers bloom is Jesusa momentarily forgets about all her aches and pains.  She eats watermelon, cranberries and peaches. Jesusa makes a salad of avocado, basil and lime and makes lemonade with mint. She sets out her rue leaves…

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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…

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The Pine Tree’s Bark

Translated by Katrina Hassan Valerio has been working in the California fields for 37 years. He knows them like the back of his hand. He is familiar with the grape, plum, strawberry, mango, coriander, radish and celery fields. His body is finished and his soul is destroyed, much like the rest of the undocumented immigrants in the country. Valerio is Tarahumara, a native of Chihuahua, Mexico. He identifies himself as Rarámuri. When he left his native land, the illegal deforestation of the Tarahumara forests had already begun. The marijuana and poppy cultivation were increasing in popularity around the Eastern Sierra…

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Cecilio’s Sadness

Translated by Katrina Hassan Cecilio prepares a cup of coffee while his bean tamales are warming up in the microwave. He takes out a little tub of vaseline from his backpack and rubs it on his fingertips. They are cracked and bleeding because he cuts cherries all day long for a living. He buys pain relieving balms in the Mexican supermarket near his house. Cecilio makes six dollars per tub of cherries. When the tubs are full they weigh fifteen pounds. He hangs one tub around his neck and one around his waist so he can make twelve dollars in one…

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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…

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