Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Calm After the Storm - (Ch. 26)

"What do I do? Who do I call?"  Francisco said as he jumped around putting on his pants.  "We are not in Mexico Francisco!  You cannot run out and get the midwife down the block!"  Mauricia screamed in pain.  "I will go find Humberto to drive us into town to find a midwife or doctor."  Francisco ran out the door and immediately ran back in.  "Mauricia!  It's snowing!" Francisco shouted. "Oh no!" Mauricia gasped in disappointment.  Francisco grabbed his coat and boots and fumbled for his hat and ran back out.  Moments later he came back with a groggy Humberto who was able to convince Jimmy to let him borrow the truck. 
"It's six in the morning let's go!" ordered Humberto.  Francisco picked up Mauricia and was dragging her to the truck.  Mauricia was telling Teresa to watch the children and Senora Mendoza was going to stay with them until she returned.  Mauricia grabbed pieces of newspaper from a box and stuffed her dress to protect her from the cold weather.  "Adios Mama, I'll be good."  Teresa promised.

Mauricia, Francisco, and Humberto pushed forward against the snow.  The ground was covered in white.   It took a couple of tries before the truck started and they were on their way to town. Mauricia clenched her belly as she concentrated on the road. Francisco held onto Mauricia's arms frightened by the sight of white. "Ay Francisco, stop gripping so hard, you are hurting me!" Mauricia yelled as she shook her arms. "Ay, I'm sorry Mauricia, this is new to me, not the birth, but all of this!"  "Let me drive in peace please!" begged Humberto.

"Clackity Clack! Pop!" the truck sputtered.  Humberto kept pushing the gas and rocked back and forth as if he was willing the truck to keep going.  "No, no, no!" Humberto chanted through gritted teeth.  Then the truck stopped.  Mauricia started crying uncontrollably and Humberto hit the steering wheel.  "Do you know where we are Humberto?" asked Francisco.  Yes, we are close to the black bridge, Route 2.  "Can you help me get her there? I can run the next couple of miles for help."  Francisco suggested.  Humberto looked at him and said, "I can help you get her to the bridge."  Both men scrambled as they held Mauricia up and walked as fast as they could to the bridge.  Francisco remembered the bridges underpass could help alleviate the snowfall on Mauricia. 
"I am not going to make it!  Ahhhh!!" as Mauricia screamed.  Francisco spotted the bridge up ahead and told her, "Mauricia we are almost there and then I can get help for you."  They noticed flickering light as they approached the bridge.  The light came from barrels lit with fire.  From the dust of white, dark shadows emerged.  Francisco's hand moved toward his back pocket for his knife, just in case.  Two african american men and a woman were also getting protection from the snow under the bridge.  He sighed a breath of relief and laid Mauricia down at one end under the bridge.  "Please, don't leave me Francisco, please!"  Mauricia begged.  Mauricia's body hunched over as she pulled him down by his shirt and said, "I think the baby is coming!"  Humberto yelled at the men and woman and asked them if they had any rags they could spare.  The men rolled the metal barrel over to Mauricia for warmth and the woman had several sheets she showed Humberto.  Humberto and the two other men stood far away as they were afraid of the sight they would witness. 

The woman held Mauricia's hand as Francisco knelt in front of her in disbelief as she positioned herself to give birth.  "What am I doing?  I cannot do this woman, I am not a doctor!"  Francisco yelled.  Mauricia instructed Francisco, "I have assisted several births and I will tell you what to expect!  Ay Dios mio, I need to push!"  Within moments Mauricia heaved and pushed forward as the woman held her back.  Francisco kept brushing away sweat from his face even though it was cold.  Mauricia pushed again and Francisco told her he could see the head.  Before he could tell her what else he could see the baby slid out.  Immediately, Francisco caught the baby and the woman helped him wrap it in the sheets and put it in Mauricia's arms and shoved it in her coat.  "Mauricia, what the hell, there is an intestine hanging off of it!"  Francisco exclaimed.  Mauricia regained her strength and told him, "that is the umbilical chord, you need to cut it and tie a knot."  Francisco looked at Humberto and he said, "You idiot, you have a knife in your back pocket, remember?"  He pulled the knife out and Mauricia showed him where to cut and tie the knots. 

After one of the greatest experiences of his life, Francisco sat next to Mauricia to make sure she was fine, her eyes were closed as she rested.  Humberto had snuck away to town to get help.  Francisco tried to peek underneath Mauricia's coat to see the baby.  "It's a girl." Mauricia whispered. He caught a glimpse of the baby and she was light skinned and a head full of hair.  "She reminds me of my mother."  Mauricia smiled. "Light and freckly."  "What are we going to name her?" he asked.  Mauricia looked at him and said, "you had a lot to do with saving me from drowning, you saved us and then helped bring her into this world.   What do you think about Maria Francisca?"  Francisco looked at his callused hands and thought for a moment and said, "I agree, Maria Francisca she will be" as his eyes began to water.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reversal of Misfortune (Ch. 25)

Once in Brownsville, Texas, Francisco and Mauricia stayed on the outskirts of town to keep a low cover from the locals.  Francisco spotted a truck coming down the road and stood against a tree as he waved at Mauricia to duck with the children in the brush.  The truck became noisier as it came closer and Francisco's eyes widened to focus on the person driving.  To his surprise an anglo man was driving the truck and he noted several mexican men riding in the back.  The truck slowed down after they passed Francisco and began to go in reverse.  The anglo man told one of the men in the back to ask Francisco if he was looking for work.  "Quieres trabajo?"  asked the stout man with the beard.  "We recently lost a couple of men and need help on the ranch."  Francisco scratched his head and looked back towards the brush where Mauricia was hiding.  "I have my family with me." Francisco whispered to the man.  The man spoke in English to the driver and there was silence.  The driver then said, "the woman can cook and clean, tell him to get in the truck, today is his lucky day."

Francisco whistled to Mauricia and she jumped out and he helped her pull the children onto the truck.  The men chuckled as they whispered amongst themselves.  Francisco asked, "we make you laugh eh?"  The stout man seemed to do the talking and said, "you brought the wife and kids too?  most of us come alone, it's easier."  Francisco responded, "Look, I could have left her behind but trust me, there is no way I can lose her."  Mauricia slapped his arm and he smiled at the men, "see?"

Mauricia leaned over to Francisco and whispered, "Francisco, today has truly been our lucky day.  God has answered our prayers." 

The truck drives down a winding road for twenty minutes until they made their way into a ranch outside of Brownsville.  The ranch belonged to the Merritt family who raised cattle, goats and grew cotton.  The Merrits lost some workers who went back to Mexico and others for miscellaneous reasons.  Once Mauricia and Francisco arrived Mr. Merritt was outside putting up his saddle when Jimmy drove up in the truck with the men and their new arrivals. 

"What do we have here?" asked Mr. Merritt as he walked towards the truck.  Jimmy answered, "Well, we lost that bunch of Mexicans last month and we need the help, the woman can cook for everyone and clean the house for the missus'."  "You're right about that Jimmy, good eye." Mr. Merritt responded.  "They can stay with the other two families in the shacks in the back.   Have Humberto show them around and give them instructions."  Jimmy waved at Humberto who understood and spoke some English and instructed him to take Francisco and his family to the shacks in the back.  "Vamonos", instructed Humberto.  "I will show you to your quarters." 

Francisco and Mauricia walked behind Humberto as he gave them the tour of the grounds and told them where they were allowed to go and not to go.  Humberto said, "Mr. Merrit pays two dollars for a days work."  Mr. Merritt is a strict man but you should not worry about him so much.  You need to worry more about the other Mexicans here on the grounds, they will steal from you, so beware.  I tell you this as you brought your small family and wife.  Here we are."  Humberto turned around to show them the shack Francisco and Mauricia would occupy during their stay.  The shack had gaps in the walls and looked as if it was going to topple over any moment.  Mauricia looked at Francisco perplexed.  "I know what to do woman, do not look at me like that.  I can fix this."  Mauricia just said, "Hmmmph!"  Humberto turned around as he walked away and announced, "Work starts at five a.m. sharp Francisco and Mauricia, breakfast is served at seven a.m."  "Si Senor!"  answered Francisco. 

Immediately, both Francisco and Mauricia patched up the shack they were to occupy as their home.  Mauricia broomed the dirt out of the house and set the children down in the middle of the shack as they worked away. 

Within a couple of hours and help from some of the African American workers on the ranch they finished patching up the house.  Mauricia could not help but stare at the African American gentlemen, she had never seen a white man and then African Americans too.  Francisco told her, "Woman, stop staring, that is not appropriate."  She immediately stopped and went into the house to organize whatever she could.  She found crates outside and used one for Maria de Jesus' crib and the others as a makeshift table and chairs.  With time the shack became a descent little home Mauricia learned to appreciate.

Life at the Merritt ranch was not easy.  Mrs. Merritt was ill and needed much help.  Mauricia and two other women helped with the cooking and cleaning and then helped plant cotten in February.  Things began to get a little harder for Mauricia as she was nearing the baby's birth.  Most of the time everyone ate rice, biscuits, and beans.  When the Merritt's killed cow or goats the scraps were given to the workers for meals.  Those days were special as that was as close to meat the workers came to for many months. 

As with her other pregnancies, the closer to the birth became more difficult for Mauricia to sleep comfortably.  She tossed and turned and used burlap with newspaper to cushion her belly weight.  It was winter and the nights were cold too.  This was the first winter Francisco and Mauricia experienced in Texas and Mauricia was content with just cold weather.  She did not want snow, she did not know what to expect and feared the children would get sick. 

Mauricia slept leaning against the wall this night and the whistling of the wind was lulling her to sleep when she jerked up from a sharp pain.  "Ayyyy!!"  she screamed.  Francisco pops up and checks on her, "Are you alright?  Is it time?"  Mauricia's face said enough, the worried look across her face was a confirmation that this was not just a false alarm as water began to trickle down her thigh."
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Changing Directions (Again) (Ch. 24)

The cool breeze in the early morning was a welcome surprise from the heat permeating from the sun.  Francisco, Mauricia and the children continued their journey after they trekked their way out of the River.  Mauricia had trouble regaining her balance after tackling the waves of the Rio Grande.  Francisco kept a steady pace as he visualized a better life in Texas.  Francisco remembered the comments some of his friends mentioned about the money they made working in the fields as they returned home to Mexico to their families. With time a handful came back but after a while some men never returned.   Nonetheless, Francisco visioned just enough to be happy for his family.  He always prayed he could win the lottery or maybe just maybe discover silver, gold, or gems in the old mines around San Luis.  By going to Texas he and Mauricia could work twice as hard and make more money for a better future.  Francisco took in a breath, he was elated just being on his way to a new life.  Francisco thought to himself, "The air even has a different scent or was that just his excitement?  Oh well, let it be; whatever it is let it be." 

As they continued their course into Texas, Mauricia yelled, "Wait a minute, Wait!"  She runs to the closest bush and throws up.  Francisco frowns and says, "Mauricia, are you sure you want to continue, the river really gave you a beating and you are slowing us down." 

"Francisco, where are we now?"  asked Mauricia as she cleaned her mouth.  Looking around the area Francisco responded, "Brownsville".  Mauricia looked up at Francisco and said, "Brownsville it will have to be."  "What are you talking about woman!  We are going to San Benito!"  Francisco answered sternly.  "I'm in no mood for games and the weather is making you sick."  "The weather s not making me sick, I'm pregnant!"  Francisco dropped the rope he was pulling for the sled and races towards Mauricia.  "Why did you not tell me about this before we began the journey?  You almost died in the river!"  Mauricia looked at the ground and said, "I'm sorry Francisco, by the time I figured I was with child we had sold all of our belongings for the trip; enough said, I felt guilty and knew this was good for the family." as Mauricia shrugged her shoulders. 

Both Francisco and Mauricia stood in silence gazing into different directions until Teresa gets off the sled and walks over to them.  "Mama, I'm hungry."  Mauricia starts to cry and hands over a piece of bread from the tin to Teresa and she walks back to the sled to share with Leopoldo.  "I know what this means to you but do you know what this means for me?  We have little money to eat and to have another baby is not what I expected but I can only do so much."  Francisco walks over to Mauricia and hugs her and tells her "You are my family Mauricia.  What is one more?  You are not in this alone.  You had Teresa when I met you and I had my three children and you took me back.  We are together for a reason and I will do what I can to make this work.  Brownsville it will be woman!  Now let us keep on our way to get to town and see where we can stay the night."  Francisco walks back to the sled and continues to pull it towards Brownsville. 

"Mauricia?"  Francisco asks aloud as he walks ahead of everyone.  "Why bother in having one child at a time and go for three or four at once?  Dogs do it all the time.",  as he chuckles.  Francisco feels a sharp pain in the back of his head and turns around.  Mauricia had thrown a rock to threaten his comment but accidentally hit him instead. She forces a smile and he asks, "how far along are you?"  "I am finishing my fifth month!"  Mauricia yells back.  Francisco sighs and says, "I forgot how dangerous you females are the later you get in your pregnancies."  Francisco turns back around and continues to pull forward. 

Francisco's mind begins to race with thoughts, "This is MY family, in the middle of the fields or in a house, we are a family.  No one can take that from us, No one."  As they continue their quest Francisco's smile does not falter and his heart beats stronger. 
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Not Ready to Go (Ch 23)

Late Sunday evening was bustling with the usual crowds walking from the plaza and coming back from service. Mauricia anxiously packed her metate and holy shrine in a box and placed it on top of a makeshift wooden sled Francisco made to drag the children. "Are you almost finished Mauricia?" Francisco asked as he tied the final knot on another box that contained clothing. Francisco carefully tied both boxes to each end of the sled to provide enough leverage and for the children to hold onto.

"Ya Francisco. I'm ready." as Mauricia checked the room for items that may have been forgotten.

Teresa and Leopoldo fit perfectly in between the boxes. Teresa looked up at Mauricia and said, "Mama, where are we going?"
Mauricia knelt down and caressed Teresa's face and said, "We are going on an adventure. I need you to help me with the little ones and keep Leopoldo safe. Agreed?" Teresa grinned and nodded in agreement as she put her small arm around her brother.

Francisco and Mauricia quietly left the poor stricken area of shacks and dirt roads and headed North to find a better opportunity. Francisco led the way by following one of the routes he was instructed to take.
"Francisco, is this route safe?" Mauricia asked as she nervously trekked behind him.

"It should be. Juanito said many of his friends have been through this route and would be safer for the children. Don't worry Mauricia, I have my knife and machete in case anyone wants to bother us." Francisco turned around and showed Mauricia the items under his shirt. We should reach the border by nightfall and determine where to cross."
Night fell and everything was pitch dark. Mauricia feared the darkness and whatever unknown creatures roamed at night. She walked quickly along the higher grass areas and cursed as she lost her step on a bulging rock that she did not see on the path. They could not be seen from the main roads as they would immediately be spotted and brought back to Mexico.
Francisco turned around to make sure the children were okay and to see if Mauricia was keeping up. The constant movement lulled the children to sleep. Mauricia was grateful they were undeterred by the commotion and prayed to God for safety. Mauricia did not want to go to the United States. She quietly told Francisco as they walked, "I feel like I'm walking away from my home. I have a sense of guilt Francisco and I cannot imagine going to an unknown place where I do not even speak the language. How will we live?"
Francisco turned around and looked at Mauricia and whispered, "We will do what everyone else does, which is manage. This is a necessity not only for us Mauricia but for our children. I want them to live like I have never lived. I want to give them other opportunities. We cannot let fear determine our future. We have nothing woman! What do you want to do? Go back to a country that at the moment is going through its' own financial issues? We are a mere drop of water compared to the thunderstorm that is going on in Mexico today. We need to act now; right now! If they cannot guarantee us a better life, then we need to make one for ourselves in a place that unfortunately is not our native land. I know you love Mexico, Mauricia. I promise we will return once we get back on our feet."
Mauricia sighed and whispered, "Alright, I'll try this for now but I am not excited. Go on Francisco, I cannot remain standing still waiting for the snakes to crawl across my feet. I will certainly wake up the children with my screams."
Francisco responded, "Hush woman, what you will do is frighten the animals more than you are of them. We are close to the river. Can you hear it?"
As they approached a hill, Francisco looked over and said, "There it is, el Rio Bravo."
Mauricia stood in awe of the river and wonderment that on the other side was another country. A country that could open the door to more possibilities as parents than what they currently had in Mexico.
The bushes began to move and Mauricia cringed expecting a coyote to lunge out. As she and Francisco huddled to the ground they spotted two men coming out. They were Mexican like them. Both men were large in height and dark. One man carried a knife in his mouth, gripped down with his teeth while he held another in his hand. The other man shouted, "Who is there? Come out! If you don't come out we will attack!"
Francisco stood up and said, "It is only myself, my wife and children. We mean no harm. We are trying to get across the river."
Both men looked at each other as the knife wielding one nodded at the other. "We do not cross for free! We take any money you have."
Francisco responded, "We have no money! That is why we are trying to get across!"

The man with the knife said, "That is fine, we will take whatever you are carrying, clothes, shoes, jackets!"

Francisco looked at Mauricia and her look was enough for him to answer, "Well we will go on our own! Thank you!"
Both men laughed as one said, "To hell with you! You will all die trying! We must warn you, if you decide to sleep here the night, you will not live to see morning!"

Francisco said, "We'll see who is right tomorrow!"

Both Mauricia and Francisco retraced their steps several yards back and followed the course of the river closer to the road. Francisco felt they may risk being seen but it was a better option than risking his families lives. Half an hour later, Francisco found an area comfortable enough and hard to spot by anyone around. As Mauricia and the children slept, Francisco woke up several times to check for predators keeping his machete in his hand.

The morning began to set in and Francisco felt it was the best time to cross the river. He woke up Mauricia and explained he would cross the children first and then come for her. Hesitant Mauricia did not like the idea and said, "I do not know Francisco. What if one of them falls in?"

Francisco answered, "That is why I made the sled Mauricia. Teresa can sit on my shoulders and Leopoldo and Maria de Jesus will ride on the sled with the boxes. Do you understand?"

Mauricia was overwhelmed with fright. She gingerly placed Maria de Jesus next to Leopoldo as she told Teresa to tightly hold on to Francisco while crossing.

"Francisco please be careful!" Mauricia yelled as he plunged in the water and held onto the sled while Teresa mounted his shoulders.

Teresa looked back at Mauricia and she could tell she was frightened, "Mama? I'm scared."

Mauricia could not think of words to appease her child in this moment, "I know mi reina. Francisco will get you across and I will follow."

Mauricia swallowed the lump of fear in her throat as she held back tears.

Francisco carefully pushed the sled with the younger children and the boxes as he waded with Teresa on his shoulders.

Teresa started to scream as water began to soak her. Francisco told her, "We are almost there! Hold on!" The water was moving faster than Francisco anticipated as it jerked him back and forth. He lost footing and was able to regain his stability with one foot. Francisco could see Leopoldo look at him with fright as he was crying from watching Teresa. He pushed the sled with all his weight to get the children across.

Mauricia was watching from land as she was crying from fear of seeing the current move Francisco and the children harshly. The idea of her losing her children was too great to bear as her heart was racing and she concentrated on Francisco's every move. Mauricia began to say, "Mama help me! Please I cannot lose my babies!"

Teresa screamed, "Mama!" as Mauricia was watching Francisco place her and the children on land.

Mauricia breathed a sigh of relief as she watched Francisco make his way back to her. Once he reached Mauricia he yelled, "Jump in!" Mauricia lunged in the water as she held on to Francisco's shirt. She followed his lead as he guided her across the strong current. Mauricia coughed as she swallowed water and in an instant felt a force suck her under. Mauricia lost grip of Francisco and she frantically was reaching for anything to hold on to. She tried to open her eyes but all she saw was murky water. She swallowed water as fear consumed her. Mauricia thought to herself, "I don't want to die!"

Francisco began to swim down with the current in hopes of seeing Mauricia. He could not see her. He reached in the water with his long arms and as he submerged himself in the water. He suddenly felt something. He pulled with all his strength and prayed, it was Mauricia. He was able to pull her by her hair and keep her from drowning."

He pulled Mauricia back out onto land as she coughed up all the water. As she lay on the ground she regained her thoughts as everything kept spinning. She tried to get up. Francisco only held her down as he hugged her and told her to stay on her side. He knew she was dizzy and needed some time to be okay.

"I will be right back, I need to get the children." Francisco went and pulled the children and Teresa over to her. Mauricia hugged everyone and thanked God she was able to make it out of that ordeal. Francisco kissed her forehead and told her, "I'm sorry I messed up your braids." Mauricia leaned her face on his hand and said, "Thank you."

"Now where do we go Francisco?" Mauricia looked up.

"We continue on this course heading to San Benito, Texas." Francisco answered.

"Why there?" asked Mauricia.

"I liked the name. I had a good feeling, that's all." Francisco answered as he placed the children back on the sled with the boxes and waited for Mauricia to re braid her hair to begin their journey again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Metate and A Prayer (Ch. 22)

Two months in Matamoros felt like an eternity for Mauricia with the sweltering heat. Selling gordas on the corner was profitable but at the same time gruesome as she felt her clothes were melting off her body from the suns scorching rays. Francisco took two jobs assisting with farm animals and another shoveling coal. Mauricia kept the children close by her as they slept and played under a tent she built beside her stand. Teresa helped with the younger children and kept herself entertained by organizing her mother's condiments.

Mauricia prepared the gordas swiftly and effortlessly like flowing water in a river. She became accustomed to the heat and the goal of crossing over the family was not far behind in her mind. She felt a determination that burned inside of her just as the sweat steamed off her skin. She did not find it difficult to cook as she assisted her mother at an early age preparing Gordas in Pinos. "Mama, mama, here are the plates." Teresa placed the pile next to her mother's feet. "Gracias, mi reina." Mauricia lovingly told Teresa.

A small child ran up to Mauricia's stand, "Doña Mauricia, my mother said you received a package, come by and pick it up." "Thank you Daniel, tell your mother I will come by two o'clock the lunch hour is almost over." Mauricia continued to pat the maza, heat her gorda's and take orders from a bustling crowd of men who finished their morning shift. Within time all is still and quiet as everyone had been served and by this time the sun was intolerable. Mauricia ordered, "Teresa, pack up the condiments and I will put the other items up." Mauricia meticulously organized her items and walked a block to her living quarters. "Ay Mauricia, let me help you." her neighbor Linda runs up to get a hold of Maria del Carmen from Mauricia's already occupied hands with other items.

"Daniel said you had something for me? I wonder who it is from." Mauricia asked. Linda eagerly said, "I wonder too, open it now! Mauricia opened the box and saw a letter on top. She opened the letter and saw it was from Cipriana. Mauricia clutched the letter to her chest and said, "Oh, thank you God, my Ciprianita! I was afraid she did not get my letter about our move."

Mauricia read the letter, "My Dearest Mauricia, I hope God finds you and your family well and with health. I cannot complain, if I live to see another day that is enough of a blessing for me. I received your letter about your problems and your move. Mauricia please take care of yourself and remember you are the rock that sustains the children. They need you to be strong regardless of whatever is going on around you. Pray to God for patience and strength. I pray for you everyday and love you as if you were my own daughter. I hope that woman, Ana, will not do any more harm to you and Francisco. I will light a candle everyday for you both to enlighten your paths with God's help."

The letter continued by saying, "Everyone is well and sends you their love. In the box you will find a letter from your brother Carlos and two items I want to pass on to you. One item I cherish with all my life and it is my Nuestro Padre Jesus de Pinos shrine and photo. You will notice two small medals on it and there is a story behind this. When the Revolution was at its highest peak we were scared to leave our houses for fear of being killed. Our men would leave to work but at times some did not come back home. One day after Benjamin came out of work and was walking home a herd of Revolutionaries came and rounded up any man they found walking the streets and took them to the main square. One of Benjamin's friends lived close enough to get to his house and pass the word down the houses that Benjamin and others were taken into custody. By the time word came to me I panicked. I had just given birth to Eduardo and did not know what to do. The only thing that came to my mind was I needed to get Benjamin back. I left Eduardo with my cousin and ran to my altar. I lit all my candles and prayed to God that Benjamin not be harmed. I looked at my Nuestro Padre Jesus and told him "You need to grant me a miracle!" I carried him over to my room and wrapped him up in Eduardo's cloth diapers and put him a drawer. I told him, "I'm sorry, I have to do this but I am desperate and I will not take you out until Benjamin comes home. I have all faith in you and leave this in your hands." I ran out of the house in hopes of finding Benjamin and willing to plead for his life. I walked a couple of blocks down from the house and could hear the sounds of gunshots as they were killing each one of the men. I hurried myself as I was making my way up a steep hill and I saw a shadow coming towards me from the other side. It was Benjamin! We ran to each other and I asked if he was okay. I asked him how was he able to get away. Mauricia you know Benjamin was a funny man. I guess we can say that God blessed him with that gift. He told me when it was his turn to be questioned in line one of the revolutionaries tapped his face with his rifle and asked "And you? What is your name and who do you live with?" Benjamin said, "My name is Benjamin and I live amongst the living, sir!" His comment caught the man off guard and he let out a boisterous laugh and told him, "Your funny! Now leave before I change my mind. Run now!" Benjamin ran as fast as he could and that is where we found each other on top of the hill. Nuestro Señor has granted me two miracles one with Benjamin and one by sparing me from harm by walking alone in the streets that day. I think you need Nuestro Padre de Jesus now more than this old woman.

Mauricia looked over the patron saint of Pinos and admired him and placed him on her dresser. She picked up the letter and continued to read:

The other item in this box I took from Gertrudes' house. She passed away six months ago and died alone. I went to pay my respects and many things were being thrown out of the house and I saw this item. I immediately recognized your mother's metate (mealing stone) and remember it fondly. I used to joke with your mother about it's broken leg and she did not care as long as it still worked. I should know about this metate as I was with her when she picked it out and it was still in the same red bag your mother carried it in. I thought this is the only thing of your mother that is left and who better to have it than you. I hope to see you one day. With all my love, Cipriana."

Mauricia sighed and rubbed her hands over the metate as tears streamed down her face. "This is the closest thing I have of my mother. I remember her making gordas on this early in the mornings and carrying it on her back. I cannot believe this. I feel like a part of my mother is back with me." Mauricia looked up and smiled at Linda and said, "This was my mother's."

Wiping away her tears Mauricia hurried to open Carlos' letter. "Dearest Sister, It has been a long time since we have communicated and I hope this letter reaches you to learn the following changes in my life. I finished my term with the military as I promised you. I felt at this time in my life it was time for me to get married. I know I had no one in mind at the time but I set out on horse to Guadalajara to find a wife."

Mauricia puts her hand over her mouth as she says, "Ah! He is insane! He makes it sound so easy." She continued reading: "As I arrived in Guadalajara I came across a small town to stop for the night. The next day I walked around to find something to eat and I saw her across the street. She was petite, fair skinned, long dark hair, and beautiful. I never felt this way in my life. She took my breath away. When I went in one of the restaurants I asked the waiter about her. He hunched over to me and said, "Do not bother. She is the Mayor's daughter and she has no time for you."

"I hurried to eat my breakfast and thought this is the best time to meet her than never. I had no one to speak on my behalf for introductions. I paid my tab and determined I walked across the street. I introduced myself, she smiled, and said her name was Beatrice. I asked her questions about the town and the surrounding areas. Mauricia, I'm glad to say she was not stupid. I was afraid she was only beautiful but nothing else. Beatrice told me about the history and their agriculture as we sat underneath a tree. Time stood still for us at this point. She did not hesitate to answer or ask questions. I can tell she took a liking to me too. That was enough for me. I asked her, "Beatrice, when can we talk again? I have no time to spare and am looking for a wife." She was taken aback by my comment, and said she was not sure her family would approve. Beatrice said she was impressed by my perseverance and respect towards her. I was not pushy or obnoxious like the other men in her town. Let me tell you sister, we met six more times before we knew we were in love."

"Her father was not fond of me and made it clear he would not approve our relationship. Beatrice was heartbroken but I told her I would offer her the world if she would be my wife. I have two arms, legs, a heart and brain. God has blessed me with this and more and was willing to work hard to make her happy. I decided to do what was best for us both, before nightfall on our last visit I told her to get her belongings and run away with me. The next day we met again and this time she had her things thrown out of her bedroom window and as the sun set Beatrice and I left. We were married in the next town two days later. We are happy and looking for a place to settle down. Please write me back as I have not heard from you in some time. Your loving brother, Carlos."

"I cannot believe this man! He had some nerve, but now he seems to be happy. Good for him." Mauricia puts both letters up in a safe place in her one bedroom shack. Linda could not believe what she had heard and told her, "I will see you tomorrow, I need to finish making dinner, I don't think I need to hear any gossip today after your letters."

Mauricia beamed at her metate and knew she would happily put it to use at her stand. A short time later Francisco entered hot and sweaty from work. "I'm starving, what is there to eat?" he asked.
Mauricia pulled out his plate she had prepared and placed it in front of him as she told him about her package. Teresa and Leopoldo patted the metate as Maria de Jesus lay asleep on the bed. Francisco laughed and said he was content to see her happy for once. It had been a while since he had seen her smile.

"I have something to tell you Mauricia and it cannot wait. My cousin wrote me a letter that Ana found out we left San Luis and my mother told her we were here." Stunned Mauricia asked, "What!? Is she crazy? Why? Now we have to leave soon!"

"Mauricia! I had to tell my mother in case of an emergency. She did not tell Ana with any bad intentions. She accidently told her our location because Ana was accusing me of fleeing to avoid paying her the children's maintenance. My mother responded by telling her we were running away from no one and she knew we were staying in Matamoros. Ana then said, "okay, maybe I should try my luck across the border too." That is why my mother told my cousin to warn us."

Mauricia asked, "Where are the children?" Francisco said, "My mother found out she left them in the care of a family friend and told her she was seeking a better future for her children across the border."

Mauricia pounded on the table, "She is a liar! She has no intentions for your children other than laying around with men for favors and making our lives hell! She is not a mother to those children. Francisco, we need to go before she finds us again." Francisco looked at Mauricia and extended his hand and placed it over hers, "I know, that is why we are working through this week and we will start our journey across the border Sunday."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Enough is Enough! (Ch. 21)

The guard announces, "Delgado Alvarez!" "Present!" Mauricia yells.

"You've made bail, get out." as the guard motions Mauricia to exit.

Mauricia gathers her children including a new addition, Maria de Jesus. A year and a half had passed since several encarcerations and by now Mauricia was at her wits end. Francisco stood outside the building waiting for her to come out.

"Francisco, we need to do something!" as she hands over Teresa and Leopoldo to Francisco. "We have no money from paying bail here at El Charco Verde and I cannot live like this any longer! Ana has put us both in jail one too many times! She is evil, pure evil! I cannot get groceries without her seeing me in the street and screaming obscenities at me forcing me to run away! I have to look behind my back everywhere I go! What hurts me more is that my children are involved! How can a person have this much hate? What did I do to her?"

Pleading Francisco explains, "Mauricia, what more can I do? The attorney I hired has drafted a letter protecting us from harassment and that should end this situation."

Crying Mauricia says, "Our children are starving, and we have nothing left! Ana has made it clear she does not want us to be happy! She has clearly said, "I hope nothing but the worst for you and your children! May you never be content!"

A man that was standing against the wall of the jail overheard the commotion and walked over to Mauricia and Francisco. He nudges at Francisco and says, "Hey, why don't you sign up for the Bracero Program? They are contracting Mexicans to work across the border, that's the truth! There is so much work some of the Ranchers are crossing over picking us up across the border promising shelter and good pay!"

Francisco eyes Mauricia and he motions with his head, "Vamonos Mauricia!" (Let's go, Mauricia)

Mauricia can hardly speak from emotion, "They are n n not contracting wo women, Francisco. They need me men!" Francisco looks at her and says, "Dammit! I am not going anywhere without my family! I told you this a long time ago woman do you not understand? I am not Francisco, without Mauricia and my children! Are you ready to go to jail again?"

Mauricia looks away as she says, "No! My God you are crazy but I have to agree. I will start packing when we get home. I would not make it by myself with the children and Ana lurking behind."

As soon as Francisco and Mauricia made it to their house, they began to pack the little belongings they had left. Francisco discussed his decision with his cousin and told him to look after the house while they were away. His cousin agreed to his request and bid him farewell and good luck.

Night fell and Francisco and Mauricia toted their children and bags to the bus station. Francisco placed most of his earnings on the counter and ordered tickets to Matamoros, Mexico. Within time of staying in Matamoros, Francisco hoped he would collect enough money to get his family and himself across the border. Mauricia silently prayed as their bus departed. She prayed that they could lead a normal family life and watch their children grow up. Nothing else mattered to her at this point, living close to "normal" was her dream.

During the ride Francisco whispered to Mauricia, "I'm sorry you had to go through all this Mauricia. Would you ever leave me?" Mauricia was rocking Maria de Jesus with her eyes slightly shut and said, "I've finally realized we were meant to be together. God knew I could handle your problems and you could handle mine. He knew what he was doing. Even if I left I think life would make us come back together." Francisco grins and laughs quietly, "then we are stuck with each other, are we not?" Mauricia nudged him and smiled. Francisco said, "I love you gorda." Mauricia nudged him again and whispered, "I love you too and stop calling me fat. Now let me sleep."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Who Said Everything Was Supposed To Be Perfect? (Ch. 20)

"Take your things and never come back! Take that, and that, and that!" were the words from the song that resonated from the radio that Andres listened to while working around the house. "Amigos, esta es la XEW, la voz de America Latina desde Mexico", (Friends, this is XEW, the voice of Latin America from Mexico). Everyday, Leopoldo de Samaniego would greet his listeners' with this phrase.

Mauricia cracked the front door open and peeked through to see who was at home. When she heard the radio she cringed as she knew Andres was home. Not far behind her she heard footsteps and was told to move out of the way. It was Miguel as he rushed by Mauricia to get to the restroom.

Mauricia stood in the middle of the living room wringing the corner of her dress from worry wondering what her brothers would say about her decision. Francisco would arrive shortly to talk to both of her brothers and tell them she was moving in with him. Francisco wanted to get their blessing as their situation would not allow marriage right away.

Miguel walked into the living room happy and relieved as he patted his belly. "Why are you so nervous sister? What's wrong?"

"It is nothing Miguel; I have a lot on my mind." Mauricia stuttered.

There was a loud knock on the door and Mauricia's throat closed up. Her knees felt queasy and she was not able to move forward.

Andres answered the door, as he wiped the sweat from his forehead. Francisco walked in, slow and steady. He greeted Andres and asked if he and Miguel had a moment to speak with them. Andres called Miguel as Francisco nodded at Mauricia. Francisco noticed her stressed behavior and whispered, "Mauricia! Get a hold of yourself!"

At that moment, Mauricia snapped out of her thoughts and into the present with her brothers and Francisco.

Miguel walked into the room and asked, "How can we help you?" Francisco answered, "My name is Francisco Alvarez and I am here to ask for Mauricia's hand in marriage."

Both brother's looked at each other and Miguel walked up to Francisco, "So you are the suitor that decided to marry someone else over our sister? You are the one she cried herself to sleep over? Your family degraded our sister with insults and now that your marriage didn't work you came back too see if she would take you back?"

Miguel turns around and walks past Mauricia and says, "Mauricia, tell him to leave."

Mauricia looked at Miguel and said, "Miguel, I want to marry Francisco."

Miguel turned around and looked at her, "Then your more naive than I thought! Do you not see he is using you? Why, Mauricia, why? He has children with this other woman and now he wants you to take care of them. You will never be able to get married. A divorce is difficult to accomplish in these days."

"You don't understand Miguel," Mauricia interrupted.

Andres spoke up and said, "You are right Mauricia, we do not understand, but you better understand this. We will never accept him into our family. You can go Mauricia but do not expect help from us! We want the best for you and you want to ruin your life with someone like him?"
As Mauricia cried, Francisco hugged her and told her brothers, "My situation does not offer much to a woman like Mauricia. I understand your reasons but please do not take it out on her. She loves you both and I do not want to be responsible for her losing you again. You do not have to like me, but please support her. I promise I will make her happy and not let her down. I offer her the little I have, all of it, for her."

Miguel had no other words to say, "Leave now! There is nothing else to discuss!"

Mauricia rushed to her bedroom and packed her things in her suitcase. She carried Teresa in her arms and walked out of the house with Francisco. She cried all the way to her new home with Francisco.

Time passed and Mauricia made the best of her new living arrangement. Francisco and she submitted all appropriate paperwork and documentation to the church to annul his marriage to Ana. The priest could not confirm how long the process would take. Francisco and Mauricia realized it would not be overnight as it had to go in front of the Bishop and possibly higher. They left their hopes in the hands of God to help them realize their dream.

Francisco purchased a piece of land with the little money he was able to save up from his mining contracts. He mined from time to time to make ends meet as he still sent money to Ana for his children. Mauricia prayed for patience as the money Francisco sent to Ana would have been a blessing for them. Mauricia had nothing else to do but conjure up ways to save money and make food last longer than starve. She made her own clothes for herself, Teresa, and Francisco. Mauricia worked mending clothes, ironing, and washing to earn extra money.

Francisco adored Mauricia's determination to move forward and not let their lack of money get her down. Francisco was even more elated as within a couple of months he and Mauricia would have their first child.

Mauricia stayed home tending to the house while Francisco was picking up his pay from the train depot. She valued her home and the little they owned but was happy for the first time in many years. Mauricia still yearned for her brothers' approval of her relationship with Francisco. She hoped within time they would see their error and talk to her again.

"Bam, Bam, Bam!" Someone pounded the front door. Mauricia knew it was not Francisco as he carried his key. Mauricia wobbled to the front door to see who it was. Teresa sat in the kitchen as she peeked down the long hallway at her mother.

As Mauricia opened the door, she gasped at the sight of the person on the other side. "What do you want?" asked Mauricia. Ana stood there with a smirk and looked over Mauricia's shoulder to get a peek of the house. Mauricia closed the door behind her to block Ana's view. Ana announced, "Tell Francisco I did not get his money this month for the children."

Mauricia said, "You did receive your money. Francisco sent it as a money order and we kept our stubs." Ana sighed and said, "Well, just tell him that I came by and he better have my money or I will call the authorities on you both!" she began to laugh and pointed at Mauricia's belly.

Mauricia slammed the door shut and rubbed her belly as she walked back to the kitchen. Moments later Francisco came home while Mauricia finished making dinner.

"Ana came by looking for you." Mauricia told Francisco.

"What for?" asked Francisco

"She said you did not pay her the children's maintenance for this month. I told her you did and we kept receipts. She threatened to call the authorities on us." Francisco waved his arm in the air and said, "Just let her do it Mauricia. She doesn't know what else to say. Just be careful, I don't trust her." Mauricia whispered under her breath as she served Francisco, "I don't either."

Another month passed and Mauricia gave birth to their son, Leopoldo. Leopoldo was the spitting image of his father. Both Mauricia and Francisco took him to the church to get baptized. Teresa loved having a little brother and helped Mauricia change his diapers. Francisco worked harder to keep his family together and Mauricia happy.

Two weeks after Leopoldo's birth, there was another pounding at the door. "Bam, bam, bam!" Mauricia laid Leopoldo down and told Teresa to watch him while she answered the door. She knew it had to be Ana. As she opened the door, two police officers walked in and put handcuffs on Mauricia.

"What is going on? Why are you doing this?" Mauricia screamed. "You are under arrest for stealing this woman's money." the officer informed her. Ana stood there with a huge grin and continued her role-playing. "Yes, she was the one that stole my children's money! Now I have nothing!" as she sobbed into her handkerchief.

"Mauricia dug her heels into the ground and said, "I have a newborn that is breastfeeding and a toddler in the back! You cannot take their mother and leave them behind, that's abandonment! What can we work out to let me go?" One of the officer's walked up to Mauricia and whispered into her ear, "If you pay us with the same favor she paid to arrest you then we might be able to arrange a release. Let me tell you, she did not pay with money."

Disgusted, Mauricia cried, "Go to hell and I'm bringing my babies with me!"

"If that's what you want" said the officer. The officers toted Mauricia's babies and her into the car. Mauricia yelled at her neighbor, Socorro, who with a confused look listened to her every word, "Get Francisco immediately and tell him to find me in jail!" Socorro made the sign of the cross as she scurried away saying "Ave Maria purisima!"