La Mariposa en la Pared

The everyday experiences of latino immigrants through the eyes of an outsider. Las vidas típicas de unos inmigrantes latinos a través de los ojos de una forastera.

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Location: Upstate NY, United States

"To me it’s always interesting when you get accepted somewhere you don’t really belong. It’s interesting when people open up and let you in their world." - Gilles Mingasson

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pistolas y Lagrimas

One night, I drank with a Mexican. We sat at the kitchen table, which was not in the kitchen but in the foyer of an apartment inhabited by his favorite waiter, the waiter's two brothers, one nephew, and a friend. All five guatemaltecos came from the same little town to work in three different restaurants. The Mexican owns one of those restaurants.

The boom box on the table trembled with the sometimes sorrowful, sometimes celebratory, always heartrending gritos of Grupo Montez de Durango. An echoing "Ah ha jai!" from a Guatemalan in the kitchen sent chills up my arms and down my legs. Spent wedges of lime and gritty salt stuck to my elbows as I leaned forward, alternately tipping my Corona and nodding my head sympathetically to the story the Mexican was telling of his recent journey to and from his patria.

He made the 36 hour drive to Degollado, Jalisco, in his big new white truck. It was only a few days after Christmas, and his wife and four year old son were waiting. The trip was an emotional one for him, because his wife and son would be returning to the United States with him this time, and it was hard telling when they would see Jalisco again.

He leaned his chair back on two legs, gazed at the bare light bulb above the table, and spoke of his homecoming with misty eyes. The best part of his story was the way he ended it: After so many hours behind the wheel, he could finally see his hometown shimmering ahead in the dusty, ochre light of early evening. Tears streamed down his face as he pushed the Ram a little faster. He reached into the glovebox, pulled out his thirty-eight, and fired it out the window into the sky as he drove into town - blazing gun, plume of dust, salty tears, and gritos straight from his panza and corazón.

"Mexican men..." he smiled into his beer as he shook his head. He was reading my mind.

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