It was the last day of March of 2018, the day before Easter, the season of onions. By mid-morning, 16-year-old Berenise had already loaded a few pails. She held sharp, rusty shears that demanded careful precision; one slip, and they could take a finger. Berenise worked alongside her 10-year-old brother, Salvador, and her parents a few paces away. Sunlight beamed across mile after mile of flat green fields, broken only by a few dirt roads. When it’s harvest time like this, multigenerational families, from young children to grandparents, cluster among the furrows. The land is scattered with plastic pails, packing crates, and a few blue porta-potties. Onions blanket the ground, as far as the eye can see; the air smells sweet and sharp. Human backs form U-shaped curves of habit, heads covered in hats and hoods, pants and fingers stained with chlorophyll and mud. Continue reading → The Young Hands that Feed US
Frankie couldn’t come back across the border, but his ashes could. They traveled in a small red wood box. His brother Beto put them inside a carry-on bag, and they cleared the metal detector at the port of entry in San Luis, Arizona. The box sat next to him on the ride back to Flagstaff until he placed it in his mother’s arms.
Beto had made the 500-mile journey to Hermosillo, Mexico, hoping that he would find Frankie alive, but he knew his mind was playing tricks on him. It wasn’t until he opened the casket at the funeral home that it hit him: Frankie was gone. There were scratches on the side of his neck, ears, and face, and the undertakers had dressed him in a buttoned-down white shirt with a black bandana pattern that Beto knew Frankie would have hated. Beto gave him a hug and a kiss with a soft, “I love you.” Outside the funeral home, relatives whom Beto barely remembered rushed to hug him and give him condolences in a Spanish he couldn’t grasp. Continue reading → The Death and Life of Frankie Madrid
Sara trembled, her eyes closed. Her small, 18-year-old figure was there in the passenger seat of my car, but her mind was locked behind a closed door. She grabbed her head. A vein in her forehead was swelling; it was as if her thoughts were exploding.
I was there in response to a desperate call. She said she was alone and afraid. Deeply afraid. She said she needed someone to talk to. It was 10 at night; I drove across town and picked her up.