108 pearls around the neck
I come from a village called Santa Teresa… It’s a very, very modest village. All peasants. We were twelve
brothers and sisters. My mother worked all the time. We were really very poor but we never went
without food. We had beans, and corn. We didn’t have much money for clothes or for things we
wished we had. We were poor and ignorant, without education. School never went further than 6th
grade. And then, as soon as we reached the age of twelve, we –boys and girls alike– would do what our
parents had always done: household chores or work in the fields.
- They didn’t go into town?
No, they never went in town. Never. Everything started and ended there. I didn’t want that. I didn’t
want to go on this way. I stopped going to school. I had a nice childhood, though, but my mother
never taught me about the dangers coming from human beings, about what human beings were
capable of. No. There, it was a world where no one would hurt anyone, we all knew one another.
Everything was clean, amicable.
- Did your brothers and sisters leave for town? Did they want to leave too?
We left little by little. No one stayed in the village. At the age of 14, it was actually poverty that forced
me to go work near the border, staying with an aunt, along with my 17-year-old sister. We worked from
5am to 5pm in a clothing factory; pure, hard work, without going out or to the movies.
- In which town was this?
Ciudad Juárez. A lot of people coming from faraway villages worked there. There was work for
everybody. Hundreds of factories manufacturing things for the United States, right by the border and
at very low cost, using the cheap local workforce.
It was in 1986. They didn’t even particularly care whether you were the required age. They took it upon
themselves to change my birth certificate and add two years. And all we wanted was to go across the
border.
- What about money?
We would send it to our parents, but we would also buy the things we’d never had. We had our hair
done, got manicures… That was where I had my first pizza, my first hamburger…
- When did you meet your husband?
I met him in Durango, at a party. He was 10 years older than me and was divorced. He’d already spent
five years in the United States, working in restaurants. Legally.
I got married right away, I was sixteen. I became pregnant and we waited for the baby’s birth to go
across.
- What about the baby?
He was only seven days old. He still had his umbilical cord. We traveled in an old truck with more than
thirty other people. The truck was packed; two days and two nights. I arrived in Tijuana with a terrible
hemorrhage. I went directly to the hospital, with my clothes covered in blood. We had to wait a week; I
couldn’t cross the border in that state. My husband didn’t want me to. He paid the smuggler; we only
had three days. The doctor gave me a shot, I don’t know what it was, and we came.
- And the baby, was he all right?
Yes, but when the smuggler arrived, he told us that the baby couldn’t come along, that he had to
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