Hello America, Hasta Luego Guatemala! 1969
Drops of honeydew melon mist seep into a diesel gasoline splattered mackerel sky. Guatemala, a tropical climate.
Mami. It will make our lives better. Se lo juro.
It is 1969 and a petite Single Mother forces herself to say goodbye to her two hijas, 19 and 24. These two, her baby girls, will board an aircraft and travel unescorted for work in America. She devours the wild sensation her daughters’ last hugs inscribe on her delicate skin.
She breathes slowly. A howl strains to escape from the clenched pit of her stomach. She is left in the arms of dread, crippled by past deaths and sorrow. Her husband’s ghost sways with the movements of her body. Together they release the flickering radiance of the past and cling to a fate not yet revealed for their youngest daughters.
Many hours vanish, leaving 19 and 24 famished and exhausted. The fear that has harvested within their tiny frames breaks free from the intricacy of their breaths. It spreads from the ends of their hairs and from deep within their pores. It causes an inescapable thick cloud to loom overhead and brings their minds to a shocked and anxious disarray.
It is one o’clock in the morning.
Please come in. No, only one at a time.
The American INS agent speaks in his slow and inane Spanish. Stumbling over words, but keeping his dignity. After all, he’s not the one being questioned.
The girls show proof of their one-year visas.
What are you here for, work?
No, just visiting family, 19 declares.
We’re going to Hollywood! 24 squeals.
Yes, they know better than to answer the truth. Because if disdainful American INS agent heard the answer yes, he would readily deport poor innocent 19 and 24.
19 and 24 are picked up by their sponsors, the ones who vouched for them.
Driving to their new temporary casa, the girls perceive an unfamiliar world, America. They squeeze their palms together, making a silent vow to never let go.
Los Angeles, so enormous, vastly never-ending. 19 and 24’s eyes burn up at the sight of the illuminated skyline. An actual testament to having made it. Possibilities and uncertainty loom over their drained esqueletos.
The pocket-sized girls feel cramped, as if the tepid summer breeze were swallowing them whole. Drops of sweat roll gently down their backs, a reminder that menace travels with them. They remember the warnings of their overprotective brothers. What awaits two single young women.
At first light, they are separated. Ushered into homes where their only solace will be the babes of cheating spouses cocooned in solitary mansions, who won’t worry when their new nannies can’t seem to stop crying.
Unpolished and crudely held together, 19 and 24 feel their cuerpos harden as the chilled marrow in their bones begins to mold. They work to support familia in Guatemala, longingly possessive of their sweltering birthplace. They think of anything but never seeing each other again.
Days stretch by at a glacial pace, testing their composure. At the end of two weeks, 19 is able to pluck the word sister from the children’s teachings and thread out a plea to help her find 24.
Upon meeting, they crush every inch of themselves into an embrace, sending currents of electricity weaving in and out of their curly hair.
Hermanita. It will make our lives better. Te lo juro.