The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
When you were little, your government was no more corrupt than your neighbor’s. You knew your country was owned by rich families and the poor were treated like dirt. You kept your head down and you worked on the small farm that was your father’s.
Fools demanded justice from the government. This led to violence, which led to powerful countries taking sides. The most powerful nation of all backed the rich families against the people. Your father told you to keep your head down, work the land and pray the rosary.
War devastated your country. Terrible things happened. The poor became less than dirt. The army killed your father. His pitiful farm was yours. La vida continua.
The most powerful nation in the world lost interest in your country once its rich friends were safe and the people broken.
You fell in love and married and had two beautiful children. La vida continua.
A military coup swept though the capital. The most powerful nation in the world looked the other way as your new military masters embraced corruption. Vicious narco-traffickers ruled the streets. Traffickers made wealthy by their rich customers, the people living far away in the most powerful nation in the world.
More and more innocent people in your village showed up dead. The heat from climate change was killing your crops. You had nothing. Still you kept your head down. Until the day your family was threatened by the gangs. You sold your father’s boots. You clawed together what little money you had, took a loan from the village sharks to pay the coyotes to get you and your family to safety and you said adios to the few still trapped at home. Your family would be safe if you made it to the biggest, richest and most powerful nation in all the world. The priest blessed you. You visited your father’s grave, prayed the rosary and set out. Everyone had a water bottle, a cheap backpack, a little food. Your money was in your shoes and your heart in your throat.
You chose the desert because you heard what happened to asylum seekers. No one would ever take your little ones away from you. Not ever.
The coyotes told you to keep your head down as your family rode the train to the dry frontier where you met another coyote who led you to the border. Your children were scared, hungry and filthy. When night fell you crossed into the desert together, on foot. The children walked and then begged to be carried. By the time the sun was blazing overhead you were halfway into the great nowhere. The merciless outback. A mass grave where delirium dreams were interred in dust.
The water ran out. You stumbled through cramps. The sun burned your skin raw. Your head ached. You peed blood. Your pulse was fading. Your hands tingled. Your son was so heavy.
Midafternoon you asked the coyotes to slow down because your wife could not go on. They cursed you and abandoned you. The children stopped whimpering and were eerily quiet. You were alone in a vast broiler.
You were frightened.
In the most powerful nation on earth fine citizens sitting in their air-conditioned homes asserted you’re all criminals who deserve your fate. Such fine citizens were pleased when the most powerful nation on earth prosecuted those scum who would offer aid to the likes of you.
There was no shade among the chollas. Organs shut down. Pulse rates dropped. The people you loved were dying. You cradled your beloved son, so little, your dear daughter, so brave, and the love of your life, your wife. What have you done? Te amo mucho cariño.
Racked with dry heaves you had no tears to cry. Blurry turkey vultures circled overhead. You took to your knees and bargained with God.
In the most powerful nation on earth fine citizens said you and your kind were all drug mules who just came here to vote against their favorite politicians. Because that’s what they heard on TV.
And delirious with grief and misery you kissed the dead, closed your eyes and released your worn rosary. It was finished. Unto the indifferent sun you commended your spirit and the spirits of your wife and children.
Many said your kind was looking for welfare. And to take jobs away from Americans.
Days passed. The sun bleached your rosary. Your cooked flesh fell away from your bones. Your daughter’s ribbon and your baby boy’s tiny shoes were taken by a packrat and woven into a den. Coyotes scattered all the evidence you ever existed. The desert consumed you.
Some said good riddance. They’re all disease carriers. They’ll never assimilate. They’re all lazy.
In your village another family prepared to gamble with their lives. Nada que perder. Nothing to lose. Like you, they would rather risk death in a desert than live one more day in a land devastated by the very same nation you prayed would be your salvation. The nation that in your dreams would forever be your shining city on the hill.