When I was a young girl, I lived in Aztlán. I worked in a factory. All day I sat on an assembly line and put tiny squares into tiny holes with a pair of tweezers. I thought I'd go blind! We lived in a big grey building with windows so small, you couldn't put your head outside. That was to keep the girls from running away. At night, we climbed to the roof and looked north across the border.
You couldn't see much because the farms are dark at night. But beyond, where the United States lay, was a great glow in the sky. We knew that under that glow was the most wonderful place. Everyone had his own house and garden. Everyone wore beautiful clothes and ate only the best food. And no one worked more than four hours a day. The rest of time people flew in hovercrafts and went to parties.
I lived in the grey building forever, getting older and older. No parties, no boyfriends, no nothing. I hadn't heard from my family in years. Maybe they were all dead. I didn't know. The only change in my life happened when I learned to cook. I was taught by an old curandera, a healing woman who took care of the girls. She taught me all kinds of things.
I was the best student she ever had, and soon I got off the assembly line and started cooking for the whole building. I had more freedom; I went to the markets to buy herbs and food. And one day, I met a coyote.
A man who takes people over the border. You pay him and he helps you go to the United States. Only first, you have to cross the farms.
What an idiot I was! Those people don't help you go anywhere. They lead you straight to farm patrol.
I packed everything I owned, including theVirgin I had brought from my village. About twenty of us crossed into the Ajo Mountains, and that's where the coyote abandoned us. We panicked like a bunch of scared rabbits. We tried to climb down a cliff, and a woman fell into a gorge and died. We abandoned most of our belongings so we could move faster, but it didn't do us any good. The Farm Patrol was waiting at the foot of the mountains.
I was taking into a room and my backpack dumped out. "Be careful," I cried, "Don't hurt the Virgin!" They laughed and one of them was about to crush Her with his foot when someone shouted "Stop" from the doorway. Everyone snapped to attention then, you better believe it. It was El Patron in his wheelchair. he was stronger in those days, and liked to check up on things personally.
"Your accent is familiar. Where are you from?" he asked. I told him the name of my village, and he was very surprised. "That's my hometown," he said. "Don't tell me that old rat's nest is still there."
"It is," I said, "only the rats have moved on to a better slum."
He laughed and asked if i had any skills. From that moment on, I belonged to El Patron. I'll always belong to him. He'll never let me go.
(Chapter 20, p. 141-143)