Thursday, July 31, 2008

Week 5 (Rachel)

“The lost walkers lay on crisp white sheets, rolled through swinging doors, blinked at confusing lights and masked faces, hospital gowns, the smell of disinfectant and their own strange musky stench. Needles. Liquids. A sign flashed by: This Way Heart Center. People in green inserted electric thermometers in their ears. Hands in rubber gloves. ‘Are we contagious?’ one of them asked, but no one answered.”

This scene from Luis Alberto Urrea’s book, “Devil’s Highway” won’t leave me alone. It’s unsettling. The migrants in this scene are near their death as they are picked up by Border Patrol and brought to the hospital to be treated. The have been in contact with the people of El Norte for only moments and it is already apparent that their presence is not welcome. And not only is it not welcome, but it seems they as individuals are loathed. They have been with my fellow Americans for only moments and they know they are an ostracized people. Where does the hate come from?

“Are we contagious?”

What is that? What is that like to feel? I don’t know what it’s like to live in a country where both the people and government treat me like filth. Knowing everywhere I go those that pass by are looking down on me as if I am somehow their enemy. There is a tangible animosity in their gaze. But I just came here to work. I cannot feed my family in Mexico. We are starving and there is nothing left for us there. What is that? What is that like to feel?

What is it like to live in fear? What is it like to not allow your children to play outside? The Border Patrol could be making the rounds through the neighborhood, and you just can’t risk it. What is it like to have to drive to work separately from your husband because you would rather Border Patrol only deported one of you. What is it like to live in fear?

“Are we contagious?”

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