Generational Hope, Maria Ramirez
My heart was pounding with excitement to return to central Mexico. The scenery was breathtaking. I could not wait to visit other amazing states in the Republic. I didn’t nap, I did not want to miss a thing, especially the people that got on the bus offering their homemade delicacies. Their humble baskets cradled finger-licking treats.
No companion was necessary, I had no worries about being hijacked by the cartel. I no longer travel by bus due to the risk of being stopped. As a United States citizen, I am a bigger risk than the locals to be taken hostage. An American passport spells dollars for hijackers, and therefore trouble. The only delay, a quick stop, the driver opened the door and a line of thirsty, desperate migrants walked into the bus and quickly sat on the empty seats. My heart raced not knowing what was going on.
I stretched my neck and stared at the driver, and the other passengers all around me. No one said a word, they acted as if nothing was happening, they just stared at each other. I saw the migrants sitting in silence. There seemed to be an unspoken understanding between the driver and these new passengers.
A young boy sat next to me. I stared at him for a time, then looked around again. The driver got back on the road as if this was a normal pickup. My eyes shifted from the driver to the boy next to me. He clung to the front seat, leaning forward, scanning the dry mesquite-covered landscape. Cacti with sharp thorns were standing like immigration agent officials, he needed to elude, zigzag through, and slip between.
I turned toward him. He pretended not to see me staring. After a few miles, he gripped his water jug. The tip of his worn shoes pressed against the floor as he began to raise himself when he saw his companions standing, working their way up the aisle. He waited for a space to get into the line. My heart pounded as I realized what was happening. I quickly slipped my shaky hand into my backpack, searching for my money pouch. I struggled to open it. The boy and I locked eyes as he turned toward me. I saw despair and he saw the sadness in my eyes. I knew their plight and what lay before them. Before I signaled him to wait, his back was out of reach as I tried to tap him. The pesos in my hand remained there.
My mouth opened to call to him, yet quicker than he got on the bus, he was off. He ran with the others into the dry, hot sun. His jug and worn backpack became a blur in the distance. He is in pursuit of crossing the Rio Grande in hopes of reaching America, a better life, and the American dream.
I stood and gazed at the line of people like desert lizards dissolving into the dust as they scurried on. I plopped myself back on my seat, crushed, wondering, hoping they would make it. My hope was they made it, like my mother and older brothers. My family waded across the Rio Grande to join my father.
During another trip to Mexico City, I got off to buy the best taquitos and other authentic delicious food I craved. When I got back with all the food, everyone stared at me. I was the only one who got off the bus. I then realized that these people did not have the dollars I had. Their few pesos, if they had any, could not buy a luxury such as food. They went without eating until they got to their destination. My dollars, on the other hand, went a long way due to the exchange rate for the dollar. I could have fed everyone on board for pennies, compared to the cost I would have paid in the United States.
To this day I live with the regret of not handing the migrant boy some money, and not buying food for the hungry people on the bus unable to eat.
My life experiences have inspired me to help other migrants. I feel a need to stretch out my hand before they too disappear in the sea of green as they harvest our crops. Whenever I think of my Papá, I hope someone stretched out their hand to help him too. He also struggled, underneath the elements with his wife and children.
Maria B. Ramirez
Updated: Feb 22, 2022