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Memorias del Silencio: Footprints of the Borderland






BorderSenses (est. Fall 2000) is a literary organization committed to literary pursuits in order to improve the life of the community. It publishes a bilingual, biannual magazine, BorderSenses (ISSN: 1536-3236). Please contact us at: BorderSenses                                                4228 Hampshire Lane                                                 El Paso, TX 79902                                     (915) 533-2295

The book Memorias del Silencio: Footprints of the Borderland (BorderSenses 2005) is the outcome of a project funded by the Arts and Culture Department, City of El Paso, TX. This project has been conducted in cooperation with the Community Education Program (CEP) of The El Paso Community College (EPCC).   Publisher Amit K. Ghosh Project Director Minerva Laveaga Duarte Book Editor Minerva Laveaga Duarte Project Advisor Carmen Seda Layout Editors Minerva Laveaga /Carmen Seda Illustrations Fernándo Ramírez General Assistants Dalila Salazar, Edevaldo J. Orozco Website / Technical Assistance Alex Hernandez, Javier Sanchez, Edevaldo Orozco, Ernesto Flores Publicity Dalila Salazar Lisa Smith Bandy Volunteers Selfa Chew, Emmy Pérez, Nancy Wilson, Charlie Millier, Javier Huerta                                                 Printer Paydirt Copy The University of Texas at El Paso  


A cknowledgments    

BorderSenses wishes to especially thank:

MR. ANDRES MURO, Manager, Community Education Program (CEP)             MS. LAURA JAURRIETA, Instructional Coordinator, CEP MS. LETICIA DOMÍNGUEZ, Lead Facilitator, CEP MS. SHEILA SIMMONS, Lead Facilitator, CEP MS. LETY VILLALOBOS, Instructor, CEP MS. BERTHA TORRES, Instructor, CEP MS. BEATRIZ HINOJOSA, Instructor, CEP MS. MAGGIE SANCHEZ, El Paso Community Foundation MS. JUDY EMMONS, Arts and Culture Dept, City of El Paso MR. JOHN FAHEY, Liberal Arts Center for Instructional Technology, University of Texas at El Paso                         BorderSenses board (Ms. Kathleen Muro, Mr. Jose Rodriguez, Mr. Steve Yellen, Mr. Mark Bandy, Mr. Andres Muro and Mr. Joe Oliva)

This project has been supported by The Arts and Culture Department of the City of El Paso.



“Memorias del Silencio: Footprints of the Borderland comes to remind us that this border is a place where dreams, wishes and projects are inscribed. In this sense, the voices of these immigrants help to disprove that other version, more diffused, that builds it violent and threatening. Here, the ghost of terrorism disappears, and workers, housewives, wives, sisters, mothers and children speak. At a time such as the one we are living, where the thought of walls and stern military control exist, these voices become even more necessary and urgent.” ♦ Sandra Garabano, specialist in Latin American narrative and Argentine literature. Author of Reescribiendo la nación: la narrativa de Ricardo Piglia ♦

“The stories and poems in this anthology are important as both art and a reflection of social reality, voices seldom heard in the mainstream literary community. They are told honestly, beautifully and with an amazing sense of language and image. They will haunt you and inspire you. These voices need to be heard.” ♦ Daniel Chacón, author of and the shadows took him and Chicano Chicanery ♦

“Here’s a counternarrative of the border—personal and collective stories most people in this country have probably never heard. It’s about time they did.” ♦David Dorado Romo, author of Ringside Seat to a Revolution ♦


Contents 5 Acknowledgments 11 Note from the publisher’s desk, AMIT GHOSH 13 Preface, ANDRES MURO 15 Introduction, MINERVA LAVEAGA DUARTE 17 From dawn to dusk, FERNÁNDO RAMÍREZ 18 Sin regreso alguno, REBECA ALARCÓN 19 Fernando y Juanita, ANTONIO BURGOS IBARRA 20 Lamento de un brasero en Octubre, ANTONIO BURGOS


23 25 28 29 31 32

Desierto de Arizona, OLIVIA CHACÓN Mi vida en Estados Unidos, OLGA CHÁVEZ Solitaria madrugada, LETICIA CONTRERAS Al descubierto, ALAN F. DÁVILA Tras una noche fría, GUADALUPE DÁVILA Harvesting chile from Hatch, New Mexico, FERNÁNDO


33 Como si fuera ayer, MARÍA LOURDES FERNÁNDEZ 35 Cuento, ROSALBA FLORES 37 Poema a mi madre, ARACELI GALLEGOS RODRÍGUEZ 39 La puerta más cruel, BAUDELIO HERNÁNDEZ 40 La búsqueda de la salud rompe fronteras, GUADALUPE LÓPEZ

41 Saucillo, NORMA P. LÓPEZ 42 Notas sobre mi hija Alejandra, JOSÉ LÓPEZ RUIZ 43 A mi amado campesino, VERÓNICA MACÍAS 44 45

El regreso de Carlos, ABRIL MALDONADO Chequeando el campo/Checking the field, FERNÁNDO




Después de la lluvia, EUSEBIO MÁRQUEZ

47 Relato, GREGORIO MEDINA 50 Poema de la vida de un toro, DAVID NUÑEZ 52 La separación familiar, MARÍA DEL ROCÍO ORTEGA 53 Un día de suerte, ROSA RAMÍREZ 55 Paisano, SILVIA RAMOS 57 Death in the desert, FERNÁNDO RAMÍREZ 58 Un día de muchos, MA. LOURDES RANGEL DE AGUIRRE 61 Mi casa, CLAUDIA ROMERO 62 Ninguna persona es ilegal, DALIA RUEDA 63 Mi deseo de la infancia, ROSA BEATRIZ SALINAS 64 Añoranza a mi Patria, LETICIA SAMANIEGO 66 Por una vida mejor, IRMA SILVA 68 One with the field, FERNÁNDO RAMÍREZ 69 Trabajador del campo, MARÍA DEL CARMEN VALENZUELA 71 Sembrar y Cosechar, MA. ROSALINA VEILLEUX 73 Translations 75 No Return, REBECA ALARCÓN/THERESA ESPINOZA 76 Fernando and Juanita, ANTONIO BURGOS IBARRA/THERESA ESPINOZA


Lament of a brasero in October, ANTONIO BURGOS IBARRA/


79 81 82







To my Beloved Farm Worker, VERÓNICA MACÍAS/


86 89











Longing for my Homeland, LETICIA SAMANIEGO/MINERVA





97 Triumph, FERNÁNDO RAMÍREZ 98 Contributor’s Biographies


Note from the Publisher’s desk BorderSenses (est. Fall 2000), based in El Paso, TX, is a communitybased, biannual, bilingual literary magazine. It began with the aspiration to provide a platform for all aspiring artists, both established and emerging of our frontera. In 2003, it expanded to include the greater region of Southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico. We have published nine issues so far, and are about to publish the tenth issue this Fall, 2005. We have been well received in our community and we deeply appreciate public participation in our workshops, launch events, and our readings. We humbly accept our place in the literary landscape of the region. Our efforts have been acknowledged by the El Paso Community Foundation and the City of El Paso’s Arts and Culture Department. We have been the recipient of several grants from both of these elite agencies which has allowed us to establish the magazine and perform several literary programs, including the Memorias Project.  BorderSenses is also committed to the state of literary achievement in the El Paso region. This has prompted us to team with The El Paso Community College’s Community Education Program (CEP) directed by Mr. Andres Muro and his competent staff. By working with students in Adult Basic Literacy classes where most of the students are either migrant farm workers or relatives of migrant farm workers, we have contributed to the literacy of the region. While we appreciate the efforts of the migrant workers in the field, we believe that good citizenry cannot be achieved without providing a helping hand to these hard-working folks so that they can embark on the road to growth and prosperity. While there are citizens and politicians who look down in disdain and question the presence of these workers, their positive influence in our social structure can hardly be questioned.  This specific project, funded by The Arts and Culture Department AMIT GHOSH 11

of the City of El Paso, permitted us to work with these students who are enrolled in the Spanish language GED program at EPCC. We added a component to the program that explored their creativity in narratives—prose or poetry. Our instructor, Ms. Minerva Laveaga Duarte has been outstanding in being able to work with these students to help them reach their creativity. Her disciplined visits to the classrooms and her motivation to work with this novice student body have produced rich dividends.

We at BorderSenses are thrilled at the outcome of this project. With

little formal training, the ability of these students to relive their experiences artistically gave this project a special meaning. Even in the art world, degrees and credentials are often overvalued. This project has demonstrated without a doubt that the ability to be emotionally expressive in writing has no boundaries; it only requires the right stimulus and context. Writing channels our thoughts and souls. It can vastly advance the cause of learning. Widening opportunities for minority voices can vastly improve literacy and better our community. We ask you to join us in celebrating the outcome of this project. The publication of Memorias del Silencio: Footprints of the Borderland is a testimony to the writers and the instructor. The selections were all composed in Spanish, but in order to reach a wider audience the Instructor, who is also the Editor, chose to create a special “Translations” section with some English translations representing all the works. Local artist Fernando Ramirez has been instrumental in illustrating these works using his rich imagination. Special thanks to web designer Alex Hernandez for his design and rendition. The efforts of other staff members (administrative and technical), Edevaldo Orozco, Dalila Salazar, Javier Sanchez, Ernesto Flores, and Carmen Seda are deeply appreciated.   If you want to know more about this project, please visit us at: http:// or you can email us at info@bordersenses. com.



The project was conducted in El Paso, a community with a large number of economically and academically disadvantaged immigrants. The contributors to this collection are students of GED from migrant families. The purpose of putting together this collection was to enhance the educational experience of the students, and the community’s knowledge of the migrant experience. This effort has multiple dimensions, namely, pedagogical, historical, social, and cultural.

Pedagogically, we felt that students would become better writers if

they wrote about their own experiences. Also, we felt that students would relate better to other people’s histories if they first explored their own. So, in this project, students not only became historians and writers, but also developed skills necessary to pass the GED in Spanish. From the cultural and social perspective we felt that it was important to give students a voice and for us, readers, to learn from that voice. While we all know about the existence of migrants, we know very little about their lives. We occasionally hear about them when the media, or politicians portray them, often in a negative light. This is sad, considering how much migrants impact our lives, especially in El Paso.

Most Americans grow up learning that our ancestors came from

Europe in the Mayflower and landed in Plymouth Rock. Yet, most El Pasoans have a very different history which is being written as we speak, by people coming, not from Europe, but from Mexico, in search of a better life. And, yet, we go about our lives unconscious of the fact that people have risked their lives, many dying in the process, and have struggled and continue to do so, to come and live here, just like the pilgrims did. Little do we know that the local economy and that of the U.S. depends on the labor of migrants. We may not realize that most of the food that we put in our mouths was likely planted, grown, harvested, picked, processed, slaughtered or packed by




In addition to agricultural work, migrants care for our yards, raise our

children, repair our cars, build our houses, cook and clean for us, and until recently, they made much of our clothes. And, no, they don’t take our jobs away. There is no police force stopping us, U.S. citizens, from going to the “pizca” of chile, orange, cotton, grapes, apples and cherries. Nobody stops us from working as maids, babysitters and gardeners. Nor do we have to hide from “la migra” on the way to landscape someone’s yard, babysit a child, or clean someone’s toilet. Also, “la migra” doesn’t show up to deport us on pay day. I have yet to hear from an American citizen who went to work in the fields and was told: “No! You can’t work here. You aren’t a Mexican”.

So, through this collection, we may learn a little about the migrant

experience, directly from the migrants. Hopefully, after learning about them, we may be able to say: “Thank you for risking your lives to come here to grow our food, raise our children, build our homes and care for them. Thank you for landscaping our yards and sewing our clothes. Thank you and welcome. Is there anything that we can do for you?”




(Translation from original version in Spanish by Minerva Laveaga Duarte)

Memorias del Silencio: Footprints of the Borderland was born from the idea of providing a space for the voices of farm workers and their families, as well as to offer them new academic opportunities. Most of the people who work in the United States’ fields are immigrants who arrived to this land in search of better jobs. The stories behind their travels, from their place of origin, to the place where they found work, as well as their experiences once in the United States, are innumerable. This project was intended to give voice to some of these stories in a way that would allow the protagonists themselves to narrate their experiences. For several months, I had the opportunity to work with the authors of these pieces in creative writing workshops. The intent of these workshops was to offer the students the necessary tools so that, little by little, they could draw up their stories. They read and practiced different literary genres (poetry, non-fiction, short story and essays) until each of them found their place in literature. Each author chose the genre in which they wanted to present their story, which resulted not only in a great variety of voices, but in a great variety in the presentation of those voices. In this book, the author’s roots and their dreams are far from being static – they move with them at every step. For this reason, we have considered it important to include not only what is happening now in their lives, but also, their past, their hopes and their thoughts.



In this sense, Memorias del Silencio: Footprints of the Borderland is composed of stories full of memories and dreams. Cities and towns full with people who walk in plazas and gardens. Kiosks that rise with music and celebrations. The music they remember and the sound of rain over stone streets will not find silence; neither will the voice of their parents. The past moves with the present, next to the sound of tractors and the voices of their children. The pieces in this book help us understand what it means to leave our country, and the reasons behind these decisions. With these writings we can also better understand what the farms and fields are – we can better understand what it is to work in the fields. These are stories that share an immense will; images that allow us to see pieces of life alongside trees, under the sun, and between thoughts. Memorias del Silencio: Footprints of the Borderland is a book that gathers voices that have arrived to the El Paso, Texas region from diverse, and oftentimes, far lands. These are voices that inspire and teach. Voices of a world that sometimes seem forgotten, and that through these writings claim respect and understanding. We hope that the readers of this book enjoy these pieces as much as all of us who worked in this project enjoyed seeing them born and evolve.

16 16


From dawn to dusk



Sin regreso alguno A mi hermano querido, era el menor. No se encuentra con nosotros, pero en mi mente y corazón siempre ocupará un lugar muy especial, y hasta el último día que respire vivirá en mi ser.

Al atardecer un frío día de otoño mi casa se transforma en dolor. Con la risa de los niños, y calor familiar todo es bello y tranquilo. Nadie se imagina el dolor que está por llegar, que todo será confusión. Mi hermano, desesperado, inquieto, tal vez presintiendo la llegada de su final, se salió de casa sin regreso alguno. Todo se empieza a convertir en dolor y sufrimiento aterrador. Y por allá lejos de mi casa se escucha una sirena y un destino que no se puede prevenir.



Fernando y Juanita A Magdalena Burgos, mi esposa

Madrugada clareante, fría, con brisa, los arbustos húmedos. Nosotros con ropa ligera. Todavía nos la quitaremos para pasar el río. Se mira tan ancho. El agua corre despacio, trae ramas, botes, llantas, basura, aun así se desliza engañosamente. Mi mujer dice que por abajo quesque le jala las patas. Pos aguántese, mire todavía nos falta mucho pa llegar a la orilla. ¡Ay Diosito, no sé que pisé, está muy resbaloso y se mueve! Apúrele mujer, debe ser una rana. Pos sapo o piedra tengo miedo, también tengo frío. Ya estamos acercándonos, debes estar lista pa correr, mira son las tres de la madrugada, la van ya llegó, debe haber mucha gente arriba… ¿pa donde nos llevarán ahora? Ojala nos lleven a la cebolla. No viejo, a la cebolla no, me canso mucho del espinazo…



Lamento de un brasero en Octubre A la maestra Lety Villalobos

¡Qué luna tan aluzada! Quisiera que la noche pasara, que fuera de madrugada para soñar con mi amada. Soñar no cuesta nada y dormir no puedo. La noche es larga como el surco del chilar. Ay mamá ¡que lejos estoy! me dan ganas de chillar. Que alumbrado está el lugar y yo tan cansado no me puedo levantar. ¡Cómo quisiera en mi casa estar mirar a mis niños jugar! Que hermosa es la vida, que alto el palomar. ¡Cómo canta el palomito cuando a su nido está por llegar! Ronroneó el gato amarillo ¡Cómo extraño yo a mi tierra y las grandes comidas hechas con guajillo!



Simoncita de mi vida no escucho el tortear cuando estás cociendo esas tortillas que me voy a saborear. La luna a lo alto brilla y en esta orilla ¡Cómo añoro yo mi tierra! cuando como con tortilla. Aún recuerdo aquellas noches en Xochimilco paseos en trajinera platicando con la güera. Del surco al amanecer toda la noche pienso que mañana será otro día. ¡Qué clara brilla la luna en Octubre! ¡Cómo quisiera poder rascarle las cuerdas a ese piano! Brasero tu ya no llores pronto dejaremos este pueblo grandulón donde nos pagan el bote de chile a peso y a tostón. Vuela paloma vuela y diles que los quiero. Si en Estados Unidos pizcamos chile y en México soy un chilango. ANTONIO BURGOS IBARRA


AquĂ­ en mi pueblo querido donde todo es muy sincero todos mis amigos saben que yo anduve de brasero. En este rinconcito yo le rezo a San Vicente que me conceda el milagro de poder ser residente.



Desierto de Arizona A mi tío

Esta es la historia de un inmigrante para quien el sueño americano se

convirtió en pesadilla. Es la historia de mi tío y de mis primos, quienes tenían la ilusión de venir a Estados Unidos a ganar billetes verdes, como decían ellos.

Pasó en el año de 1970 en el desierto de Arizona, cuando mi tío y sus

tres sobrinos cruzaron por este desierto. Los rancheros de ese lugar ponían trampas para los animales. En una de esas trampas cayó mi tío. Mis primos no hallaban como sacarlo y como pudieron entre los tres le quitaron la trampa. El pie de mi tío quedó sangrando. Apenas podía caminar, pero tenían que seguir avanzando. Entre los tres le ayudaron y así llegaron al primer rancho. Había trabajo sólo para una persona. Mi tío tuvo que hacer mucho esfuerzo para que no le notaran nada. Le dieron el trabajo, y así mi tío se quedó trabajando ahí porque ya no podía seguir caminando. Mis primos le dijeron que en ocho días volverían por él, que se iban a conseguir un trabajo en el siguiente rancho. Así fue, pasaron ocho días y volvieron. Ya no lo encontraron. El ranchero que lo contrató dijo que mi tío se había ido al otro día y que eso era todo lo que sabía. Mis primos lo buscaron durante un mes en los ranchos cercanos. No lo encontraron. Tuvieron que volver al pueblo en donde nacieron a darnos la triste noticia. Sobre todo fue difícil decirles a la esposa y a los hijos. Hubo mucho llanto. Mis otros tíos no podían hacer nada porque no tenían pasaporte para venir a Estados Unidos a buscarlo. Fueron a diferentes estaciones de radio para que les ayudaran. Fueron al canal 5, que era el único que se veía en mi pueblo y llevaron fotos para mostrarlas al público.

En ese tiempo estaban encontrando muchos cadáveres semienterrados

en el desierto de Arizona. No sabemos si mi tío fue uno de ellos. Nunca se pudieron identificar. Han pasado 35 años y no hemos vuelto a saber nada de él. Mi tía y sus hijos todavía sueñan con el día en que han de volver a verlo. OLIVIA CHACÓN


Mi tía jamás se volvió a casar viviendo siempre con la esperanza de que un día él habría de volver.



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