I’ve been to Cuba so many times I’ve forgotten what the rest of Latin America could look like. Like the McDonald’s and Citibanks and billboards that advertise products and not socialist slogans. In Guatemala City I rode in a taxi to Antigua during rush hour. I was able to see the people slowly go by in their cars or waiting at the bus stop. There is no train the driver told me. There used to be and how nice it was to ride it, he said.
As we drove we talked about Cuba like I always do when I am in a taxi. It doesn´t matter where the driver is from they always know something about Cuba. It is one of the only times that I am able to speak on Cuban history extensively and I am reminded that I have a good memory. I asked him about his children. Two women married to good men who are helping them go to college and a son. The son no longer in Guatemala but now in the states. In Iowa and I pictured him all cold. He said he would tell us the story of his son and he did and this is what I saw:
A father working day and night for his children. Not able to buy a house in a better neighborhood because he wanted to send his son to military school. It didn´t matter at that point any opinions I had about any military, this is what a father wanted to do for his son to protect him. His son was good and always kept to himself. He drove the junky car his father got him around and around and there were others who watched that didn´t have a dad who worked day and night for their livelihood or a mother that worked and loved. The ones that watched were around his age but they carried guns and were part of a gang and didn´t like boys in their neighborhood in military uniforms.
It was night-time after dinner. Front door broken down, hearts racing, guns pointing at heads in the home of the father who worked day and night. They threatened the son, threatened the father, they threatened the mother. Gunshots all around, no one dead. Hearts still racing. They left.
Friends came to help with money and coyote to leave the country and cross the borders to the US. This boy never wanted to go to the US. This family never wanted to be apart. The mother still cries when she holds unto her son´s uniform. The father drove us to Antigua with a broken heart. The son wants to come back. Working as diligently as is father day and night and learning English.
These are the stories I no longer hear. The stories that also break my heart. I think about the Minutemen and the advertisements not wanting anyone illegal. I think about all the people who never had the American dream and still ended up in the US.
I didn´t think of it then but I should have given him our phone number to give to his son. I am sad I didn´t do that but I remember his face and his car by the airport. Maybe I could find him again.