We Are Migrants
I am Marvin’s son.
Marvin, the man, is my father. He has not been seen as a man, only a tool. Marvin, the man, who has worked and worried that there would not be enough for me. Never worried about himself. Gladly he has done without, if it meant I could have anything to eat, to wear, to survive.
I was born to a woman so worn by life and what she had left behind in Guatemala, that she could not be mother to me. So scarcely had she survived, that barely had she even given me life. She was so hurt, so damaged. She had no love, so looked for it the rest of her life and never could find it.
We, the workers, are more than a table or a chair. Some Americans notice us and smile in passing. Sometimes there is a little kindness. We have known good Americans who have helped us. Mostly they walk by us as if we are not alive, not human. We are.
A Mexican lady took care of me. She and her husband were orphans. They knew what it was like to have nobody, to be alone, to wish for love, to seek a whole family.
Marvin brought me with him across an unfriendly desert. He carried me on his back. It was no burden for a father. We survived together. I remember nothing of it because I was so little.
Marvin, my father, watched me grow from my cradle, and on the one free day of the week he had, he gave it all to me. He held me, bathed me, looked into my big, brown eyes. He says I had the biggest brown eyes he had ever seen.
Were it not for my father, Marvin, I would have been an orphan. He could have left me to go on and live a different life. He never let me go to anyone else, to be someone else’s son. He is Marvin and I am his son.
We have always been together. He taught me to play as he had, with nothing — sticks and stones, plastic bottles that blew my way.
I am Marvin’s son. I am proud.
Now we are men together.
All we have had is each other, and work, and endless emptiness. We have lived on nothing but still survive. Many times there was nothing to eat or to wear, but there was work.
There is work.
Sometimes we have to look for it and do without until we find it, but there is work. It is the work that others will not do, cannot do. Bosses tempt us with good prices, then lower rates when the crop ripens and grows scarce. Bosses cheat us when they can; pay us when they must. If we are without English, they can do this and they know it.
What breaks, they fix, except us. We are fired if we get hurt. Shoved on to another job no matter the injury. Machines they fix, but us, we are thrown away and told never to come back.
I am the man I have become. He is the father and I am his son. I know who we are. I am proud of all inside me. I am Marvin’s son.
My work, as his work, is never noticed. We are small people in a big world of great fields filled with things to be cultivated and harvested. We are where work is to be done, welcome only when there is need of us.
We work. We control nothing; endure everything.
We bend for hours in unfriendly weather, another thing that does not welcome or support us. We stoop to the earth to bring food to the tables of others, yet little to our own for what we earn. The earth sticks to our clothes and our skin. We are always viewed as unclean, unworthy, unfit.
We survive like farm implements to be used and then thrown aside until needed again. Each of us is there to replace another of our kind. Then we are put in storage places unacceptable for others to live, set apart from those who eat what we collect from the soil.
We are proud men from Guatemala working alongside men and women from other places. Some we know. Most we do not. We are brothers of other mothers but of a family that works for hours unseen except by those who manage us, push us, insist.
Even as I lay in my cradle my future was firmly written for me. I am the son of migrant workers. Society expects little of me except to be dirty, tired, and poor for my entire life. It is an unwritten caste system quietly observed by modern white citizens.
My father with his calloused hands, hard from work, showed me how to live in poverty in this rich country, a land of plenty for everyone except people like us. We look down, keep moving, always, always
working. We have never belonged here but now have no place left in Guatemala.
Yet, we find reasons to smile, to love each other.
I am Marvin’s son. Most will never know him, but I know him. Still many walk by and do not know us, that we are people, as they are, the Americans. They are people. They want us to be less forever.
America accepts our help, our labor, but then wants to throw us away, like garbage along the road. That is not us. Americans have accepted his labor while I grew big enough, strong enough, to be at his side. Now I work to help my father.
Marvin never stopped working, never a day. It was the tireless love born in persistent poverty and the strength of his character that pushed him on. He had nothing to offer but himself.
I will never leave my father, never, not ever.
I must do more, work harder. I will be more for my son, someday. All of the good we take from the earth is in our souls. It is our character to grow just as we see the plants mature to harvest, so do we see our purpose is to provide for our families. This is how we love.
I am Marvin’s son.
Copyright by Author, March 1, 2017