The Photograph, And A Cup Of Coffee
From Ecuador News
June 25-July 1, 2002
By Carlos Delgado Centeno
Sunday, 11:30 in the morning.
Place: A bakery cafeteria, with six tables,
Street: Roosevelt Avenue, where so many Ecuadorians
walk, looking at store windows and daydreaming. So many Ecuadorians
who have done whatever they could to arrive: navigating the Pacific;
following paths through the Central American countryside, beaten
by the sun or the cold of the desert at night. They arrive, crossing
the river or coming through the tunnels used by people smuggling
Protagonist: María, 36, from Azogues,
in the Cañar region. It is her first day off after working
200 hours in two weeks.
She is at the post office to pick up a package
that has just arrived from her country. You can tell by her shaking
hands and the look on her face that she is anxious to find out what
Manuela, her mother, has sent. The smell of the fresh bread and
the coffee mix to give her the false impression that she is at homethere
is nothing like those aromas to make you feel safe and relaxed,
they are the tastes and smells of home.
Maria takes a sip of coffee automatically, she
chews a piece of sweet bread without tasting it. She fixes her gaze
on the package and suffers because she doesnt want to lose
her composure, but her nerves are betraying her. She doesnt
dare to open it yet, because she intuitively knows that what is
inside will make her lose it. With characteristic humility, embarrassed
that her nervousness and closeness to tears are so apparent, she
looks around and discovers that no one is paying any attention to
her. They arent interested in her world. She relaxes a bit,
but feels even more alone. Her only real companion is the package.
It is speaking to her, saying, "Open me, I am your life, your
history, your mother, your children, your country, I am your beloved
'Cañar.' I am the climate that you miss, the smell of coffee
in a clay pot, the winds that blow through the eucalyptus trees
and bring memories of happy times with Juan."
"Juan," Maria said later, "who
loved me until the day he stupidly got drunk and fell from the back
of the truck when they were coming home from playing soccer. I always
told him to be careful but he never paid me any mind and he left
me alone with our children. How much I miss you Juan! You should
be here, instead of me, and I would be in Ecuador with the children
waiting for you to send us the money to finish building our house."
Another sip of coffee and Maria opens the package
With her right hand, she pulls out a photograph.
She grasps it in both hands, and her tears start coming fast, so
many tears that she wipes them with her sleeve without remembering
the napkin on the table. In the photo, her eight year old daughter
sits with her two year old sister on her lap, both with an innocent
smile and a message in their eyes that says, "we need you Mamá."
Maria knows that she cannot go back, because
she needs to pay the ten thousand dollars that she owes from the
Meanwhile, in Ecuador, the mayor of Marías
city complains about distributing the citys budget to the
people. He complains even though the state obligates him to take
these necessary steps to better the way of life for the inhabitants,
who pay taxes and work all day long to receive only 100 dollars
What shame, what sadness, is in this barbarous
act. They are savages to destroy a person's dignity like this, to
push them across the borders, so that María should have to
be violated, maltreated and offended at every crossroad, so that
she should have to leave her children in her mothers care
because she cannot take care of them. In her city, there arent
even the basic services to live decently; there is no work and she
knows that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer. Even
worse, those in charge always try to convince us that they have
the only solution, while they keep carrying away the money in sacks.
On the day in which all the Marías come
together and incite us up to rebel against this situation, we will
look at our childrens photos with different eyes. We will
drink a cup of coffee without tears, and we will all eat the sweet
bread that she was not able to finish in the cafeteria on Roosevelt
Translated From Spanish by Erica Pearson.
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