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Cutting the Curtain
I knelt behind a rock on top of a hill, my friend Jorge knelt next to me. We could see America, just over the Rio Grande. Its border was clearly defined, a 12 foot high fence with signs all around it, some in English some in Spanish, and border patrol agents surrounded the perimeter. The border patrol watched our group, knowing we were going to cross but weren’t able to do anything until we stepped over the border. “You think we’ll make it?” Asked Jorge.
My reply was short and didn’t make Jorge feel any more assured; “I don’t know.” Jorge released a deep sigh and then started scratching his neck. We had just gotten our new clothes a few hours ago, and we still hadn’t cut any of the tags off.
I looked crowd around me, I could see people sniffing glue and loading guns. These reckless ones would probably not make it. The careful ones who maintained a low profile and stayed in the back, like me and Jorge, might but our chances were still pretty slim. The patrol would grab the first few who tried to cross in an instant. So we hid in the back. We’d let every one else go first and while the border patrol was busy with them we’d sneak across. At this moment I thought about how different every one of us was; different personalities, different plans, but we all shared the same goal.
The burning sun beat down upon my head and scorched the Earth. Sweat poured down my neck and anticipation filled my mind. When would it start? When would we go? Tension was building; the air was thick with it.
Suddenly there was an eruption of screams and yells as the pack splashed into the Rio Grande. The patrol gathered near the fence discussing final strategy plans which would never stop all of us, for there were a mere six of them and thirty nine of us, but we knew more agents would come soon. The first group began to scale the Tortilla Curtain. How could they have expected a flimsy piece of metal to stop an army of hopeful illegal immigrants?
The patrol started catching people as they climbed down the fence. Some put up a fight others gave up instantly and quietly wept to themselves. A couple of gun shots rang out, hopefully all misses. Jorge got out of the river first coughing and gagging, his thick black hair sat on his head like a wet cat, and his new clothes were covered in mud. His hand reached out to me and he said, “Grab on, hurry!”
I reached out and grabbed Jorge’s hand. He pulled me out of the water and helped me up off the ground and onto my feet. Water seeped from my ears, mouth, and nose and
I felt great pain all over my body. We quickly climbed up the tortilla curtain and ran past a couple of agents who were struggling with others. When we got about five-hundred feet away from the patrol we heard a voice call out to us, and we saw a thin young man with dark tan skin peeking out of a thick collection of brush. “Hurry! The patrol will be here soon!”
Without hesitation Jorge and I ran into the brush and hid among the scratchy plants with the young man. We saw a young woman with a concerned look cradling a baby who couldn’t have been more than six months old. “This is my wife Andrea,” said the tall dark man, “this is my daughter Anita, and I’m Manuel.”
“Pleasure to meet you.” Jorge and I said.
“The pleasure is mine.” said the woman weakly. We watched border patrol agents zoom by in their vans. The closest encounter we had with them was when one sat down on a rock in front of the thicket to tie his shoe. I don’t know how much time passed in silence before Manuel said, “It is getting dark and most of the patrol agents have gone. I think we should start moving now.” We crept out of the brush, scratching ourselves as we emerged from it.
“Where are you going?” I asked Manuel.
“My family and I are going to El Paso, I hope to get a job there and earn enough money to feed my family.” I looked down at the baby; I could see a great hunger in her eyes.
“We’re going to ride a freight train to Santa Fe; we’ll both get jobs, perhaps in agriculture, and share our money so we can afford some good meals.” announced Jorge without much excitement or faith. I could hear my stomach growl and churn. I took a large swig of water; it helped a little, but not much.
“Well we should get going.” Said Manuel. “The patrol is probably still after us and they have night vision goggles.” We said our goodbyes and then started moving. Suddenly we heard a motor, and then a siren. The baby started crying. “Border patrol!” everyone said at the same time. I saw a rusty red pickup truck in the distance with two men motioning us to come over.
“Come on, hurry up, we still have a chance!” I yelled louder than I had ever before. Now we could see the lights flashing red and blue. We all started running. I tripped and Jorge pulled me up off the ground. My nose was bleeding. I don’t know how but we made it to the truck.
Jorge and I climbed onto the back of truck, Manuel climbed aboard just after us. Andrea and the baby couldn’t have been 15 feet away when the truck began to go. “We have to wait for them, they’re my family!” pleaded Manuel.
“We have to leave now, we can’t wait!” Said the driver. Manuel jumped off of the moving vehicle and scrambled over to his family.
We felt a deep sadness, and were very sorry for them. They would not make it to El Paso this time. Yet there was still hope for Jorge and me. With a little luck we could still make it to Santa Fe.