Los Banditos

February 17, 2008
By Jamie Applegate, Coalinga, CA

It was a chilly night in Washington, D.C.; a steady breeze lifted off the Potomac and crawled down the boulevards of the stifled streets. The light chatter of the boys and the girls in the corduroy jackets intermingled with the strains of calliope music and deep laughter and the ever present sense of awe that pervaded the scenery and the tangible sense of history that surrounded the capitol. Lincoln sat quietly surveying the city, watching the heart of his country throb and pulse, occasionally slowing but never stopping. The boy and the girl were innocuous, blending with the other members of their club, the hundreds of other Ag kids and teacher that came to pay dues to their past. Sitting huddled on the steps, gazing towards the Washington Monument reflected lazily in the gazing pool, they admired the full October moon floating nonchalantly in the winter sky. The boy’s face filled with admiration, happiness, and sadness and tears saturated his dark, Latino face, betraying his normally rugged and terse outer shell. This boy wept and the girl embraced him. This boy who had been branded an illegal, an outsider, an alien, unwanted cargo, who had been beaten and berated mentally, trodden upon and overlooked, who had seen the worst of America, whose accent was thick and whose heart was large, this boy cried on the shoulder of the unknowingly privileged, cried because he had seen the great side of America, cried in the shadow of the Great Emancipator. This boy cried for a country who rarely cried for him. He cried for our heart. After all, what’s more American than beauty buried in the muck?

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