* * *
As I tell you the story of Miranda, 27, the protagonist, I believe she deserves a decent introduction and a few special moments under the spotlight.. There is a reason and you will know why… Soon!
“Hi, sorry I am not able to take your call now. This is Miranda, the maid of honor..! If you need help housekeeping, I am here for you! Call me at —.—.—-. Gracias, Have a good day!”
Miranda was no Ximena Navarrete, the 2010 Miss Universe and all those refried beans, fried chicken and white rice dinners had made her voluptuous around the waist, the girth of her breasts practically disappearing in sight from a side profile angle.. And as the message in her voice-mail suggests, she was bubbly and cheerful almost any time of the day.. At this time in her life, she felt like the days of hard labor, cleaning and other odd physically strenuous jobs were behind her.. And she was ready to settle down..!
Amador Guzman, 38, his 5 foot, stocky stature is further dwarfed by the thought of the lineage he belongs to – A macho male Latin American society, known for its unmatched reliability, harrowing drug wars and indisputably strong family ties.. Mexico, a country with a strong history of non-interventionism, even isolationism, mixed with what many Mexicans like to think of as a tradition of pacifism, especially in foreign affairs ***.. And he was much like his own Country in matters of ethics: Adapted a strict sense of non-interventionism, in the personal business of friends.. But if you needed help and asked for it so, he would do anything to help you!
Together they lived in a Colonias* in Chamblee, a suburb of Georgia where the population is 48%** Hispanic. A dilapidated house – rented out for 200$ from its owner – it was much more than a home that met the neighbors’ eyes.. It was a combination of homes – for Miranda, for her boyfriend Amador, her two children, his three kids from a wife who was now in Mexico, and two dogs, Diego and Chiquita..
One evening, Amador revved up his truck into the front lawn before bringing it to a stop.. He sat there for a few minutes while he counted cash that he made for the day, jumped out of the vehicle and made a quick dash into the house.. As Manuella and her younger sister painted each other’s nails, Javier looked over from their shoulders onto a small TV at the corner of the room.. Rafael rushed to his father and grabbed the cellphone out of his hands..
Nothing seemed to stop Amador, who headed for the back room of the two room house.. “Come inside and close the door!“.. Amador said as he seated himself at the edge of the bed, surfing his shirt pockets.. Tonight he seemed to be distracted, or he would have picked up on his usual taunting to keep up her appearance.. A day laborer like him expected to come to a beautiful wife, and not a tired, disheveled mother of his kids, he would often tell her.. As her heart wondered, her eyes fell on the perfume bottle that sat next to him on the rocky bed.. of course, it is payday this Friday she smiled to herself!
Amador unbuttoned his dirty white shirt and playfully began to sing, “Let’s get down, baby, let’s get down!“
“¿Qué estás cantando”.. “Ha ha” (Translation: “What are you singing?”.. “Ha ha”)
“Justin’s car stereo had this song playing all day and as I was driving with him around the city, this song stuck on my head“
Miranda was confused at Amador’s this often unpredictable behavior.. As a ruthless boss to his employees and as a tyrant to his children, she often found herself settling disputes among the different men that worked for him or pacifying his children to behave. But at nights, she was always made to feel like a queen, he would empty his pockets in front of her, he would encourage her to go to the department store to buy some nice fitting clothes for herself and so on.. And he seemed to all but forget about his wife in Mexico when he was with her.. And he never minced words when he told how much he loved her for taking care of him and their (his and his wife’s) 3 kids..
Whatever the kind of physical and psychological abuse she endured during the day from his domineering nature, she was quickly made to forget them in the bedroom.. And, for a modern day girl with ambitions, Miranda had come a long way in making her unique family situation work for her. When her boyfriend was murdered for his cash in his apartment and she was on the road penniless, Amador had taken her into his home and took care of her. Because of the standing he had in their Latin community in the city, she was noticed and respected!
And something about Amador’s personality made her stay.. While others would drink up their pay day earnings in cheap bars and motels, he always held a steady job, sometimes even two or three to support his family and sent his kids to school.. While others lamented how their fat ass bosses made them mow their lawns and clean up after them, he would keep reminding him that the house that he now lived in was still surprisingly more spacious than the over crowded, but scenic city of Puerto Vallarta where he had made a living running a tourist taxi, before he illegally crossed the border to make a better life for himself.
Heck, she thought, he was a 1000 times better than Jeandro next door, who after his wife got a job to work at the local Farmer’s market quit his job and stayed home all day doing drugs. He never respected Isabella and she would often hear her screams across the make shift wall that separated their two homes..
Amador worked for Justin, who had one day picked him up at the local Home Depot for helping him with some odd jobs for a day or two. That turned out to be a great partnership, and Amador soon found himself helping out Justin to do work around his father’s business of installing ATM machines around Atlanta. A once starving Amador who would explore the city on his two feet in search of work to feed his family for that day was now hiring and putting to work 10’s of men and women like him..
Even while he was making a lot of cash and creating employment for several others, he was making enemies with a few other competing day contractors.. He knew the risks and perks of being a leader in a community that was often targeted for its stereotypical cliches, so he never lost touch with ground reality. He told himself, he was not going to be known for petty quarrels or hot chillis, but felt like he was one of those 50 different kinds of Tequila flavors that he found at Justin’s father’s home – You know, the kind that went for the long haul..
A few months later, one night, Marsico walked inside her home with his head hung low. Miranda shrieked and yelled at the sight of him getting out of Amador’s rusty pickup truck..
“Donde se Amador? Donde se??!” (Translation: “Where is Amador? Where is he??!“)
Marsico, did not talk, he simply walked her to the back of the truck.. In the back were 3 heavy bags and at the bottom of the truck was a small mattress – what seemed like a baby mattress. He then told her, that evening Amador had called him and had requested him to pick up his truck that he had to abandon off of Route 10. He was now in the county jail as he had been taken into custody for suspicion of violating Federal laws by employing illegal immigrants.
She cried all night that night, but she soon realized that she had to gather all her strength.. With 6 mouths to feed, not including the one that was growing inside her, there was no time to reflect..
Later that week, she approached a Latino Public Defender and was able to finally reach Amador via phone. The evening he was arrested, he was bringing home a few old clothes and toys of Justin and Jessica’s children for their soon-to-be newborn.. He was elated to show off his loot to her because he knew how happy she would be to see so many baby toys and clothes.. He wanted to take her to movies that night, asking his eldest daughter Manuella, 11, to take care of the kids at home..
But as he headed home with a few of his workers along side, he was overtaken by a speeding truck from the right lane. Inside it was Miguel Ramirez, his long time nemesis with a smirk on his face staring at him as he passed by.. Moments after, a cop had pulled him to the side of the road and within minutes it was all over.. Miranda wept silently as she heard Amador speak at the other end, his voice bewildered and fearful at the thought of the horrifying prospects of deportation to Mexico..
Miranda was in the habit of losing.. First she lost her boyfriend to violence, now she lost her Amador to deceit.. But the next day, she got up, got dressed and asked Manuella to stay home as she had to go in search of employment.. That rainy day, she walked towards the same tree that she had come to known as the Árbol del Dinero, a term for the proverbial Money Tree as that is where all the day contractors grouped at 6 in the morning..
As she approached the Santa Fe Laundermat area, she could see the tree in the distance.. In a short distance, she spotted Miguel working his rounds as the sole contractor for all the day laborers and putting them to work one after the other.. On spotting her, someone shouted,
“Ella es ahora su novia, ¿no? Ha ha” (Translation: “She is now your girlfriend, right?! Ha ha“)
Miranda felt a sense of shame overcome her.. She had to be left with some self respect, didn’t she?! It was obvious Miguel set up the plan to get Amador arrested.. And now was the test of whether she was stronger than she perceived herself to be?! She stood motionless for a few minutes and started the trek back home.. She switched on Amador’s cell phone and recorded this personalized voice mail and got right to work..
“Hi, sorry I am not able to take your call now. This is Miranda, the maid of honor..! If you need help housekeeping, I am BACK and I am here for you! Call me at —.—.—-. Gracias, Have a good day!”
Moral of the story: The power of one’s inner strength is unknown until it stands tested.. Well, I just know.. Surprise yourself!!!
Disclaimer: The above story does not aim at expressing any point of views one way or another about the life, culture and sentiments of the Latin American people.. Also, it is not written to offend anyone from any other culture in any part of the world.. It is simply the story of a woman rediscovering her identity in the face of all odds.. !
Dedication: This one is for Lisa.. You have to read her to love her!
* Colonias: A section of American suburbs – that pop up in unincorporated areas around cities and towns and are defined by an absence of paved streets, numbered stree addresses, sidewalks, storm driainage , sewers, electricity, potable water, or telephone services..
** 48%: Not factual
*** Mexico, a country with a strong history of non-interventionism, even isolationism, mixed with what many Mexicans like to think of as a tradition of pacifism, especially in foreign affairs: Reference picked up from: http://www.economist.com/node/1608395