La caja de fósforos
Aurelio carried a box of matches in his backpack. He was told by seven men dressed in military gear or police uniforms or some version of authoritarian and fearful attire, to give up his matches because they knew he would use them against los gringos.
“Que, va a usar esos alfileres de fuego contra los gringos; este más bien quiere llevárselos para la fogata que hará en su camino, ¿o no?”
Aurelio took out a pack of cigarettes from his jeans. Ah, that is why he needs them. The men left Aurelio alone and laughed mockingly as he left. He kept walking on the gravel road behind a row of houses he remembered living in once.
“Apúrate mijo, que nos queda bastante por llegar.”
Mijo was José, the one son Aurelio had left. José was ten, or soon to be. His birthday was in the weeks coming and he wondered how a gringo birthday would be. José knew that their walk would be long and exhaustive, but he did not know exactly why he needed to leave his family. Aurelio never told him that the house of el tío Raúl, el primo Carlos, la hermana Raquel y su mamá Lupe had been raided. He feared for his life and the life of José when he found out what had happened. No explanation. No note left. Nothing. Nada.
Aurelio took his matches out. It was their twenty-third day walking. José took a bite off the sandwich la tía Rosalinda prepared in tears and angst before saying goodbye for a long time, forever. It was such a great sandwich that José left three bites left for later, when the last bus they needed to take would send them to el sueño, the dream. Aurelio sat down on the twelfth row to the left of the bus. José sat next to him and saw silent tears coming down his father’s eyes.
“Lloro porque me emociona ver tantos niños como tu también queriendo buscar la felicidad y la libertad.”
The bus door closed. All eighty-nine children and adults were on board.
“Papeles. Muéstreme sus papeles.”
Aurelio awoke to the deep sound of a man in military gear or police uniforms or some version of authoritarian and fearful attire, demanding he show him his documents. In the midst of his search, Aurelio realized José was gone.
“¡¿Dónde está mi hijo? ¿José? ¡¿Dónde está mi hijo?!”
A border patrol officer forcibly removed Aurelio’s backpack and jacket, and with the aid of another guard, Aurelio was handcuffed.
“¡¿Dónde está mi hijo?!”
A feeling of blacking out dawned on Aurelio. He felt weak and desperate. Struggling to get away only got him hit and bruised. He realized José was gone. His only hijo was gone.
“Lo que daría por tener esos fósforos para encender todo esto. ¡Se llevaron a mi hijo!”
The images, the videos, the recordings, and the stories of the hundreds of children/niños forcibly removed from their parents or guardians is not only disturbing, but absolutely unacceptable. The United States’ long-standing racist policies towards immigrants and refugees continues to criminalize certain bodies. I believe collective trauma is real, and demands our attention just as a single match can bring light in the darkness.