A man named Ángel

Last night a man Suegra knows showed up on our doorstep. His name is Ángel. He entered the house shyly, apologizing for disturbing us, and only sat down in the living room at our insistence. “I’m not here to stay,” he said, “I only have something I’d like you to bring with you back to El Salvador, to deliver to my family,” he said to Suegra.

So as not to be rude, I sat down, too. I was only being polite, was anxious for him to leave so I could get back to the kitchen where a pot of Sopa de Res simmered. Suegra and Ángel began to talk though and within minutes I forgot about the soup, becoming completely lost in his story. He stayed for over an hour, and during that time I came close tears. His story is not unique, which makes it sadder still. If you don’t have the opportunity to meet someone like Ángel, allow me to introduce you. The following was inspired by him.

Ángel

Ángel,
deserving of the name,
works another day in the factory
the acrid chemicals burn his lungs
the scent of hot melted plastic
made into fancy bathtubs for rich people.
He sends money to his family in El Salvador,
even as he coughs up blood.

He finds work in a kitchen instead,
worries the bathtub factory has already taken years off his life,
(“pero ójala que no” and “Primero a Dios” he says)
At the restaurant, he washes dishes in hot soapy water,
and talks like a Mexican,
“No por vergüenza,” he says, “Pero, sólo que los Mexicanos no me joden, entiendes?”
And with his raw red hands,
he sends money to his family in El Salvador,

He works and sleeps, doesn’t have a girlfriend like some men he knows.
“I’m not like that,” he says, showing us a photo of his family.
With the money he sends to El Salvador,
a nice house has been built, in a neighborhood with no pandilleros,
a house where his children are growing up without him,
and his wife sleeps alone, (he hopes.)

Sometimes in the middle of the night
he remembers his journey through the desert years ago,
the days were hot-hot,
and the nights cold-cold,
but nothing is colder than this quiet apartment in the United States,
just a place to sleep before another day of work,
so he can send money to his family in El Salvador.

Posted on October 1, 2010, in Corazón, Familia, immigration, Salvadoreños, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Beautifully said!
    I hear stories like these every day at work and they still leave me with un nudo en la garganta :(

  2. Reminds me of a Pakistani man I met in Cordova, Spain last year: http://aishaiqbal.blogspot.com/2009/09/cordova-loneliness-that-spans-centuries.html

    Loneliness and longing for ones family while being unable to return for the sake of ones family must be the most cruel double edged sword there is.

    • @ Aisha – Thank you for sharing that post. I too often forget that this situation is not unique to just Latinos in the United States, but immigrants from all over the world and living all over the world. As for the “double edged sword”, very well said.

  3. @customcreative

    Unfortunately I have known many like Ángel, and it breaks my heart every time. It distresses me that instead of garnering respect for their sacrifices and work ethic, they are perceived by some as the enemy, as a problem to get rid of. So sad…

  4. It’s admirable, hardworking men and women like this that are a majority of the minority. Yet so many people are so ready to close the door (or kick them back out the door) without knowing any of their stories.

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