Surprise in the Mesquite

She rose from the mesquite bushes as I approached the highway just north of the Mexican border. Short, dark-skinned, wearing a black skirt and sweater, thick socks and sandals. She was wrapped in a rebozo, a shawl, of black and purple. And tucked into that rebozo was a small child.

She held out her hand to me, a gesture of request. A plea.

I stopped. This was not a woman from the neighborhood out for a morning stroll.

In the more Castillian Spanish of southern Mexico, she asked for food. For her child. She’d been walking for days, she said, carrying the child, and hadn’t eaten. The only food she’d found she’d given to her daughter.

Though I knew she’d crossed the border illegally, what could I do? A young woman with a baby, in the desert. Asking for food.

I gave her the lunch I’d packed just a few minutes earlier, a few energy bars I kept in the car, and a bottle of water I had along. Then I handed her all my money less what I’d need to buy lunch at work that day. Buena suerte, I said to her as I eased away. Good luck.

This was nearly twenty years ago, and I still can’t get her out of my mind.

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8 Comments

  1. I can understand you didn’t forget her. Poverty is such a cruel thing, and I am glad you gave her something to eat. But to improve the world we need political change in so many countries. Now more than ever.

    Reply

  2. Oh, Bente. I so agree that we need political solutions.
    Today in the US, children fleeing violence in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are showing up at our southern border.
    I have witnessed first hand the violence in these countries. I understand why the children are leaving, why their parents send them. And it is awful.
    Interestingly, while many along the border call for military help (guns against children!!), in other parts of the country churches and individuals are preparing to house and assist the children.
    Such different reactions. I am amazed.

    Reply

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