Life Arts

Literature in a Locked Down Land

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Whose children labored beside them from an early age
in icy mud to mold the bricks to mix the clay
toenails rotted fungus growing on ever damp hands and feet
as ambulant vendors selling tacos fruit vegetables serapes
carved wooden statues carved stone statues white ceramic ducks
quartz pipes and bookends silver earrings hot dogs
as garbage pickers collecting metals cardboard bottles for recycling
as itinerant construction workers washers of windshields on myriad
corners singers on buses jugglers clowns ice pick swallowers
shoeshine boys dotting plazas sometimes selling glue or pingas
newspaper boys amidst the traffic which sometimes grinds them down
anything for a spare coin beggars without eyes without legs

Who malnourished never obtained full growth who poor could not pay
school fees books notebooks pencils crayons
though now there were schools unlike back on the ranchos
at least they learned to read some of them

Who built and build Acapulco Cancun Cabo San Lucas Mazatlan
Puerto Vallarta Cuernavaca tourist hotels the Hyatt the Hilton the
Westin the Lucerna the Continental Plaza the Fiesta Americana
World Trade Centers conference halls for businessmen and academics
shopping malls Plaza Mexicana Plaza del Sol Plaza Cachanilla
La Zona rosa hippodromes country clubs restaurants adorned with
Riviera murals and hanging plants in multi-colored ceramic pots
places they cannot enter and enjoy for lack of funds
lunch for one at the Rosarito Beach Hotel once a favorite haunt
of Hollywood stars costs one day's minimum wage no drink included
two beers at the Westin and the day's pay is gone
they build them then return
to their colonias perdidas their scrapwood dirt floored shacks
since 40 years or more ago until today

Who recycle metals cardboard newspapers collected in the local
dumps to national multinational companies
who gather dented cans of food thrown out from newly established
supermarket chains tomatoes oranges rotten on only one side
collected in the local dumps fishheads for fishhead soup thrown out by
the fish shop after filleting clothing discarded by those so better off
they have no one to hand the garments down to collected in the local
dumps a fork spoon mattress broken chair anything of human
use found in the local dumps up to now

Who rise early to make tacos burritos fruitades to sell to factory
laborers maquiladora workers who made it through primary school
at least

Who sometimes cross to U.S. cities to work in Taco Bell in Beverly Hills
gardens in L.A. N.Y. Miami garment factories Milwaukee Chicago Pittsburg Detroit

foundries in construction cleanup carwashes
gas stations as janitors busboys waiters gardeners maids
in old folks' homes in rich folks' homes
in the countryside to plant cultivate weed prune harvest lettuce
apples broccoli oranges peaches tomatoes grapes melons
cabbage onions still

Whose children will secure lots in newer squatter settlements
self-build housing pay one third of infrastructural costs in
installments for electricity running water sewage
buy bricks from the brickmakers still living on lonely isolated
unserviced brickyards their children still the family's labor force
like that of the peasants from which they sprang their children their
only welfare system

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Whose growth as those of parents grandparents is still stunted due
to lack of food though not as much as previously the population is
growing taller and more can read

Who will couple with daughters of fathers like their own see a movie
or two Predator Rocky III Robocop Superman Batman
Pretty Woman Deep Throat Fantasia Total Recall
dubbed in Espa ñ ol give them circuses if not bread
and the girls tint their hair yellow to look more like some Hollywood star
and spent their maquiladora savings on mini-skirts lipstick Clairol

Whose parents now have second hand television sets electric lights if
they have been extended to the newest squatters local politicians do
that now listen to music from cassette players bought with a
week's wages at the local tianguis or smuggled in when returning
from California fields Wisconsin factories Arkansas show horse
stables dance in someone's lot on Saturday nights to celebrate
quinceaneras baptisms bodas birthdays

Whose mothers gave birth without doctor's care whose wives now go
to the Red Cross free clinic or to the General Hospital erected for
those who have no steady formal sector job the IMSS is overflowing

Who will bring up children less of whom will die before the age of five

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Who are the only precious possession they will have of which they
cannot be deprived until later

Who will be unable to go to college but may complete ninth grade now
it became the law in '95 at least those can afford books
cuadernos uniforms shoes cuotas for new desks chairs a roof
a real floor take factory jobs become cashiers nurses aides
mechanics bank tellers if they study long enough paid for the week
what is paid across the border for a day that's why the multinationals
move there from the US from Japan from Germany

Who hope their children will continue the upward movement their past
four generations have described for many except those who dropped died gave up were

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William T. Hathaway's new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted at A selection of his writing (more...)

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