By Alberto Moreno, El Hispanic News
I dreamed him last night — walking into a mango grove with a hoe over his shoulder. It is morning and the early fog swallows him up so that my dreaming mind cannot follow him. He is an old man now. My father. And he is back in the old country. His cheeks begin to shrink into the bone and crevices of his face. His Adam’s apple sags as if the apple were not there anymore. He has a grove in my dream which he has planted, in this season of his life.
In my dream he lives in the butterfly fields. This is his dying place. Just outside of Morelia, next to the butterfly sanctuary.
Every year millions of them migrate here. The butterflies. They are like us. They travel thousands of miles over mountains, through deserts, across rivers. Before they return home to die. My sister imagines him a custodian of butterflies. This is how she dreams him.
Whenever I speak to him over the phone, I listen. Trying to make out, to see if I can hear the butterflies in the forest. Clinging, fluttering, mating, molting, dying.
I see him walking to the stream with a bucket, which he then carries back to water his small trees one by one. And I can see in my mind’s eye his right arm, which he drags behind him like some useless, unwanted appendage.
He told me one time he still feels them. The fingers. Which are not there anymore.
It happened at the Fillip Metal Cabinet Company, on the west side of Chicago. He was a “Ponchpresman,” he would tell you. For 20 years. His job was to feed this giant, grunting machine sheets of metal that a massive cylinder would then punch into metal cabinets. He did this, day in and day out. Then one day, working a double shift, he became lost in the dance with the machines and did not remove his hand quickly enough. And the 10-ton cylinder came down on his right hand, crushing and then severing his five fingers from his right hand.
God takes his time to collect his pound. America, too.
Mr. Fillip Metal Cabinet Company gave my father $5,000 for his five fingers. And Papa, well, it is important to tell you that he bought us our first house. Made of bone and flesh.
To make it up to us, I think. For the hunger. For the promises he kept and did not keep. For other things, too. When he left us in that abandoned bodega made of mud and straw. To come to this country.
Pero, 20 years later he bought us a house at 2049 N. Lavergne. And it made all the difference.
We said goodbye to the roach-infested tenement building on Erie Street. A one-bedroom without a bathroom for the seven of us.
And I said goodbye to the Latin Kings, to boxing and the violence of that place forever. And I never looked back.
My father purchased, with hard work and his five fingers, a different life for us.
I tell you this because as this nation takes this month to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, as I stood at the state capitol with our Governor as he affixed his signature proclaiming our many contributions, I want to celebrate our fathers. In their many imperfect forms.
They give up so much to bring us to this place. To bring us forward.
We give up so much to come here. Culture as ancient as the pyramids. Our mother’s tongue, first spoken to us while we were in her iron-deficient womb. And our gods, too. We leave them behind. Because they do not have papers. They cannot come with us and we must abandon them. They become inconsolable, our gods, like our children whom we must, much too often, also leave behind.
Why then do we come here if we lose so much?
We come here to this great country because we believe in the promise of America. Because we believe in the promise of this Great State.
A promise which I saw this past week as I entered the doors of this great hall. A promise which is carved on the very walls of our state capitol.
A promise that “Oregon’s Resources Shall be Justly Apportioned for All.”
Not for some. Not solely for the majority or the most powerful. But for all of us. Black, white, or brown.
That is why we come here. Because we believe in Oregon’s promise of equality for all.
This article is dedicated to José Carmen Moreno y Rafaela Moreno Martínez.
Este artículo también está disponible en / This post is also available in: Spanish
Short URL: http://www.elhispanicnews.com/?p=4688