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“There’s a Country That Pains Me” by Margarita Hernández Contreras
Photo: Mexican Politics
I write this letter for the current government officials of Mexico and to its four presidential candidates. I don’t think I ever believed in the possibility of freedom of expression for me. What a privilege!
Many kids, probably millions, do not have happy days in the country that pains me. Many have to go out into the world, small and defenseless. Some do so ordered by their mothers; others, out of their own initiative. They climb into public buses hoping passengers will deposit coins into the palm of their dirty, scrawny dark brown hands. Others will sing for coins and others will sell gelatins, and still others improvise with whatever talent they might posses. When they get home they give their mom their meager, sad earnings and then watch their drunk father continue drinking and turn vicious and violent toward them and toward her. It’s from her, that they quickly learn that they must stay really really quiet until his storm passes. They don’t say an “ouch” but hot tears do embarrassingly push and drop from in between their tight eyelids.
Ay, the sorrow I feel for these children!
For old and young alike life is rarely kind in the country that pains me. People make a risible amount of money for a day’s work, money that people in the country I call home could not accept.
Life is so unfair that things one considers a given, precisely because of our human condition, do not come easily in this country that pains me; things like a bed; things like a day with three square meals; things like an eight-hour work day fairly paid; things like water and bread and a shower. Millions of inhabitants in this country that pains me do not live like me in this country I call home, with my cute little house, my nice little car, with all the utilities needed to live a dignified and decent life. But most of all, so many of the children in this country never feel loved or cared for. This so utterly pains me that I ask, How do we let this happen, especially to children? Are the people in this country’s government so heartless and inept that they so easily lose track or do not care how millions of their children live, without a proper education, physical and creative activities and nutritious meals to make them grow in beauty, talent, grace and health? How and why do they stop caring? Are these kids (let me call them ours), are our children not entitled to love and milk and diapers, to sleep deeply and grow healthy, do they not deserve to be cuddled and to be sung sweet lullabies in Spanish (a la rurru niño, a la rurru ya, duérmete mi niño, duerméteme ya)?
The people in this country that pains me are sick and tired of being absolutely sick and tired of this unfair and long endured status quo. Now the masses are beginning to come together and are saying, “Enough, you idiots! We’re tired of you so blatantly lining your pockets with our hard work and contributions to this country, taxes you apparently think are yours for the taking. Enough! This being fed up cannot even be named, so just call us one-two-three or one-three-two, call us “We The People”. And stop thinking we’re just kids out here in the streets. It’s all of us, it’s everybody, we’re in foreign countries, many of us maybe feeling exiled and displaced by your inability to contain and satisfy our most legitimate needs. We’re quietly going to work and blogging in to that Nothing that is the Internet and the social networks, that Nothing where we nonetheless all converge to mock you, you governing fools! We are everywhere, we are here. I am here crying in anger and desperation, I am wishing upon you the wrath of God like I’ve never wished it upon anybody in my existence. I am wishing his wrath on you, but I am also imploring his grace on the cojonuda gente (like Benedetti calls us), asking him to save us from the continued likes of you. Stop eating up the country, sucking its wealth and riches for your personal benefit. Take the millions you have already stolen and go. Leave this country alone.”
Because in the country I want to remember and bring back to life the most real thing are its people. People that go to work or to school every day, just to make sure the country keeps running and to make sure it knows we know its noble purpose: the wellbeing of its people, all its people.
In this country I remember and I want back, many women stay home, I know, but of course, they are never idle. They stay behind to make the home floors shine and to keep their plants alive, lush and green, to wash (and wash by hand if needed) all their family’s laundry, and to iron too. Then they walk among the street market stands to buy their produce of reds and greens and whites so they can cook the midday meal and prepare dinner for their loved ones. These women’s hands, always damp and in flight, are busy and hard-working hands. It’s the hands of these women that lift the men of this country, its children, so they can produce and learn, so they can generate the richness they have a right to. Women are the grace of the soul that defines this country; among them I can see the hands of my sister and of my octogenarian mother.
In school, children try to sit quietly and show that they can obey their teachers. Most of them are captivated by their brains’ miraculous ability to learn and grasp things that are not readily available in their immediate reality, things like numbers, but that with the proper instruction from their teachers they can build this fantastical world in their minds. The same thing happens when the teachers talk to them honestly about the past, things that happened hundreds, maybe thousands! of years ago; they happened to people from whom they are told they come from but to whom they almost don’t even look like anymore. It’s magic I tell you! It’s hard to understand that if you want to understand the present sometimes you have to look far, far away into the past.
Still, the highlight of their school day is recess where all their pent-up energy of the morning bursts forth in silly games and gales of unstoppable laughter that make God smile in delight.
Don’t talk to me about your organized crime, your narcs and how you cannot offer your citizens a decent and safe living to the point that so many parents feel they must migrate north, risking their lives, forsaking their families. The list of your failures and ineptitudes grows and multiplies anyway you look at it. Don’t get me started on our beaches, forests and trees, our jungles and our weather and your reckless and irresponsible lack of environmental education. And don’t blame the people, please. People are busy trying to live on the nothing they make and to not die in the intent, how can they worry about our environment’s and generations’ future? For once, be accountable for your failures.
I don’t care what initials you go by, pri, pan, prd, panal, I don’t care. What I care about and what I demand is that for once in your life you show yourselves to be evolved beings and that you display a strict sense of moral, I demand it come July 1. And moving forward. It’s time for the heroes to stand. Theirs is the moment. If you can’t be one, clear the way, because they’re on your heels.
Margarita Hernández Contreras
ATA-Certified English to Spanish Translator