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Friday, July 13, 2012

Guerrero Then and Now (part one)

Three girls, two of them twins the age of eleven, the other, only ten, are cousins. They sleep on a wide canvas cot stretched on a frame with tall wooden legs under a thin cotton sheet. The summer stars stand guard over them on the path behind the kitchen between their grandmother's sugar cane patch and her orchard of peaches, fig and orange trees.
Next door the neighbor's radio plays ranchera music on the station from Monterrey, 150 miles to the north. Ranchera music is the exact opposite of American pop, whether you like it or not. The twins, Artie and Alice, show their younger cousin Linda how to play loteria earlier that evening, sharing their bottle cap collection with her, and chuckling to themselves about when long ago, last summer, they used to play the game using dried up pinto beans instead of bottle caps. "It is and it isn't like bingo," they explained to Linda as she scooted forward to see better on the chair around the neighbor's kitchen table.

After loteria and before their showers and brushing their teeth, the girls crouch under a street lamp in front of their grandmother's house. The cement under their feet is still warm from the baking summer sun. The concrete has a shiny surface laced with curly imprints made from shells as tiny as the nails on the little toes of the girls' feet. At the base of the lamppost mounds of sand rise to make a home for ants and other insects drawn to the light in the night sky. That night as the cousins quiet down and stop giggling and gossiping, Linda dreams she and her twin cousins are giants hovering over their circus-animal sand lions, poking at their hill top homes with thin blades of grass to get them to come out and perform.

The world the cousin live in is invisible to the old people, their parents, aunts and uncles and grandmother. The girls speak tomeach other in pig Latin English and also the very different Spanish variety of pig Latin. They talk endlessly about boyfriends and music that is on the car radio.  When the cousins arrived to Texas, after the uncomfortable hellos and hugs were over, Linda would ask her uncle to let her listen to the radio in his station wagon so she could hear the songs they brought from the Arizona radio stations.

The adults are necessary nuisances. They are bossy and always right, and that is only the beginning. They talk all the time and about the most boring things no one cares about like old times at the ranch and the old Guerrero that was flooded over for the new lake and the dam. That is boring and meaningless to the cousins, but it gets worse. There is Tia Marta.

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