Cacahuates

  1. My mother has always loved nuts. Her favorites are peanuts. She never had to tell me that she loved them, it was always obvious. I never asked her why, or wondered why. Frankly, living in Georgia, a place semi-known for its peanuts I figured it was something she grew to enjoy, but today I learned my mother's love of peanuts began in Mexico.
  2. My mother is an immigrant from El Salvador. My mother grew up with six other brothers and sisters. Three boys and three girls, in that order. During my mothers pre-teens years in El Salvador the air whispered of war.
  3. From my mother I've learned to conceal my emotions so fully I'm a question mark in most people's minds. No one really knows what I'm feeling and I owe that to my mother. It is both a blessing and a curse. A curse because this makes it very difficult for me to get my mother to open up and tell me her stories. I know she has them.
  4. Today the moment just seemed to present and open itself up. I was helping her prepare a typical Salvadorean dinner, (huevos, frijoles, quedó al orno, y tostadas) and the conversation seamlessly steered its way to my mother and her journey.
  5. She tells me the family that had received my Tio when he first arrived to the United States had lost their father. His wife needed help around the house. My Tio called and he sent for the oldest sister, she refused. The oldest reserves the right to say no. Having no choice my mother's journey to America began.
  6. She was to become the help to another family. She was thirteen.
  7. My mother was aware that she was going to the United States but she wasn't aware of its significance. She would journey with my Abuelito and a family member of the deceased.
  8. My mother had never set foot outside her cantón. They first had to go to San Savlador, the capital, where my Abuelito bought her shoes. She told me they were ugly and she didn't want to wear shoes. She told me she didn't see why she had to. She was used to being barefoot.
  9. At the capital they had to get my mother a passport and a visa to enter Mexico. For some reason, it was taking longer than necessary and so they had to stay in the capital for longer than intended. I didn't ask why she needed a passport or a visa. I was scared that interrupting her would silence her.
  10. She tells me she doesn't remember the trip from El Salvador to Mexico. Either she's erased it from her mind too traumatic to revisit or her early age didn't realize its significance and forgot to store it. She tells me when in Mexico there was another lag, their coyote was caught up in other business and she they stayed in a hotel for two weeks.
  11. My abuelito sent my mother out on food runs telling her, "pídele tacos, pero sin chile." My mother ordered the tacos and when she asked for no chile the women said to her, "y tú de dónde eres que no quieres chile?" My mother being young and unaware that revealing her origins could get her sent back replied, "El Salvador."
  12. Upon her return she told them que la mujer asked where she was from. They replied, "No no, you don't tell anyone you're from El Salvador. They could send us back." Still, my mother tells me she told a man typing on a machine she didn't have a name for, all about the journey she was taking. Telling him where she came from and where she was headed.
  13. She tells me she'd escape from her hotel room. Leave, and it was here that she first tastes mandarins. Their tough exterior making the juicy center even more delicious. She tells me about the peanuts.
  14. They were an afterthought, a forgotten memory, remembered. The way she talked about them, it was like she has rediscovered them. She discovered peanuts in Mexico. She would buy them shelled, removing the shell and shoving the peanut pairs into her mouth. Something she had never seen before in her 13 years of life became her secret refuge.
  15. Once the coyote arrived he drove them to the airport, again I didn't understand where the airport came into play. She tells me the family member of the deceased went ahead and made his way onto the plane. My abuelito, my mother and the coyote were detained. Qué suerte. However, immigration found themselves in a strange situation.
    The plan was my mother would take a plane and cross into the United States that way. For some reason I had completely dismissed the potential of crossing the border by plane, because today pulling that off seems nearly impossible.
  16. My mother was underage and therefore couldn't be held, so immigration had to release both my abuelito and my mother. At this point it was clear they were supposed to take the plane over to the United States, my Tio waiting for them at Houston Hobby. Instead, they took a taxi. The man drove them straight to my Tio's apartment in Texas.
    I don't know how this ride seemed to simple and straightforward. Why book a flight if driving straight across was an option? I don't know, I didn't ask.
  17. As the sun rose she could finally see the road from her seat in the back. She says she could see puddles up ahead, however once the car reached the location of those puddles they had already disappeared. My mother showing me her face of wonder and disbelief. She had never seen the effects of heat on pavement, one thing El Salvador lacked.
  18. She tells me the night of their arrival, at my tio's apartment located in front of a gas station she was went straight to the woman's house she was to become the help of. She never visited the apartment my Tio lived in. She tells me it was an apartment where men lived. I am thankful for the Tio's protective nature.
  19. She tells me that two weeks later my abueltio left and returned to El Salvador never to return. She stayed, obviamente. She says this as she unscrews the top of a bulk size peanut jar and pops a few in her mouth.