Traditionalists voted to revoke electricity, but it was far too late for that. No woman in town would give up her refrigerator, her electric fan, or her electric iron. So the men started to go el norte.
Karate, Tía Irma insisted, was good for the legs. Power on the field. But Nayeli was not fooled. To La Osa, life and love were war, and she expected Nayeli to win as many battles as possible.
Aunt Irma wanted her to beat up men.
A man like Tacho had to learn to survive in Mexico, and he had learned to re-create himself in bright colors, in large attitudes, thus becoming a cherished character. If you wanted to achieve immortality, or at least acceptance, in Tres Camarones, the best thing to do was become an amazing fixture. It was very macho to be a ne'er-do-well, even if you were gay.
"We are Mexicans," Irma informed the fruit seller—needlessly, he felt. "Mexicans eat corn and beans. Did you notice? The Aztec culture gave corn to the world, you little man. We invented it! Mexicans grow beans. How is it, then, that Mexicans cannot afford to buy and eat the corn and beans they grow?"
"These illegals come to Mexico expecting a free ride! Don't tell me you don't have Salvadorans and Hondurans in your school, getting the best education in the world! They take our jobs too [...] What we need is a wall on our southern border."
He never said he wished he'd had a son, though she could tell he thought it often.
"They took my house from me!"
She stood there in her tattered nightgown and curlers.
"Can I sleep here?" he asked.
Irma had only been in charge of the town for scant days, and already the troubles were starting.
"You will see," Irma said. "The Americanos are kind. Friendly people. Generous people. They have quaint customs—they aren't really, shall we say, sophisticated like we are. You can't drink the water—it will give you diarrhea. But it's very clean there. Good food. You'll see."
She was so disturbed that it gave her the strangest comfort, as though something she had suspected about life all along was being confirmed, and the sorrow she felt in her bed at night was reflected by this soil.
Nayeli looked at the migra agents through the iron mesh. Big men. Happy, bright-faced men. Shiny and crisp. Green uniforms. Short hair. Mustaches.
What made them different from her?
She could not tell.
Nobody but Nayeli's gang was on a quest to protect and repopulate their villages. They were there for food, to send money home. These invaders, so infamous on American talk radio, were hopeless and frantic with starving compulsion.
The border was an abstraction to them at best. Many citizens of Tijuana crossed it every day […] Hundreds of women walked through the Immigration turnstiles and boarded the red trolleys that fed them into the hills and valleys of San Diego, where they vacuumed and dusted and wiped out toilets and cooked grilled-cheese sandwiches in the homes of other women who could afford to hire people to do their household chores for them.
"You are there to collect Mexicans," Irma reminded her. "Don't fall in love with that missionary!"
"And don't screw him, either. If you give him the milk for free, why would he buy the cow?"
"Don't bring me any damned American surfers. And don't bring me any American babies. Bring me Mexicans."
Only when she was back in Tres Camarones did Irma hear from Chava's mother that he had impregnated an American woman […] Chava was marrying her.
That was the end of Irma, that day.
La Osa, her alter ego, appeared in all her relentless glory to inspire chagrin and penance in the homeland.
Suddenly, Nayeli said, "I still want to find my father."
Idly, Tacho said, "Why would he want to go back?"
"Me," she replied.
"Ay, m'ija," he sighed. "All they need is a few hot-air balloons to make it perfect here." Ahead of them, a hot-air balloon rose." "Oh," he said. "America wins every time."
On the radio, they heard many angry Americans with loud voices saying Mexicans were unwanted, and immigrants carried disease and harbored terrorists. English only, the AM shouters boomed; English was the official language of America.
"Where are you from, por favor?" Nayeli asked.
"Colorado," she replied.
"But...qué es la palabra...original?"
"You get out of here. Illegals. What about the rest of us? What about us, cabrones? I came here LEGALLY! You hear that, LEGAL. You criminals come in here, make me look bad? I'm sorry, but you have to leave. Get out!"
"Please? The sign say six thousand pounds of dog. Of the pradera!"
The woman said, "Oh. The big giant prairie dog." She leaned forward. "It's a lie. It's made of cement."
[…] Tacho went out to the minivan and massaged his forehead.
Nayeli jumped in and said, "Just in time."
She was baffled when he announced, "It is all a cruel illusion."