Page 12


a spectacular public debate on the subject of free public education in the McAllen high school football stadium. Hofheinz quent and sarcastic debatese. He sounded like William Jennings Bryan must have sounded in his Cross of Gold speech, while the little, wrinkled Hoiles croaked and looked like he was biting on an unsweetened Valley lemon. At ten cents a column inch I could afford to root for Hofheinz \(I was no ComImmigration officials, conceding it was pointless to deport wetbacks across the river if they would only swim right back again, hit upon an idea that outraged the entire Valley and gave the Monitor a popular course to support that quickly won everyone back. Wetbacks would be deported to detention camps across the river and from there transported by planes to the interior of Mexico so they couldn’t get back so easily. Such a scheme not only jeopardized the Valley’s economy and inhumane. The Monitor and its sister papers in Harlingen and Brownsville reported conditions in the “concentration camps” in the same terms used to describe the Japanese atrocities during World War II. They also pointed out, correctly enough, that alien families who had lived years in the U.S. unmolested, whose children were U.S. citizens, were being uprooted from their homes and jobs and packed off to distant Mexican cities where they would be friendless and jobless and helpless. Public schooling was forgotten as the newspapers and the public closed ranks in righteous opposition to the green-clad devils who were sweeping down on the helpless wetbacks. One banner headline in the Monitor read something like: WETBACK SHOT BY PATROL; LEFT TO DIE! Which was technically true. During a raid on a citrus farm a wetback ran off into a grove and a Patrolman decided to gamble a ten-cent .38 bullet on getting him back. It was a difficult shot and the Patrolman didn’t see him go down. Like a good loser he climbed into the car with his colleagues and their captives and drove off. The farm-owner, however, went into the grove to investigate, and found the boy lying in an irrigation ditch, badly wounded. Overnight he became a cause celebre. The performance was pretty dismal on both sides. On another occasion Border Patrolmen broke through a locked and posted gate to raid a suspected farm. Instead of wetbacks they found a fuming farmer with a shotgun who allowed that he was going to blow some trespassers clear off his property. The trespassers left on their own accord and charged him with assault, interference, and such things. His attorney hired me to take pictures of the gate and the scene of the encounter, and his peers acquitted him without much delay. By the time I left the Valley in 1954 to 8 The Texas Observer go to college the wetback was nearing extinction. A few survived on isolated farms and ranches as permanent help, but the migratory wetbacks, depended on to pick the seasonal crops, were too conspicuous to escape the Patrol’s suddenlyefficient efforts. The new Bracero program kept Valley crops from “rotting in the fields,” but Braceros weren’t as loyal and trustworthy and hard-working as the good old wetbacks, and also they cost After The Rain “Ehgaaascheeagh!” The Saturday afternoon sound floated through the broken window pane to the floor where little Serapio Dominguez, a dark boy with black hair and green eyes, busied himself with his broken toys. Hearing the sound, he arose from the floor, dusted his patched knees, and took a peek through the curtains, into the low room where his father was asleep and breathing heavily with his mouth wide open, a sock dangling from his foot. Serapio stepped back and pulled a chair to the broken window, softly, walking lightly on his bare feet. He sat there, looking across the stony front yard, to the huge mud puddle spread in the middle of the street. Up above, the clouds were still threatening and low and dark. But people were already coming out of their tiny shacks and lean-to’s, some without shirts, some wearing mud boots, barefooted children, all lining up along the fence across the street, next to the huge mud puddle. “Ehgaaascheeagh!” The sound was getting closer, the dogs were running wildly around, wagging their skinny tails, the children were clapping their hands, all eyes were looking anxiously toward the far corner of the street block. Suddenly, everything was silence. Two staggering figures turned into the street, arms on each other’s shoulders, carrying on a conversation with each other in exotic sounds and gestures. Their hats were pushed far back, exposing their thick locks of black hair. The small man with sharp features, Don Alejos Lupano, was making sweeping gestures with his loose arm, stopping only to scratch the large mole on his temple. Vicente Severo was nodding assent thoroughly, holding his finger on his small mouth. As they staggered closer the dogs started chasing and barking, the children clapped gleefully, the neighbors stood by, trying to look indifferent with their arms crossed. Manuel Rico is 28 and works in San Antonio. He writes what he describes as “fiction based on typical events that happen in our sector.” more. They kept the cotton farmers in business just long enough to equip themselves with cotton-picking machines. The last word I heard on that subject, on a trip to the Valley several years ago, was that the mechanical cotton pickers were teaching a lesson to those people who would tell a man how much to pay his help. They’ve since realized, too, how wrong they once were about Mr. Hoiles. Lupano and Vicente, trudging through the muddy street, staggering and teetering, seemed not to notice the people, the dogs, or the clapping. Don Vicente suddenly closed one eye and quickly tried to clear it with his open hand, as if whatever had got into his eye was very discomforting. Suddenly, Don Lupano shoved Don Vicente into the mud. The Saturday five p.m. fight was on. At the broken window little Serapio Dominguez watched, fascinated at first, then clapping and shouting and urging them on. Lupano jumped into the puddle, landing with his fists flying on top of Vicente. Vicente was kicking and snorting the mud out of his nostrils. He grabbed a fistful of hair on Lupano’s head and rolled his arm over Lupano’s head and neck. Lupano shoved his elbow into Vincente’s stomach, and Vicente rolled over. Lupano flew at him but a kick caught him on the chin. They took up again, sloshing around, circling each other like fighting roosters, wiping the mud from their faces, glaring and snorting at each other. . . . The crowd of onlookers were hysterical, jumping like water dropped on a hot plate. At the broken window Serapio was ecstatic, laughing and shouting. Suddenly, he heard a voice from behind. “What are you doing there?! You get away from that window this instant.” Serapio took one look at his father and scrambled from the wood chair. His father looked at the clock ticking on the clothes chest and snapped his fingers in disgust. “Darn it. I must get a new alarm clock. I overslept.” Still shaking his head he hurried to the window and sat down. He started laughing and shouting. . . . Serapio returned to the floor, knowing in his heart that when Don Vicente had closed his eye he was really winking at Don Lupano, giving him the signal that it was time to entertain their people. Vicente It was Friday night inside of dim No Te Rajes Bar, and Vicente Rodriguez Zaragoza was sitting with his long legs stretched across the narrow aisle. His calloused hand gripped the neck of the brown jumbo bottle of beer. His left fist lay clenched on top of the seat back-rest, and like the rest of Vicente, and the other 13 Stories by Manuel Rico