Refugees Edith and Alma with church lay worker Linda Hajek. Pho to by Chan Mc Dermo tt especially the week Lucas and Catalina were captured, in December of 1981. . . . The day they were arrested two bodies were found on the soccer field beheaded.” Catalina weeps. “Almost every night bodies were found along the road to San Salvador, four or five, and in the streets, in markets.” Catalina interrupts: “In front of the church.” I ask her what her life was like before the trouble began. “Life was very hard. The little Don Lucas made was not enough to feed and clothe the children and send them to school. I had a small bread business at home. Don Lucas was a foreman at a coffee plantation. We wanted to make sure that the children had the right kind of food so their memories would be good. . . . We had tortillas, beans, rice; no meat, no milk they were very expensive. Eggs and chickens sometimes because I raised them.” Lucas earned about $60 a month. She earned “very little.” The children’s school cost $17 a month. I ask Lucas if he thinks he will ever go home. “That is the idea. Once the situation composes, once there is peace and the revolution triumphs, God willing that would happen.” Ernesto says, “We miss everything, especially the place with all the people we lived with, the customs, the food it was poor but very distinctive. For years and years we were used to rice, beans, and tortillas a lot of times only beans. We miss being able to talk with people in our own language. The language here isn’t the same. At times we feel isolated. We can’t go outside and to the store; we can’t talk to people.” I ask if they dream of being home. “Muchas veces [many times].” And what if they can’t go back, I ask, what life do they expect? “Trying to survive,” Ernesto says, “always being aware to avoid the Immigration Service because we are illegal.” Lucas says, “With help from the church that can sustain us.” “If we are arrested,” Ernesto says, “we will be deported to El Salvador directly into the hands of the authorities, and we will all be killed because we are on the blacklist.” Luis has come into the room to listen to us and has fallen asleep on a chair. “The big damage has been done,” Ernesto says. “We are adults and somehow we can find a way wherever we are, but the children have practically gone backwards and their destiny has changed. . . . Luis often asks, ‘Why do we have to travel? Why do we have to move around so much? Why do we have to be afraid of being arrested?’ We don’t tell him anything because to tell him would be to hurt him more.” I ask if they think that the Salvadoran revolution will triumph. “Yes, we are sure,” says Ernesto. “We have a great faith in all of the people that want change.” Catalina says, “And because thousands of children need that change.” Ernesto goes on: “Nicaragua is a marvelous inspiration because the Nicaraguan people are like the Salvadoran people because they suffered for so many years until they were finally able to do away with the dictators. That served as an example and stimulation for El Salvador and Guatemala and all of Central America. . . I’m very aware that my role is to be in El Salvador. The problem .. . must be resolved there in the country by us, but our situation became so complicated that I, as the main support of my parents, had to take them with me . . . so they could eat. The idea was to find solidarity in Mexico and leave them there and return to El Salvador, but I was frustrated in that effort so I had to come further on.” THE NEXT morning, Patricia Ridgely, in her bathrobe, brews coffee for -me in the kitchen. “We eat together in the evening,” she says. “We work together in the house. The family wants to be doing this together. There’s no sense in starting a dependency situation; Central America comes out of a dependency situation. The family wants to share jobs gardening, painting, cooking. “When we’re driving around I’m more aware of the police cars. Why is it illegal to take care of people when they arrive with the clothes on their backs? This is against the law of the land?” Edith, Alma, and Luis, whom the family calls “Luicito,” come into the kitchen. Edith bends over a frying pan of potatoes, and Luis sits with Alma on a high stool, his arms wrapped around her. The kitchen is big; the refrigerator is full of leftover beans and vegetables in little pans, and on its door is a “November Community Calendar” for Dallas: Novmber 21, a program to help people “work through the responses” to the television film “The Day After”; November 30, a talk on the psychological effects of the nuclear arms race. “Why is it illegal to take care of people when they arrive with the clothes on their backs? I walk over to the main church building for mass. The hall outside the sanctuary is filled. The priest, Gollob, has a big, warm face. The Salvadoran family comes in, in a little cluster, and a woman grabs Alma to put her next to another two-year-old. They ignore each other. On the chairs in the sanctuary are envelopes that say “If you want peace, work for justice” and ask for a contribution to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The Salvadoran family sits near the back. Alma stands up in her chair and turns around to look at me. Above the altar is a small wooden cross and a felt banner that says, “Out of the chaos of learning to love.” Luis gets up and walks out of the room. Two church women give him big smiles. Today is the Thanksgiving 20 DECEMBER 23, 1983
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