Evelyn Rocha Marta Castillo Pho tos by Alan Pog ue At Piedras Negras, the Rocha family was given bus tickets to a smaller Mexican town and a map with directions to walk for about five hours to a point where the coyote again would meet them. Somehow, on a summer afternoon in 1983, they were reunited with Wilfredo Rocha in Eagle Pass. Samuel Rosales, a wiry 15-year-old with dark curly hair and a deportment that betrays his campesino past, was obviously ill at ease speaking before a group of American junior high school students. After several false starts, and with a little gentle prodding from social studies teacher Tom Webber, he began his story. When the translator signaled for a pause, the child’s sigh was audible, almost visible. “I left Salvador because the comandante told me that next year I would go to the army. I didn’t want to go to the army. A friend, two years older than me, from my town, went to the army and after six months came home crippled. I didn’t want to be like him; I didn’t want to be a soldier.” For American junior high school boys, this story is the right stuff: tales of adolescent soldiers. A flurry of questions begins. “How old do you have to be to go into the army? What happens if you don’t go? Who is the army fighting? Where are they fighting?” . With the help of a translator, the boy takes the questions one by. one. By 1 45 or 16 years of aged everyone is fighting, either for the government or the guerrillas. It does no good to avoid the army. If they catch you “he had been told, you might be killed! And -he had no work. He had attended school for six months during his 14 years in Auhuachap4 The school in his village, he explained:, had Lreen destroyed’ Again, the social studies teacher who organized die panel’ discussichr intercedes. “Samuel, do yclu want to share with the class what happened` .tQ your family?” For this group of Americin junior high students, the folklore of Uorror of Central America’s wars is abdut to be spelled out by a 15-year-old; who has just put one foot onto a chair aild slowly leaned forward. “My brother and my two uncles were killed. One night, they came to our house and took us. They sent me ba4. Later, one of the neighbors told us where we could find the bodies.” As he speaks, the, muscles in his neck and lower face fight a battle against the muscles in his upper face. His mouth twists;then his eyes fill with tears. “But we could only find two of them, the next day, marked where the bullets had hit them.” Asked who had committed the killings, he replies,’ el escuadron .de muerte the death sqUad. In Salvador, you can pay or order people to kill. Before leaving El Salvador, his family had learned who had committed the: killings. Samuel explained that his father had also been killed years before. After the recent killings, his family decided to join a sister in Austin, who had fled the country after their father’s death. With his mother, brother, and two sisters, Samuel lives in a South Austin apartment. Marta Castillo is a 14-year-old Guatemalan, who in two yeafs had acquired a second language and a place in the junior honor society. In cautious:.and halting English, she describes her father desperately searching for an older sister after a bomb destroyed.a power plant and blacked out all of Guatemala City. While driving across town to the university, her father was pressed into service by the military. ‘or much of the night he transported wounded soldiers to a local hospital. After he found his daughter at the university, they spent the rest of the night evading authorities. Past curfew, in Guatemala . City in a car stained with blood, Gustavo Castillo knew that he looker pore like a terrorist than a desperate father. “The next morning my father came home. His clothes and his car were covered with blood. If they found him, they could have shot him. In Guatemala, e when they think you are a terrorist, it is very bad. “My father decided he wanted a safer place for us. In Guatemala, a kind of war had started in the country and was coming to the city. This is why we come here. For political reasons, and economic reasons. And we want to get a better education. But the important reason is because in our country it is not very safe to live.” . :. t A,.. dolescence, I wan’ recently told by the Viennese-Mexican psynot exist in Centel America as it does here, except among children of the most privileged class. \(Like the midlife crisis, I suspect it is largely a cultural inven, the age of 1’5, in the Third’ World, many of these’ children would be working to :help support their families. Here, in aXhort time, some become American teengers in stereotype, Girls experiment with makeup, dress to make a statement, and regularly earn higher grades than their male counterparts. Boys dress to offend, march to the beat of ubiquitous Walkman headsets, and complete homework as the bell sounds. All claim inalienable rights to family telephones and high decibel rock-andsalsa music. They have, it seems, found their places in their new country. But adolescence -as it is practiced here is a time of appearances. Often, all is not as it seems. Dr. Imelia Terr is a clinical psychologist who divides her time between practices in Austin and . Mexico City. .7 Psychology of the immigrant adolescent, she believes, should be asub-discipline in the Southwest. Much of what she sees, in the immigrant children referred to her, is disturbing. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17
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