“If I drown in the River. Take my boy and make sure he grows up in the United States.”
This was the last thing I said to my husband before I crossed the Rio Bravo(Grande) over to the United States. He left me on the banks of the river with two children, the youngest of whom could not have been over 14. They were charging me $40 dollars to cross the river.
I was feeling pretty confident about crossing the river. I had heard that there wasn’t much to it, it wasn’t deep and the current wasn’t very strong. Well, I was never a strong swimmer but I figured it was my safest bet to get over to the United States.
I remember I took the first step into the River and sinking. The actual river wasn’t very deep, at least not on the banks but I had just so happened to step off of the bank and I sank. I couldn’t believe how bad my luck was. I thought it was going to be over right then and there. I swallowed warm water and though I was done.
It was the youngest child who pulled me out. He yanked my hair to get my head above the water and then told me to grab onto his waist and kick my feet. We swam that way until we reached the other end of the river.
I was so glad to have made it to the other side but his brother, the older of the two yelled at him, mad because he had saved me.
“Tu quieres hacerte cargo de ella?”
Do you want to take care of her? he said I was too chubby to make it through because there was a still quite a distance to run. We were running to a nearby Walmart where we were supposed to meet up with our families.
“Yo me voy con ella.”
The younger child agreed to take care of me and I honestly believe it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here today. After what seemed like an eternity, we walked out of the river and as we were walking we saw a camera come out of the ground, like you would see in movies. I guess we were taking a path that was commonly used. Either way we ran. We ran until we reached these huge concrete tubes, like the ones that go into the sewers, and when I looked inside I saw that they were full of clothes from other people who had changed in there. We picked up clothes from the ones laying there and changed in the tubes. After resting for a few minutes we ran yet again.
We ran until we came to an old gas station.
I was so thirsty from having run for so long. I wanted to go and gulp down as much water as I could. The old man who owned the station came out and I must have looked as thirsty as I felt, or maybe he was used to this, his first words were to not drink too much, to only wet my lips.
That water tasted better than anything I had ever had before.
The old man suddenly pushed us into his restroom. I think he was worried that Immigration had spotted us. After a while he told us it was fine to come out. He fed us and I told him that I had a little boy who was already in the US, he told me that he had a friend who was coming in a few minutes who helped mothers get through. She had fraternal twins and I would pretend that the other child was my own.
She got there and she told me, here take this stroller and put on this backpack. We walked until we reached the Walmart where my husband was waiting.
We went to stay at my mother-in-law’s and we were waiting there for a week because we didn’t know how we were going to make it over to Houston.
Finally two weeks later we found ourselves at the airport. The only problem was that we never remembered what day it was. The Fourth of July. Well when we got there the airport was incredibly crowded. It turned out that there was only one available seat on the plane that we were supposed to take. The assistant let us know that if anyone were to give up their seat we could both fly, but otherwise only one of us could go with our child. I remember that while we were waiting and hoping that we’d both be able to go home immigration officers were walking around. I started “reading” books in english that I had memorized to my child, and I got him to sing a couple of songs from Barney, which was his favorite show at the time. While I was doing this I saw the immigration officers take people away. I was trying really hard to be brave for my child but I was terrified. Finally after what seemed like forever, the attendant told us that someone had given up their seat. We were going home together.