Archive for Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brothers back at work, sober

August 14, 2008

Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series on the experiences and views of two undocumented brothers from Mexico who came to the United States in June 2007 to improve the lives of themselves and their families through better-paying jobs than those available to them in their hometown of Mexico City.

Efrain and Saul are back on track.

Two weeks after they were kicked out of the shelter they'd been in for a year since moving to the Kansas City area from Mexico City to work as day laborers and save up money to start their own construction company back home, they've found an affordable apartment in an old Kansas City, Mo., neighborhood.

Saul said he enjoys living on his own much more, because the rules at the shelter were so strict. Specifically, there was a 9 p.m. curfew and absolutely no drinking.

Now the brothers can stay up, have a beer or two with their neighbors on the apartment building's portico after work and not worry about getting kicked out of their home.

The man who employs them for building houses has been forgiving, they said, but told them they can't miss any more work.

In the last week of June, when they got kicked out of the shelter run by a religious organization for staying out too late, the two went on a weeklong bender, that included drinking rubbing alcohol. When I saw them, Saul was in bad shape, making me fear for his life.

This weekend, in contrast to their broke situation of nearly two months back when they were sleeping in the living room of an acquaintance's dingy apartment in the Argentina neighborhood, Efrain was sending a backpack of items to his family in Mexico City via an American friend who is traveling there this weekend on business. The items included an iPod Efrain bought on the street for his teenage daughter.

Saul still enjoys discussing politics, and said half- jokingly he would perform a homosexual act if Barack Obama were to be elected president.

That's because, Saul said, America is still full of "racism, pure and absolute."

Saul refused to believe polls that until recently had shown the African-American presidential candidate well ahead of the white John McCain.

I told him racism and fears of being perceived as racist have in fact been acknowledged as troublesome for pollsters in trying to gauge voters' true thoughts and who they would actually vote for - that is, many people who wouldn't vote for Obama on the basis of his skin color or ancestry might feel too self-conscious to say so because they know racial prejudice is socially unacceptable in America today.

Likewise, Saul said he had no faith in the American media treatment of Cuba, despite the fact that under Fidel Castro and now his brother Raul, Saul admitted, there has been heavy censorship of the press.

"Cuba es mi amor," Saul said, because Castro's revolution has lifted the Cuban people out of the level of poverty that he said is rampant still in Mexico and in other Latin American countries.

Still, Saul said, he's not a communist.

"Soy Zapatista," he said, referring to the movement of indigenous people in the southern state of Chiapas, Mexico, fighting for rights and equitable land distribution for native populations there.

The movement is spearheaded by a masked, charismatic leader known as Subcomandante Marcos and is named for a hero of the Mexican Revolution, Emiliano Zapata.

The brothers still plan to return home in November.

- Jesse Truesdale, Chieftain reporter, is fluent in Spanish. No interpreter was used for this story.

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