He loaded them up into the bed of his truck. They were finished with their job and he didn’t need them anymore, not that day anyway. The rich farmer had paid them and was now loading them up.
Not knowing where they were going, the men in the bed of the truck assumed they might be going to another field to pick more cotton. No explanation had been offered; so they rode, wondering.
The farmer passed field after field but didn’t stop until he reached the levy of the Rio Grande where he told them to get out and go back to Mexico.
The farmer was sending them back.
This was the early 1950’s and my dad was one of those laborers cramped in the bed of the truck, wondering where he was being taken to, then shocked that he was being told to go back to Mexico.
How could he go back to Mexico? He’d never lived there and was born in the United States. Where would he go back to? Sure, his parents were born in Mexico but he wasn’t. Why should he go back to Mexico?
Barely a teenager, my dad didn’t question the farmer. He understood very well you didn’t question a farmer, and you certainly didn’t question this farmer.
He and the other men looked at each other with confusion and shock. Others in the bed of the truck had the same thoughts as my father, while some didn’t seem surprised. Some of the men were undocumented farm laborers and were indeed from Mexico; but they had just provided an essential service. All of these men had provided an essential service.
The truck drove away and my dad started making the long trek back to his parent’s house in Clint.
He passed farm after farm, observing the laborers as he made his way down the dusty roads and along the banks of the irrigation canals. He wondered if those workers would also be thrown into trucks to be sent back to Mexico, even though many were United States citizens.
While he walked, he reflected on how he and his fellow laborers had been treated. He remembered how the farmer would walk down the rows of the cotton fields and randomly kick laborers in their asses with his pointy boots, chuckling as he did so and calling them “pinchi mojados.”
A few years later, my dad would enlist in the Marine Corps. He’d go on to serve his country for twenty years. He’d serve three tours in Vietnam. He’d retire and come back to Clint and serve on the town council for almost three decades. He’d raise his daughters. He’d help raise his grandsons, two of them would enlist in the Marines and one in the Air Force. He’d start a veteran’s group in Clint. He and his fellow veterans would raise funds and build a veteran’s memorial in Clint. He’d work as an outreach worker to help veterans understand their benefits. He’d walk them through the VA process so they could receive the help they needed. He would continue serving his country.
“Send her back”
Many are all too familiar with that chant and what it means.
My dad, a veteran and proud Marine, is all too familiar with that chant and has no doubts as to what it means.
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