Body Count by Antonio Lopez

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


From 1942 until 1964 the United States recruited and gave temporary visas to some 5 million Mexican workers. These men, known as Braceros, harvested American crops during World War II and beyond. Today several hundred ex-Braceros and their families gather every Sunday in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to demand payment of retirement benefits promised to them a century ago. They are part of a national movement of Braceros— Rostros del Tiempo


Body Count
                         — Juárez, Chihuahua 2015

They march in the city of Juárez. Concha y champurrado on one hand, their 20 year old selves en la otra.
They march, armed in their loosely fit blue and red checkered shirts. Sargentos with their pelotón-gut
always in front.

They walk
because they don’t walk. En los libros oficiales,
en los libros de texto,
de primaria,
secundaria,
del high school. Esta historia no se conoce
shaking inside     my father’s hands,
as he gazes,        in 1982             at the strawberry fields
of San Martín, California. He chews over     
the shards of English he learned in the centro bilingüe.

While they cut his gums, men like telltale wives
gossip through the small stalks,
“que Reagan pasó amnistía.”

They arrive at the Juárez plaza. The heart
of the pueblo whose     gold-plated gates boast
“reforma.”
 
The seagulls hover above them.                           Las gaviotas nos rodean
How I envy them.                                    Ay, como les tengo envidia.

Marchamos por la ciudad Juárez.
Chuy tiene frío. A ver.                             Tú.                      Hector,     préstale tu bufanda.
             Como vacas amarradas al comedero,
                          nos juntamos
                          cada semana, ensayando el coro
                          de nuestros pulmones.

Ya llegó ese canal de los gabachos. El NBC.
                                     Oyes, quién tiene el mejor inglés?
Baldo, mire la cámara.
           His wife Elisa leaves the candle turned on
                      atop a doll-sized curb. Calentando sus palmas como si fuera forjando una
                      hechiza. Susurra,
                                  “Regresará.                    ¿Regresará? Madre santísima, deja que mi         
                                  hijo regrese.     Abra las persianas de su misericordia.”

They march in Juárez plaza. Baldo adjusts his sombrero.
He clears his throat
from the tequila
of failed
harvests.
              “We don even. Ask fur much. Frum. The. Unayted. e-states.
              We want”—
Ducks his head back,
              “¿Así se dice que no, queremos?
              We want, to retire. Queremos benefits.”
Raymundo breaks out of line, croaks.
              “Diles que ya me cansé
              de cruzar tantas veces.
              Que se me va a vencer la visa.                                              Más bien, yo mismo
                                                                                                 voy a vencerme.”

Baldo lowers his hands.                                      “Calmado carnal, les diré,”
patting the air the same way he
acuesta sus bisnietos.

He stares at the faceless screen,
imagining the vidrio teñido     playing
en cada cuarto del norte
with warm lights and
      warm faces.
             “I remember when la Cucaracha
             dropped us off.”
             He chuckles to the insides of his scarf,
             “Así nombraron la camioneta. Quién sabe por que...”

As Baldo speaks, his breath fogs the chilly air. Plumes of grainy escenas trill from his
garganta, fillling the plaza con:
              the processions de hambre, aching men whose ears deafened from the thud
              of ferrocarriles. Coursing through countless ranchos.
              Los hombres paran pa’ver que nos caiga.
              Cada municipal, el sacerdote nos avisa cuántos han muerto.

Amidst the gaping anchormen, él sigue,
              “Entré por Reynosa, 1952. 11 years old.
              Nos trasladaron en trailers como papas.”

Meanwhile, the truck selling gas tanks
toca its same Sonora Dinamita track,
drowning Raymundo’s confession with a cumbia potpourri beat.
              “El gobierno estadounidense nos llamó a picar algodón, chile, tomates, cebollas.
              Los contratos eran en inglés. Tres meses, 30 cents an hour.”

Baldo stares at the ground, stepping on the small weeds in between the concrete tiles.
              “Y pues, entonces…They. Naked us. And spray us with DDT.
              They take our blood. With. serin-. Sirin- Syringes.”
He slaps his forearm to show the needle’s entry.
              “¿Mmm, pues qué más les puedo contar?
                          Vivíamos en barracas.”
Raymundo chants behind the file of men, until one of the crew notices.
              “El gobierno no nos ayuda.”

The women shuffle from church, covered in black and gray rebozos.
Raymundo grabs the front of his black jacket,
staring at the tall cross, then back to the ginger-bearded cameraman.
              “Nomás si pudieran.” He grunts in frustration.
              “Pay fur us.                 What they owe.             Is fair?”

They march. I march. 50 years. Cincuenta. Sin cuenta años.
              Pasaron. I want. To be. Counted.
              My name. Take our retrato. Pic-ture. Mis huesos. Before I go.
              So I leave. My kids. Something.

They march. I march
              Somos cinco millones.
              Éramos cinco millones.

They march. I march. Ahora sombreros cuelgan sobre panteones chacos.
              Stump graves.
                          Por eso andamos peleando.

They march in México. I march in América.
They, I, marched when
              Tijerina falleció, when César’s stomach caved in,
              when La Virgen wept in the field conmigo,
              when las uvas quemaron mis pulmones,
              when Western Union starting using E-Verify.

They march because
              yo marcho,
              ellos marchan,
              nostros marchamos,
              nostros macharemos.

They march.       They march.                            They march.                                        Marcharán!
                                                                                                                          Until.     
                                                                                                                                       They.
                                                                                                                                                    Are.

English Translation of "Body Count"


Photo of Antonio Lopez

Photo of Antonio Lopez

Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Antonio Lopez received a double B.A. in Global Cultural Studies (Literature) and African-American studies from Duke University (Class of 2016). He’s an inaugural John Lewis Fellow, a recipient of Rudolph William Rosati Creative Writing Award, and a finalist for the 2017 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize. In 2017, he attended the Yale Writer’s Conference, the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, as well as awarded the Lucille Clifton Memorial Scholarship to attend the 47th annual Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. His nonfiction has been featured in TeenInk, The Chronicle, PEN/America and his poetry in After Happy Hour Review, Gramma Press, Somos en Escrito, Electica, Cosmonauts Avenue, storySouth, Grist, Digging through the Fat, Hispanecdotes, La Bloga, Acentos Review, Sinking City, What Rough Beast, By&By, Permafrost, Track//Four, the American Journal of Poetry, and others. He is currently pursuing a Master in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers University-Newark.