I’ve been taking my girls to the beach this summer. Funny, we mostly go in autumn or winter, but Summertime at the beach during the week is pretty spectacular. We leave the house a little after mid-day and spend the later part of the day on the sand and they spend it in and out of the water.
(my check list to them: bring an extra towel, snacks… and take a sweater!)
typically , when the sun goes down, in southern california (malibu) it gets a little cool. sweater temperature. I always bring a light sweater or long sleeve flannel for the evening.
in the evening, probably about 7, a group of latinos came by and sat about 10 feet from us. Their kids ran to the water and the adults stayed seated on a large blanket. they opened their bags and brought out all this packed food out and neatly laid it out. Their sandwiches on french bread looked pretty appetizing. It was our dinner time so their food looked more inviting then our humble tortilla chips and left over (sandy) green olives.
My girls were rinsing off and I stood on the sand keeping an eye on them as i was looking toward the showers. My eyes and main focus was on my girls (and, yes, on those sandwiches). But, I couldn’t help listen to their conversation. They spoke spanish but some of the adults spoke some kind of Nahuan language, too. I don’t understand Nahualt but I could tell it may have been that. But then, i could have been Mixtec …. (i dunno, sorry). It isn’t too important. Anyway, I was caught looking at them so I smiled at them, and they at me.
i grabbed my flannel shirt and crossed my arms to keep warm. the sun wasn’t completely down yet but it was really getting chilly. I held my girls sweaters as i waited for them to come back from rinsing off. One of the women looked at me and said , in Spanish, ‘You know, it is a little cold.” and the others agreed, but they all gave simultaneous sigh. and they began to remember. In spanish one said ” Ay, don’t you remember the hielera ?” And the others, said, “oh no, don’t even mention that. forget about it.”
And , I , curious, wondered if they meant ‘Hieleras” as in a cooler or icebox , or as in “HIELERAS!!!” Hieleras, as in the cold room where immigrants and deportees were and are kept in by Customs and Border Protection? What hieleras are you talking about? I wanted to ask. But from their multi language conversation I could tell they were talking about a few of their friends and about their own personal experience with a cold room, they called an ‘icebox’.
to know that my girls are first generation american, makes me wonder of all the struggles and hurdles and obstacles people go through while they are immigrating to this country. Some of us take trains, planes, boats, cars and some how manage to get lucky. Some even get job offers and an extended visa right away. Even a green card when you’re super lucky. Some from first world countries some come from 3rd world areas… I can’t imagine any fair human doing such a thing. Keeping immigrants in “freezer: like room while they’re being held and questioned. seems extreme. just another case of injustice.
I don’t like political talk. But , when i heard this woman on the beach talk about her experience, i had to turn and when i did made eye contact with her and my eyes filled with tears.
the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) detains immigrants in holding cells that are super cold, like an icebox. they keep people there so long that their lips chap, their lips turn purple. the beg for sweaters when they can’t take the freezing temperature anymore. But before that, they endure the cold for fear of ‘causing problems’ or in some instances , for fear of getting kicked around and beat up or even sexually assaulted.
I wondered how cold it really was.
At this point of their conversation, I wasn’t hiding my interest. I could tell they knew i was listening (obviously with my teary eyes and my stare directly at them, ha!). So, when they spoke to each other they were well mannered enough to look at me as well. She said that after being deported back and forth , finally convincing the Customs and Border Protection officer that they actually were here previously (last year), and their “jefe’ was expecting them in Sonoma, they got past the hieleras…
it went on in dept, their conversation.
I could tell they had been scared and they still suffered from their experience. But at the same time… they spoke so nonchalant-ly about it. (not jaded, but a sort of matter-of-fact-ish).
They mentioned that a lady, Claudia Someone, was able to help with attorneys to make sure that people were aware of this injustice.
She was funny when she talked about the boss in Sonoma… “we got lucky that some of his machines were broken. We earned a few extra 200 hundred dollars this summer. I’m happy he called us. And he gave us the last 3 days off with a little pay so the kids could jump in the waves before we cross the border to our home again.”
“If we come back next year”, she continued with a half laugh and a full sigh , “I’ll bring two sweaters.”
I told her (for lack of better knowledge of the hieleras and lack of warmer and comforting words) , “bring a sweater for the beach, too.”
and she laughed and she agreed, “it never occurred to me. I didn’t think it would be this cool here. we’ll bring blankets and sweaters, no doubt. ”
yes, bring blankets and sweaters, ¡ por si las moscas!
(for if the flies (hee) …just in case!)