use a name to designate
In 1980, when I was four years old, I didn’t know yet where the United States was or why everyone in my hometown of Iguala, Guerrero,
referred to it as El Otro Lado, the Other Side.
move or force in an effort to get something open
"I won’t be gone for long,” she would promise as she
pried my fingers from hers.
a situation in which the state of the economy declines
It was the beginning of the worst
recession Mexico had seen in fifty years.
the system of production and distribution and consumption
Although he was a bricklayer and had built many houses, with Mexico’s unstable
economy he would never earn the money he needed to make his dream a reality.
belief about the future
Like most immigrants, my father had left his native country with high
expectations of what life in El Otro Lado would be like.
unavoidably determined by prior circumstances
"For as long as
necessary,” Mami continued. “God only knows how long it’s going to take Natalio and me to earn the money for the house he wants.”
have the financial means to do something or buy something
“Your father couldn’t
afford to send for us all. I’m only going there to help him earn money for the house,” Mami said again.
marked by firm determination or resolution
Had she known that without her strength and
unwavering love, I would not have survived what was to come?
give or restore confidence in
I wished he would be the one to look out the window and
reassure us that everything was all right.
the actions and activities assigned to a person or group
My mother had asked Mago to be our little mother, and she and my father would have been proud to see how bravely their older daughter had taken on that
a child who has lost both parents
Elida wasn’t interested in being our friend, and, like the neighbors, called us the little
orphans. Technically, she was a little
orphan, too. But the fashionable clothes Abuela Evila made for her on her sewing machine and the many gifts her mother sent her from El Otro Lado helped Elida transform herself from the little
orphan to a privileged granddaughter.
a state of dishonor
This time, I didn’t care if the whole colonia thought I was wild and a
disgrace to my family.
the property created by the space between two objects
She said that my umbilical cord was like a ribbon that connected me to Mami. She said, "It doesn’t matter that there’s a
distance between us now. That cord is there forever.”
a serious or difficult concern
If only Tio Carlos had lived and married, my mother would have had an ally, and we would have had cousins to share the
burden of my grandmother’s mistrust.
select as an alternative over another
I would have
preferred a beating to what we got.
the region of the body between the thorax and the pelvis
She was always making fun of him because Carlos was really skinny, except for his bloated
abdomen, and now with his head completely bald, he did look like a skeleton.
prolonged unfulfilled desire or need
That night, I had a dream about Mami. In my dream she was washing my hair with lemon water and scrubbing it so gently my body shuddered with pleasure. I awoke with such
longing that I felt like weeping.
withstand the force of something
Whenever I can’t
resist the pull of my birthplace, I visit Iguala, and I have seen it grow to more than 110,000 inhabitants.
forsaken by owner or inhabitants
There was an
abandoned car there and we liked to play in it, but first we had to check for snakes.
an automatic pattern of behavior in reaction to a situation
Because I'd decided that my parents must be on the other side of the Mountain That Has a Headache, I got in the
habit of looking at it each night and wishing my parents a buenas noches.
a short light gust of air
Another time, as we were walking to the tortilla mill, a man passed by us on his bicycle and we caught a
whiff of something spicy, like cinnamon, and Mago said, "That’s how Papi smelled!”
characterized by feeling or showing fond affection for
But always, those
precious two minutes Abuela Evila allowed us on the phone went by too quickly.
supply with necessities and support
sustained us through that time was the belief that our mother would be back within the year.
sad beyond comforting
Carlos and I tried to make her feel better, yet no matter what we said, Mago was
bring to mind
I tried to
recall what my mother’s kiss had felt like, but I could not.
an impression produced by pressure
I stood there watching Dona Paula’s sons, thinking that there had once been a time when my own mother had kissed me, but now she would soon be leaving the
imprint of her lips on another child.
If our grandmother hadn’t kept the money my parents sent for us, perhaps we would have been like Elida, who was always
flaunting all the pretty clothes and shoes she bought with the money her mother sent from El Otro Lado, and no one would have dared to call us orphans.
a feeling of profound respect for someone or something
Every time someone mentioned El Otro Lado, there was a
reverence in their voice, as if they were talking about something holy, like God.
Anything that came from over there was
coveted, whether it was a toy, or a pair of shoes, or a Walkman, like the one Elida had gotten the month before from her mother.
emit long loud cries
As the branch whipped my legs and butt, I
wailed like La Llorona herself and called out for my missing mother.
a plan for attaining a particular goal
She said that if she looked sad, then maybe our parents would see how much she truly missed them, and they would come back. From that point on, she continued to look sad in almost every picture we took. Her
tactic didn’t work.
fail to do something; leave something undone
The thought that our parents had
neglected to send us gifts really hurt.
a feeling of envy, especially of a rival
Mago spent the whole time sitting in a corner of the hall, feeling sorry for herself, her
jealousy consuming her to the point where she couldn’t even talk without saying a bad word in every sentence.
belonging to one by birth
Back then, I could never have imagined that one day, I would speak English better than I spoke my
a strong hard building material made with gravel and cement
El Otro Lado is a beautiful place. Every street is paved with
concrete. You don’t see any dirt roads there.
imagination unrestricted by reality
fantasy was that Papi and Mami would fly to us in their own private helicopter.
a song of devotion or loyalty
As the flag passed by me, I stood straighter and maintained my hand firmly pressed again my chest in salutation as I sang the Mexican
anthem as loud as I could.
a written agreement between two states or sovereigns
Mago told me that we should be proud to have been born in Iguala because it was in our city that the
treaty which ended the Mexican War of Independence was drafted.
feeling guilt or embarrassment or remorse
I looked at my name on the notebook. I had never hated it as much as I did at that moment. And I didn’t stop hating my name until many years later, when I realized that it wasn’t a name to be
ashamed of, but one to live up to.
laugh at with contempt and derision
I didn’t want him to hit me again and have my classmates
jeer and laugh. But if I didn’t go back, I knew I wouldn’t learn to read and write. How could I ever write a letter to my parents and ask them to please, please, come back?