Diary of an Undocumented Immigrant

Diary of an Undocumented Immigrant

Diary of an Undocumented Immigrant

Diary of an Undocumented Immigrant


This autobiographical account of survival as a "wetback" or "mojado," affords the reader an unexpurgated look at the United States, its economy and culture from the perspective of the undocumented worker.


My luggage is a small vinyl suitcase that holds one change of clothes. It's a bag for a person who has left home for a couple of days, but I don't know when I'll return to my village. Bigger than my bag is the mountain of goodbyes I'm carrying. My mother was so touched that she made the sign of the cross over me with a wax candle that is probably burning upon the altar of the church right now. My father, more used to goodbyes than mothers, told me, "Stay on your toes, boy," while he was giving me a hug. My brothers told me to send them postcards from the places I will find myself. Last night, my friends and I made the rounds, drinking.

It's about eleven o'clock in the morning and I'm walking the eight kilometers that separate my village from the highway that snakes over the peak of the mountain range. There's a dirt road that comes from it to my village, but there isn't always a passing truck on which to catch a ride. But this time, I'd rather walk the distance anyway.

The summer sun isn't extreme, but the exercise makes me sweat. Before leaving, I spent more than an hour beneath the showerhead and then changed into the clothes that my mother had ironed. It took more time for me to shower and change than it has for me to get bathed in sweat. But at least it made my mother happy to see me leave clean and in fresh clothes.

If my ancestors had known that the international highway was going to pass just eight kilometers from the village, maybe they would have decided to establish the village farther up, but I can't blame them. They probably had their own reasons for putting the village midway down the mountains, and I myself have learned that the closer land is to the peaks, the less fertile it is. Higher up, the cold is more intense and the peak is covered with snow. Beneath us, the heat is sultry, while in our village, the climate is mild. Now that I think about it, my ancestors were entirely right, and I'm sure that before digging the groundwork for the foundation of the village's first house, they set it precisely at the midpoint of . . .

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