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PRESENCIA

He paused for a moment. He looked at me with eyes of wondering. He smiled and began to act with an attitude of cynicism.

By David Alberto Muñoz

Día de publicación: 5-Junio-2008

The city was barely waking up. You could hear the sounds of snores coming up from underneath the earth; it was that concrete builded upon a desert with the smell of a cactus.

I was driving to work in the middle of a regular week. I had a cup of coffee in my hand that somehow always ends up in my shirt. I know it’s going to happened, and even thought I try to be careful, in most common days I am condemned to spend my entire day with the mark of a beast: coffee on myself.

In one of the many corners of this city I saw a guy asking for money. It is not unusual to see them. They like to stand on certain spots to make certain they are viewed by the general public. Usually there is a freeway close by. He had a sign that read:

“Veteran! Hungry! Please help! God Bless!”

In most days, I do what most people would do, just ignore them. But yesterday, I don’t know my curiosity or perhaps my sense of defiance took control of me.

I got to the corner. I opened my window and told the guy:

“I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you let me use your papers to work here.”

For a moment he didn’t know how to react. He was young and he seemed to be generally speaking healthy. All of the sudden he threw his arms in the air pretending to be upset.

“A hundred dollars is not enough.” He said.

“How much do you want?”

“A thousand!”

“Are you telling me that if a give you a thousand dollars you will give me your papers?”

“Yes! That’s what you want right?”

“Look over there.” I said. “Do you see those guys in front of Home Depot?”

“Those are illegals!” He screamed with anger.

He paused for a moment. He looked at me with eyes of wondering. He smiled and began to act with an attitude of cynicism.

“Maybe you are illegal too. Why would you be offering money for my papers? I am a legal citizen of America. They are not. I am going to call immigration so they can come and get all of you guys out of here. You are taking away jobs that belong to us.”

“Why aren’t you trying to get a job like they are?”

His expression began to turn sour. His lips were trembling. He didn’t know what to say.

“I fought in the war! I came back home and there was no job because all of you bunch of Mexicans took it away from me!” He was getting very angry.

“Do you know what I think it’s funny?” I asked him.

“What?”

“That all of those guys are asking for a job. They pay them less than minimum wage. But in spite all of that they come back day after day not to beg like you do but to ask for a job.”

“Get the hell out of here you f…”

I had to move very quickly otherwise that man would have hit me.

It is all very strange. This nation has become a living paradox. We are the land of the free and yet we still have slaves, not officially of course, but within society there are individuals that walk the streets of many cities in search for an American dream that is getting far and far away from main stream society.

I looked around.

I saw thousands and thousands of persons going to work. People that work in gas stations, supermarkets, insurance companies, car lots; inhabitants who are mechanics, security guards, policemen, teachers, white and blue collars, wives of soldiers who are fighting in Iraq, individuals who are loosing their jobs, who can’t afford to pay their mortgages, but also, among all of these “legal” citizens, there were the people without papers, whose only way to identity themselves is through hard work, with the labor that their hands produced by their human instinct.

Oh! I almost forgot there were also those guys standing in the corner of the red and blue empire begging for a beer, at least they are honest some would say. But others claimed it is not fair. What is fair? God only knows…

Welcome to America, the land of opportunities!

© David Alberto Muñoz, Ph.D.
Faculty Philosophy & Religious Studies
Chandler-Gilbert Community College
2626 East Pecos Road
Chandler, Arizona 85225-2499
(480) 732-7173
david.munoz@cgcmail.maricopa.edu


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