Friday, January 25, 2013

Character Interview: Patrido Guzman

Today we're sitting down with Patrido Guzman, a former farmer from Zacatecas, Mexico.

(Guzman is a shorter man, but taller than a stereotypical Mexican. He has thinning dark hair.)

Me: Buenas dias, señor Guzman.

Guzman: Buenas dias to you as well.

Me: So let's get started. When were you born?

Guzman: I was born in 1989 in Zacatecas. My father was a farmer, like his forebears before him. We were better off than many campesinos, since we owned our own land and could occasionally hire help. We grew corn, mostly, but we also had chickens and even some cattle.

Me: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Guzman: Oh yes. I have an older brother Juan and sister Carolina, my younger brothers Eduardo and Quinto, and a younger sister Pilar.

Me: How was the land going to be divided?

Guzman: Well, there wasn't enough to sustain every member of the family, so we couldn't all get a piece. My father thought it best that all of us get work and education so that whoever didn't inherit the land could still make a decent life. My older brother and sister went to Zacatecas City, where my brother found work in the silver mines and my sister as a teacher. I was in secondary school and studying for university when NAFTA came.

Me: What happened then?

Guzman: Free trade is great in principle, but Mexican farmers cannot compete with American corn, especially when it's subsidized to the point it can be sold below cost. We worked harder than ever before and managed to sustain ourselves in the face of American imports for years, but in the end, we couldn't compete.

Me: Your family lost its land?

(Guzman sadly nods.)

Guzman: Losing the land that had been in our family since before the Mexican Revolution was too much for my father. He died of heart trouble a year after we were forced to sell our land and move in with my older siblings in the city. My mother followed him soon afterward.

Me: I'm sorry to hear that.

Guzman: I couldn't attend university and had to go to work right away to help support the family. My younger siblings had to finish school themselves. I went to work in a maquiladora, one of the new factories NAFTA made possible. The Lord takes and He gives, you know?

Me: Job 1:21?

Guzman: The very one. The money was better than many of the other jobs I could have taken, but I hated working there. The supervisor was a real mula who mistreated some of the women in the factory. I didn't want to lose my job and didn't do anything for the longest time and then when I saw him hassling a widow working to feed a child, I told him to go to hell. I got fired the next day.

Me: Yikes.

Guzman: He got his. When the government started fighting the drug cartels, he was found dead. Whether he caught a bullet meant for someone else or someone decided to take revenge for a sister or daughter he put his hands on, I don't know. Good riddance either way.

Me: So what are you going to do now?

Guzman: Well, I've had friends who've gone to work in El Norte.

Me: El Norte?

Guzman: The United States. They made good money doing even the most menial work, enough to send home and build big houses for their families, put siblings and children through school. I once heard of a man who took over a concrete business when the gringo owner retired and he's a millionaire now.

Me: How are you going to get in? I've heard it's hard to get in legally unless you've got special skills and you said you never got to go to university...

Guzman: Well, I knew a man from the factory whose brother knows someone on the other side of the border. A coyote, a smuggler. Juan and Carolina, they loaned me the money to pay him up-front. No need to work for him for years. We're going to meet up in...well, I don't know you. Maybe you work the limones verdes.

Me: Limones verdes? Green lemons?

Guzman: Sorry. Your Border Patrol. They drive around in green trucks.

Me: Got it.

Will Guzman make it to the United States? If you want to find out, check out the short story "Illegal Alien," which appears in the short story collection Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire. Non-Amazon e-books here.

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