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In This Desert Nobody Is a Stranger

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By Guadalupe Sandoval

It’s 4:30 a.m. and I wake up to my little sister’s nudging. She’s used to waking up at this time and tenderly asks if I can put her hair into two ponytails today. “Sure.” I respond with a smile. I wake up the rest of my siblings and get them ready for school. With two younger brothers and two youngers sisters, it can be a hectic morning filled with surprises. 

My parents are probably hard at work at this time by now. 

My parents work in the fields. My mother harvests crops such as grapes, green beans, and onions. My father is handicapped, so he tries to look for small tasks here and there that can provide our family with some much needed additional income.

 

Soon we make our way outside. I walk them to my grandmother’s house. It’s an organized routine that we’ve become accustomed to. On our way there, we greet Doña Ruth. She’s an elderly lady who begins her daily walks at the break of dawn, hoping to find recyclables and trying to stay fit. She hands me a bag of oranges and asks me to give them to my grandmother.

We reach our grandma’s house. With her tired and sleepy eyes, she takes us into her arms for a warm embrace. I hand her the fruit and prepare to leave, but she stops me. She wants to talk about my school work. As I describe my day, she heads over to a pot filled with tamales. I am very well familiar with their porky smell. This hot delicacy is always eliciting smoke. I can already feel my mouth watering. I know what she is about to do. She hands me a bag filled with tamales, and tells me to distribute them among my teachers. She tries to do this as often as she can. She says those teachers were her children’s teachers, now mine, and soon the will be my siblings’ teachers. I look at the time. I excuse myself as I notice I’m late for the bus.

I feel the pressure as my lungs ache for air. I turn my head and see the bus behind me. The bus stop is too far, I’m not going to make it. But suddenly, as if a greater force hears my pleas, the bus stops two feet ahead of me. The bus driver opens the doors “Get in mija,” he says. A painful grin overtakes my face as I thank him. We pick up the rest of the students and make our way to school. As I get off the bus, I hand him some tamales. He’s too modest at first, but the enticing smell is too overwhelming for him to say, “No.”

Throughout the day, I distribute the tamales. Everybody asks me how I’ve been and sends their regards to my grandma. It’s time to go home. I greet my bus driver once more and he thanks me for the tamales. I drop off my backpack at home and head over to my former elementary school. I pick up my siblings and my former teachers stop and greet me. 

We finally leave the school campus. On our way home, we see Doña Ruth once more. Her arms are packed with groceries. We all stop and help her. When we get to her doorstep she pulls out a Twix candy bar. My siblings squeal as their little fingers reach for the caramel delicacy. I smile at their joy and thank Doña Ruth.

I look up at the hot road ahead of us. When people look at this desert, the first thing they want to do is leave. 

I want to leave too. But only to come back and help those I’ve left behind. After all, in this small rural desert, nobody is a stranger.

This article was published on the Coachella Unincorporated website on June 18, 2017. 

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Coachella Unincorporated is a youth-led journalism and media-training project working in the Eastern Coachella Valley. Students who join our program learn how to report, write and produce multimedia journalism content, all with the goal of helping to build a healthy Eastern Coachella Valley.

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