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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Wednesday June 12th 2024

Searching ”“ A Serial Novelle Chapter 16: El Corrido De Don Jaime

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

When Angel and Luz arrived at her abuela”'s house, the whole neighborhood was gathered. Children running everywhere, elderly women dancing to scratchy phonograph records from Mexico. Even though it was freezing outside, Luz”'s cousin Rodrigo was in the backyard, turning steaks and sausages on a large grill cut from an oil drum. People who had run in terror from the raid just a few hours before were partying as if Mexico had just won the World Cup. Luz finally found her grandmother Dolores in the kitchen. Over the noise, she asked her what happened.

“Your Uncle Jaime is free!” she shouted as she gave her a big hug.
“What?” Luz cried. “Immigration let him go?”
“No, mi amor””he escaped””he flew the coop””¡voló como un paloma!”
It took a few moments for this to sink in.
“Where? How? Abuela, they”'re going to come looking for him! They”'ll bust the door down!” Luz shouted.
“No-no, he”'s safe””he”'s not here””he”'s miles away and they”'ll never catch him again!”
Luz wasn”'t quite sure what that meant, and kept shaking her head. Angel, meanwhile, stood with his hands in his pockets, surrounded by people whom he did not know, but who surely knew Luz. Everyone, young and old, came up to give her a hug or a kiss on the check. Angel finally nudged her with her elbow.
“Oh, I”'m sorry!” Luz laughed. “This is mi abuela Dolores. Grandma, this is Angel”.
“Oh I know you”, Dolores said. “The Tecolote Man!”

By now, Angel was getting used to being called “The Owl Man” by strangers, but he still could not figure out how people knew about it. As he was about to ask Luz”' abuela, a hush descended upon the gathering, and heads began to turn toward the dining room, where the table had been pushed to the wall, and a young man about Angel”'s age was guiding a thin elderly man to a chair. The older man sat down, and the younger man brought him a guitar. Angel stared at the old man””his eyes were permanently scrunched shut as if he were blocking out a sun ten times brighter than our own. He was blind, but when he began to sing, it was as if his voice could see the whole world. He sang:

En la ciudad fria del Norte
La migra crea que reina,
Pero Jaime le dio un puñazo
Y voló como paloma.
It was un corrido, in the tradition of Gregorio Cortes & Joaquin Murieta, a song of the people sung to remember revolutionaries, heroes and outlaws. You could translate it, but it”'s better to just sing it, which is what the old man continued to do.
El próximo dia en Texas
Mil hombres cruzaron mojados
La pobre migra gritaba
Pero nadie les escuchaba

The rhymes weren”'t exact, the message was impossible, but there it was: Jaime was free, and his freedom caused a flowering of resistance the length of the continent. No one really knew that night the real story of Jaime”'s escape. Even years later, no one knows for sure, but on that December 12 night, the night of the Virgen of Guadalupe, everyone knew that something miraculous had happened.

As the party went on, more and more people and more and more food arrived. Doña Josefina brought a big pot of pozole, the Persauds, curried goat. Mother Light and quiet Ana brought a kind of fry bread smothered in honey. Mr. Bussey showed up, with lefse and lingonberry jam. It seemed everyone who knew Angel””at least on this part of his journey””was there. And then, slowly, as how the sun appears at the winter solstice, Angel became aware of a presence, a person in the room. It was his father, Augusto Cruz, looking at him from across the room. They had not seen each other for six months, since Angel and him had fought the night after his graduation from Roosevelt. Angel had slept in friend”'s houses, in parks and for a few nights in his own bed when his father had a roofing job in Austin, but they had not talked.

Angel let go of Luz”' hand. She nodded as if she understood. He walked across the floor and stood in front of his father, who seemed to have shrunk since the summer. Angel bowed his head slightly, and began to speak, both as the man he was becoming and as the son who had wrestled terribly to win his father”'s love.

“Papito, perdóname”, Angel began. Forgive me, Dad. “I know I”'ve let you and the family down.”
His father raised his hands to his son”'s shoulders. They were shaking.

“No mi hijo, no. It was me. It was all of us,” he said.

“Pops, something has happened to me these past few days,” Angel said. “Something strange that I don”'t understand. At first I was afraid, but now”¦well, now, I don”'t know what to think. I want to talk to you and Mom about where we came from, what secrets we carry. I want to come home, but I”'m not sure I can.”

“We will talk”, his father said. “There”'s a lot to say, and there”'s a lot of time. But tonight we must celebrate””Don Jaime is free!”

And simultaneously, two minor miracles occurred. For the first time, Augusto Daniel Rojas Guerrero hugged his son, Angel Augusto Cruz Rojas. And in the corner of the room, the guitar player spontaneously wrote the first Minnesota verse to the tune of La Cucaracha, the original corrido:

La pobre Migra, la pobre Migra,
Ya no puede caminar,
Porque perdieron sus calzoncillos,
Por la mano de Jaime.
Editor”'s note: for rough translations, e-mail the author

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