José Chavez

chaveJosé M. Chavez came to the United States from Mexico at a young age. He lived in Malibu and attended SMCC for a year before working in retail. He returned to SMCC after a 10-year absence and will graduate with an A.A. degree in June 2012. He will continue his studies at a four-year university.

Dedication: I would like to dedicate these three flash fiction stories to my parents, José M. Chavez, Sr. and Carmen Chavez. If it weren't for the decisions they made for me as a child I would not have written these stories now. I might have written a totally different story in Spanish. Most especially I dedicate this work to my mother, who has been the strongest pillar of our family. Without her I wouldn't be who I am today. I salute her for her courage, for taking care of my brother and sisters alone while my dad left us in Mexico to come to the United States. Because of my mother's dedication, our family is an exemption to the many immigrant families that separate and never reunite. After 45 years of marriage, they are still together, and my mother deserves most of the credit!

Cruzando la Frontera: Twice Betrayed

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Mijo, quick, get down. Don’t let them see you.”

The cold night air burned through my bones; I dropped flat on my stomach and felt the icy earth engulf my body. I decided to become a snake—una serpiente fuerte. If I were a snake I wouldn’t cry; I could just slither away and cross the border.

“Stop! ¡Alto! Don’t move.” The bright light assaulted the darkness, and I couldn’t see. They grabbed and kicked my brother. My sister screamed. My mother cried out. I stopped being a snake and returned to being a boy of six—a wet dampness engulfed my groin area. I shivered there sobbing in a heap of sadness—this was the fifteenth time in twice as many nights that we tried to cross. Ama said that we were almost out of money. If we didn’t make it tonight there would only be one more try. They dropped us off outside of Calexico: we spent another night in a cardboard box.

Ama,” my eyes looked to her for comfort. “¿Porqúe? Why can’t we go back to our casita? Why do we have to cross these montañas?"

She sighed and waited a long time before answering, searching for the right words to say. But then her faced changed: hard, fixed. “Stop acting like a baby. You need to be a man.” She had never talked to me like that!

I ran. Wild. Crazy. Out of control. I ran. I fell down in the darkness. I didn’t know where I was. A strange lady took my hand. I tried to resist, but her ironclad grip bore into me, hurting my flesh. “What have we here?” She didn’t look like my mother. She looked mean in the moonlight. Where was she taking me?


Teacher, My Name is José

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 “Teacher, me llamo José.

“Class, say hello to our new student. We will call him ‘Joe.’”

I couldn’t understand all of their words, but I knew they were calling me by a strange name that I didn’t like. It was my first day in second grade, not just in a new school, but in a new country and in a language I didn’t know. I had started that day so proud to be going to the American school:

Pero, Ama, I don’t know English. How will I talk?”

No te preocupes, mijo. In this country they love school. They help people from other cultures. The teacher will be nice to you. The children will like you.”

My mother’s words rang hollow as the day went on. I was the only brown kid in my class. Somehow I made it to lunch, but when the teacher left and one of the big girls came in to watch the class, things got much worse for me. With pride I opened the lunch of tortillas and beans that my mother had packed for me. I couldn’t help but notice that the other kids had fancy metal lunch boxes with Hostess cupcakes and string cheese.

“Look, he has beaner food!” the blond boy with the bluest eyes and model-like clothes pointed. The laughter engulfed me like a wave that sought to pull me down—I felt pulled into a whirlpool of indignation. My cheeks flushed with heat and shame. I ran out of there. I didn’t know where I was going. I just ran to get away from them.

 I found the other Mexican kids behind the school building. There were only a few of us. Carlos was from the seventh, and Javier from fifth. But at last I felt at home.


The Conversation

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“But don’t you see? Can’t you understand?” I shouted through my tears. “You are my mother . . . you gave me life. I’ve always been like this. I’m just me. Don’t you love me?”

Si, mijo, of course I love you,” she said with a stone-faced countenance. “I am your mother, and I will always love you. But I can’t accept this . . . this thing you are telling me. It isn’t true. It can’t be true.” She continued, and now I heard the anger rise in her voice as her words became terse, more pronounced. “You are just confused. Your friends got you mixed up. I told you I don’t like these new friends of yours.” She spat out the word “friends” like it was poison in her mouth. “You need to stay close to your familia. We are a family and we always stay together in times of crisis.”

Sigh, so this is a time of crisis? I didn’t think this was going to be easy, but it was turning out worse than I thought. I was having the conversation I always knew I would have one day with her, and always dreaded. Why did I have to do this at all? Why this burden on me? I mean, my sister never sat my mother down one day to tell her she was straight. Neither did my brother or my sister who still lives in Mexico. But I was the youngest of the four; she was always the closest to me, and I to her. We were so close, no one understood. We could communicate by just a look. But today I was breaking her heart.

I turned to her again, trying to find the words to make her understand what I was feeling.

Editor: | West Los Angeles College | 9000 Overland Ave, Culver City CA 90230 |
Production Mngr: Michelle Long-Coffee | Web Design: Clarissa Castellanos