Wetback

Why they come, and what they leave behind.

In front of a ramshackle hut in a tiny unnamed moun­tain village, a pregnant, middle-aged woman sat shell­ing a lapful of beans. The woman—Magdalena Piñaloza de Moreno—was surrounded by her family: Jua­nita, just turned eleven months; Patricia, two years; Rosita, three-and-a-half; and the two boys, Manuel, six years old, and Gregorio, eight, “almost nine.” Between the live births, Señora Magdalena explained, as if apologizing for some social shame, there had been two stillborn babies and a miscarriage.

“And your husband?”

“Oh, Señor, he is not here. He left for the north two months ago and now he is working and making lots of money in the United States. Look!” and she pulled from a pocket an envelope bearing a U.S. postage stamp, post­marked from a small Texas town.

The letter, typewritten in Spanish, read simply: “Wife: I am working. Here is twenty dollars, the money of this coun­try. My friend who writes this letter for me tells me it is worth 250 pesos. You change the money in the town. I will send more. Kisses for my children.” It was signed, formally, Manuel Gregorio Moreno.

“When I am two years older I will go to my father and I too will earn money to send home,” Gregorio piped up proudly.

Manuel Gregorio Moreno and his wife Magdalena are campesinos, the rural people who make up about half of Mexi­co’s 60 million people. Neither Manuel nor his wife Magdalena can read or write. Nor can their children. The chances of their attending school even to the third

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