December 10, 2011
According to the CoyoteBy Michael Bargo Jr.
In the early pre-dawn hours of a spring day, a small group of immigrants is gathered in northern Mexico, on the bank of the Rio Grande River. The coyote is about to lead them across a shallow stretch of the river, into the promised land of America.
The small group of Mexican villagers is sitting on the ground, wearing sombreros, arms crossed on their knees.
The coyote, who is wearing an I♥NY baseball cap, surveys the group. "Is everybody ready to cross into America?"
Most of them shout, "Yes!"
"Everybody ready to find good paying work?"
"Yes!" -- again in near unison.
A villager named Juan sits in the middle of the crowd. He raises his hand and asks, "Excuse me, sir. How do I know there is a job for me in America?"
"What?" the coyote impatiently barks, "of course you'll find a job there."
"What kind of job will that be sir?" Juan inquires. He lowers his hand and pushes his way through the crouched villagers.
"Why, a job no one else wants to do, of course," replies the coyote. He turns and walks away from Juan.
"A job no one else wants to do?" repeats Juan, trying to catch up with the coyote.
"No trouble," the coyote abruptly responds. He's answered this question before.
"A job no one else wants.... Is that a job no one else is doing?" Juan wonders aloud.
"Well if it's a job no one else is doing, how will I find it?" Juan asks as he tracks the coyote, downstream, along the riverbank.
"What do you mean?"
"If it's a job no one else is doing -- how do I know where to apply? If no one is doing it?" Juan asks the coyote.
"Never mind, you won't have a problem, everybody finds a job." The coyote continues to walk down river, along the bank, away from Juan.
Juan trots passed the coyote and stops in front of him. "My cousin didn't find a job," Juan explains -- face-to-face.
The coyote takes a step back. "Who?"
"My cousin," explains Juan. "He went to America and didn't find a job, had to come back, wasted all that money, having you take him across the river. If I don't find a job do I get my money back?"
The coyote steps forward. "No! Nobody gets their money back," snaps the coyote.
"Why not?" Juan persists, holding his ground.
"Because you don't. My job is to get you across the river, not find a job for you, you silly person." The Coyote turns and surveys the far bank for Border Patrol vehicles. He returns his attention to the group and starts walking upstream.
Juan catches up to him and says, "I don't know if I like this deal, you say I get a job, then you won't say what the job is. Can I get my money back now?"
"No you can't," the Coyote responds with irritation.
"Maybe I should keep my money and find a job back in my village, at least there I know there are jobs other people are doing," Juan says -- more or less to himself.
"You don't get your money back," the Coyote replies by rote.
"He said there would be a job for me in America," Juan says to no one in particular.
"Who said?" The coyote lowers his voice. He wonders if the others can hear.
"The guy at the market who told me about you. He said I'd find a job."
"Go complain to him," the coyote advises Juan.
"I can't complain to him, if I'm in America, now can I?"
"Complain to him when you get back."
"How can I get back if I don't have any money because I can't find a job?"
"Look, I'm tired of your questions. Nobody else bothers me like this." The coyote notices that the other villagers are intently listening to his conversation with Juan.
Juan notices this too. "Exploitation it is. A scam. He promises me one thing...you say another," declares Juan.
"Shut up and get ready!" growls the coyote.
"You're not a nice person," Juan whines.
"Will you shut up? Or I'll- "
"You'll what? You'll kill me? Oh, threatening violence now, are we? Same old routine -- exploit the working class."
"Shut up you fool!" the coyote snarls.
Juan turns to the other villagers. "We've seen this before. The bourgeoisie exploit the working poor, take their money, make false promises, exploit, exploit, exploit! History repeats itself, all over gain. August 1918, Mao and the Chinese Revolution, 'we'll help the poor' and all that rubbish."
"He's an idiot," the coyote addresses the restless villagers.
"Oh, making fun of me now, are we?" Juan skips back and forth, between the coyote and the villagers. "Downplaying my concerns. I have rights you know," claims Juan.
"What rights? What are you talking about?"
"Oh, I get it, you have my money, now you have all the power, I'm nothing? That's how it is, is it?" protests Juan.
"What are you talking about? Look I'm not the complaint department. Cross the river, or go back home. I don't care."
"So I don't get a refund?"
"Here's your refund, it's worth it to get rid of you," the coyote relents. He tries to surreptitiously hand the money to Juan.
Juan refuses. He is marching in circles around the coyote. "Oh trying to buy me off now, are we? Feeling a little bourgeois guilt?"
The coyote grabs Juan by the belt and yanks him downstream. "What is wrong with you? I'm a human smuggler, a coyote, a purveyor of people, a runner of rejects from the ragtag rabble. I don't care about you, I don't care if you live or die."
"Getting sensitive now, are we? People are nicer in the village. This is all my fault for believing I'd be better off in America."
"Ok," the coyote says, hauling Juan away from the group. "Here's the deal. I know a guy who'll take you over for free, only you have to carry a backpack of cocaine. How's that sound?"
"What if I get caught? Then what?" Juan pleads for an answer. He glances nervously at the villagers for support. But they have settled on the river's edge.
"Well if you get caught, just make sure you get deported back here."
"If you disappear, he'll figure you stole the cocaine to sell it, and he'll kill your family," explains the coyote.
"Back to the violence again, are we? So all this is about money and violence?"
"Didn't you want to work in America for money?" asks the Coyote.
"Yes but that is honest labor. An honest day's work for an honest day's pay!" Juan exclaims in a crescendo. He breaks from the coyote and sprints upstream.
"Smuggling drugs isn't honest." The coyote's words chase him.
"So now I'm a criminal? People who want to work are criminals? I see, working class criminal," Juan makes his case before the villagers.
"Look you, I didn't want to start on this debate, you did." The coyote says to Juan and his other clients.
"Disrespecting me again, are we?" Juan dances in the transfixed admiration of the villagers.
The coyote is inspired too. He pats Juan on the back. "There is a job waiting in America for you -- immigration rights advocate."
Juan replies, to no one in particular, "According to the coyote."
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