I was born in Mexico; my father was a goat farmer, and my mother used to weave baskets so that we could have at least two meals per day. We were very poor, and me and my siblings had the misfortune of being born in extreme weather, my oldest brother was born on the coldest day of winter, my elder sister in a spring deluge, and I was born in the thick of summer, and despite the fact that the 80′s had brought advances in the standard of living for the world’s citizens, it seemed to have forgotten us, in our tiny two bedroom cabin. So when my father heard about the H1-B Visa program through my uncle, he eagerly signed up. Every spring, he would go to work as a laborer on a pepper and tobacco farm in Texas. The work was hard, but the pay was good, and he was always home in time for Christmas, so he didn’t complain. He was saving up money so that we could emigrate to the United States, and so he worked from 1988 until 1991, saving what he could. He made sure not a penny was wasted, on the long winter bus ride from the farm to Mexico, he would sleep, so that the hunger pangs would not bother him.
He doesn’t usually talk much about his days as a migrant worker, but he did tell us that one day, in the winter of 1989, I believe, he could not sleep. The bus had made a rest stop near a small taco stand. the tacos smelled wonderful, and everyone on the bus formed a long line towards the taco stand, eager and salivating. The man behind the small dirty counter was very friendly, he said, but there was something that was a little “off” about him. The man scooped out the steaming, spiced meat onto fresh, piping hot, flour tortillas like a machine, taking the money in one hand and serving up a big loaded plate with the other.
“Tacos De Venado!” His voice rang out. Apparently he was selling venison tacos, or deer meat. “Comprense taquitos de venado, son muy deliciosos!”
My father debated whether or not he should risk spending 2 dollars of his hard earned money. Fortunately my father is quite impatient, and detests long lines, so he went back to the bus, and quickly fell asleep.
The next winter the bus again made a rest stop at the man’s taco stand, and again the passengers formed a long line along with other people, they had become addicted they said, every year they waited impatiently to return to this small, dingy taco stand. My father of course, stayed on the bus. He was used to the feeling of hunger, he lived with it throughout his childhood, he would surely survive. So again, he slept, dreaming of a big bowl of my mother’s chicken soup, with a side of hot corn tortillas (which we could afford by then).
The next spring, he left again, it wasn’t a very good year, the weather was horrible and so the crop yield was low, the farm had no choice but to let the workers go home a month early. My father said that the fellow workers were abuzz with excitement, they didn’t have to eat their tacos in the cold this year! The men eagerly counted the number of miles, their excitement mounting as they drew closer to the rest stop. Three more miles, two more miles, one more mile, until they finally reached the spot where the man had his taco stand.
But then, nothing. There was no sign of the stand, or the man with his big steel pot of delicious, sweet deer meat. Just an old woman selling papier-mâché frogs and piñatas. The workers demanded to know what had happened to the man with the deer tacos. Had he moved to another location? Did he open up a restaurant? What happened, what?
The old woman raised her hand, and the men fell silent.
“He was arrested just two months ago. A lot of the local farmers and various other men started to go missing in his village, and the police were completely dumbfounded. A small rumor was going around that the local butcher, or the taco man as you know him, could be involved. The police had no other leads and so decided to follow up on that. What they saw shook them beyond beli-” she was cut off by a man asking, “And so what about the deer tacos? When he gets out of jail will he start making and selling them again?”
The old woman chuckled,
“Oh he won’t be leaving his cell for a long time, boys. You see, he wasn’t very well liked in his village, and venado was a nickname that he used to refer to his enemies.”