Anchor Baby

If Jesus had been born near San Diego and his parents were Mexican.

Jose was an excellent craftsman. He made spinning tops, caps and balls, puppets, and other wooden toys by hand. The quality of the toys didn’t match the low selling price. The toys were a good percentage of his profits, but still, Pancho was an essential part of the business. Pancho was his partner, best friend, and a crucial element of his show. Also, Pancho was an alcoholic. The donkey carried a sign hanging from its neck that said, “Pancho,” and all the tourists at the beach loved to see him drink beer. 

The donkey had been loyal to Jose for years; he carried the merchandise, entertained the crowds, and got paid with beers. Most days, it appeared that Pancho was too willing to go to work, but Jose knew that, in reality, Pancho had a hangover, and all he had in mind was to go to the beach and get drunk again. The happy appearance of Pancho was misleading; Jose knew he was exploiting Pancho even though the donkey had a constant smile on his face, but his addiction provoked the smile.

Jose’s wife was in the last days of her pregnancy, and for the previous two weeks, she couldn’t join him and stayed home. They made a decent living in Tijuana. Their modest house had barely the essentials for a happy living. Jose wasn’t too proud of their way of living or the options and examples he would give to his future child. Jose and his wife had talked seriously about improving their child’s chances for the future. And the decision was final: the child would be born in the United States.

Most people in Mexico blamed the US for their eternal misery. The graffiti on the poorest slums from Tijuana to Central America and beyond proclaimed: “Yankees go home,” in contrast, signs near San Diego showed immigrant parents with a girl in ponytails running and crossing the freeways. Making a racist allusion to illegal aliens crossing the border.

Indeed, the US had been robbing them of all their natural resources, including silver, gold, oil, lumber, and even cheap labor. They were taking all the stuff the country produced and leaving them with increasing debt. 

Mexico had survived centuries of Spanish pillaging and exploitation. Now Spain had been replaced by the US. 

In most cases, the only solution they could find was to flee to the US. The US had nothing to recriminate. All of it was just a vicious circle initiated by a greedy villain. Talking about poetic justice.

Jose and Pancho had been a permanent fixture at the beach, and tourists had taken thousands of pictures and videos of Pancho and his drinking habits for many years at the Mexico-USA border on the beach. They were never bothered by immigration officers while going back and forth the borderline, temporarily invading the US side a few hundred yards. 

But the following day, they had planned to go further into USA territory.

Maria was ready to give birth. She wasn’t too cheerful. Her first baby was going to be an American child. She was proud of her race, brown skin, and Aztec roots. She even imagined that by giving birth in America, her child would be a white boy or a blond girl, just like that automatically by crossing an invisible border, even if the other side used to be part of Mexico. Jose and Maria had decided it was the best for the child. Their child would have access to better education, medical care, job opportunities, and everything else. He could be a professional athlete, an astronaut, or even the President of the United States. Yes, it was the best for the child.

Maria was riding the donkey; it had all kinds of trinkets hanging from its neck, not cheap, but inexpensive wooden toys that mainly appealed to poor kids on the Mexican side. Cheap meant low quality, but these toys were good quality, so they were ‘inexpensive.’ Pancho was having a hard time carrying the extra weight. He was sweating off a hangover from the day before, and he was anxious to have his first beer of the day. But Jose was making fewer stops than usual. They hadn’t walked a mile on the US side when an Immigration Officer stopped them and asked for their papers. Then, another officer showed up and said that it was okay, that Jose and Pancho were allowed to come and go just a couple miles into US territory, and that Pancho had been entertaining tourists from both sides for years. So, they left them alone.

And they continued their trip.

They didn’t plan on giving any shows or trying to sell anything; their only goal was to get to a community hospital in Chula Vista. But along the way, they made a few stops to avoid suspicions. 

The first stop was unplanned. Pancho decided to stop with a group of teenagers. He needed a beer. The kids were drinking beer from red plastic cups because drinking alcohol was not allowed on California beaches. Jose couldn’t understand how Pancho noticed the teens were drinking beer. Pancho came to a standstill in front of them and stubbornly refused to continue. He deserved a break, thought Jose. 

Maria dismounted the thirsty alcoholic donkey. Pancho looked a little pathetic, but soon, with some luck, he would change that look into a smile. The teens couldn’t believe Jose when he told them the truth; the donkey had a terrible hangover. Ultimately, they had a lot of fun with Pancho; they even bought some puppets and spinning tops. Pancho drank five beers, and before they left, Pancho brayed rather noisily. He was happy again. The teens rioted when a naive girl asked Jose if she could kiss his ass. Maria didn’t like that. 

And they continued their journey.

All along the beach were showers, restrooms, and other facilities, including lifeguard posts and free public parking spaces. The ocean water, the wind, and the sunshine were the same, but somehow the American side seemed more serene, pure, and less polluted. How can that be possible? 

Pancho had decided to be in charge of the rest stops and breaks they would take. This time, he took refuge in the shade next to a restroom. And while Maria used the facilities, Jose fed Pancho and gave him some water.

They weren’t dirty or messy but seemed odd and out of place. Maria wore a long dress, a headscarf, and a straw hat. Nobody could deny she was beautiful. Jose was wearing a pair of white loose cotton pants, a white guayabera, and brown sandals. He was handsome too. They neither looked like tourists nor natives. 

Before Maria exited the restroom, a lady blabbered in a fastidious tone, aiming her venom at her waiting husband just outside the door, “I can’t believe it! These Mexicans are invading us. It seems like the borderline is getting closer to San Diego; I can’t even use the restroom without tripping with one of them! Oh, my God, we need to move to Canada!” “Yes!” answered her husband, “And look at this, they’re even bringing their burros!” They kept complaining as they walked away. Maria came out of the restroom sad and confused.

“I don’t know what happened, Jose, I didn’t do anything, but that lady was so offended by my presence. I don’t understand why,” Maria said, exiting the restroom.

“It’s okay Maria, don’t worry, you’re not to blame. Some people are just intolerant of other races. Please, darling, don’t be upset. Just ignore them,” Jose said as he helped her climb up Pancho. 

Jose couldn’t understand it either since all American tourists they encountered in Tijuana were highly polite and gracious; they were always very respectful and well-mannered. They’d never seen such mean people before. 

And they continued their trek.

Maria was still sobbing quietly when a short, skinny guy appeared jogging next to them and suddenly stopped and asked Jose in Spanish if he could ride his donkey for a little bit. Such a request was common to hear from kids, but since Jose couldn’t find a reason to refuse, he agreed. And while Jose and Maria sat on the sand to rest, the little guy went up and down the beach, riding Pancho full of joy. Even Pancho appeared to be having fun. They looked a little comical too.

When they came back, the man sat next to them. And while still laughing, he mentioned that he started riding donkeys when he was five years old, back in a little town in Oaxaca, where he was from. It turned out he was a jockey. He said he would run a race at the Del Mar racetrack the following day. He said he missed Mexico and felt lonely and nostalgic most of the time. Jose told him their story, why they had crossed the border, and their intentions to give the baby a better future. 

After Jose finished their story, the short man offered them three hundred dollars to help with the medical bills, which Jose accepted with sincere modesty. 

Even though Jose had all their life savings, he was worried he didn’t have enough money for the hospital. Now, Jose was glad nobody would call him a freeloader or a leech. Even Pancho disliked burdens.

And they continued their expedition. 

They were near their destination. Maria’s contractions were getting intense and persistent. She told Jose it was time. While she rested next to a lifeguard’s tower, Jose went to get a taxicab. 

To the right, the waves were crashing violently against the rocks. To the left, and as long as you could see, the high tide kept delivering surfers to the beach. One of them saw Maria trying to stretch and relax, but nothing seemed remotely relaxing on the sand, not even a towel. The surfer offered his surfing board for her to lie down on. Other young people brought more surfing boards and built two walls around her. Then the lifeguard brought a stretcher and some sheets. Maria couldn’t wait to be taken to the hospital.

The beach sure looked like paradise. The place where the ocean waters were embracing and caressing this beautiful planet was a perfect place to deliver a baby.

The lifeguard and the surfers were good enough to deliver the baby. The healthy boy didn’t need any doctors or nurses or emergency rooms. Many surfers were offering their arms to hold the smiling baby. 

When Jose returned, as he held the baby and kissed Maria, the crowd went wild with cheers.

And, of course, they named the baby Jesus.

And thirty-three years later, Jesus would have to experience his own journey.

The End


U.S. Copyright Office — Submitted / Pending

Edmundo Barraza

 Lancaster, Ca. 02-20-2016