I drove down the short alley to the back door entrance of my new studio, as has become customary in a relatively short period of time. My studio neighbors were, as usual, enjoying their whiskey drink and a cordial greeting was exchanged through my intentionally opened driver’s side window. After parking and exiting my car I noticed an older man sitting on the stoop of the tienda that services the neighborhood just across the alley. An opened quart of cheap beer sat at the ready beside him. We exchanged traditional greetings which seemed to encourage him to stand and walk toward me to engage in more in depth conversation. We quickly determined a reasonable combination of broken English and broken Spanish to maintain a conversation. His name was Jose “Freddy” Alfredo. He had recently returned from “the States” where he had worked for 37 years picking various crops in more states than I can recount, including Alaska. He returned to San Miguel because his mother had died, and as he crossed the border going south he was told he could never return to Los Estados Unidos. He had ten years when he left Mexico, and stood before me a 47 year old man. His entire family was deceased. He was friends with the tienda owner and so found comfort there. He lamented the loss of regular, though difficult, work that afforded him a living wage and also allowed him to contribute to a society through labor and a certain degree of consumerism and the inherent taxes. He needed, craved, work of any kind. I told him if anything came up I’d let him know, but that was a lie. There was nothing I could offer him, just as I had nothing to offer the young neighbor man who approached me two days earlier, drunk on whisky with the same request. I gave the “old” man a few pesos, nothing really. He crossed himself, and I noticed his eyes watered.
Well, that was his story, such as it is.