Monday, February 11, 2008

From Mexico

I am in an Internet cafe (that´s what they call it, but there´s nothing at all resembling a cafe; it´s more like an Internet closet) in Reynosa, Mexico. Before you all get excited and jealous and picture me lying on the beach drinking margaritas, let me tell you that Reynosa, Mexico is a border town, just south of McAllen and Hidalgo, Texas. I looked it up in the Lonely Planet Mexico once and the only thing it had to say about this town of something like two million people was that it is ugly (think petrochemical refineries), and that there is nothing for tourists to do. It went on to mention that the only Americans who usually come to Reynosa are Texans looking for cheap prostitutes or prescription medication without a prescription.

I am here to visit my Mexican family, who run an orphanage. We call it an orphanage in English, but that´s a misnomer - it´s more of a group home. The Spanish name is casa-hogar, which literally means "house-home," and there are 40 kids ranging in age from 3 years old to 22 years old, whose parents can´t or won´t take care of them. Some of them have parents with drug problems, some have other siblings in the hospital and the parents can´t take care of the healthy siblings. However, the most common situation seems to be that a mother finds a new husband or new boyfriend, who doesn´t want the children from the previous man around, so the mother leaves them for the new man. Sometimes the mother brings the kids straight to the orphanage, but most often the director of the orphanage finds out about kids who have been left to live on their own in the street or left with other relatives who don´t really want to take care of them either.

One of these kids is Roberto. When Roberto was one, his mother(in a bit of a gender role switch) left his father. His father remarried when Roberto was five, and the new wife didn´t want Roberto or his sisters. Roberto was sent to live with his grandmother, who died a few years later. At this point, he got on a bus bound for Reynosa because he thought that was where an aunt or uncle lived. He found his uncle (remember, the kid´s only about 8 years old at this point, so he´s pretty resourceful) and lived with his family for a while until the uncle got abusive.

To be finished Wednesday - I have to leave!

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