No More Deaths volunteer Hannah Hafter wrote the following while
working as a NISGUA human rights accompanier in Guatemala in 2007:
Norma has a new photo framed and hanging on the cement block wall. In it she is with her husband Jose and their two daughters, Dina and Anna, in a lush green park in front of the Miami , Florida skyline. Each person stands straight and stiff, their bodies not touching. The kids are smiling; the parents aren’t.
Norma and her kids have never been to Florida . A package had just arrived with this digital composite photo mailed by her husband, a family portrait across
borders. They are living in a world where poverty separates families but technology enables them to appear as if they are together for a moment, in a
photo. It feels so fundamentally unfair, that the tools that we have developed better the image but not the reality.
Over three years have passed since Jose left for the U.S. The last time he saw the chattermouth Dina, she could barely say her first few words. Their youngest
daughter had just been born when Jose left – a baby who did not live to see six months, whose funeral he did not get to attend.
Tonight Norma has invited us over for tamales, soft steamed dough wrapped in fresh leaves from the new corn stalks that are just starting to form their
husks. We are all seated around the table except Dina, who has refused to sit still and is climbing around the bench and our shoulders like a jungle gym made
just for her. I feel slightly ridiculous with my hair up in a sloppy side-ponytail that Anna styled before dinner. The phone rings and Dina jumps up to get it,
screaming and running. It’s their dad.
Norma tells us that Jose calls them every day, when he has steady work. Recently he hasn’t and his cell phone has been shut off, but today he bought a phone card and it is the first time in a while that they are able
to check in.
Dina’s voice remains at a constant yell while she sings her dad a song she learned in school about Pin Pon, a handsome doll made of cardboard. She ends
yelling, “Hay que hablar con tu mujer!” – “You have to speak to your woman!” which sends us all laughing, including Norma, as she gets up to take the receiver
in the corner.
She speaks softer than her 5-year-old daughter, but we hear her first words, “Hola mi amante,” – “Hey there, lover.” Jokingly and flirtingly, like I’ve never heard couples talk in Cuarto Pueblo.
After hanging up the phone, Norma tells us that Jose is planning on coming home sometime between June and December. Dina says she will kill a pig, put on loud music, and have a big party for him. Then, she says, she will break out crying from being so happy.