"Exhibiting You" - Story

Both Sides

By: Dulce Pinzón
Submitted: 10/15/2010

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Photographs by Dulce Pinzon

Dona Enerina, 72, has worked for many years harvesting crops and raising animals and is in every way the matriarch of her family. Enerina lives with her daughter, daughters-in-law and several grandchildren of sons who have left to find work in other countries. They live in a town called San Juan Tiaguiznalco, on the banks of the volcano Popocatepetl in the state of Puebla-a very rural area in Mexico, where people still ride horses and there is abundant open space.

Dona Enerina's son Luis lives in New York City and sends money home regularly. Luis has not seen the house where his mother now lives. If he could see it, he'd be amazed: actual tile floors, a pink bathroom with a tub and water heater (meaning no more cold baths with buckets), a microwave oven, and three bedrooms where before there was only one. Enerina's kitchen remains the same, and she won't allow anyone to change it: in the kitchen, the corn from each day's harvest is shucked, and in the back of this modern house they still keep a pen of animals that they sacrifice for an annual village festival.

Luis always intended for his parents to live better: he wanted the latrine to be replaced with a toilet and the dirt floors be replaced with marble floors, Vegas-style. He has dedicated himself to sending every extra dollar he earns to his mother so that they can enjoy a modern home.


Mari, 56, is also originally from Puebla, but she now lives in Brooklyn, New York, in an apartment with 14 family members, including sons, nieces, and nephews. Mari came to New York with her husband Alfonso several years ago, a talented woman with character. She was not at ease until she was able to have her whole family with her; now, the only people remaining in Puebla are her parents, who live in a two-story house with several rooms, the result of Mari's work as a laundry clerk and maid in New York.

Mari says that when her family was still in Puebla, she and her husband saved $10,000, rented a minibus, and took her entire family on a trip across Mexico before again crossing the border towards New York to continue working, saving, and sending money home to her parents. Mari dreams of someday returning to her home in Puebla to see her parents before they pass away.

One of the biggest challenges Mari faced was bringing her youngest daughter, Anayeli, age 14 at the time, to the U.S. But nothing is impossible: eventually she was able to get Anayeli across the border after several failed attempts. Now, Mari she tells this story as a funny anecdote, describing how it took them over a month to cross, disguised as other people. Anayeli has since finished high school and is planning on going to college, then becoming a stewardess. Mari says Anayeli's trips through desert and water are over: from now on they will be through air. Anayeli will be the first of Mari's children to go to college.

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