Michigan and foreigners

By | 285 Comments

Just left Detroit. Michigan is going through another economic downturn. Reminded me of what happened during the last one.

A family, I think from Kalamazoo, decided that things were so bad they needed to leave the state. They had heard that all the jobs were going to Mexico so they took their two teen-age sons and moved there, in spite of all the anti-NAFTA rage (remember that?)

The dad got work in Mexico and, as you could have guessed, the two sons fell in love with pretty Mexican señoritas. I don’t remember any of the names except one of these girlfriends was called Tita, the nickname for Rutita.

Well, both of the sons got married but the dad got denque fever and died. Not long after that the two sons got mixed up with the Sinaloan mafia and tried to make too much money too quickly. They found their bodies on a beach in Mazatlán.

So here’s the widow with the two daughter-in-laws. She says, “what am I doing here in Mexico?” So she packs up her stuff in their Chevy Astro van to come back to Michigan. Tita won’t let her go alone and insists on coming too, the other daughter-in-law decides to stay in Mexico. They made a good team, this American/Mexican, but Tita was still a foreigner, she didn’t fit in.

So the mom and Tita finally get to Michigan but mom’s too old and depressed to work and Tita doesn’t have a green card.

To put food on the table the mom sends Tita out to an apartment building that’s under construction and tells her to collect all the copper she can…scraps of wire and plumbing pipe to sell for recycling. It’s not a “real” job but it’s better than starving.

So Tita shows up at the construction site and all the men are looking at her. Its awkward. The developer was a guy they called Mr. “B” and he noticed her, too. He noticed she was different.

Turns out that he’s some kind of relative to the dad, who died of dengue fever. So he’s really nice to Tita, who’s young and pretty and in a vulnerable situation. Mr. “B” tells his subcontractors to throw out a bunch of extra copper so he can help out this Mexican immigrant lady.

By the end of the day Tita drags home this huge bundle of scraps, like 60 pounds of the stuff. She’s excited and her mother-in-law is puzzled. She figures out that there’s a benefactor out there helping them.

Well, this continued on for a while until the building that Mr. “B” was working on finally got done and he threw a big end-of-job party. Everybody was in high spirits, you know, what with construction workers and all.

Now here’s where it gets intriguing. When the music finally died down Tita went over to where Mr. “B” had fallen asleep under a comforter on one of the couches in a corner and she laid down on the carpet right beside the couch. Sometime in the night Mr. “B” realized she was there and beyond that, he realized there was a warm spot in his heart for this foreign woman. To protect her from any of the construction guys who might wake up, he threw his comforter over her, so that it covered them both. I guess, symbolically, he was accepting her, a foreigner, and redeeming her, making her a Michigander.

The next day they made wedding plans and soon that little mexican widow, Tita, who thought that a foreigner like her could never be accepted by an American, was pregnant. They had a baby and named him O-cama. Weird name, wasn’t it? I guess it made more sense when translated.

And that’s what leaving Detroit reminded me of; of foreigners in Michigan, being accepted as Michiganders. How hard it is and how important it is..for us to accept them.

David Roller

Sent from my BlackBerry®