I got a new student Tuesday. Sweet little girl,straight out of Mexico. Usually kids move to my city from Mexico to pursue better jobs and to move in with family.
(No, I will not be talking about illegal immigration and since my line of work is directly involved with many illegal immigrants, my opinions will also be withheld here, but believe me, I have them and they are not necessarily in line with the majority of the population.)
However, this child is different. Her family is relatively successful in Mexico; they owned a store and did okay for themselves. The reason they moved to my city was because...they're fleeing the drug cartels who are trying to kill them.
About a week ago, my new student watched as armed drug lords entered her parents' store and proceeded to beat the mother to a pulp. Then, they watched as they held her to the ground and threatened to decapitate her. In. Front. Of. My. Sweet. New. Student. The whole time they were screaming at the kids that they were "about to see their mom die."
Somehow, the men were scared off but promised to return. The family did what they had to do; they fled. With nothing but the clothes on their back. They made it to their relatives' house here and set up house. For now, anyway.
My student came to my room at first seemingly okay. Most of my kids are well transitioned to English and we have been only speaking Spanish part of the time, so my student was a bit shocked at the amount of English. She was sticking to me like glue, which at first I took to be nerves. However, when I sent her to help me sharpen some pencils (I told her she was my new assistant), she broke down. I mean, little baby girl lost it.
"Que te paso mi corazon?" I asked her (what happened my love?).
"Esos hombres me van a matar y le van a matar mi mama! (those men are going to kill me, and my mom!) is what she sobbed back.
I guess there's a first time for everything, y'all. I usually am the pillar of calm when my students are upset, and their problems have run the gamut from abuse to death to everything in between. It's important for me to be strong for them when it seems their lives are crumbling. But when she choked those words out, in such raw fear, I choked up. My words caught in my throat and tears came to my eyes. I had to stand up, take a deep breath, and this is what I told her:
"Mi hija, te prometo algo. Mientras que estas aqui conmigo, nada, y yo digo NADA te va a pasar. Estas segura conmigo. Nada te va a pasar, me entiendes?"
My love, I promise you something. While you are here with me, nothing and I mean nothing, is going to happen to you. You are safe with me. Nothing will happen to you, do you understand?"
I know, nothing groundbreaking, but it was the truth. The rest of that day, that child clung to my side as we moved through the halls. I had my arm around her, and she stayed like that. She went to my team teacher in the afternoon, and she seemed to improve a little.
Yesterday was a little better, and I am hoping the days continue like that.
We hear about the extreme violence in Mexico and we make comments. However, Mexico is only a four hour drive away from me. You're telling me that only four hours away, something like that happened? That's too close for comfort.
The drug violence in Mexico just became real to me...
I need a drink.