CARMELA

It is noon when the children of the school in La Nueva Esperanza gather on top of a mound made of sand and debris at the stream’s shore. The teacher engages the students in a discussion about life in the U.S, asking them to describe what they imagine to lie across the border. At the end of the class, she has them write a story based on their lives in Tijuana. Sitting on a rundown bridge, nine-year-old Carmela writes about life in the slum. Her story takes us to the shack in which she lives with her parents and four siblings; the dirty river turned into a playground; food salvaged from factory’s containers; and afternoons spent in the dumps of Tijuana looking for scrap metal. Carmela and her family live as “undocumented” in their own country - a situation that forces them to rely on other people’s waste. “I wish I could work in a maquila (assembly plant) but I can’t because we have no papers”, Carmela’s mother tells her daughter. “Why is that?” Carmela asks. “Because our house caught fire and our papers got burned...” Carmela’s story leads her to question the nature of her daily struggles. What is the border? What is the wall made of? Do her parents want to cross to the other side? These are questions that pop into her story like the kites that pop into the sky of “Nueva Esperanza” at sunset.