Rosario remained silent. Day after day, her comapañeras sat beside and across from her in la factoria. Their hands kept busy as they sewed, stitched, and cut bright colored fabrics. Beautiful and expensive clothes for tall, thin, long legged women, who dressed for important jobs and fancy parties. Bored by the monotony, the women looked up from their sewing machines, and took turns speaking. Burdened by their circumstances, the women chose to complain. First their husbands, either womanizers or violent drunks, and after, they unraveled their children. Delinquents that ran wild and hated school. As the day unfurled, so did their patience with another. Chided one another over whom worked faster or slower. Head bowed down, Rosario continued her silence.
But on Fridays, when the foreman walked around with envelopes that held their meager pay, the women grew silent too. Their brains busy with calculations of how their money was to be doled between America and back home. All tethered to different countries: El Salvador, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Republica Dominicana, and Colombia. Once, Rosario was asked how much she sent home, and when she answered almost all her pay, the women scoffed. Reminded Rosario that she was alone, no husband or children to take their share of her money. While this was true, Rosario divided the world of immigrants into two groups, ones that gave begrudgingly, and the few who wished they had more to give.
Seven years to be exact, Rosario had not stepped foot in her hometown of Chalan. Rosario refused to, until the house she built Mama was erected, and filled with mesadoras, un juego de sala, y una estufa moderna. Rosario saw the smile on her Mama in the seams of the suit trousers she pushed under the sewing machine. Twelve hours a day spent attached to a Singer, tiny loose threads dusted across her face, and the ache in her wrist that forced her to swallow ibuprofen every few hours. Weekends were devoted to cleaning doctor offices in the tall buildings of Manhattan. Rosario stored all her money in an old glass jar, and kept it in the far corner of her closet.
With her Mama’s house complete and furnished, Rosario flew home for two weeks mid-winter. First a flight from Nueva York to Barranquilla, then a long bus ride to the closest point to Chalan it could get to, and at last a jeep to drive along the sharp turns and jagged edges of the road. A drive done at night to avoid being stopped along the way by the guerrilla. At last, Rosario was surrounded by monte y sol, and the smell of burnt wood in the air.
Greeted at the front of Mama’s house by cousins, nieces, and nephews, all five of her brothers and her two sisters, Rosario craned her neck in search of her mother. In the far back, Mama looked smaller, her hair all white now in a bun on top of her head, dressed in the pink bata she sent her the month before. Rosario took a long breath in an effort to quell her emotions.
Everyone ate well during Rosario’s visit. The adults gathered around Rosario, and rubbed the back of her hand, as they asked for money to pay off debts, medical procedures that were necessary, tuitions left unpaid, some even bold to ask for money to help them afford a party, or even a motorcycle. Unwilling to say no, Rosario pulled at the roll of money tucked into her breast.
Rosario returned every year after that, and like a genie granted the wishes of those around her. Then, news that the guerilla invaded Chalan and took over the small town. Afraid, Rosario’s family abandoned the house and all the beautiful things inside. Unstitched, Rosario never made the trip back home.