The Mexican Blanket
Maria (not her real name), a neighbor I met last weekend at a street fair on Avenue C near my home in New York, stopped by with her four-year-old. As soon as the boy spotted my Mexican blanket on a bed near the entrance, he was thrilled.
“Mira Mami!” he yelled, “Ella tiene una cobija como la que teníamos!”
“Look, Mama! She has a blanket like the one we used to have!”
He ran to the woven throw and gathered up as much of it as his tiny arms could hug.
“Mira, Mami! Mira!”
It was hard to restrain myself but I knew not to take a picture. As a volunteer member of The New Sanctuary Coalition, I learned the one rule concerning photographs: Don’t take them!
Many immigrants are fleeing dangerous situations and worry that the people who were persecuting them will learn their whereabouts. For others, the fear is that ICE will find and deport them.
Cultural and religious considerations also matter. Muslim women avoid cameras for reasons that have to do with sexual modesty. Some indigenous people believe a photograph can steal your soul.
Maria brought empañadas; I helped her write a letter to her landlord.
My blanket became a serape as the child rocked back and forth on the bed in a womb-like swath of Aztec comfort. No pictures. No questions. No mention of status. When they left I said a prayer.