“Well, did the guards beat you?” I asked. “No guards,” he said. A prison without walls. Their child born there, right on the island that really was a prison. No lounging on the beach and no going back for a long time, never for some. I asked if they were afraid to live in a place where there was no escape from being surrounded by criminals. I was surprised to hear there was hardly and crime. The island full of criminals, some came there criminals and the prisons most were sentenced to prior to arrival at the island made the rest.
His wife came to live with him. When she arrived on the shore, he didn’t even know she had left the ranchito. She was 7 months pregnant. She got tired of her family throwing in her face, reclamando le, that her husband was worthless and her choice to marry him made her less than that.
Her sister begged her not to go. She was certain her young and beautiful sister would be killed or worse. When I asked what was worse than being murdered, the answer was being raped. What if her husband died on the island? She would be trapped her sister warned. Laura, her sister, could not even begin to imagine how her sister would reach the island. She didn’t know what an island really was but imagined it was a dirty and dangerous place. A place no woman should ever have to enter.
Their mother had the same worries. Perhaps even worse because she could not express her concern and fear in words. She could speak to the Heavenly Father and the Virgen Maria in prayer but her husband forbade her to speak to the girl again. She agreed with him at first. As she watched her daughter’s belly grow, she longed to tell her daughter all the things she needed to know if she was going to be a good mother. She wanted to make sure she knew how to make all the remedios they would need, especially in the dark place she would likely give birth.
She stepped off the navy ship trying to conceal her pain. It was too soon and if she was going to have this baby, she wanted her husband to be there. If he was there, she knew she would be safe. He was not the savage her parents painted him to be. “Yes, this is a prison,” she thought, “but so is the place I left. At least I know I’m in a prison.” She was worried her husband would be angry she had sold the small plot of land he left in her name. He wanted her to have a place and wished to one day build his family a home there. He knew he might die and the land was the only thing he could show for all the money. She touched her hand to her forehead and her skin felt rubbery and cold. The last thing she saw before falling to the ground was a priest.