La Isla

He would run barefoot down Paisano St. toward La Isla where the grey cinderblock houses didn't have running water but alma y corazon were plentiful. The river surrounded his neighborhood on three sides, just like a big American hug, welcoming and promising. There, mama would be making tortillas by the glare of a bare lightbulb. The side to side slap of the dough would continue to be a welcome rhythm of childhood memory. A few years later the new projects in the second barrio seemed like a dream, residents could borrow the lawn mower once a week! Here the sidewalks were not broken, there was a real lawn and street lights. The best part of course was that Marcelino, his best friend, lived down the hall. Time and again a new roof would signal a new start. Until the American dream became a reality in the suburbs; his very own lawnmower now occupied the other spot in the two car garage. But no matter where he ever was, the barrio, in the barracks, or on Main Street, it was never home until the tortillas came off the flame, hot, crispy and familiar.

~~ Jose Ornelas

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