There was a guy here named Rolando, he has since went home.
I remember very clearly when he arrived here at 3RVS. Why you might ask would I remember one among thousands? Well, he was tall and skinny and looked somewhat like my brother-in-law Cuco; Cuco has become an angel, God bless his soul.
Anyway, the first time I saw him he was standing alone in the corner of the cellblock looking at his Inmate Identification Card. When I walked up to him he was maybe a little embarrassed that I caught him studying, no doubt for the first time, his inmate I.D., or maybe it was something else, but recognizing that I was obviously a gringo he said one word “Ugly.” I don’t know why but the way he said that one word added a sense of sorrow to it, because, an Inmate ID card, IS an ugly thing to have. But, that deeper thought aside, I returned his sad smile and said, in my broken Spanish, “Todos miran feo en estos,” “We all look ugly on those cards.”
I introduced myself and told him that he looked like my brother-in-law, he smiled and told me that he was from a small town in Mexico, near the border with Texas named, Roma.
Very shortly after arriving Rolando went and applied for several jobs, he was eventually hired to work the yard crew at Recreation; he cut the grass around the track, picked up paper, and did general maintenance work. Due to the fact that he had no education and spoke no english, his choices were limited. He was paid $18 a month. Some men refuse to work for $18.00 a month, but not him, I respect that quality in a person – you can say things about Mexicans, but the one thing you can’t say about ’em is, that they’re lazy. Mexicans are not freeloaders.
Seeing that Rolando had no money coming in from the streets, I started to help him. At first I gave him a weekly bag of coffee, then I bought him shoes, then clothes and ultimately a new radio. On top of this I began to buy between $20 and $30 a month of food and some chips, things I’d seen he liked. I did this every month.
Rolando wasn’t a freeloader. As a show of gratitude he would bring me the two milks they had given him in the Chow Hall for his cereal – and even thought I didn’t need them I accepted them, understanding that it was his way of trying to even the score. You see we are not allowed to bring milk out of the Chow Hall, so they have to be smuggled out; stolen. As a result of this, a man can trade two milks in the cellblock for ONE postage stamp or he can trade two milks for a Ramen Noodle Soup. Yeah … when you have absolutely nothing, you’re relegated to stealing milks to support yourself. I hope you understand that for every guy like me, who has support from their families, that there are others who do not. Prison is a cruel and degrading place.
One morning Rolando saw me on my hands and knees cleaning the floor of my cell, when I got up to see what he wanted he knelt down and finished the job. The next day while I was doing my daily walking he told my cellie he was going to clean my cell. He continued to do so until the day he left.
Last December he told me that he was due to be deported in April — he then lowered his eyes and asked me for a favor. He wanted to know if I could send him a hundred dollars so he’d have money to go home with. He said that, to pay for this, I could stop giving him money every month and he’d still bring me milk and clean my cell. “Of course I’d help,” I responded, but as April approached I wasn’t sure how I would manage it. But, God is good, right!?
Just before Rolando was scheduled to leave my son sent me money by the way of a lady in Missouri who handles my accounts (Thank you, Sue). So I asked Sue to send half of the money my son sent me, she did, and when he got the money he was sooo happy, he couldn’t stop thanking me … one hundred dollars, that’s all it was, but to him …. well you get the message.
Why am I telling you this story? Well, one thing for sure is, I didn’t do it to make myself look good. I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again — if you’re one of those who hate me, know here and now that I don’t care. I am not trying to win your sympathy — “F-YOU.” Now that that’s clear, we can go back to why I’m telling you this story? Well, for two reasons really. One is — I’m angry as hell! Two is, I wanted to tell Cuco’s children along with my other nieces and nephews that I love you guys and always will. You are a part of my life. You’re a part of my family! I’m so proud of you. So why am I angry?
Well, on monday of this week I checked my email and saw that I had a facebook message from a man named Jose, Joselike Rolando is from Mexico. Jose and I had spent around three years together, in prison, and he was reaching out to me to let me know he was home, I’m so glad to hear this. Well … getting this message from Jose caused me to think about Rolando. I walked upstairs to Roland’s old cell and asked his old cellie if he’d heard from him. He had, hence my anger.
He told me that Rolando was back in jail, he added, “He was caught smuggling dope across the border,” and even worse, “His son was caught with him.” Yeah … he’s coming back to prison and this time he’s bringing his child with him. Anger, disappointment … trying to make sense of this. Sorrow.
There’s just something cruel about life … for some people.
I’ve told you before about the poor folks in Mexico. And, according to what the Mexican Nationals tell me, if you’re like Rolando, poor and unfortunate enough to live on the border with the U.S.– you only have two choices, either cross that border and risk getting put in prison for Illegal Entry, or work for the Drug Cartels … NO you don ‘t understand — you do not have a choice — the Cartel shows up at your house and tells you what to do, either you do it, or your family is killed or put into prostitution. It’s a new form of slavery. Of course you didn’t know this — the American and Mexican News is not reporting it — but I hear it straight from the horses mouth. It’s nothing new, poor folks ain’t got nothin’ comin’ not here, not there. Hard for us to accept, but it’s true.
Yeah I used to be one of those guys who thought that poor folks were poor because they chose to remain so. After all, I made it out — why can’t they? But my heart has been tempered on the steel of incarceration, it has like a Morning Glory (flower) opened and I’m at last beginning to see that life just ain’t fair for all people — it just aint. Yes, Rolando made his own choices and will pay a horrible price for those choices … but with what face can I condemn him … hell, who’s dumber than me! I have no right to judge.
The point to this message is — when you catch yourself being angry – you have to change that anger, repel it by thinking something positive. That’s what I’m doing right now. I was angry at Rolando. Instead of remembering his kindness I was focusing on his failure … I have chosen to replace those negative emotions with positive emotions by remembering Cuco, Lore, Chella, and all their children. I’m so happy that I was able to play a small part in getting them out.
My heart bleeds for Rolando and his family — how about you outlaws throwing up a prayer or two for ’em.
Peace be with you. Mayor Mark
Three Rivers, 7-8-20