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The Wiz

(by Bertha Iñiguez)

Martha Yañez de Orta de Iñiguez. Mi mamá. Loving, kind, misunderstood, and mistreated. Too tired to be emotionally present as a mother after her day job of slaughtering pigs at a meat-packing plant, supplemented by evenings and weekends at our family restaurant, King Taco in Sioux City, Iowa. Back then, I resented her for pushing me away when I needed love and wisdom. I wanted a mother who would teach me how to play the trumpet and French horn, instead of telling me to stop making noise so she could rest. Now I understand her better, and love her more than anything. A sweet soul with a tough life.

My father, his seven siblings, and their mother crossed the Mexican border to southern California when he was 16. My grandfather had left them for another woman; my dad and his brothers supported their family at restaurant jobs. At age 25, he went back to Mexico, married my 16-year-old mother, and brought her to the United States. I was their first child.

We were living in a garage in Baldwin Park, California, when my father went to the Midwest, looking for a better, less expensive life. When he found a job, my mother and I joined him in the heartland. I'm 27 now. At my age, my momma had already given birth to the first three of her six children—the original three musketeers, as our little trio of hooligans was named.