What they called me, that was what started it. I’m as good an American as the next fellow, and maybe a little bit better than men like that, big men drinking in a bar who can’t find anything better to do than to spit on a man and call him Mex. As if a Mexican is something to hide or to be ashamed of. We have our own heroes and our own strength and we don’t have to bend down to men like that, or any other men. But when they called me that I saw red and called them names back.
“Mex kid,” one of the men said, a big red-haired bully with his sleeves rolled back and muscles like ropes on the big hairy arms. “Snot-nosed little Mex brat.”
I called him a name. He only laughed back at me and turned his back, waving a hand for the bartender. Maybe in a big city in the North it would be different and probably it would not: this toleration we hear about is no more good than an open fight, and there must be understanding instead. But here near the border, just on the American side of the border, a Mexican is called fair game, and a seventeen-year-old like me is less than nothing to them, to the white ones who go to the big bars.
I thought carefully about what to do, and finally when I had made my mind up I went for him and tried to hit him. But other men held me back, and I was kicking and shouting with my legs off the ground. When I stopped they put me down, so I started for the big red-haired man again and they had to stop me again. The red-haired man was laughing all this time. I wanted to run, back to my own family in their little house, and yet running would have been wrong; I was too angry to run, so I stayed.
“My sister,” I said. “My sister is a witch and I will get her to put a curse on you.” I was very angry, you must understand this.
And of course they had no idea that my sister is a real witch, and her curses are real, and only last year Manuel Valdez had died from the effects of her curse. Of all people, sometimes I wish I were my sister most of all, to curse people and see them shrivel and sicken and choke and die.