November 20, 2006


They come to work - and to send money home: Payday makes harrowing journey worth the risk to illegal laborers (DIANNE SOLÍS and DEBORAH TURNER / The Dallas Morning News)

On the weekends, every empty patch of field in Cactus mutates into a cancha de futbol, a soccer field where the men release the stress of the week.

A few more join their fellow countrymen at band practice at one of the two churches.

From one church building comes an ironic chorus: "No estas lejos al reino de Dios," or "You are not far from the kingdom of God." A cumbia beat provides the melodic line. As the singing stops, the singers turn from the Spanish lyrics to religious homages in Quiché, the Mayan dialect of their home state that bears the same name.

Others find their home away from home in the little Baptist church on South Drive led by Pastor Jose Rosales – himself a transplant from the Mexican state of Durango.

Back at Mr. Rosales' church, a man prepares to tune his musical instruments.

Here, the men gather for more than worship.

Mr. Cus said he finds solace in singing with a gospel group that calls itself Cristo Salva – Christ Saves. He leads the group – made up of a trumpet player, two keyboardists, an electric guitarist and another conga-tambor player like himself.

Then, he takes to the microphone and looks out over his fellow Guatemalans.

"It is an honor to say the sweet name of God," Mr. Cus said.

On this particular weekend, as the workers tend to their pain – physical and spiritual – the Ku Klux Klan marches against illegal immigration through the streets of nearby Amarillo.

"Que K? [What's KKK?]" asks Mr. Rosales when he learns of the KKK, a leader who calls himself a "grand dragon" and city police stationed with shotguns on rooftops.

They're even worth the soccer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2006 5:15 PM
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