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Thursday, July 28, 2022


by Tamara Kreutz

Foto Prensa Libre, July 17, 2022: Elmer Vargas


Last Sunday at breakfast in San Martín, 
a Guatemalan bakery chain, my husband and I 
sipped our coffee and tea, as our three children 
raced up and down the indoor jungle gym.
While watching them, we thumbed through the paper. 
This story’s fucking awful, my husband said. 

The body of Juan Wilmer Tulul Tepaz, 
a fourteen-year-old Guatemalan boy who died (trapped 
was returned home to a village outside Sololá. 
The story showed pictures of his parents. The father’s 
hand covered weeping eyes as he sank into himself—
back bowed, arms pressing a crease in his middle.
The mother’s brow was squeezed into the shape
of a moth’s wings spread across her forehead.
She wore a purple huipil and a black bandana, 
and her hand caressed her son’s casket—the tips 
of her manicured fingers pressing into the wood, 
her thumb stroking the edge as she would her son’s cheek.


My family just moved to Guatemala
to give our kids the life America 
couldn’t. Its dream had chewed us up, leaving the gnawed 
gristle of debt and burnout—the cost of gas
and rent and medical care. But in Guatemala, 
opportunity would unfold like a rug 
before our children’s feet—piano, dance, 
and horseback riding lessons—because the dollar
goes so much further here. In Guatemala,
I can pay someone to clean my house and watch my kids,
and if we’re sick and need labs, I won’t worry
the bills will hollow out our savings account. 

Our first day here, my toddler son locked himself 
into a second-story bedroom with an open 
window. He screamed for fifteen minutes, then went silent. 
I panicked, pounded the door, then raced out the house
and up and down the street, asking everyone 
I saw if they had tools to pick a lock—
until someone called the fire department.
Back in the house, I kicked the door, I paced, doubled
over, hunching in circles around the family room,
crying, I just want my baby back, now.
When the locksmith came with wires and screwdrivers
to take the doorknob off, and I finally burst through
to find my son sound asleep in bed, I pulled
his little body to my chest. He woke,
startled, but nestled his silky head under my chin,
and I felt his heart beat against mine. In the nine years 
I’ve been a mother, this was the first time
I couldn’t reach my child who needed me.


I keep thinking about how I felt, locked away
from my son, wondering if he was hurt or even—
(I can’t bring myself to write it, I’ll leave the word 
unsaid). And I keep thinking about Juan Wilmer— 
the ten thousand dollars his parents paid 
the coyote for safe transport, his dream 
of education, the pictures of him alive 
and smiling placed on the family altar.
I keep thinking about his mother’s hand
that clutched his casket, her fingers spreading 
over its edge—exactly how my hand
had clutched the arm of my live and dreaming child.

Tamara Kreutz is an English Language Arts teacher and a poet who resides in Antigua, Guatemala. She began writing poetry early in the pandemic, and through poetry, she found order, peace, and joy in a turbulent, uncertain time.