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  • Writer's pictureMara Cao

i. desayuno

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

I am awoken as the morning sun heats up my tent. I walk over our kitchen tent and turn on the propane gas stove and place a large cast iron pan to warm up. I calculate that we have about ten people to feed today, unless some people left in the middle of the night or some came in the middle of the night. The morning is cool at 7am and there are cardinals fluttering around from tree to tree. I peel some potatoes and chop them up into cubes. I put the potatoes into the cast iron, add salt and pepper and whatever spices I find in the tent. Some of the spices are so stale they look like wood dust. While the potatoes cook, I take out a dozen eggs from the cooler, crack them into a bowl. I pull the potatoes off to free up a burner. I warm up a frying pan with some oil, adding some dried-out garlic cloves to add flavor to the eggs. On the other burner, I place a metal sheet to warm up tortillas. The eggs sizzle as I scramble them. Breakfast is almost ready. I just need to heat up the canned refried beans and then we can start the day. People are already milling around. One man is shaving with a hand-held mirror at the outdoor sink. The water is only a weak trickle, coming from the underground well. Three men sit on yellow plastic school chairs around the water spigot. One man has a twisted leg. Two other men help him massage it, pulling his leg this way and that.

I call out, “Desayuno!” and the men line up on both sides of the picnic tables, shuffling along on either side of the table and spooning some eggs and potatoes and beans onto their plates. Their clothes are ragged, ripping, caked with dust. Many have cuts on their arms and faces from crawling through the cacti bushes and losing their footing on the loose rocks while climbing the jagged mountains in the dark. Their faces are haggard, hollow and sunburned. We sit down and pass around the plate of warmed tortillas and bottle of Valentina hot sauce. I count 12 of us, me, two other camp volunteers and 9 visitors. There are new people this morning.

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