To Be Home Again Instead of On This Free Soil
To Be Home Again Instead of On This Free Soil
by Sarah Gozar
Sometimes Moses Garcia still dreamed of his earliest memory. On his first day of school, he smiled and watched two flags rise to the heavens. First it was the American flag in its red, white, and blue glory, dancing in the wind with all its freedom. Last came the Philippine flag, proud to display its new bright shining yellow sun. The Philippines finally gained liberation after three hundred thirty-three years under Spanish rule. And they owned this long-dreamed freedom to their fair skin human saviors sent by God. Finally, the Filipinos wept after all those long agonizing centuries.
Unfortunately, the wounds inflicted by the Spanish wouldn’t heal even with the country of freedom taking them under their wing. Moses’s family remained lower class even after surviving along the new generation endowed with American blessings: wealth, grooming, and education. Colleges were owned by America, and few lucky Filipinos could afford the privilege of attending there with their dirt brown skin alongside their well bathed pale saviors.
Thankfully there was an alternative. Filipinos were given free American passports to go to their new homeland. The tall clean cut American leaders promised the guarantee of a stable job and the right for prolonged education. They called this “the little brown brother dream.”
If America promises, they will provide, just how they promised them freedom and taught them English to give them real lives. Every Filipino formed this thought the first time they saw the two flags raised together and kept it since.
When Moses was born, his parents didn’t think he’d survive till walking age. Thankfully, he did. His mother and father never wasted their spare time not devoting themselves to prayer ever since.
Now it was his turn to pay back his debt on them. If the Philippines couldn’t provide—why wouldn’t the promised land? America was their unexpected anchor when they fell lowest. But for the past two years, Moses Garcia had only seen one flag planted on the ground next to his new home. It was the America flag on American soil—a sight he once could only dream.
But nothing new came to the dream. Every day, he tanned his already dark dirty skin to cake it with even darker soil until he looked no different from mud. He took to harvesting golden wheat and placing it on an old rectangular wagon moved by an old horse some American would drop at his place every time the one before it died. None of these horses lasted very long. But he never went without one for too long so there was no need for complaining.
"When the heat became too much, he’d pull out the only coin he has. It was from his homeland."
When the heat became too much, he’d pull out the only coin he has. It was from his homeland. On the upside was the head of a sharp-nosed American president, and on the tails was the woman of the Philippines. He’d swallow his need for water and continue working.
From the distance he heard a horse whining very much alive and untamed. Two minutes later an angry cursing white man marched past him carrying a thin envelope, this month’s pay. Moses didn’t need to open it up to know how much of it went where. Most of it went to pay off this month’s farmland rent.
Little brown brothers could never gain American citizenship. Meaning, he had no chance of finally owning the land. He’d have to continue paying it off by rent, which turned out to be more expensive than the price in full next year. A few sacrifices meant nothing for repaying his debt as a son. He’d have to continue providing for the selfless couple who gave everything to him.
Someday, when the clean white men noticed his hard work, they’d reward him with just enough money so he could finally return home and save the remainder for his parents. Then he’d become an adult, get a beautiful wife with fair skin so that their child would have a better chance appealing to the American standard, a better future.
But every time he saw how the currency here never included anything about the Philippines compared to the money back home where America was on everything, he felt his “little brown brother” American Dream crumble bit by bit.
Something blunt repeatedly poked his back. He turned around sweating and saw the man who’d give him his wage for this month. The white man’s right arm, still pointing a tree branch at him waved it back and forth in some sort of defense. Moses stood still. Then the white man smiled.
“Money at home.” The red face American said, doing a poor imitation of Moses’s native accent. Even though it was a requirement to speak fluent English to earn his right to stand on this land. Moses probably knew more about their history than he did.
“I know, thank you.” His accent improved every interaction.
Amused, the white man merely raised an eyebrow and chuckled as he threw the tree branch onto Moses’s wagon carrying a tall wheat pile. Golden straws high flew for a second before falling to the ground without grace. The white man scoffed. “No worry,” he still spoke in that fake accent of his. “Dirt touched it, it on dirt now. I no eat.”
When Moses showed no reaction the American rolled his eyes and calmly strode away. His expression remained the same even after, this wasn’t the first or last time this would happen. Back in his school days, history books referred to Filipinos as dirty savages that desperately needed someone to save them. It said the Americans knew that the moment they set foot on their soil and knew they still needed far to go, guiding them even after winning them freedom. If their pale clean American saviors viewed them as dirty savages, then a dirty savage home to the Philippines he is.
Moses went right back to work until he couldn’t endure his thirst anymore. As he was drinking water, he saw this month’s payment atop the wooden table he’d made himself. Moses was still thirsty, but he held himself from refilling his cup.
With shaky hands he opened the envelope and found his nightmare to be right, his already tiny wage was cut down even more. Several calculations ran through his mind. It was down by a third now compared to last year. Now he needed to avoid water more than ever just to pay off the rent and deliver the same amount of money to his parents. Their only son was gone, and he could not show any signs of struggle. He hated sorrow more than anything, sorrow was what they felt raising him and he did not want them to have more.
He automatically pulled out the Filipino coin he brought with him. Home seemed farther than ever, not enough money to go back, not enough money to see the American dream, and not enough money to prevent him from becoming even browner and making himself more inferior.
With this realization Moses went out for harvest again and tossed his coin onto the rich soil from his poor filthy hands. It shined brightly in the Southern sun, burning hellfire in this heavenly country.
In the afternoon a young Filipino went looking for him. He noticed the most efficient worker in these crops wasn’t harvesting his area clean. The younger brother never knew how Moses did it. He never once saw him sitting atop a wagon without a sign of the day’s labor proudly threatening to overflow. He never saw him with a blank stare in his eyes trying to remind himself of his purpose for being here. The junior both envied and admired his senior for his unwavering little brown brother dream.
When he found him, the young one was surrounded by the comforting familiarity of an ideally clean harvest within the never-ending fields. He released a jokingly frustrated sigh and smiled, then stopped. The man behind it laid face flat on the ground. Beside him, their homeland’s empty coin with the shiny top side facing up with the damaged bottom buried and hidden in dirt.
Here was the last sleeping place for the man who reminded him of how much of a boy he was for jumping on a path he never fully believed in. For a moment the boy stood still. What was his older brother doing? He was covering the soil which would serve as the spot for the seedlings next year. He sputtered in disbelief, giving up was not in his nature, it went against his name and role as older brother—that’s when the boy realized that his brown comrade would not stand up again. The young one sat down beside him and held his matching dirt covered dark hand before reciting a prayer to God to deliver his hard-working senior brown brother home, and finally to heaven.
About the Writer...
Sarah Gozar is a tenth grade student at Douglas Anderson majoring in Creative Writing. Her goal in writing to is to capture human moments as honest as she can. Her favorite animal is the penguin.
About the Artist...
Micayla Latson is a senior at Savannah Arts Academy. At the Arts Academy Micayla is a Visual Arts major, who has been dedicated to art her entire life. Currently during her time at Savannah Arts she has produced many pieces, some helping to spread awareness to various issues in society. Although not pursuing art in college she still hopes to be making art in the future and wishes to spread impactful and powerful messages within her community using her artwork.