Run by Emily Lopez

I wake up to the smell of flowers blooming around me. Endless blue skies with birds chirping a tune and hearing faint laughter. I look around to figure out where the laughter is coming from, then I see my family chasing one another through the fields of wildflowers and our dogs barking with joy. I feel myself at the happiest state ever. No more pain, my hands healed from the thorns of picking out fruits and vegetables. We were all together, happy, laughing, I don’t want this to ever end. All of sudden, the fields are losing their vibrant colors and fading away, the endless fields of flower beds are now turning into endless fields of fruits and vegetables.

I hear my mom scream out my name. I run to where I think her screams are coming from. I look around and notice that my family isn’t playing around anymore but instead running for their lives. But why are they running? Suddenly I feel myself being tugged on by our supervisor.

“You should go back to Mexico where you truly belong,” he says as tears begin to fill my eyes. I start to be tugged on again but hear a faint sound multiple times.

“Estrella, mijita, wake up you’re having a nightmare again.”

I’m suddenly relieved to know that it was my mom doing the tugging.

The nightmares started after witnessing fieldworkers being vigorously dragged through the rows of crops by the immigration officers. With my family being undocumented while living in the United States, it brought fear to everyone. This made us stop for only one season, but with the desperate need for money, my parents believed it would be best if we went back.

The reason why my family decided to stop working in the fields was because of the extreme risk of being deported. One of dad’s closest friends, Jorge, was a victim to falling into the trap his supervisor set. It was rumored that he was being called into the office for a bonus his supervisor would provide him. Jorge entered his office with the feeling of hope but came out of the supervisor’s office detained in handcuffs. He was forced to leave all the progress he had made in the States and move back to Mexico. He was one of many migrant workers who would be lured into this trap. This method was used to avoid causing commotion in the fields, scaring away other workers, or setting the wrong image for the company.

While trying to push back these awful memories, I became fully aware of where I was when I heard the ongoing engine of the truck heading towards California. My dad had said the drive from Lukeville, Arizona, to Monterey, California, wouldn’t take so long, but with my legs going numb and my stomach rumbling, it felt like a drive with no destination.

The truck was filled with many people; I didn’t know, but I was aware that they were also fieldworkers like my family. Seeing their exhausted faces and worn out hands brought me to the realization that this would never end. From this perspective, we all looked the same: our brown toned skin, our worn out hands, our faces full of exhaustion and fear for what the day would bring.

We jumped from one field to another with the goal of bringing enough money to have a plate for everyone on the dinner table. An endless cycle with no happy ending, unlike the princesses who would be saved by their royal prince. With my story, I don’t think I would want some royal prince to rescue me out of this hell. Instead, I would rather work my way out to succeed and bring my family out of this never ending cycle.

Sometimes I wonder what our lives would be like the day that we’re no longer fieldworkers. Finally settling in one spot with a house where no cucarachas or pulgas can come through. Our dogs being spoiled with toys, treats, and savory dog food. Being able to set up a quinceañera for my little sister, America, and seeing her go through real teenage experiences that were taken away from me. My little brother finally having the telescope he dreams of to see the stars up close. He would always tell me how much he loves the stars because they reminded him of my name, and I don’t want him to forget that. My parents finally being able to take a rest from working in the fields and be free from all the stress and worry of whether or not we’ll have enough food for dinner. As well as not hearing anymore complaints coming from my siblings about always eating frijoles con pan.

“Are we almost there yet?” my little brother Jacob asked, interrupting my thoughts and bringing me back to reality.

“Almost, mijo,” my dad responded to what felt like the 100th time he answered that question. I started to think he didn’t know how long until we got there since he responded to him with the same answer every time.

“¡Bienvenidos a California!” the driver said, more relieved than everyone else in the vehicle.

It seemed as if everyone lived with the constant fear of the high risk of being deported if the new supervisor set it up like the last one. Or even worse, surprising the workers with visits by the immigration officers. Luckily, this supervisor was not the same as the one who betrayed the trust of many, but that’s what they said about the last one too.

As we all got off of the truck finally stretching our legs, we were instantly hit with the heat and brightness of the sun. As my eyes adjusted to the brightness of the sun, I looked around only to see stretched out fields of crops for fieldworkers to work on for the rest of the day and a never ending dirt road that seems to lead to even more fields. Just looking at the fruits and vegetables ready to be plucked made my fingers go numb.

Each one of us was handed an empty basket ready to be filled to earn more money. As my parents said a quick prayer before sending us off our separate way they told us, “If anything happens, we need to stick together and meet in the row of where the strawberries are.”

As my mom said this, she gave me a look of “This might be the last time we’re all together, so I leave you in charge of your siblings.”

I gave my mom a hesitant nod letting her know I understood the responsibility she was handing me. Seeing my mom fear the idea of something happening to our family confirmed a weird gut feeling I started to get but preferred to blame it on the heat.

It feels awful to work under the fear of possibly being separated from my family, but when our shift for the day was almost over, I just wanted to tell my family the big secret I had been holding from them. Recently, I had been doing research on job positions that would fit everyone. Based on my dad’s interest in driving a semi, I found an opening for him. As for my mom, she will be able to work in a bakery alongside a woman named Juanita who was willing to help my family. Juanita noticed the desperate need of finding a job that is stress free and kindly offered two positions. I would finally tell them about the job openings in Tucson, Arizona, that will provide a higher pay compared to working in the fields. These jobs will also provide small benefits covering any need that our family can take advantage of. Other than the benefits, we won’t constantly need to go on 12 hour drives from Arizona to California knowing that these jobs will be less than an hour away. While my parents and I take over these job positions, my siblings can dedicate their time to focus on their education and create their future that our parents desire to see us develop. We can finally settle down and take a break from being under the sun so often.

Thinking of different ways to tell my parents we will no longer have to do work that leaves our hands with small cuts I heard someone yelling.

“¡No me puedes llevar!” I heard a woman scream, begging to not be taken away by a man who was now handcuffing her.

My heart dropped when I heard a woman cry a familiar sound. That woman crying was my mom. When I looked over to meet her eyes, she yelled, “¡Corre mija, llevate a tus hermanos!”


As I looked around searching for Jacob and America, I saw a man being taken away but warning others to run. Now chaos was unfolding. Everyone dropped their baskets and ran. I realized my nightmare was coming true.

Everyone began disappearing within the fields and running with no destination in mind but needing to get out of there. As I heard fast and quick footsteps approaching closer, I realized people were running through and shoving each other in order to outrun the dogs that were now released by the immigration officers.

Once I found my two siblings, we started running.

Running through the weeds and tripping over the dropped baskets of fruits and vegetables. With every footstep leaving a trail of crushed strawberries on the ground. I pictured myself running a marathon with grasshoppers jumping trying to match my speed. I jumped over the baskets as if they were hurdles.

Running towards a new story, a new identity. Running towards a life of better opportunity. Running towards the American dream.

I’m suddenly surrounded by a field of wildflowers. Grasshoppers were turning into the dogs from my dream jumping through the tall grass. The screams turning into laughter and giggles from my siblings. The yelling turning into birds chirping the tune from the dream I had on my way here.

I can’t tell if this is real or yet another nightmare.

“Estrella look out!” Jacob yelled as a canine ran towards me and knocked my last breath away leaving me to lay flat on the crushed wildflowers.

“Estrella what are you doing laying on the floor?” I became self aware when my brother was hovering over me covering my view of the sky.

“Was I asleep?” I asked, not knowing how or when I fell asleep.

“Yeah the supervisor thought you were dead and told me to check up on you since he was worried.”

Ignoring his response I wiped off the dirt from my clothes, picked up my basket, and got back to work. I try to wrap my head around what had just happened.

Could heat exhaustion lead to what happened or was it all a dream?