Thirteen Years Old, 1934

Ángel García

Proserpina en la playa de Progreso

N 21° 17’ 15.396” W 89° 39' 58.391”


Most boats this afternoon have cast off into the Gulf taking

the dark-skinned men who bodies always smell like the sea.

Barefoot on the beach, with only the wind whistling through

their hair, the girls tiptoe across the seaweed-covered shore

unbothered. They approach the berthed boat on the beach,

la surgida, to ask the old man who fixes its hull to please take

their photo. Just turned thirteen, Proserpina stands between

two girlfriends in a sleeveless floral dress — hand-made by her

mother — head bowed, squinting, a thin smile etched into her

lips, a mother-of-pearl beret clip to keep the hair from her face.

Borrowed from her stepfather, the camera catches her dress

still tucked and tied between her knees from when she alone

waded hip-deep into the water, the other girls only watching

from a distance, knowing Proserpina’s mother had asked them

to stay away from the beach, to not step foot into the water,

unescorted. But in the water, eyes closed and alone, before

the boats would return with men whose skin would be turned

white with salt, she imagines — the sand floating over her feet —

of her life outside the peninsula, a place where she would not

be just two years away from being a woman, but remain a girl

tightly holding the hands of her girlfriends, unafraid of men.


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