The smell goes everywhere (*)

(*) Flores Account
Page 55, 56 — 17 year old girl from GUATEMALA, 6 month son, June 12, 2019

“The bathrooms here are very dirty because there are so many people using them.  The toilets clog and cannot be used. And the smell goes everywhere, even to where we are sleeping.”

As part of
When We First Arrived
curated by Ruth Noack
organized by DYKWTCA

January - July 2020

The Corner at Whitman-Walker
Washington, DC

When We First Arrived is a call to action and exhibition in solidarity with the detained and separated children at the US—Mexico Border.

DYKWTCA (Do You Know Where The Children Are), is an initiative by artists Mary Ellen Carroll and Lucas Michael, who invited artists to produce works with the Flores accounts that are part of the broader public awareness initiative, Project Amplify.

Written accounts from the immigrants detained in McAllen, Texas, are harsh testimonies. The story of a 17-year-old Guatemalan girl and her infant was particularly heartbreaking to me.

The 6-month-old boy became seriously ill from exposure to the cold temperatures of their detainee prison.
To highlight the tremendous anguish that she and her infant child experienced in detention everyday, I presented their entire interview record but dis-ordered and cut her phrases and words, rearranging them in different layers of translucent vellum.

Redacted portions remain to show what is omitted and/or lost in translation. Other filing marks make reference to the legal framework in which all of this was recorded.

A single sentence is highlighted --- about the odor coming from clogged and filthy toilets. Imagine being imprisoned in a small cage, unable to escape an overpowering stench. I thought it was the perfect allegory to describe decaying judicial and political systems.

(*) Flores Account
Page 55, 56 — 17 year old girl from GUATEMALA, 6 month son, June 12, 2019

I, ________, was born on ____________. I am seventeen. My son, _____, was born on ____. He is six months old. We are from Guatemala. In Guatemala, I had lots of problems with my baby's father. He is an alcoholic, was very angry, and always would fight with me. When we would fight, I would cry, and my baby would get sick. I am all alone; my father is dead, and my mother married another person, so she cannot care for me. I couldn't stand that no one understands me and that my baby's father mistreats me. I worry for my baby, because I heard that the children of alcoholics die very young. So, I decided to leave. We came to the United States on June 2,2019. My baby and I crossed the river on a raft during the day. Fifteen minutes after we crossed, the police arrived in a truck. The police asked me where I was from, and I said, "Guatemala." They then took the clothes I was carrying and told me to climb into the truck. The police took me to a location where there were other people who had crossed the border. The Border Patrol recorded my personal information. At this location, the Border Patrol offered us water. However, there were not diapers for my baby at this location. Thirty minutes later, the Border Patrol brought my baby and me to Ursula in their patrol car. By now, it was night. We were not offered anything to eat or drink until the next morning. We were put in a cage with many other people, and we spent four nights there. For our first four nights at Ursula, we were given only two aluminum blankets but no mattress. I had to sleep on the floor with my baby. It was very cold, and my baby got sick from the cold. After four nights, the guards at Ursula put me and my son in a cell for minor children. There, we were given a mattress. The bathrooms here are very dirty because there are so many people using them. The toilets clog and cannot be used. And the smell goes everywhere, even to where we are sleeping. Since the time my baby and I arrived, I have been permitted to shower only once, five days after I have arrived. I haven't had a shower since then, and it has been six days. The soap in the showers is for hands and not for hair, so my hair is itchy and dirty. At night, our cell is very cold, and the lights are always left on. At least my baby sleeps, but I cannot. I noticed three days ago that my eyes have been affected by the lack of sleep. I can't see anything at a distance; everything looks fuzzy. I am having trouble with the food. We often receive tacos of tortilla, beans, and rice. But the rice is partially raw and not fully cooked. This has made the rice hard to digest and has made me sick to my stomach. We are given two bottles of water per meal. This water is clean because it is bottled. My baby is sick. He is coughing, he is congested, and he has diarrhea. I have asked for a doctor to see my baby. The doctor gave my baby medicine for his fever. The doctor said the baby has an ear infection and gave my baby antibiotics. But these antibiotics have also caused the baby to have diarrhea.I want to go to live with my aunt, my mother's sister, who is New York City. I called her when I arrived at Ursula. She told me that I could come to her. I have not been told about the Flores agreement or our rights. I have asked how I could leave from here, but the guards say that they do not know.