Sixto is determined that all his family will be well educated
5:00. The call of nature awakens Pascuala. In the darkness, her mother, Catanina, hunts on her hands and knees for the flashlight on the Boor. She switches it on and accompanies her toddler outside to squat on the ground near the door. This wakes the boys, lined up in a row like onions on the kitchen Boor. Sixteen-year-old Reyes gets up to pile twigs inside the three stones that form the hearth. He lights the fire, places the pot of water on top, and goes back to bed
The cane-and-thatch house of the Garcias Hernandez family perches on the green slope of a mountain in the Huasteca region of central Mexico. A dirt path leads down from the house to the main road winding through groves of orange trees and along a river. The family’s two teenagers descend every morning, Alfredo on foot for high school in Chipolco and Reyes on a wobbly bicycle for the technical college in Halpila.
6:30. After sharing morning coffee with their father, the boys leave for school. Sixto is determined that all his family will be well educated. An uneducated farmer, Sixto grows enough corn, coffee, avocados, and bananas for the family’s consumption and enough oranges to sell. Yet two days a week, to make ends meet, he hires himself out as a laborer to large landowners. “Picking oranges is a lot of work for only a little profit,” says Sixto. “We must carry them on our backs all the way to the main road to sell them to wholesalers. I don’t understand why everything I buy gets more and more expensive, but I never get more for my oranges.”
Picking up his machete, Sixto leaves the yard for the elementary school. One day a week, he volunteers to work for the community. This morning he and another local man will prepare adobe and patch the holes in the classrooms’ walls. Ten-year-old Gerardo and eight-year-old Francisco will soon follow their father up the mountain. But before they leave for school, they bring water to the three cows that are grazing in a small pasture surrounded by orange trees.