Boxcar / El Vagon by Silvia Gonzalez S.


This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent


Darkness before dawn. A slight, dry wind. In the distance, Mexican
music from a radio station blends with the sound of the wind, then
fades away. Country music from a radio station blends with the sound
of the wind, then fades away. In a faint dawn light we see border
patrol officers Roberto and Bill scanning the horizon with binoculars.
Roberto receives a call regarding a sighting of undocumented nearby.
Bill exits to check this out. Far upstage, Manuel is sighted by
Roberto. Roberto points his gun.

ROBERTO: Immigration! Put your hands up.

Manuel drops his suitcase to raise his hands.

ROBERTO: Now turn around slowly.

Manuel turns around very slowly, almost comically.

MANUEL (Recognizing): Roberto! Que me lleva la trampa.

ROBERTO: Manuel.


ROBERTO (Amiable): How many times do we have to go through this?

MANUEL: I don't know. One, two, three, four, cinco?

ROBERTO: This is the ninth time.

MANUEL: Ninth? No, much less.

ROBERTO: Nine times.

MANUEL: Maybe you're right. (Shrugs) Thank you for stopping to say

Manuel makes a meager attempt to keep on walking.

ROBERTO: Don't you get tired of running in circles?

MANUEL: I don't get tired of eating? Do you? When a man stops
providing for his family, he is nothing.

ROBERTO; You always find work here, don't you?

MANUEL: Yes I do. And you must do your work. One of us should eat.

ROBERTO: Word, 'illegal' mean anything to you?

MANUEL: But they keep calling us. Look, if you brag that your backyard
is the best in the world, don't be surprised if you find people
sitting there.

ROBERTO: Okay. We brag. Let's go. I'm sending you home.

MANUEL: Number one, I am home. This was Mexico. There was betrayal,
lies, cover-ups, deceptive acts, and marrying the wealthy Mexican
rancher's daughters. It was a soap opera! Novelas are my favorite.
Number two, the employers want us.


MANUEL: They especially love me. So you see, someone needs to correct
the history books. And all this will be cleared up. Where you are
standing, was part of Mexico.

ROBERTO: What about the Native-Americans?

MANUEL: Okay, first los Indios, but they liked us better. Especially
when we brought the horses and showed them how to work with silver. We
became good friends after that.

ROBERTO: I'm just doing my job.

Roberto handcuffs Manuel.

MANUEL: And you're doing it so well. But tell me, is it a crime to
improve your life?

ROBERTO: Right now, yes.

MANUEL: Politics.

ROBERTO: Politics or not. It's my job to return those who were born
over there.

MANUEL: And where were you born?


MANUEL: And your parents? (Eyes him) You're one of us. Se te ve en
la cara. Traes nopal en la frente.


MANUEL: You have a cactus sticking out of your forehead. ¿Español?

ROBERTO: Didn't know that expression.

MANUEL: Eres pocho. Neither from here nor there.

ROBERTO: Let's get going here. Anything I should know about?

Roberto opens and searches Manuel's bag.

MANUEL: Did I ever tell you I have a gift? Let me look at your face.
Oh, yes. There it is. I can tell by the features of a face where
someone is descended from. The dark, penetrating eyes. I can barely
see your pupils. I would say from the Southern province of Spain -
ruled by the Moors for over 300 years. Forehead - even with the nopal
- Northern Spain or France. Lips, cheekbones are indigenous. If you
had freckles, I would say a bit of Irish too.

ROBERTO: I have freckles on my back.

MANUEL: Well, then a trace of Irish from the maternal side. Irish were
stationed in Fort Yuma during the 1840's. You know, they switched
sides and fought for Mexico.


MANUEL: Don't you know history? We even had a Mexican President with
Irish descent. Look up Obregon, 39th president.

ROBERTO: 39th?

MANUEL: Okay, we had president problems, but he was very interesting.
In my view, his real name was probably O'Brien. O-bree-gon—
Obrien. An anthropological lesson with a touch of history.

ROBERTO: Thank you.

MANUEL: All in all, if you go back in time, we are all related. Somos
parientes, hermano.

ROBERTO: Walk to the van. I'm sending you back.

MANUEL: Again?


MANUEL: Don't feel bad, Roberto. I'll cross back soon. I have to. And
maybe next time it will go better for me.


Noel is in a chair. Roberto holds an identification card.

ROBERTO: Is this you?

NOEL: ....Yes.

ROBERTO: A college ID card?

NOEL: ....University.

ROBERTO: Why did you cross then? There are other ways.

NOEL: I had to do it quick.

ROBERTO: ...El Salvador?

NOEL: Yes.

BILL: The rest were Mexicans, weren't they? What happened?

NOEL: I don't know.

BILL: You must know something.

NOEL: I just did what I was told.

BILL: By who?

NOEL: (No answer)

ROBERTO: The coyote?

NOEL: ...Yes.

ROBERTO: Who is he?

NOEL: (No answer)

BILL: Tell us.

NOEL: I don't know.

BILL: What do you know?

NOEL: I know if he says, run, you run. And if he says crawl, you

BILL: And?

NOEL: If he says in the boxcar, it's in the boxcar.

BILL: Don't play with me, kid. How did you get to the boxcar?

NOEL: I was taken there.

ROBERTO: By who?

NOEL: I was driven there. But not in the normal way.


NOEL (Slowly, resisting): A van. With the seats taken out, we were
stacked like sardines. One on top of the other in rows. We had to stay
down. A blanket was tossed over us. None of us daring to move. The
coyote let some of us out at a truck stop. Me, he motioned towards
train tracks. He gave me the number of a boxcar, MP 786498, and told
me to wait in there.

ROBERTO: Then what?

NOEL: I found the boxcar. Someone was already there.


(Temperature 78 degrees)

Francisco enters the boxcar turning around to make sure he was not
seen. He opens a cardboard box and pulls out a plastic bag with a
rosary. He closes his eyes to start to pray, then hears sounds
outside. He puts the rosary back.
Noel quietly enters.

NOEL: Buenos días.

FRANCISCO: Buenos días… How much?

NOEL: How much what?

FRANCISCO: How much did it cost you?

NOEL: To the coyote? A lot. He's going to need more. And then I got
robbed on the way here.

FRANCISCO: Lucky you didn't get killed. What are you going to do?

NOEL: Maybe my mother can send me more. I'm from San Salvador. And

FRANCISCO: From Aguas Calientes… Zacatecas, Mexico.

Huero approaches, ecstatic he found the boxcar. He climbs the ladder
on the boxcar.

HUERO: ¡Adios Mexico querido! ¡Ya me voy pa'l otro lado! ¡Me
llaman! ¡Ahua!

He climbs down, pounds a rhythm on the boxcar door, then throws open
the door.

HUERO (CONT'D): ¡Qué querida raza! This the ride to the stars?

FRANCISCO: Este mero.

HUERO: Chido.

Huero tosses in a pillow case with his belongings. Francisco looks out
of the boxcar then closes the door.

HUERO (CONT'D): ¡Qué suave! No walking for miles and no running from
gun-crazy migra. Just take a cruise north. I have my Metallica
t-shirt, and my Lakers cap. ¡Puro Americano!

FRANCISCO: And those jeans? Did you get them caught in barbed wire at
the border?

HUERO: Qué traes, hombre? You've seen Van Halen - these jeans are
estilo Norte Americano! (Gives a yelp of delight)

FRANCISCO: Keep it down, huero.

HUERO: (Whispers at first, then gets increasingly louder) Oh, that's
right. I can't get caught. I don't have money to cross again. How did
you guess my name was Huero?

FRANCISCO: Because you are huero.

HUERO: The lucky fair skin. I just blink my green eyes and say
'Okay, all right, no problem my friend' and I pass. I brought a
bathing suit, sunglasses, and toilet paper—Si se necesita. But it
isn't easy being so light- I get sunburn. Picked up some sunscreen to
keep me from burning.

He pulls out a bottle of lotion and tosses it to Francisco.

HUERO (CONT'D): Wacha.

FRANCISCO: Muchacho. This is suntan lotion, not sunscreen. You'll fry
in this grease.

HUERO: ¿Qué? I won this in a dice game with the coyote. Put in five
pinche dólares for this! And you? What's in your bag?

NOEL: Nothing much.

HUERO: What you need is toilet paper. Let me see if I have extra.

NOEL: Just us, then?

FRANCISCO: Not enough profit for the coyote.

A slam on the boxcar startles them. They all freeze. Huero peeks

HUERO: Allá anda un viejillo. Pronto.

They all look out.

PEPE (O.S.): Oye, no sean malos. ¡Ayudenme!

FRANCISCO: Vamos. He's in bad shape.

The three pull Pepe in. Pepe is smeared with black oil.

HUERO: You smell!

PEPE: Pinche cabron. Careful!

FRANCISCO: ¿Qué es? ¿Aciete?

PEPE: If the coyote tells you to get in a barrel—tell him to eat
shit. Hijo de su chingada madre. Ruined my clothes.

FRANCISCO: Do you have another shirt?

PEPE: In my bag.

Francisco looks in Pepe's Mexican tote bag and pulls out another shirt
for him. Huero gets his toilet paper and tries to rub the oil off
Pepe. Huero takes the dirty shirt and throws it out the boxcar.


Huero jumps out and gets the shirt.

HUERO: Sorry.

FRANCISCO: Don't leave it there. They'll see it. Put it in his bag.

Noel rolls up the shirt and puts it in Pepe's bag. Francisco closes
the boxcar door.

HUERO: Where's the oil from?

PEPE: I had to hide in an oil barrel. I let the others have the
cleaner ones.

NOEL: You hid in a barrel?

PEPE: (To Francisco) He's new?


PEPE: ¿Su nombre?

NOEL: Noel.

PEPE: Pepe.

They shake hands.

PEPE (CONT'D): We started out in a couple of cars. Stuffed in the
trunk. I had people above me, under me, all around. Hours passed. An
elbow dug deep into my side. I didn't complain. There were two
babies- thank God they slept the whole time. I felt bad for the women
who had strangers pressed against them. When we got to the desert,
the coyote got us out and pointed to a truck with barrels. Eight of us
went into the barrels. A mother and her two children, me and four
other men. The lids where placed on just enough so we can breathe. A
few holes were made for some lids. I was in like this.

He demonstrates being in a barrel.

PEPE (CONT'D): My legs still ache.

NOEL: For how long were you there?

PEPE: Hours. I consider myself one of the lucky ones. There were only
eight barrels. The rest were left behind.
They'll have to wait another day.

HUERO: I once hid in a refrigerator. It smelled like rotten beef. I
could barely stand the smell. The stench stayed on me for days. I
tried to wash it off with gasoline.

NOEL: You're lucky you didn't fry like a chicharron.

HUERO: Mira guey.

PEPE: That was funny. Don't get mad at him.

HUERO: Let's laugh now, but later, I'll be the one laughing.
I'll be so rich, I'll make you all my empleos. I'm gonna work
really hard. Going to save all my money so I can buy me mamá a little
house and get my sister back home, too. She's already working as a
maid. They'll finally have a good life: mi mamá will get her hair
done to look todo fancy. I promised her this. (Gleefully) She'll
get a manicure—at least every six months. My sister will have
pretty dresses. Then I'll buy myself a car.

NOEL: What kind of car?

HUERO: One with a motor.

FRANCISCO: (Noticing Pepe wince in pain) You going to be all right?

PEPE: The barrel was hard but a good idea. Can't cross by yourself
anymore. My cousin crossed on his own on his first time and almost got
his throat cut by a robber.

HUERO: Aye, que culero. That's bad luck.

NOEL: I was robbed on my way here.

HUERO: Bad luck for you too. How's your luck with dice?

PEPE: A coyote helped you and still you got robbed? La gran puchinga,
quey. The last time I crossed on my own I was robbed of everything.
The cabron even wanted my clothes.

NOEL: What happened?

PEPE: I pleaded with him. I said, 'Please Señor, you have all my
money, my little radio, even my Dodgers cap. Don't take the clothes
off my back. Are you going to leave a man as old as your father out in
the cold in his chones?' He said—'I hate my father.'

HUERO: Que gacho. He left you naked?

PEPE: Desnudado.

HUERO: Que gacho.

NOEL: Where were the others going?

PEPE: Pienso que Nebraska.

HUERO: I've been there. It's cold.

FRANCISCO: Yes, very cold up there, but there's a lot of work on the
cattle ranches. In places like Nebraska, Oregon and Washington, they
wait for us with open arms.

HUERO: Last time I was in California, I worked in a car wash. The
owner charged 12 dollars for a deluxe wash. We washed six or seven
cars an hour. He made…

NOEL: Eighty-four.

HUERO: Yeah, 84 dollars an hour and I made 3 dollars an hour. But if I
put in 12 hour days, seven days a week, I made—-

NOEL: Two hundred and fifty-two.

FRANCISCO: I'm looking for work in construction this time. I hear it
pays better.

PEPE: Work where ever you can. That's my best advice.

FRANCISCO: Where are you going for work?

PEPE: Fort Worth. From there, maybe Idaho.

HUERO: I'll go anywhere for work.

PEPE: Yes. Anywhere…

Pepe walks to a corner, and covers his eyes.

NOEL: ¿Qué le pasa, señor?

PEPE: I heard something when I was in the barrel.

HUERO: Like what?

PEPE: I think a barrel fell out of the truck. There seemed to be one
less when we stopped.

NOEL: One less? What did you do?

PEPE: Nothing.

A pounding on the door.

MANUEL: (Outside the door) Open up! Immigration!

The men know what this means and put their hands against the wall.
Door slides open. Manuel appears.

MANUEL (CONT'D): ¡Manos pa' arriba, pantalones para abajo!

The men comply. They pull their pants down and put their hands against
the wall.

MANUEL (CONT'D): (Laughs) ¡Qué babosos! Cabrones, give me a hand.

They pull their pants back up after realizing they've been had, and
help Manuel in. SOUND: TRAIN BELLS

MANUEL (CONT'D): Just in time.

HUERO: ¡Ya nos vamos!

FRANCISCO: Todos callense.

Silence. All watch each other.

SOUND: TRAIN BELLS A big jolt. The men are thrown to the side.

Francisco takes a look out of the boxcar.

FRANCISCO: They're reconnecting the cars.

Huero looks out.

HUERO: Someone's coming!

The men hug the walls and stay quiet. They hear foot steps outside.
The door slides slightly open. Manuel looks out the crack. He listens
to someone whispering.

MANUEL: (Whispers out the crack of door) Muy bien.

All stare at the door.

NOEL: Who was that?

MANUEL: He's one of the coyotes. He said the door has to be latched.
Less chance la migra will look inside if it is locked.

NOEL: Is that what—

The train lurches forward.


They stare in silence.

MANUEL (CONT'D): (After awhile) Buenas, a todos. Si guieren saber,
me llamo Manuel. This is the second time this week I tried to get
across. Finally made it. La migra caught me and sent me back. I knew
the guy, too. I almost convinced him to look the other way. I spent
the last of my money to cross again. (Glancing around) Who are you?
First names only because if we get caught again, I don't want to
know you.

FRANCISCO: Francisco.

MANUEL: ¿El Chamaco?

NOEL: Noel.

MANUEL: How about you, huero?

HUERO: Huero.

MANUEL: Of course! (Eyeing Pepe) Pepe? No, it can't be you.

PEPE: El mismo que viste y calza.

MANUEL: I hardly recognized you with that panza. ¡Te vez mas viejo!
What has life done to you?

PEPE: Broken every bone in my body.

MANUEL: And mine, too. But with a little glue I pasted them back
together. How long has it been?

PEPE: Years.

MANUEL: Chicago. We had good times there.

NOEL: What is Chicago like?

MANUEL: The best! We danced with beautiful rucas. Remember when I was
chased by the boyfriend of that skinny rubia.


MANUEL: And when the guy caught me, zurco! Me partió la madre. The
Aragon Ballroom. On Fullerton Street. Northside Chicago. It was packed
with girls ready to dance. They didn't care with who. I danced with
every single one. Remember that, Pepe?


MANUEL: Remember La Suzy? Come on, there's no way you could forget La
Suzy. ¡Estaba tan grandota!

NOEL: How big was she?

HUERO: ¿Así? (Demonstrates breasts) ¿O así de grandota?
(Demonstrates hips)

MANUEL: More than you can handle. Ojos grandotes. Labios grandotes.

HUERO: ¿Nariz grandota?

NOEL: ¿Patotas grandotas?

HUERO: ¿Orejotas grandototas?

MANUEL: Y también un gran-

PEPE: Now I remember.

HUERO: A big what? What?

MANUEL: The most fun I ever had in the United States was during those
nights at the Aragon. The women fought to dance with me.

PEPE: The women fought to get away from you, cabron.

MANUEL: They loved my profile.

PEPE: You mean the profile from behind when you left.
They all laugh.

MANUEL: Pepe, you still have a sense of humor.

PEPE: No sense of humor. It was the truth. But all that was before we
were married.

MANUEL: It was. And I became the luckiest man in the world to marry a
beautiful India.

HUERO: Pura India?

MANUEL: Pura India. India pura. From one of the few places the
Spaniards missed conquering. She speaks the ancient language of her
ancestors. Even the best anthropologists have not deciphered the
language completely. La quiero tanto.

PEPE: How did you marry una indígena? They stay away to preserve
their Indian traditions.

MANUEL: Es verdad. Her father was so angry that we became novios, I
thought he'd make chicharrones out of my nalgas. We had to run away to
get married. I don't blame them for trying to save what's left of
their people. Her family told their pueblo that she'd fallen from a
high cliff. They even built a shrine at the ledge where they said she
fell. We watched from across the valley. There was a procession, then
a funeral. Her mamá threw flowers over the cliff. We imagined it was
our wedding…. I think of her every day.

PEPE: Sí, compadre. The memory of a mujer can carry you across any
desert. I know that right this minute mi vieja is worrying about me.
And worrying about our youngest daughter, Sarita.

MANUEL: Cuantos hijos tienes?

PEPE: I have a daughter, but she isn't well, and six sons, I think.
Maybe seven. Hijo, I don't even remember how many sons. Maybe more.

MANUEL: ¿Qué tiene su hija?

PEPE: They don't know. The doctor in our village lets us pay with
whatever we have - chickens, frutas - lo que habia. Finally, he said
we needed to take her to Mexico City. When I come home with money,
we'll be taking her. (Notices Huero) Que está haciendo ese menso?

Huero is examining the ceiling. He then holds out his arm as if he is
holding a torch.

HUERO: Guay, I'm the statue of liberty! (Amused with himself)

NOEL: If you find a way to let some air in, let me know.

HUERO: Getting too warm for you?


HUERO: Aguantate.


MANUEL: Señores, here we go!

FRANCISCO: Very soon we'll pass the check point, so stay very quiet.

MANUEL: Si, better be quiet. I can't afford to get caught again.


They listen to the sounds of the train moving.



ROBERTO: And that accounts for everybody?

NOEL: Yes.

ROBERTO: Everyone have the same coyote?

NOEL: (No answer)

ROBERTO: The name of the coyote that brought you?

NOEL: I don't know.

BILL: Did he tell you not to tell us his name?

NOEL: They told me they never give a real name.

BILL: So what fake name did he give you?

NOEL: I heard someone call him El Chapulín. That's all I know.

BILL: El Chapulín?

ROBERTO: Means the grasshopper.

BILL: Figures. How did you find this coyote?

NOEL: A friend of a friend.


NOEL: We met briefly. Made arrangements.

ROBERTO: What kind of arrangements?

NOEL: How to travel. What to wear, what to bring, what to say and not
to say. He told me he would be in charge of everything.


NOEL: I did what he told me to do, that's all.

BILL: You put your life in the hands of a stranger. Not very smart for
a college kid.

ROBERTO: What else do you remember about him?

NOEL: May I have another drink of water?


Roberto gives him water.

[end of extract]


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