Gonzalo is an immigrant from Guatemala. He came with his father and was fluent in English two years later. However, his father, who worked with Mexicans and Salvadorians, did not learn English as quickly or as well. After they were here a while, they arranged for Gonzalo’s mother, younger brothers, and Tio Juan, his mother’s uncle, to join them.
Tio Juan had been a farmer in Guatemala, but he couldn’t find work in the United States. In Guatemala he could sit outside in the plaza and talk with his friends. Here in the United States, especially in their neighborhood, it was not wise to sit outside due to drive-by shootings. He only spoke an Indian language. Since he didn’t speak English or Spanish, he didn’t understand TV. There was nothing for him to do, so he just wandered around the house, talking to himself. Gonzalo says,
“Tio Juan was the oldest man in his pueblo. But here he became a little baby.” (g. 18)
One day he disappeared from the apartment, and Gonzalo found him by the lot trying to communicate with Wendell, who was digging a garden. That night Tio Juan told Gonzalo’s mother about the lot and how people were gardening. She was the only one who could understand his Indian language. She also understood his need to dig his hands in the dirt and become a farmer again.
The next day, she asked Gonzalo to take Tio Juan back to the lot.
“He studied the sun. Then the soil. He felt it, then smelled it, then actually tasted it.” (pg. 21)
Gonzalo’s mother bought Tio Juan four packets of seeds. He couldn’t read the words on the packets, but he could tell from the pictures what the seeds were.
“He poured them into his hand and smiled. He seemed to recognize them, like old friends.” (pg 22)
After working the garden with Tio Juan, Gonzalo gains a great deal of respect for him.
“….I realized that I didn’t know anything about growing food and that he knew everything. “ (pg 22)
Because Gonzalo’s mother understood Tio Juan’s language and his love of farming, she was able to give him back his respectability.
“He changed from a baby back into a man.” (pg 22)