The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child

by Francisco Jiménez

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Chapter 4 Summary

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Last Updated on September 6, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 377

In “Miracle in Tent City,” Francisco and his family experience what they believe is a miracle in answer to their prayers. The family is living in the labor camp on the Sheehey Strawberry Farms. Mama is pregnant and works as a cook for the laborers. Roberto and Francisco have many chores as they help her. Papa has improvised an icebox and put down flooring in their tent. The boys must scavenge for lumber at the town dump, and Francisco also picks up books, hoping that he will learn to read them. Mama prepares for the new baby, even making a crib out of a wooden box and assorted fabrics.

The new baby is Juan Manuel, but he is soon nicknamed Torito, little bull, and he is a strong, happy baby. Francisco loves him, and the baby helps him forget that he must repeat first grade. When Torito is two months old, he becomes ill with a fever. The family prays fervently, but Torito grows sicker and sicker until one day he stops breathing for a while. Mama prays, and Torito breathes again.

Papa and Mama decide that if Torito gets any worse, they will take him to the hospital even though they cannot afford it. Torito’s stomach is hard, and his fever will not break. A neighbor woman tries a folk remedy on the baby and wonders if he is suffering from the evil eye, but nothing works. Torito stops breathing again, and his parents rush him to the hospital.

Mama seems angry when she and Papa return without Torito. She snaps that God will not let the baby die. The family prays to the Virgen de Guadalupe, and Mama and Papa vow to pray to the Santo Niño de Atocha for a whole year if the baby recovers. Francisco has a dream about Santo Niño and Torito, and Mama makes a little cloak for the baby like the one the Holy Child wears.

Torito is still sick when he comes home, and Mama says that they must keep praying. A year later, Torito is chubby, happy, and healthy. Only then does Mama tell Francisco and Roberto that the doctor had said Torito would die without a miracle. The family has received their miracle.

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