Expecting her tenth child, Constancia has just been examined by Dr. Greene, who has told her that her baby is due in January (the “Enero” of the title). This will be her first winter baby, and she only hopes it will be strong enough to fight disease.
Constancia’s eldest child, seventeen-year-old Apollonia, is dying of tuberculosis, despite undergoing surgery and special drug treatments. During the three years that Apollonia has been in a sanatorium, Constancia has visited her faithfully. After Constancia’s new baby is born in January, Constancia will have to stay in bed for several weeks; she fears that Apollonia will die in the interim. As she moves around the house doing her daily chores, she thinks about the past, present, and future, reviewing her life now in Southern California and remembering her earlier life in her native Mexico, where Apollonia was born.
Constancia herself was one of five children carefully spaced three years apart, thanks to her mother’s careful use of church-approved birth control—abstinence. Her father, Don Pedro, managed a large ranch in the state of Guanajuato; her mother supervised the women who did chores on the ranch. Constancia met her own husband, Justo, when he was working for her father. He later wrote her letters from California, telling her about the very different life there. He was twenty and she was eighteen when they married. Some time after Apollonia was born, they moved to the United States, separating Constancia from her family and her roots.
After bearing nine children, and especially after the difficult delivery of her last baby, Constancia did not plan to have any more. She recalls her cousin Amador’s visit, when he brought a jug of wine to share with Justo, who seldom drank. Unable to drive home, Amador was forced to spend the night. “Much to Constancia’s chagrin, he was given her husband’s bed [and] soon after Constancia knew she was in the family way.” “Weary . . . of childbearing,” she and Justo will sleep apart again after the baby’s birth.
Life in California has changed the life of the Paz family. Unlike...
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