Esmerelda Evangelina Montoya DeSantos


A dream to live quietly, without sadness, hurt, and anger.

I was born in the desert, while the sun was setting, and stars where waking up. That is how my father would tell it. Second child of 6, the eldest is my brother Juan Carlos, then Sophia Helena, Maria Lena, Jamie Uriel, and finally Isabella Olivia. 6 dirty circus children, 6 happy, dirty Circus children.

My father and Grandfather ran the circus, we had some animals, a big tent and a semi-truck. This was all I knew, no dreams of anything better. To me, this was better. My grandmother would teach us to write our names and read a little bit, but we had to work. Travel and work, this was our lives. Circo Mexicana was our home.

Every child and adult had a talent. If you had no talent, you learned one. My calling was in contortions, I could make the strangest shapes with my body. This made my father very happy. His youngest sister Yolanda, our last contortionist ran away to get married. This caused my father to get angry and my grandfather to weep. To them she ran away from her work, her family, and her life. But in the end I inherited her spot and costume.

Years went on like this, from town to city along both coasts and through the middle. My father didn’t allow me to have a boyfriend, he would send my brother out with me when I would go to the towns to sell tickets. My father was so fearful that I would run away and get married, and never come home.

Then came the man when I was 17. His spanish was good, but he was an American. He came after a show. I saw my parents speaking to him. He made promises of Las Vegas, promises of money that would come home if I were to work for him, the promise of money right there. I remember we were in Saltillo; not too far from Texas. I was excited, but I could hear my father, he did not want me to leave. I was too excited to think.

The man was walking to his truck when I approached him. I told him I would go, but he still had to pay my father what was offered. I wrote a note, I left the money with it. I said I was sorry, that I wanted this, that I would love my family always. I took what little I had and ran away with a man. I made my father’s warnings into truths.

He took me to Monterrey, there I was put into a dark semi with several others. They were looking for work, leaving behind families and homes. A man, in terrible spanish spoke. “No habla!” He yelled at us as he shut the back of the truck. I was scared. I knew that I was no longer going to Las Vegas. I was scared.

My travels took me north, through Texas, through Arkansas and into Tennessee, in a place called Memphis I was looked over by a man. The words “Las Vegas” fell out of my mouth. He laughed. He called me stupid, and made it clear that I was now his. I cried, I wanted to go home. He pointed to his car and told me to shut up. I did just that. 8 hours to Chicago, to Gary, Indiana.

I don’t speak English, I don’t read or write in English. But I didn’t need English to realize that I was sold as a slave to this man. We reached a store front with no windows, a massage parlor. There were 5 other girls. I was handed off to an older woman. She was told to teach me enough English to get by. two girls were Vietnamese, one girl was Russian, another american, and a Filipino girl that spoke Spanish, she would teach me English. Her name was Ava, she explained the horrible place that I ended up in. That men would come in and we were to do as told, and for that we would get fed and have a place to sleep.

Ava held me as I cried. I shook, I threw up. I was beaten by the Mistress of the parlor for being so weak.

(What I got done last night, still a working on it. Kids hate it when I am not paying attention to them. Especially my youngest.)

Esmerelda Evangelina Montoya DeSantos

Strange Bedfellows TonyaBunny