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How and why do we decide to approach someone to ask a question or to ask for help? Several months ago, my husband got tickets to take our young sons to a silent movie with live organ music at the Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle. He picked up the boys from school, while I shopped for a roasted chicken-in case they were starving before the movie began. Preventing hunger is my specialty.

As we approached the Paramount and searched for a parking space, a tall man on the street began looking at us. Then he continued to follow us on foot for over a block. When we parked the car, he stood nearby on the sidewalk, waiting for me to open my door or window. I stayed put in the car as my husband got out (he’s 6’6”) and walked around to see what the man wanted.

The stranger spoke only Spanish. He pointed at me and waited until I finally opened the window. When I did, he inquired softly in Spanish: “You are from Santiago Papasquiaro, aren’t you?”

As it happens, my ancestors originated in the mountains of Durango and its best-known city, Santiago Papasquiaro. The man then said that he could not resist speaking with me because, although embarrassed by his physical appearance-he looked pretty disheveled-he recognized me as one of his own in a place where there were few Mexicans. He simply had to approach me. He said he was headed for Spokane to work in the fields, but he had fallen asleep on the Greyhound...

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About the Author

Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs is a poet as well as an associate professor of modern languages and women studies at Seattle University.