I saw my first Internacionalistas


Deb Olin Unferth on love and war @ the new issue of The Believer.
George and I had gotten nowhere with joining any revolution. It was August. We’d been fired from one job and hadn’t found another. We’d managed to throw up a wall between us, or at least some small obfuscating stones (a dot of diamond, two glints of red). And now we had to get out of El Salvador. Our visas were running out. We couldn’t wait around for people to figure out what they were going to do about the bridges that had been exploded on the road to the border—put them back up, explode somebody back, chart a little path through the river—no time for any of that, George said, because to be stuck in El Salvador with an expired visa was no joke. So we set out. The truck drove in loops, searching for bridges still standing. A few kilometers from the border, some guys with black-market gym shoes threw their duffel bags off the truck and jumped out, ran into the trees.

At Salvadoran customs we had the deepest, longest search of them all. The soldiers spent hours scratching our money with their fingernails and going page by page through our books. We were so bored with searches by now, had had so many, we didn’t care what the soldiers did. We sat on a curb and watched.

At last we arrived in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. We pulled into the station. I was aggrieved, begrimed, laden. I’d had exactly no fun in months and I was ready to blame George for it. I filed to the front of the bus and looked out over the heads of the people waiting to get on. There, amid the crowd, I saw my first Internacionalistas, white and balding, holding cameras.
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