Reminiscent of nothing in particular, and certainly not the most poignant, resolute, triumphant, and tragic story written in the 20th century, a young girl in a detention centre in Clint, Texas has begun keeping a diary. And her name is Ana Franco.
“It’s just my diary,” Ana says through an interpreter, brushing a strand of hair away from her face as she writes under the bright fluorescent lights, which stay on all day and all night. Her penmanship is neat, her lines are straight. Her gaze, when she looks up, is direct.
“El Diario De Ana Franco?” the girl says, shrugging, when asked if she has a name for this private memoir. She seems unaware that a book by that name already exists. And, perhaps thankfully, incognizant of the scale of tragedy that lies in it being written again.
“Well first off, where did she get a pen and paper?” asks a guard, from behind a face mask worn to protect him from the unsanitary conditions that Ana and her fellow detainees are currently being forced to live in.
“That is a clear violation of our mandate to just barely keep these kids alive, detain them indefinitely, and go out of our way to deny them humane treatment.”
The guard, who refused to give his name, went on to say that if he caught Ana learning, being creative, or leaving a haunting message that would echo for generations to come, one more time he would have to … and here he paused, before being forced to admit that she already sleeps on the floor in a cold room, separated from her family and stripped of all human rights.
“But I’ll think of something.”
Given the small book for her birthday, shortly before leaving Guatemala on the long, arduous journey to the United States with her aunt and uncle, Ana says she has written in it most days, though lately it has been hard to keep up the motivation.
“It just feels like no one cares,” she says, possibly in reference to her diary, but possibly also alluding to her extrajudicial confinement in general.
“Some of the guards give me funny looks when I tell them my name, and ask me if I’m making some sort of a joke,” she says, looking over her shoulder. “But I just ask them back: Does this look like a place for jokes?”