Written Story by Daniela Ortiz Mendez

We met at Amelia’s

Saludos, mi nombre es Daniela Ortiz Mendez, 

and I want to share a poem, a story, a memory with you. 

This all took place in my head, in her head, in our countries, and across a border. It was May 2021. 

We met at Amelia’s 

And we sat down for tacos and coffee 

It pained me to see her so sad, but I knew it was nothing compared to her loss. She told me she hadn’t taken a break 

“The business isn’t going to run itself” 

I hate how legalities can stifle grief 

She gave me a golden box, her most prized possession 

It was heavy, 

the weight of responsibility, 

of sadness, 

of wanting to desperately do more 

I’m so sorry I couldn’t. 

This gold urn with ashes of loved ones was the cost of our healthcare system 

I traversed airport lines and land borders, carrying this urn on my back; I arrived in Tijuana, next to the kiosko with bright crepe paper hanging from the wrought iron This plaza that had once been my childhood stomping grounds 

Now I stood there, 

So much anger and guilt, my insides felt wrought too 

This American Dream turned to systemic letdown, 

I’m sorry this country didn’t do more. 

The feeling of having to hand over the loved one of a loved one, 

Because they can’t leave 

Because lack of business benefits 

Because legal status 


He flew from a different state to retrieve his father 

And as I handed him to his son, 

Transference of weight, 

We shared a moment that I hope in the future will not exist,

Where loved ones can cross country lines to be with each other in life, “en vida”, without borders and visas holding them back instead of carrying their ashes on our backs, Where our healthcare system gives quality treatment to all of their patients, even those of us who can’t advocate in English, 

Where we don’t have to be crying at a fucking Amelia’s because we lost someone. 

More pandemics will come 

And I hope we can learn, change 

Because saline sadness don’t belong on café y tacos 

And we are tired of tallying up lives, 

of bringing home people who should have had more years, 

More breathing, 



and loving in the arms of their amor