Juan Luis Guzmán
Blood Meditations IV
Excerpts from an essay
We call convents and seminaries across Guadalajara and neighboring cities hoping to find a donor. We know, even if we find someone willing to give, there is still a possibility that the hospital will turn them away. I find a slip of paper in my mother’s belongings with contact information for a local fire and police department, on the back she’s written, ten misericordia de nosotros. Lord, have mercy on us. The hospital broadcasts a channel to televisions in the city asking for donors to help patients in the most urgent need. My mother knows this would humiliate my dad, who has always been too proud to ask for help. I give permission to the hospital and they broadcast his name and blood type to countless viewers. They add the information to their Facebook page and some of his friends call to tell us they’ve seen the messages. They want to know how he’s doing. None of them offer to give him blood. Publicizing his case and need on TV and social media yields nothing.
Blood is big business, especially along our southern border. Every month, Spanish-language flyers make their way to Mexican border towns advertising cash for plasma transactions. They are bright and packed with images that are easy to understand: a stack of cash, a clock, a smiley face wearing sunglasses. At the center of the ad a dollar figure and below that information about receiving bonuses for multiple donations and for recruiting others to donate. It’s possible to make upwards of $400 a month this way, incentive enough for many poor Mexicans to cross the border on temporary visas sometimes twice a week. The United States is one of the only countries that allows high frequency donations of plasma, and that enables pharmaceutical companies in the US and around the world to profit from the blood of Mexicans. At one particular blood plasma center located in El Paso, 90% of people who donate come from the Mexican border town of Cuidad Juárez to do it.
The town in Jalisco where my parents are originally from is over an hour away from the hospital. I ask my mother to make a list of people we know there, family or friends who would fit the description of a healthy candidate. While she works on the list, I pull up account information on the Citibank app in my phone and wonder about a fair price to place on platelets. You got to give some to get some.