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8 a.m.: Central de Autobuses Americanos, 2147 Broadway

The woman with diabetes won't give her name.

She's 67 years old, and she isn't looking forward to the twelve-hour bus ride to Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican border. By her side is a blanket wrapped in a clear plastic cover; a pillow rests on an empty chair next to her.

She can hear the cars whizzing down Broadway as Jose Joaquin opens the glass door to the station, walks in and grabs her bags to put on the bus. Jose's face and hands are worn from a life of labor. He's wearing a mesh ballcap labeled "Central de Autobuses"; he says his job loading baggage keeps him young.

Outside, Felipe Lopez eyes a young Latina's backside as she waits to board the bus. He's nineteen and decked out in an Orlando Magic jacket and a backward CU hat. He's sitting with his friend, Jesus Rios, who's wearing a Yankees cap. Neither knows much English; both like beer.

"Pure party," Jesus says of his time in Colorado. He's going to miss the "chicanas," girls born to Mexican parents in this country.

Jesus spent $2,000 for a coyote to guide him through the Arizona desert in December. He came up from Durango, Mexico, hoping to find work. Although he's going back empty-handed, he isn't too worried about it. This was his first time en el otro lado -- but not his last time "on the other side." As easy as it is to step on the bus, he'll go back to Mexico, get a job, make money to pay a coyote to guide him back again.

The only one speaking English is a homeless guy who asks Jesus if he can load his bag on the bus for a quarter. Jesus has only one small bag; he couldn't carry much through the desert. The white guy isn't much older than Jesus. He says he can't find work. Jesus doesn't understand him.

A bus pulls up. Men in cowboy hats, blue jeans and boots get off. A guy in a retro San Diego Padres jumpsuit and sunglasses stands close to his duffel bag. An older man wearing a "100% borracho" hat grabs his luggage: a plastic garbage bag and a broken cardboard box. An old lady and her husband climb down, looking for the children and grandchildren who aren't yet there to greet them.

Another set of grandparents waits to board the bus with a bicycle that will undoubtedly make some kid down in Meh-hee-co smile. A couple of young lovers kiss goodbye as the woman cries. The man has broad shoulders, a long leather jacket and a cell phone that the woman uses before she gets on board.

The woman with diabetes is already on the bus. Twelve hours to Mexico. She hopes her health will allow her to return to Denver, "if God wants." -- Luke Turf

10:30 a.m.: The Catholic Store, 3398 South Broadway, Englewood

Two T-shirts commemorating Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver in 1993 hang in the Catholic Store's display windows. The vestments, featuring a slightly yellow-hued pope, are priced at $2.95 each. But despite news of the pontiff's recent hospitalization, clerk Sharon McGinty has detected no run on papal paraphernalia. "We did get slammed yesterday, but I don't know why," she says. "People weren't asking for pope items."

In the church-like quiet, President Bush's voice floats from a radio that's tuned to a talk station. At this time of year -- post-Christmas and before the First Communion and Easter seasons -- business is generally slow. Still, a handful of customers trickle in. A short Hispanic man enters, escorting a large woman on crutches. "Hey, how come you guys always wear antennas?" he jovially asks McGinty and another clerk, pointing to their telephone headsets. "Because we want to look like Madonna," McGinty shoots back, referring to the performer, not the mother of Jesus.

Anyone who wants to know what the original Madonna looked like will find numerous representations here. The most striking is a near-life-sized model of Mary made of white Fiberglas, which costs $1,600. Customers occasionally ask about this statue, McGinty says, but she doesn't recall ever selling one. The real market is not in church furnishings, but in the books, rosaries and supplies that the faithful use to bolster their beliefs: a framed depiction of Christ (with blood dripping from his heart) for $62.95; a black T-shirt bearing the logo "Paradise Hotel (reservations required)"; a luminous Divine Niño rosary, made in Taiwan and packed in a plastic egg-like container, with a $20.95 price tag. The most popular items are small, laminated prayer cards that cost sixty cents each. The store's sold out of several versions, including "Ten Commandments for Teen-agers" and "Prayer to Obtain Favors." The "Prayer in Time of Economic Hardship" is running low, too.

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Laura Bond
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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
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