Darlin Adonay Peña has a headache.
On a Wednesday afternoon in May, he takes a break from his job flipping burgers at a McDonald’s on Central Avenue in Phoenix to sit down and talk, sipping a frozen caramel coffee drink and rubbing his almond eyes.
A brown rosary peeks from beneath his shiny black uniform. He’s shaved both sides of his head, taming a few meticulous black curls atop with gel.
Few Child Refugees Get to Stay Here Legally. Meet One of the Lucky Ones
A few pimples on his forehead give away Peña’s age. He is just 18. This is his first job since coming to the United States from Honduras last year, and he wants to do it to perfection.
He makes $7.95 an hour. The work is stressful. Sometimes, there are discussions in the back about how many burgers should be grilled at a time. Peña follows the rules carefully. Then he draws the ire of those who don’t. And that’s a headache, too.
“Me duele el cerebro,” he says. “My brain hurts.”
He gets headaches all the time. He doesn’t know why. It might be the beating he took in Nogales, Mexico, just before he crossed the border almost a year ago. It might be the memories of a terrible childhood. Or it might be the stress of the better life (though it’s a hard one) that he’s found in the United States.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.