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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Plans and the Fools

Stupid plans. So here is my father, preparing his departure, saying goodbye, in his own way, to a hard and painful life in the States. Resigned, in his own way, to death and dying in the land of his birth. But the dying he foresees is a peaceful one: somehow, during the summer months, when the rain pours down on the corn, and the wind whips the greenery into a frenzy, the dark earth will open up and swallow him whole, reuniting him with his umbilical cord (attaching himself to it once again), and sleeping in death beneath a welcoming, placental soil—an eternal sleep in his native land, without fear or running. This is the dying he foresees.

Stupid plans—My uncle came to see my father a few weeks ago and burst his bubble. Michoacan is overrun with drug cartels. The town of his birth has been commandeered by the Zetas. They have driven out the police, the mayor, the government, any sign of civility and democracy. They have instituted curfews—everyone is to be inside their homes by 8:00 p.m. They collect taxes from the citizenry, from merchants, and will kill anyone who opposes them or their rule. My father innocently suggested that he was an old man and all he wanted was to work on his house and mind his business: “I’m not into that shit. They should leave me alone.” No, said my uncle, they will kill you for the simple reason that you’re returning—to return to is to be done, to have accomplished what you set out to do, to have money! If you have money, you die. This is not the death my father foresaw. This is the death of wild dogs—of animals who don’t know how to die, who eat their young and their dead.

Now he’s stuck. I can sense the desperation and disappointment. And I lack the words. The immigrant has become an exile, and he doesn’t know what that means.

You can’t go home again, I said. We can’t go home again.

1 comment:

  1. Vicente posted a link to your blog on facebook. His enthusiasm about you as his professor caught my curiosity. I just finished reading all your entries. It probably won't mean much to you, but, I empathize with you on most of what you've written.

    While reading Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory, back in 10th grade, I decided I would write a book someday about my parents' life, my life, our immigrant experience. "I owed it to them. I owed it to myself." I used to write. However, realizations about my identity, about my past and future, became too painful to acknowledge and I decided to let go of them and focus on the positivity of my "American Dream", my college education.

    Time has passed and I'm in an awkward state in life, experiencing cultural notions that I knew I would inherit--I'd acknowledged them theoretically--but had never felt before. The clashes in my mind over how to behave, what major to select, whether to go to grad school, whether to get married, or even hold a friend's hand in public and risk our acquaintances' gossip tainting my family name are debilitating me. When my parents look up from their routine of labor and actually glimpse that there is no "American Dream" for them, they refuse to accept change, revert to the memory of our hometown and hope to return to "the simple life: the good, just humble living, without gangs, without alcoholics and drug-addicts, piercings and tattoos, without internet taking over our children's minds, where family matters". As the intermediary in the family, these clashes, these conflicts, misconceptions and denial, these questions over what comes next for me and my family haunt me and have made me mute for a while now.

    No one else, no other first generation college student in my class has ever acknowledged feeling this conflicted, as disabled as I have by the guilt of being educated, multicultural, inching further away from my roots. Though I don't remember you mentioning guilt in your entries, though my language is still limited for lack of use and suppressed introspection, and though I am not a philosophy major and thus perhaps understood your words at a "shallower" level than you wrote them (than you feel them), I want you to know that I found comfort in them. I say this with respect. Though painful connections have also been awakened while reading your entries, I am revisiting the idea of someday writing that book.

    Sorry for the rant. Thank you.

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