They came to the states “illegally” again in 1984. I was born in Orange County less than a decade before, but circumstances (i.e., the threat of “la migra”) forced my father to send us back to “el Tambor” in 1979. So five years later, my mother threatened to leave him if he didn’t bring us back, which forced his hand, I suppose. We left in a red pick-up truck in the early morning hours sometime in the fall. When we got to Tijuana my mother hugged and me said goodbye, which was strange because I thought we were all crossing together. But since I was a citizen, I could just walk across the crossing--alone. They had to find other means to cross. My father paid a woman to hold my hand and walk me through inspection; I was supposed to smile to the guard and say “si” if they asked if the woman was my aunt. I don’t think the guard bought it, but since I wasn’t screaming or resisting or appearing to be kidnapped, he let us through. The woman took me to a cheap hotel in San Ysidro and led me to a room with a few people sitting on a couch—she left soon after that and I never saw her again. Another woman, who had been in the room already, talked to me and told me that my parents would soon join us. This made me nervous, since the idea that my parents would not join us at some point hadn’t crossed my mind. Now I waited. I waited like never before.
At night, the San Ysidro sky became noisy and bright. Helicopters circled above and they shinned lights on the hotel windows. I couldn’t sleep. I was 9 years old. This is the first time I remember feeling that sense of loss that I’ve come to familiarize myself with over the years. It was as if waiting for nothing, which is worse than waiting for something. I felt alone, nervous, afraid, but most of all criminal. Without fully understanding what that meant, I knew I was hiding from the lights and noises outside, that I was an accomplice to something, that all those people there with me were implicated—that I was guilty by association. I fell asleep on the woman’s lap.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
I am not an immigrant; but the immigrant experience has informed my identity to such an extent that other more politicized terms like “Chicano,” “Hispanic,” or “Mexican American,” seem to me like foreign impositions. If anything, I would say that I am a “second generation immigrant,” whose roots are intricately tied to those of my parents--folks that, no matter how hard they try, will always be immigrants. Hence, the post-immigrant experience, one which sees us, second generation immigrants, furthering the projects of our forebearers, transgressing on new borders, occupying new territories, settling in new realms—still wary of deportation, but only symbolically (unless we are physically deported, which is still possible!). The borders which we’d like to cross are not the physical borders separating countries, but the borders of the immigrant imaginary, i.e., the dreams of those who dared to uproot some generations, decades, years, days ago. I live the post-immigrant experience because my biography has been interrupted by their immigrant experience. And while I don’t share in the immigrant experience which nurtured me and remains as trace deep within my subconscious, while I can no longer faithfully own up to it, I can’t help but be shaped by it. My post-immigrant experience thus speaks a difference rooted in the dreams of my father—in his own idea of conquest and colonization.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I've tried, for over 15 years, to tell the story of my father, an immigrant farm worker from Michoacan, Mexico, who settled (along with my mother) in Southern Monterey County, California over 30 years ago. I've tried the novel, the poem, the speech, the painting, etc., but I never get very far. I hesitate.
With this blog I will try to tell his story from a phenomenological perspective, looking for what is universal in his experience...and in mine. We'll see how long I last.