Thursday, March 10, 2005
Sixteen years ago this month, I crossed the border into America without documents. I still remember that first time I walked on the driveway of my new home (I had arrived at 1am, I didn’t get a chance to look around). Beautiful homes and cars. Chilly weather. I wondered which way was my hometown, which a three-day bus-ride had left behind. I wondered what was happening back home.
On Monday I went to my naturalization interview (to become a citizen of the United States). I watched the people around me and wondered, “Are we all traitors to our home country?”
After writing down on a sheet of paper, “The day is beautiful” and answering that the fundamental belief of the Declaration of Independence is that “all men are created equal” and that “they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” I headed home with mixed feelings. I had been approved, but I couldn’t make-up my mind on whether I was happy, complacent, or maybe even disappointed. Oh, but I was definitely hungry, and like a good Mexican, I called my mother and asked her if she could please cook some chilaquiles (known by some as “poor man’s dish”).
Yeah, I love that about myself. I love how I remain attached to my culture, in spite of the fact that I’ve lived in America more than three-fifths of my life. And watch… one day — as a teacher — I’ll have my kids do a performance on a Cinco de Mayo or a 16 de Septiembre in front of the whole school. My kids will have in me a teacher who has not forgotten where he has been and what he has done. My humble background empowers me.
Having had the opportunity to walk on the finely constructed streets of the most prominent cities of the world, I can say without a doubt that no city of the world could ever make me feel what I would feel walking on the streets of my own hometown. Its streets are yet to be paved and its adobe homes are already showing their age, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s the town that witnessed my childhood. As such, it holds a special place in my heart.
It’s sad to have to leave one’s hometown, and even sadder if one’s relatives and friends are not able to make the trip. Fate brings people’s bodies apart, but souls have no concept of distance, time, or boundaries. I think of my relatives and friends just as much now as I did when I had just arrived to America, many, many years ago.
Nostalgia brings me tears, and in my tears I see my town. In my town I see my beloved house, and in my beloved house stands my mother praying to God that I return home safe one day. Her prayers give voice to my own desire, and I know God will come through for us. The almighty knows that every immigrant’s biggest and final wish is to be allowed to die in his town of birth, surrounded by those he loved, and having as pallbearers those who loved him most.
Hoy me encuentro muy lejos, muy lejos
El recuerdo se me hace tristeza;
Yo ansío con todo mi ser
Es muy triste encontrarse ausente
Yo ansío con todo mi ser
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