These days I try to be as apolitical as possible. When Trump was elected I decided to turn off from the chaos. I unsubscribed from The Economist and stopped watching the news. I believed politics would only become more of a parody than it already was, and I think I it helped maintain my sanity for the past few years. When colleagues share the latest tweet or another cabinet member resigned it didn’t phase me. It was easier to accept defeat and try to disprove the connotations of Mexicans by allowing my existence to be my resistance.
It may not have been the most patriotic thing to do but it helped me gain more control of my day to day life. I didn’t want to be part of the act. I had my own realities to bear as a recent first generation graduate with a mountain of student debt to tackle. Instead I focused on navigating the working world and creating a life for myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I was not trying to ignore the real issues this country is facing such as continued segregation of classes and color, immigration, tax changes, climate change, etc… I just felt I had no control over these issues. I had spent the majority, if not the entirety of my undergraduate studies and high school education trying to understand how the world got to be where it is today. The only constant factor that appeared to be a resolution to humanities ills was money. Financing better education systems, food production, hygiene programs and giving warring nations financial incentives to use their time more productively.
That period of ignorant bliss was shattered with six lines of text from a poem written by Vicky Chavez Peralta (@vperaltaaa).
“when collin chanted build the wall”
at me, the teacher didn’t say anything,
and the rio grande started
to drown me and my father again.
i had to drag my dad out in the middle of the classroom and swallow him.
I had not expected Instagram to be the downfall of my isolation but Chavez Peralta’s poem sunk into the pit of my stomach and made my heart ache. I finally understood why I got choked up in class when we talked about immigration, border issues, or Latin America. I too had to swallow my father in the middle of class and suffocate on my family’s past.
Like Chavez Peralta, it was my father who swam across the rio grande. He walked days from Mexico through the valleys and into the dessert. Nearly dying of hunger and thirst he made it across surviving only on the empathy of strangers and his resilience.
Like Chavez Peralta, my teachers didn’t say anything. What could they say about fathers trying to feed their children? What side could they take knowing their students were growing up thousands of miles away from their parents? I grew up feeling like a lowercase “ i ” too. I was taught to feel undeserving of capitalization.
Each and every time I held back tears knowing what people would think and say about him and my family if only they knew. Till this point in my life I was optimistic that society wanted to be equal and just, but as I’ve been exposed to different echelons of society and people of influence I realized there are underlying power dynamics that rule all aspects of life with fighting to keep society from ever being equal or just.
The synonymous experience I shared with Chavez Peralta brought my back pulse and reconnected the synapsis of my neurons. Her poem left me wondering how will we ever cope with the generational pain we’ve experienced as un-welcomed immigrants in this country. Evidently I’m still affected by the immigration issues -of this country even though I hold an American passport.