by Yahaira Pamela Morales Castro
on July 8, 2017 on 7/8/17
This journal entry is being written in the suburbs of Arlington, Texas, on July 7, 2017. The streets are silent and empty of pedestrians. Cars drive through, but there is no presence of a metro, a train, taxis, or any other means of transportation you would see in Mexico City. The myriad of street vendors: non existent. The smell of tlacoyos, quesadillas (con queso), tamales, pescaditos fritos, and the rest of the products from the informal economy, simply a memory of my senses. The faint echos of a voice recording buying, “colchones, cajones, refrigeradores, estufas, lavadoras”, gone. This was the sound of my daily reminder that I was in Mexico City, and though it was sometimes bothersome to be woken up by it every morning, today it is one of the strangest things I miss from my experience.
Wanna hear the sound? Check out a recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GO9nB18UaU
Mexico City International Airport
I should still be writing this in Mexico, but unfortunately I returned to the United States sooner due to immigration circumstances. Reminder, I am a DACA recipient, and currently this is under attack by multiple states whom are calling for the removal of a program that has given me some mobility in the U.S. and Mexico. As a person who was born in Mexico, but grew up in the United States since the age of 2, I, along with many other individuals in the U.S. like myself have been fighting and hoping for the right to have rights and mobility in both our countries of origin and immigration. (note: let us not forget the other parts of the 11 million undocumented immigrants whom are equally, if not, in more limbo of uncertainty because of their status, or the ones whom have already left or been deported). So again, let me remind you, that because of DACA and everyone who fought for it, this study abroad experience was possible.
It was an experience I never imagined myself having the opportunity to live because of my immigration status. As an immigrant who left their country of origin at a young age, one starts to wonder what life would be like if they never moved. Where you would be today. What you would be doing. Making. Breathing. Living. Sacrificing. Enjoying. Detesting. Fighting. Overcoming. Questions that you’ll probably never know more about. During my trip, I had to keep asking myself: what does it mean to be here? What is my purpose? My intentions? And though I had some ideas of what the answers to those questions were, I am still processing them and their implications.
This was a program that made me rethink identity. tourism. culture. survival. economic systems. immigration. migration. people. money. nationalism. And much more that would require decades of text, experiences, analysis, and reflection.
In front of one of the only small monuments of the student massacre in 68′
Identity. I came with a hope that I would develop a better since of who I am in terms of my nationality. I left more conflicted and strangely, more satisfied than ever. What does it mean to be a part of a country made up of indigenous communities, European conquest, immigrants from various countries? How much of who is represented in the country’s nationalistic display? Is it possible not to appropriate culture when your culture is a misleading, beautifully scary puzzle, made up of a bunch of other cultures? How much of this un-replicable food can I claim as my culture? What about the pervasive use of folklore to represent Mexico and to generate profit from tourists? Why do I feel like a tourist in my own country? Who am I? I bet you can guess why I am conflicted, but why satisfied? Because I have new questions to think about and explore. New awaiting aha-moments, relatable unanswerable feelings and questions, and more uncomfortable critical thinking. I want to thank my peers and instructors for generating or helping generate these thought-provoking, crisis inducing, existential questions.
Then we thought about the vendors. the poverty. the profit. What were the products of NAFTA and neoliberalism? Why do people become “narcos”? Or better yet, why do they become a part of narcoeconomies? I would like to believe that this does not define a person. Unfortunately, their actions are part of bigger systems and policies. Actually, it isn’t even relevant to luck, since these are the consequences of people. Why do these street vendors do what they do, waking up every morning, working all day, and finally taking down only to repeat the same thing the following day? When do they rest? How fulfilling are their lives? What would they be doing if their circumstances were otherwise? How have these policies influenced immigration? Why are people still, in the year of 2017, insisting to cross dangerous terrains and borders without proper documentation? Why is access to clean water still a problem here?
Tourists. Me. You. Them. What do those who only visit tourist traps filled with mariachi hats, folklore, and alcohol think about Mexico? Is it more important for locals and communities to profit off of de-culturized merchandise, or to preserve culture and respectfully invite outsiders to learn and understand their history and their present? Is there a balance between both? What picture does this paint of Mexico? What do outsiders think about the little, indigenous-appearing woman who sits outside on the street every day to knit and make a living? Or the things they buy from her?
Teotihuacán with my peers
Immigration. What happens to people when they return to Mexico? What happens to people when they are deported? Why don’t we talk about return migration and deportation in the U.S. and acknowledge the reality of it happening? What does it mean to be from here and from there? Why are people seen as profitable for their English when returning to their home country, and nothing more? What is the government doing (and not doing) for them? Who really understands and cares about them? What does it mean to return or become an exile in your country, from your other “home”? What do these experiences imply about a persons mental health, and how can communities better understand and support them? What does it mean to have binational rights, and can they ever be attained for those who desire them? Return migration was the main focus of my research, and ODA, Otros Dreams en Acción, opened my eyes and my heart to a very real experience that I never considered prior to this year. I mentioned them earlier, but please check out their website to learn more and do more: http://www.odamexico.org/ I may not be a returned migrant (at least not a permanent one), but through the relatability in our experiences and stories I realized how much our realities were connected to the same immigration system. The work cut out for us on both sides is immense. But the work that is already being done is inspiring, powerful, and hopeful.
Maggie (center), Leni, (top middle), Jill (mid right), Lalo (far right) at a transfronteral (transborder) youth forum in Puebla, Mexico
A huge shout out to Maggie (co-founder of ODA) and Leni, two friends of mine whom I was able to connect with and learn from. Both are amazing and resilient returned migrants from the U.S. and Mexico. And of course to Dra. Jill Anderson, another co-founder of ODA who has an endless heart and admirable effort in supporting the immigrant and returned immigrant community. Thank you for helping me realize that I can be from here (U.S.) and from there (Mexico), even if it is not 100% from either, and that la lucha sigue en los dos lados. Also a shout out to DUL, Deportados Unidos en la Lucha, for helping your community and inspiring me to do more.
Leni, Maggie, and I
Binational, Bicultural, Returnees and DACAmented Women
DUL Print Shop, business run by community members who have been deported
Diego (DUL member), Me, and Maggie
At this point I could go on about all the questions and feelings that arose from this experience, but this is not the place for that. This experience has given me more questions than answers. Motivation. Considerations for future research and community work. Knowledge. Calories and overwhelmed, happy taste buds. History. One hospital visit. Two dental visits. Appreciation. Reconnection with family. Confidence. Friendships and connections. Inquisitive thoughts. Wisdom. Courage. Language. Cultura. Inner conflicts. Awareness. Love. Growth. And much more than I could have ever expected.
Familia I met and reconnected with for the first time this year
Some of the warmest, mouth watering pan dulce
Primos and Grandmother
I am not sure when I will be able to return to Mexico, but I would like to thank everyone who made this experience possible. To my educators, my friends, my family, UT, my TEC de Monterrey community and friends, and of course to Fund for Education Abroad. This is not a goodbye to Mexico, but a see you later, as there is tons of unfinished knowledge, questions, connections, and work to get back to.
Hasta pronto México.