Much like any acceptable order of cheese fries, this post is going to be loaded. I have been back in the U.S. for three months, and it has been stressful — to say the least. I miss Mexico every day, but for reasons I did not anticipate. I miss my friends, of course, but above all I miss the pace of life. Comparatively, everything seems so much more difficult now. Considering I left to start anew in Mexico: a new country, a different language, I set out with nothing more than a few suitcases and my horn on my back. The task was daunting, difficult, but within a month I was settled in my new job and in a great apartment, surrounded by wonderful people and a beautiful culture. When I made the decision to make the move back to the U.S., I had assumed the transition would be relatively fluid, easy even. I was horribly wrong. It took me nearly two months to find a job, and it took us nearly three to get on our feet and into a place of our own. It seemed that everything is designed to be stacked against you here. We had to constantly fight, tooth and nail to crawl out of the (literal) basement we were living in. We did it – are doing it – but I am still weathering the effects. My hair was falling out at an alarming rate and my mental state had begun to deteriorate rapidly leading up to this point. While I, we, are endlessly grateful for our family who provided our shelter, there is something about just having independence that in itself fosters the very momentum of life. Without it, stagnation. Things are okay now. They will only continue to improve. My career is back on track, I’m playing horn again, even composing again, and I am looking forward to the future. What was my point? Oh right, I miss Mexico. I have such incredible respect, now more than ever, for any immigrant who sets their sites on the U.S. for their new home. If it was this difficult for me, I cannot even fathom how difficult it must be for anyone who is not a citizen. I saw a very small glimpse of what it might be like to come to the U.S. as a Mexican. I came back with pesos, and turning those pesos into fruitful USD proved to be more difficult than I could ever have imagined. Spoiler alert: they did not go far. This new government administration’s attitude toward immigrants hurts my heart, and I want everyone who cares to listen to hear my story.
My last post was about the racism I felt, as a brown American, returning to the U.S. from Mexico. In short, I felt like a stranger in my own home. I felt like a target, and I desperately wanted to hide, to assimilate, to be overtly American, so as not to be “found out.” I have read (and listened) to reports of mass arrests and subsequent deportations of hundreds of undocumented immigrants along the East Coast. Families dismantled, people who came here with dreams of having better lives than the ones they left behind. I submitted over 50 job applications over the course of six weeks, four of those resulted in interviews. I am an educated American citizen, with two college degrees. Eight percent of the jobs which I applied for (all of which had active ‘now hiring’ advertisements) considered me a viable candidate for employment. I applied for all kinds of jobs: positions in my field (music), retail, secretarial work. All hourly positions. And despite my education and citizenship status, ninety-two percent of those employers did not consider me to be qualified enough for even an interview. Sure, you can argue that my degrees are specific to one field. But can you imagine how difficult it must be to find a job as an immigrant? I don’t know. It may be obvious that immigrants will have a difficult time…you know, immigrating. But my own struggle just really spoke to me about just how difficult it is. And I don’t even understand, not really. I can only infer based on my experience as a very American citizen. Overall, it took us three months to get on our feet. To get out of the basement and into a place of our own, to establish ourselves as independent adults again. In retrospect, three months doesn’t sound like a long time at all. It really isn’t that long. But it threw me, and it certainly heightened my awareness of my own privilege.
I grew up in racist America hearing all of these ‘funny’ anecdotes of Hispanics “jumping” the border, climbing fences, swimming across the gulf. But these stories are not funny. They are the opposite of funny. Coming into the U.S. in such a way is motivated by sheer, unadulterated desperation. By both hope and fear. And now we live in a country run by an administration that blatantly fosters the idea that these people, these human beings and their lives are disposable. ‘Send ’em back.’ You [[general ‘you’]] have no idea what these people have gone through to get here. You have no idea what they might be running from. You have absolutely no idea what it takes, the courage and desperation to risk everything – your life, your family’s life – to be an immigrant success story in the 21st century.
I am lucky. While my existence is the product of immigration, I am not, myself, an immigrant. And I am now acutely aware of the privilege that that fact affords me. So, I encourage all of you to heighten your own awareness. The next time you see someone struggling with English, be patient. If you see a person, a group of people, or a family who appear lost, afraid, overwhelmed. Smile at them, approach them, and offer them, at the very least, your kindness.
Stay tuned for a more uplifting post about my life and the things that are bringing me my daily happiness, I just needed to get this off of my chest. Namaste, y’all.