Dear Undocumented Friends and Allies,
What a time to be alive. It seems that we cannot and really should not escape the reality we find ourselves in. Immigration has fallen to the wayside this election year, and we have yet to hear either candidate discuss how they are going to approach the solution to fix our broken immigration system. We do not want empty promises, but we cannot allow there to be silence on the issue. In my humble opinion, political change is a bottom up endeavor. I’m writing to you today to share a short story on inner strength and the power of believing in your foundation as an immigrant. My sincere intention is to convey a message of hope since our politicians are neglecting to do so.
Do you ever find yourself bored and unable to sleep? My first move tends to be to find a great movie to watch or rewatch. Scanning the assortment of films, Spanglish caught my eye. I remembered the movie being about a young, Mexican single mom (Penelope Cruz) and her daughter trying to survive in Los Angeles in their early days as immigrants. I was drawn to this kind of story because I have been thinking about the immigrant condition throughout the years as a part of my preparation for the Deferred Action Podcast.. It does not hurt that there is a certain positive energy you feel from an Adam Sandler film. (smile)
Throughout the movie the daughter of the single Mexican mom, Cristina, assimilates easily into the wealthy American lifestyle around her with help of her mother’s boss. As a consequence, she drifts more apart from her mom. At the climax of the movie, Cristina is confronted with a question that supercharged my drive to become a better interviewer.
In the short clip above, Cristina narrates, referring to her mom, “She expressed regret that she had to ask me to deal with the basic question of my life at such a young age. And then she asked it., “Is what you want for yourself to become someone very different than me?”
I stopped the movie at that point. I needed to contemplate the climax of this film. This “fundamental question of life” struck a serious cord with me. I’ve thought about this question before, but at a much younger age. When I was 17 I had to deal with the pressure of not knowing where my life would take me due to a decision that my parents made when I was 5 years old. You see at 17, I was undocumented with a good head on my shoulders and the ambition of the late, great Kobe Bryant. It’s hard to imagine that I ever viewed the relationship between my parents and I with disdain, but I did. And of course,I have to admit it is really hard to feel sorry for yourself when you know the kind of labor your parents are enduring just to keep a roof over your head. Nonetheless, if you ask Hugo at 17, the answer to the question from Penelope Cruz would have unequivocally been yes. It was hard, at the time, to look at my friends with citizenship from birthright, enjoy the platitude of options for things like college admission, driving with a license, or not having to deal with a bad cafeteria selection on the free lunch plan. I know now that the audacity of my mindset was a result of immaturity.
So of course, today the answer to “the fundamental question of life” is unequivocally no. My parents are the bedrock of my strength. I am very much privileged in this regard. “Somos pobres, pero ricos” was a common phrase in my childhood. When my parents made the decision to come to America, they were 25 years old with two children. I’m 27 and even now I am amazed at the risk/reward variables underlying the decision to move to a completely different country. I can sympathize now. The Sinaloa cartel’s influence was only just beginning to heat up in my birth town of Chihuahua, Chihuahua. Chihuahua is the beautiful capital city of the largest state in Mexico. It’s a city and state with great potential for trade, tourism, and manufacturing, but it has a problem with crime, corruption, and government mismanagement. I can now see why my parents took the leap of faith on the idea of the American Dream. They are the true “Dreamers”.
I hit the play button on the movie as I came to this beautiful realization. The movie continues with Cristina reading her Princeton admissions essay “…Though, as I hope this essay shows, your acceptance, while it would thrill me, would not define me. My identity rests firmly and happily on one fact, I am my mother’s daughter.” Candidly, this moment induced a tear or two. I am proud of my Mexican roots, and I am proud to be a part of the next generation of the American Dream. No matter what the political agenda is or isn’t, I can stand on that and push forward.
P.S. I can’t wait to ask this question to my podcast guests. 🙂