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Javier Zamora
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The following is a starting point for anyone willing to understand the plight of immigrants in this country better. For anyone that is interested in our humanity. I believe that if everyone read these books, signed up for the authors'/websites' newsletters, friend-requested artists/writers, followed them on Instagram/tumbler/twitter; we would not have such a strong anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. I truly believe that when we begin to listen to each other, we understand each other. We understand why we do things, how we might help each other through them, and we begin to care about each other’s happiness. The following is a list of first-hand accounts from immigrants, or accounts written by children of immigrants. It's important that we tell our own stories and that we read the stories from the mouths of immigrants. Memoir/Non-Fiction Sacrificing Families, Leisy J. Abrego The Beast, Oscar Martinez and also, the newspaper Oscar helped found, El , the only truly impartial/liberal newspaper in El Salvador Enrique’s Journey, Sonia Nazario The Devil’s Highway, Luis Alberto Urrea And anything by Reyna Grande Poetry Slow Lightning, Eduardo C. Corral The Verging Cities, Natalie Scenters-Zapico The Art of Exile, William Archila The Cha-Cha Files, Maya Chinchilla Toys Made of Rock, Jose B. Gonzalez Anthologies Poetry of Resistance: Poets Responding to SB-1070 and Xenophobia, Francisco X. Alarcón, Odilia Galván Rodriguez And a forthcoming undocumented anthology edited by Sonia Guiñansaca, look for it. Look for anything she does over at: Artists concerned with the Undocumented Struggle Favianna Rodriguez Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Barraza's Dignidad Rebelde Collective Lunar New Year Mata Ruda And these helpful organizations: Undocumedia CultureStrike Colibrí Center for Human Rights Again, these are only the beginning in understanding the 12 million undocumented individuals in this country. Spread the word. Let's talk to each other via our art, writings, posts. Let's understand each other and treat each other with respect. Also feel free to add any other suggestions in the comment section. Thank you for reading. Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
“Why didn’t you take me with you? Why didn’t you come back sooner?” Someone-We-Love remembers these questions perfectly. Her daughter, Maria, was searching for an explanation. At 14, she couldn’t quite understand why her mom had left. In the four and a half years that Someone-We-Love had been away, Maria dropped out of school twice. The first time, right after her mom’s departure, Maria stopped going to school for a few weeks. The second time, the year before Someone-We-Love returned, she dropped out for an entire year. I asked Someone-We-Love why she thought Maria had done this, “because she missed me. And also, I think it was difficult for Maria to accept I had a daughter with Carlos.” Someone-We-Love gave birth to Ana a year before she migrated back to El Salvador. Of course, she told Maria the moment she found out. Which was around the same time she dropped out of school for a year. “Maria grew even more distant. I understood her struggle, so I tried to talk her through it, but also give her space. It was difficult for me. I wanted to be happy with Carlos. I wanted Maria to be happy.” Before Ana turned two, Someone-We-Love boarded the ICE plane with her second daughter, Ana, in her arms. Ana’s father, Carlos, doesn’t have documentation, so he had to stay in California. “Carlos was so afraid that he didn’t want to come into the airport. We said goodbye outside.” Someone-We-Love told Carlos that she would be back soon. Two or three years maximum. “My plan was to convince Maria to come to this country with me. I returned for the quinceañera, yes, but I wanted her to be here with me.” But, someone-We-Love didn’t count on the strong bond Maria had formed with her Abuelita Nelly—Someone-We-Love’s mother. “‘How can I leave her here? Who’s going to take care of Abuelita Nelly now that all her daughters have left?’ Hearing my daughter Maria tell me this, really broke my heart.” Someone-We-Love started to cry. She explained to me that she felt pulled in all directions. She felt terrible to leave her mother behind. She felt terrible to leave her daughter Maria behind. She felt guilty for wanting to take Maria away, for wanting to leave her mother, Nelly, alone again. “I didn’t know what to do.” On top of the difficulties she faced with her family, Someone-We-Love’s hometown continued to get more and more dangerous. When she returned, she was afraid to sell pupusas again. She had to depend on Carlos sending money. And on top of all of that, Ana was born with hyperthyroidism, which meant she needed special medication to control her growth. If she didn’t get the right dose, it could put her development in jeopardy. Someone-We-Love stayed in El Salvador until 2013. Close to three years, before she had to return to California. “Ana’s hyperthyroidism was the main reason why we came back. I didn’t want to leave Maria again. I begged her... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
The recent hypocrisy of the Obama Administration is infuriating. Yes, the president cried during his much-needed gun-control Executive Order speech, but the same day his administration released a letter that justified the deportation of everyone––including children and mothers––who crossed the border after January 1, 2014, the year the United States had a “crisis of unaccompanied children at the border.” But there have been children immigrating for quite some time (i.e. I was an unaccompanied minor in 1999). In 2014 alone, it is estimated that over 100,000 families crossed the border. My question is: Why does the media not see that the people crossing the US-Mexico border are just like the refugees crossing the Mediterranean? Someone-We-Love’s two-part story is a brief compilation of several interviews. I call her Someone-We-Love because she’s our grandmother, mother, aunt, sister, cousin, friend. She’s someone we know, across the counter, at the checkout-line, walking on the sidewalk. I hope you can have compassion, share her story, and see her humanity—something the media often erases. * * * It’s two weeks before Christmas and I am sitting with Someone-We-Love at the small café she works at. She just clocked out for the day. I jot notes on a small pad as she sips her coffee. What I understand is that migrating from El Salvador was her last resort. Someone-We-Love gave birth to her daughter Maria when she was only 16 years old. Her husband Juan was twice her age. He was a retired Atlacatl Battalion soldier (the most ruthless faction of the military during the civil war), so he got a pension. “I thought he was handsome in that olive-green uniform,” Someone-We-Love says. “To this day, I don’t know why I liked him.” Beatings and verbal abuses happened too many times the nights he would stumble through the door. Someone-We-Love says, “He spent all his money on cheap cane vodka. He hung around with the village drunks. He would get so wasted and recall what he did during the war. He said if he really wanted to, he could kill me with his bare hands. That he could kill anyone, that that’s what the army taught him.” When that occurred, Someone-We-Love and her daughter would walk in the dark for two kilometers on dirt roads to her parent’s house. It wasn’t until Maria turned five that Someone-We-Love garnered the strength to leave Juan for good. Even then, from time to time he would yell at her from the street when he was drunk. He had never helped her with money. She worked with her mom at their pupuseria, but their earnings were not enough. Her sisters, who had fled to the U.S. years earlier, sent her more money once she got separated from her husband, but still, it wasn’t enough. In 1999, El Salvador changed their currency to the dollar and with it, the cost of living increased. Around the same year, gangs started to take hold of San Salvador. News began to spring up about a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Keeping with this week’s theme of immigration and community in mind, I asked Marcelo Hernandez Castillo to chime in on his own experience. What follows is his essay about place, origin, and stalks of corn. Thank you Marcelo. I don’t know where my grandfather is buried, only that he’s been lying somewhere in the desert for the last 60 years. He died crossing the border like so many others, attempting to provide a better life for his family. To cross a border as an undocumented immigrant is to risk crossing a threshold into invisibility. And so, for 21 years, every act of living has been an act of trying to remain visible. Recently, I keep going back to a line by Wendy Xu in which she says “I am trying to dissect the memory of my erasure.” And it is true, our act is an act of dissection, of opening ourselves up to what has been hidden. I have to keep redrawing myself back in a landscape because erasure is a constant. I’m negotiating an absence and presence simultaneously that was begun by the event of displacement. And because of such displacement undocumented immigrants are taught to guard our presence for fear of deportation, to have an intrinsic fear of being seen. But you can’t live like that, not for long. Perhaps to be a writer of color and to write about place is to always write about what has hurt you. The places we inhabit are always in relation to an origin and in the act of immigrating, you are always longing for what you have lost, perhaps forever. I’m thinking of a way back, of mapping the lineage of pain caused by separation. What would that look like? I’ve thought of reversing my parent’s journey but it doesn’t work like that. And for many, there is no going back, undocumented immigrants come to this country and die in this country without ever seeing their family again. My cousin was forced to sit by while they buried his father 2000 miles away in Mexico; forced to mourn from a distance. And so, a substitution occurs, because it must, because there is no other option. You need to replace the object of mourning with something else, something physical you can hold in your hand to replicate the act of touching their deceased body, whether that be a picture, or an old coat that belonged to the deceased. When they buried my uncle, his children in the US mourned through the phone, hearing only the wailing on the other line. My cousin asked to touch me because I had touched her father last. And so poetics, as far as I am concerned, is a way to make sense of this separation; of mourning as third party mediation of senses. Place, then, can’t simply be somewhere you can travel to, or occupy, it must be something else. For writers of color, the history of place is just as resonant as its present.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
These week’s posts will try to keep in mind Francisco X. Alarcón’s commitment to the Latin@ community. As many have written since his passing, here is a poet who shows us what can be done with the languages we speak and the indigenous languages some of us have forgotten to speak. He shows us that it’s the poet’s duty to respond to injustices. It’s our duty to add a human side to the news articles, to the conflicts, to aid in the feeling of the immigrant community in this country. A group of extreme-left students tried to chain us inside 100 Wheeler Hall. They were mostly white; we were 500 students protesting against recent tuition hikes and Arizona’s SB-1070 bill. They had not asked us for our consent. A leader of the student group MECHxA asked me, Do you have papers? I said no. She immediately rushed to the door and urged the ones holding the chains to let me out. In that moment, I didn’t know how close I’d come to getting arrested for civil disobedience. I knew I was different from most students because I didn’t have legal documentation, but I didn’t know that a simple infraction could have taken me to jail, and if ICE happened to be there, I could have faced deportation. My parents repeatedly told me, Don’t get arrested; don’t throw everything away. I listened, but a part of me didn’t. I was a teenager. I didn’t want to believe I was different. The weeks that followed the protest, I was so afraid of my immigration status that I would bolt home after class. I checked Facebook. Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodríguez created the page Poets Responding to SB-1070. This was Francisco’s first post on the Facebook page: Melanie Cervantes’ poster of a protester with the words brown and proud, todos somos Arizona. It was a simple but powerful thing, I’d chanted this at protests, we were all chanting it now. People started to share and comment on poems, cartoons, and posters advocating for the humanity of immigrants. As I read them, I began to understand that there were others under my immigration status writing about their experiences, there were other writers that were citizens who cared about immigrants. Francisco understood this about media. He was a huge fan of Twitter and the short form. He knew how technology could help the most marginalized of us, connect and gain strength. Slowly, I started to write about my own experiences as a Salvadoran immigrant. This wasn’t the first time Francisco has influenced my life. When I started to learn English in fourth grade, I was part of an ESL program where I read mostly bi-lingual children’s books. At the time, my mom didn’t speak much English, but she understood she didn’t agree with the school’s policies of starting us at a first-grade reading level. She went to the bookstore and bought me as many books and flashcards, so I could learn English faster.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Jan 23, 2016