by Yosimar Reyes
I am afraid to say this, but the more I think about the solution offered for my predicament as an undocumented person in this country, immigration reform simply seems to be a band aid for the mass displacement my family has suffered. For me and my family, immigration reform is a drop of water provided to quench the thirst that has rested on our tongues for years.
My Abuelita tells me I come from a small pueblito called Atoyac de Alvarez, a place I have no memories of, a place so distant in my imagination I must trace her wrinkles to remember. In Nahuatl, “Atoyac” means a place by the river. When she speaks of where I come from, her fondness for the land, mountains, rivers, and terrain is evident. Hers is a sensibility I have lost since I grew up in the living room of a small two-bedroom apartment in Eastside San Jose.
I came to this country at the age of three. My earliest memories were of Saturday morning cartoons as my Abuelita prepared tamales that we sold in the streets. The steam of the pots would seep into my skin and I learned that this sensation was what home felt like. Since an early age I knew that home was not the apartment number we lived in or the street we walked down collecting bottles and cans. Home was not this city, state, or country. To me, home was interlocked in my Abuela’s trenzas, the comfort I felt holding her hand as we crossed the street, in the warmth I felt laying next to her as we slept. Home was in knowing that one day we would return back and pick up where she left of. Regrow our coffee fields and grind our corn to make Nixtamal for tortillas.
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Growing up with elders, I always knew that I was not destined to die here, to be buried under soil that my spirit does not recognize. In my Abuela’s prophetic voice, I hear the need for me to return to the place of my birth. To see with my very eyes the mountains that make you feel closer to God, to taste the soil that makes you feel you are tasting your own skin, to bathe in the river that runs through my veins.
I am aware that this battle we are facing as displaced migrants is also spiritual; it is a battle against our ways, our ideals, and ourselves. While this country offers us progress, concrete, and tall buildings, our pueblitos offer us very simple things: the reminder that we come from somewhere, that the spirits of our grandparents live in these dilapidated mud houses and dried up fields. We come from strong backs and working hands, mud bricks held together by our own sweat. Our pueblitos have become a manifestation of our spirits in this country, slowly crumbling but standing strong.
To be honest with you, I no longer know if I do indeed want to be American. I do not know if I see myself losing part of who I am in order to be integrated into this burning house. I no longer know if I am willing to denounce the place of my grandmother’s birth in order to claim the ghetto I grew up in. There is a constant confusion, a tug of war between my spirit and this nation.
As I am getting older and I see my Abuelitos getting ready to return home, I am learning that freedom is not something that can be granted you; it is something you must find within yourself. I am learning that with the more conversations I have about immigration reform, the more my spirit tells me that none of that matters anymore because the root of our problems lie in the spirits of those politicians that are playing a political football game with our lives.
This place my Abuelitos took me away from years ago, a place I have no memory of, is the only reminder that I have a home. So when it all comes crashing down and these buildings collapse onto themselves, that little piece of land where my grandmother walked barefoot will call me back. I will be whole again.
I have a home. It is not here, and though I may be displaced and caged within my own fears of my homeland, I know that one day I will return and mud brick by mud brick, I will build a new life.
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From the Mountains of Guerrero, Mexico comes Yosimar Reyes, a two-spirit poet/activist based out of San Jose, CA. His style has been described as “a brave and vulnerable voice that shines light on the issues affecting queer immigrant youth and the many disenfranchised communities in the U.S and throughout the world.”
Get BGD creator Mia McKenzie’s debut literary novel, The Summer We Got Free. It’s the winner of the Lambda Literary Award.
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