Our government is currently making decisions that will drastically affect lives for undocumented citizens appropriately called “Dreamers”. Many Dreamers are my students, my friends, the daughters and sons of my heart, and my soul. This week, I’m taking a departure from my own writing, and sharing student work. With her generous permission, I share one Dreamer’s response to an assignment for my class called “The Personal Essay”.
To protect her identity, I’ll call her E.C. I love her dearly. Hear her.
For my would-be older brother.
It was 1995 when an 18-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl came to America for the first time leaving behind their humble home. My older sister was born in 1997 in Denver, Colorado, becoming an American citizen instantly. My mother later returned in 1998 to San Francisco Tepojaco Cuautitlan Izcalli in Mexico city with my sister. That same year, my would-be older brother died of lung malfunctions, he would be the only one that would have understood what I’d be going through 19 years later, being Mexican born with American citizens as siblings.
I was born in 2000, being the only one born in my parents forever home, it became my patria, I have the vaccine shot or the “Mexican stamp” that leaves a hole to prove it. For the next four years, my father traveled back and forth growing accustomed to the better future he would get for his daughters in America. At age four I moved to the land of the free, the land of opportunity, where all dreams come true.
From San Francisco Tepojaco Cuautitlan Izcalli we took a bus to Sonora, and a coyote was waiting for us. Leaving as darkness overtook the cerro, we began our 370-mile walk toward Phoenix, Arizona, crossing through mountains, deserts, hills, and flatlands. After hours of walking, we rested under a tree, as daylight began protruding over the horizon. We arrived at a house full of families and men traveling alone until blue minivan with a peeling paint job and a rusty hood picked my family and it took us to our new forever home. We arrived at my first white Christmas with snow covered trees, and cold wet white drops falling from the sky, and a bunch of gringos.
At age 8 I realized I was not like the other kids, my friends would find my native tongue “like so exotic” and bug me until I repeated my sentence and sounded “like a hot tamale” and I would laugh at myself intentionally to be American. I was an “illegal alien” who didn’t belong in America and should “go back to my country”, but at this point, I had no memories of this so-called country I was to be sent back to.
American has always been known as white and if you aren’t white, you are a trespasser. John Leguizamo once said, “Growing up Latino meant that your parents had an accent and worked three times as hard as everybody else’s parents, and you were supposed to be the great brown hope.”
At age 10 my second brother was born. He was an instant American citizen who already had a simpler life than me even before coming out of the womb. Already having health insurance and the dreamland magical nine digits, he would be raised without fighting two identities that are constantly fighting like the devil and angel on each shoulder, whispering the mistakes I do throughout the day. He would live to dream of attending universities of his dream where he will soon commute in his own car he buys under his name. He will have plenty of experience working under his name. My brother will have the life I didn’t know I needed before. Now, I would do anything for this life.
At age 15, the epitome of every teenage Latina girl, I came to the realization I was never going to be like every blue-eyed girl from a gated community. At this time I became embarrassed of my heritage. I wanted to try so hard, yet I was never right for the look. I wanted to wear stylish flannels like the pretty American girls on Tumblr, but I remember being mistaken as a “chola” with my black hair in a messy bun and hoop earrings that were in style. I remember told that my slang was so “ghetto” or wearing the puzzled “what did you just say” look, because I didn’t understand the subtleties of the English language. Eventually, it transitioned to where I noticed my friends were able to travel to faraway lands but I could not. My friends could get a driver’s license and I could not, my friends would be able to apply for FAFSA and afford college and I could not. My friends would be able to drive 5 minutes away without any fear of their life drastically changing from the red and blue flashing light on their rearview mirror and I could not. My friends would be able to apply for a job with what I call “The Nine Magical Digits” and I could not. But my friends won’t have to be told to keep fighting and keep faith through the tough teenage years, when all I wanted to do was give up, completely leave behind my dreams and begin to question every goal I had accomplished. The question, “Is any of this worth it?” was on constant repeat in my overfull conscience. My friends won’t acknowledge that I have to work twice as hard to show people what I am capable of and still not be appreciated or meet the criteria.
At age 17, my senior year is filled with migraines. While everyone is applying for FAFSA and traveling to college visits on an airplane with dreams on high, I am applying for colleges–at least trying to, but I have no one truly understanding my frustration. I have lost any drive and I am in robot mode. I just don’t care, and especially don’t dream as big as I did when I was 4. I don’t want pity. I want people to realize just how much-unnoticed privilege they have. I’m drained from the constant playback button of my friends telling me, “Oh my god you’re so smart” when they can be just as educated. They’ve just never had to try as hard as I have to because they don’t have to prove to anyone that they aren’t a “rapist or a drug dealer”. The pressure is overbearing. I want to scream into oblivion for people to stop telling me to, “stay strong” or “have patience”. I’m done with the sorry faces people present when the idea of fighting to change things comes up. I’m tired of fighting and being scared and having other people joking about something they can’t even imagine. I want to hold my fist to the air and yell “We are here to stay”, but I feel defeated. DACA, the designation of having dreams, being a “Dreamer” where anything is possible, the thing that was supposed to protect us just put us in the spotlight. From the clever words of Selena Quintanilla, I quote, “We gotta prove to the Mexicans how Mexican we are, and we gotta prove to the Americans how American we are, we gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time.” It’s a constant tug-of-war game between my identities. I don’t remember much from Mexico, but it’s still in my blood. All I know is in America, I will never be American in the eyes of those who bleed red, white, and blue.
My older brother, the only one who would have shared my life, would have understood, and agreed. This is for my would-be older brother.