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March 21st approaching: defining community

March 20, 2010

I recently received an email from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, in which Josh Hoyt shared the story of David, an undocumented student, and then proceeded to ask for funds to support the upcoming March in DC for comprehensive migrant reform. As one of the many song of migrants with papers I understand the privilege that this entails: a drivers license, financial aid, a sense of permanence, and the ability to travel south at will. Yet, I was troubled by David’s message, detailed below:


My name is David, and I am undocumented; I came to the United States at the age of three. I only remember a few things from where we came. I remember our red brick house. I remember being in my parents’ bedroom lying down in bed with the sunlight coming through the doorway. But these memories do not feel like they are mine. They don’t feel like mine because they are from a place that is completely strange to me.


“A place completely strange to me” struck me as extremely odd. Politically, it makes much sense to me. David was raised here, he belongs here, his place is here, he should not be send “back.” Yet, the idea of Mexico or Central America as being strange to David-or us, song/daughters of migrants, is this right? Raised in working class neighborhood by migrants, are we not some how connected to our parents country of origin? Futbol and tortas at Simons Jr High, the same ten banda songs playing at las quince de una amiga, speaking Spanish on a regular basis (or at least hearing it). A narrative that makes the land of our parents “strange” to us seems to bolster the idea of us and them: to fortify the border (cultural/physical). At least that’s my reading. Que piensan? And more importantly, how do we advocate a politics that both provides our neighbors/families with access and not reify citizenship-the nation-states definition of community

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2010 4:51 pm

    I agree with you to some degree. But I think that when people reconfigure the story they tell depending on the context. Within telling the story they decide if they are far removed or closely connected with the place that they were or their parents were in the past, given the situation in which they are retelling the story. For example, all of my cousins in Philadelphia consider Virginia their home when they are talking to those of us from Virginia about summer cookouts, or something that we have in common (mind you none of them have ever lived anywhere other than Philly). When they want to distinguish themselves from us, they talk about how they are from Philly. Just saying, you might hear from David in another context and get a narrative about how connected with Mexico he is.

  2. March 22, 2010 7:24 am

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  3. March 23, 2010 3:30 pm

    I think David's narrative was written out of a need to stay here. He wants to convey that he no longer belongs down south. He is "American". He is the poster child of the Census commercials… He is what he needs to be to stay here. Same as getting ham, eggs and coffee instead of enchiladas montadas for breakfast at the Denny's when you first get here. There is a struggle to fit in at first especially in a society so transfixed on the elimination of the different. Here, there is no love for the under dog maybe only in baseball, and the immigrant is dead last in this race. This dude doesn't want to stop being Mexican (if that is what he is) he wants to stop being an immigrant because no one wants to be that shit. In our case we can rest a little easier because our parents did that for us. We can try the ham and eggs but we can also get tacos al pastor. I'm getting hungry. A wise man once told me something like: We grow up listening to Antonio Aguilar, but also a little Weezer on the side. Its all about opportunity and place. You have the ability to travel to Mexico and breath it all in. All the bullshit politics, the violence, the poverty, the beauty… That is your place right now. David's got to play a different game.

  4. April 19, 2010 6:57 am


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