I was browsing Instagram when a notification popped up, I read it and thought “Another mass shooting?”. I immediately noticed my lack of empathy and now that I’m writing this post I question myself, Am I getting accustomed to reading about these hate crimes? I really wanted to dive a little on what I feel about this, me: a mexican literature college student who is supported economically by teaching English; language that I learned while living in the US.
What does the US mean to me?
First of all, living in the United States, gave me a lot of beautiful memories during my childhood that I cherish. Not to mention that it helped me get a good part time job while studying.
I lived in Farmington, New Mexico, a long with my sister and mom. I loved it there, the parks, my school, the libraries, everything seemed perfect. The only thing that I didn’t like that much was living in a trailer house. But basically, that was the preocupation of the seven year old me, most of it, related to location and space (ironic, now that I think of it). I returned to Mexico when I was in Fourth grade. But “returning” wouldn’t be the correct verb, they actually took our visas away when we tried to cross the border in El Paso. I remember thinking “Oh no! does that mean I’m not going to return my math book to class?”. It took a coulpe of years for me to understand that a visa is only a permit that allows you to stay for a certain period of time in the US, which makes a formal residency an illegal act. That was our fault. My mom still regrets that trip when we visited the family of my stepfather in Ciudad Juárez. Once we were in Mexico, the first few months seemed like we had the chance to go back to the US, but then my mom got a divorce, after that, the five years penalty they gave to my sister and me passed, then my mom’s seven years penalty also passed, and to this day I’m writing in the kitchen of my house in the border city, Agua Prieta, after fourteen years of that incident.
But I still think those years in the US were crucial and I can’t help but to feel appreciation and love for that country just as I learned to love my own.
Would they bully me because I’m Mexican?
There is a moment when the world seems like a huge playground, then you learn about a bunch of issues that surround mankind: religion, politics, sexual identity, economy, and so on. Sooner or later, you get to know that people are willing not only to offend and make you feel worthless based on where you are from, but they also kill for that reason.
I sometimes think of what would’ve happened if I stayed, I imagine an older version of myself that grew up in the US. Would I be picked on for being Mexican? Would I deny or be ashamed of my Mexican origin? Would I use ethnicity as a form of verbal abuse? Would I bully or be bullied? Would I tolerate hate speech? What would of been my political views? I might never know, so I prefer thinking that I would be able to stand up for my culture and defend it, without diminishing others. Just being proud of where I came from.
For now, I can only deal with the fact that these horrible actions also damages society. I am scared of flash news, trends that blow up and vaporize in the shadow of another criminal act. How can I help from where I stand? How can art, literature and humanistic projects heal the wounds that affect us, not just as mexicans, but as humans.
How are we any different?
After reading the news and commenting about it, I notice that we need to talk about our lack of sensitivity and avoid adding it up to a murder counter without considering that we are talking about human lives. We have to acknowledge the victims: children that play in parks, teenagers and adults, people who are part of families who also get major injuries when a loved one is taken away.
Just as I was writing this post, we received guests, which made me put pause to my writing. As we spoke, my mom, who happened to arrive two days ago, was talking about central americans that were in the bus with her during the trip (a two day trip). During the conversation, my mom, aunt and uncle, said stuff like “Those people are lazy and ungrateful”, “By hiring them, mexicans are going to lose their jobs”, “If they delayed the bus, they should have left them out there to walk, either way they ‘re alread used to it”, “They are very dirty people who do not clean over their stuff”, “They are a bunch of stealers”. I almost felt like I was listening to Donald Trump speech, in my own house! I interfered and told them to listen to themselves, and made them think that a lot of american families might be having the same conversation, refering to mexicans. They run away because their countries are in conflict, surely this is a topic with major complexities, but we can’t judge the people of a whole country based on one or two of their citizens.
El Paso and facing the problem
Entering the comment section of a post related to gun regulation is overwhelming. One would think that a lot of people would be against current gun laws just by looking at the news such as the ones reported this weekend, but no, there are a lot of people who are OK with the actual policies. Then there’s the person who puts New Zeland as an honorable example, a country that banned semi automatic weapons after a mass shooting and executed a plan to avoid having another incident like it. I also remember a comment I once heard in a podcast (I’ll paraphrase): “The prototypical “american”, was known in movies as a white cowboy with a huge gun always by his side”. Compared to the bohemian mexican mariachi who had his guitar. This is very generalized way to depict a culture, but it does play an important role when you comment about it. Although, when a problem reaches a cultural level, it messes with their foundations. So how can a society change ideologies that seem to be tatooed on it? My guess: By questioning. We need to question ourselves more. I say this because I sometimes find myself following traditions that do no good to my environment and society. It is a slow process, and I hope gun regulation does solve the issue, but I doubt that the whole resolutions is there. Society needs healing, and we should start that process now by talking about the issue and how we are processing it as individuals that are part of a bigger society.
PD: I wrote this in English as a way to have a dialogue with my own beliefs, where acts like the one in El Paso, resonate in me. Thanks for reading.