Arriving to the United States with not much of my belongings packed, I knew that this move was a new beginning. With tears in my eyes as we were forcefully separated from our loved ones and hometown, I do not blame my parents- I blame capitalism. Capitalism has failed to acknowledge that it creates and depends on immigrant labor. Leaving immigrants all around the world, particularly the undocumented, as an underclass- underpaid, overworked, stripped away from our rights. My parents continue to resist. When there was no work available in Mexicali, my parents made the difficult decision for our family to move to the United States. Separated by the U.S.-Mexico border from our relatives, we learned to love beyond human-made barriers. A phone call away, though it will never be the same.
Growing up undocumented I found ways to hide my status in order to avoid awkward and painful conversations. Why don’t you have a license? Why don’t you get a better paying job? Why can’t you travel outside of the U.S.? Never really talked about my limitations except for with a few friends and for no longer than 10 minutes. Although I was not met with ignorance and hate upon revealing my status to friends, a couple of times I was when revealing it to friend’s acquaintances and a boyfriend at the time. Why didn’t you tell me earlier; what if I get pulled over and caught driving you? I know you are undocumented, I am going to report you to ICE. As a young undocumented womyn of color I did not have the strength to defend myself at the time. Instead I learned to remain silent. In my silence was a painful lesson- hide your identity and your love.
Recommended reading: “All About Love” by bell hooks
My definition of love has changed over time of course. And at a time when I thought I was in love, I realized later I was only afraid, not myself, and submissive.
You are too thin. You are too tall. You are dark-skinned. You are too emotional. Your hair is too wavy. You are not strong. You are wrong. You are undocumented and should be afraid.
Before I knew it I had become my own worst critic; a model of what the media tells womyn to be as early as from birth- dependent, weak, and the list goes on and on. Though it didn’t take long for me to realize I had to unlearn unhealthy messages and ways of living and thinking about myself- the wounds were already in my mind, body, and soul. As both a young womyn of color and undocumented, I grew up amidst patriarchal, sexist, racist, classist, and xenophobic messages of how I was not worthy of love from others or myself. Deep down in my soul I knew that these messages did not represent me. As I pursued my higher education and grew older, I became more conscious of whom I truly am. It became time to fight back.
To love as an undocumented womyn I had to let go of fear. I started disclosing my status to the public in 2010 when the push for the DREAM Act by undocumented youth inspired me. “Coming out of the shadows” has meant for me a clear statement to the world- “I am no longer afraid”. To love as an undocumented womyn I had to take the first step- forgive myself and heal. Through my activism, teaching, learning, research, and everyday activities of spending time with loved ones, hiking, writing, and more, I reflected. In reflecting I began to deconstruct the past to create a better future. I am continuously cultivating a healthy love toward others and myself. A love where at its foundation I am honest, loving, caring, and passionate. I am myself.
To love as an undocumented womyn means I acknowledge and value my feelings… anger, sadness, happiness, relief, joy, pleasure, excitement… each one of my feelings guides my thoughts, words, and actions. My feelings matter and I need to listen to them. To love as an undocumented womyn means I have the courage to heal, love, and resist. When the rest of the world is telling me what to do, how to love, how to be… when it is attempting to dictate every aspect of my life, I have to stand strong and shape my own life. To love as an undocumented womyn means that I am afraid of separation and the potential deportation of loved ones and/or myself, but I will not wait for that moment in fear, I have the tools to fight back. To love as an undocumented womyn means I am strong. Individuals who created and those who now support hateful narratives against the undocumented do not have power over me. I am stronger than hate.
Love gives us the strength to continue even on our toughest days. Love inspires us. By loving others and ourselves we are creating a better tomorrow. Love is a revolutionary act.