I remember breathing in the air of Mexico City — the seventh largest city in the world, thirteen times larger than Boston — a sprawling metropolis of hustle, color, street food condensing into smoke, and dreamers longing for greener grass. Now, this new country of mine is frozen in the midst of a debate, the outcome of which may sever me from a piece of my past.
At the age of eight, I moved to Texas, not knowing that my culture was at stake. I don’t remember when people began assuming my name was Italian. I don’t know when Spanish became secondhand, only a tool used once in a while, on the fringe of my memory. I don’t remember when the taste of tacos al pastor, a food of home, became a special treat. The one thing I do remember is when the fear started to set in. I remember my flag becoming a political statement. I remember the unspeakable fear of a fluorescent-lighted consulate and the steel-faced terror of a customs line. I remember my friend not submitting an article on immigration policy to The Phillipian for fear it might prevent her parents from earning citizenship in the United States.
Most of all, I remember countlessly and cautiously prowling the news app on my phone, and my pounding heart when opening a headline. Every time I tap on one, I prepare myself for whatever insult President Donald Trump hurled today, whoever was denied asylum, whatever family was split — because every family feels a little too much like mine. Politics are no longer just close to home, they’re invading it. Politics have become personal because they are tearing their eagle talons at the fraying seam that holds the two countries I belong to together.
I write with new fears now, almost a month into a government shutdown supposedly caused by a “border crisis.” I look out at this country I loved enough to adopt and I now wonder whether it was worth all the nights dreaming about the grass I stand on. When immigrants hoped for a better home, their longing was labeled a crisis because the government felt threatened by unarmed families with a work ethic. Washington shut down and suddenly American workers began losing too, and only then did these issues start making headlines — headlines about Americans and their beloved economy, not the people who left their countries to find any work here.
It is only now that I spot the true crisis, one I truly fear. This government is stuck in a place that fosters endless, hostile disagreement. Politicians argue and weaponize, but ignore the incessant knocking and cries at their gates, instead working to scare the people they were elected to protect. And yet, if the government caves in to fearing my immigrant side and builds the wall, I will be forever split from my home and I will forget the culture I came from. Maybe I’ll be sent back to Mexico, maybe I’ll be stuck here forever. Either way, the wall would force me to choose who to be, because I’ll never see the other half of myself again. Since I have arrived at Andover, I have been fighting to bridge my identity. Now, this wall threatens to split me in two.
For a long time, I have wanted to write about this, but I have always felt helplessly inadequate. Maybe I am not Mexican enough, well-spoken enough, old enough, or loud enough. But this week, when I barely could hold back tears reading about the “border crisis,” I was left with no choice but to write. I must speak for my people because they have been silenced by a harsher smoke than that of street food, their voices drowned under the drone of the American political machine.
I don’t have an answer. I just sit and watch as we argue ourselves to the ground. I am disappointed because I no longer know if I’m allowed to call the United States “our” country. But more than that, I am angry because everyone seems to be acting like a toddler who hasn’t been taught the golden rule—treat others the way you want to be treated.
Surveying the flag flying over Paresky Commons as days of the shutdown turn into weeks, I wonder who will give in first. Whatever happens, let this be a testament that I am a person whose identity, voice, fears, and humanity are being toyed with on a national stage. More than that, I am a person, period. I am not a drug dealer, rapist, or a criminal. Do not forget that for me and so many others, politics is personal. The decision whether to fund a wall isn’t about parties and it never was. It is about people with lives as palpable as yours. I have shared my story, and maybe that’s enough to make a difference, enough to prove to you that I deserve to be in this country. And for as long as I can live here, I’ll work to find what it takes to make this land one worth dreaming about again.