Published on Huffington Post, by Gabriel Lerner, August 22, 2011.
From above, at a distance, we are but just one group; a loose association. Latinos, Hispanics or Chicano. Mexican Americans or ’sudacas’. This is how they see us from far away.
But if one comes closer, we change from tiny dots in the sky into individuals, and differences between us can be noticed; differences of national origin, skin color, culture, religion, political beliefs and more.
As immigrants, after we arrive, we are forged into one unified concept; we suddenly understand each other and we all become “Latinos” or “Hispanos”. We are united by language and cultural characteristics and a common history and, once here, a common destiny and the similar way people view us.
A person I met worked as teacher in an elementary rural school in Mexico before he came to the United States. In his pueblo, families didn’t have enough to eat. Nevertheless, the parents brought their children to him to learn the basics. But at the end of seventh grade, they would wait for their children at the school gate, he said, and send them to North to work.
Many of us came believing that as soon as we saved some money we would go back home … //
… Those who immigrate as adults collapse here, their sense of belonging erased; their identity confused. The images of life here are foreign to them. They don’t recognize the smells. The food, the faces, the habits; everything is new and foreign. Twenty years later they are still strangers. They could be fluent in the new language but inside they still speak the old one. At times in secret. Or they lose one language without quite acquiring the new one.
To survive they must be born again. They have to decode inches, miles and degrees Fahrenheit. They make this town our own. They gather and accept a generic name: Latinos, Hispanos.
From the time they arrive they make the name theirs. It becomes part of them, what they read, their areas of interest, demands, lacks.
We are not a race. Membership to our group is totally voluntary. It is a makeshift identity.
We will never be again who we were.
The man who was Don Alejandro in Buenos Aires – known and respected by everyone – washes dishes in midnight at a restaurant and is Don Nobody.
Those who really wanted to go back already have. But some of them are strangers in their own countries. They go back but never quite arrive.
The streets of their childhood are too narrow; the buildings, too old. They are not understood. They are not happy, nor here neither there. They exist in circles.
And so, at the end, moving in circles, they continue looking for home. And they are lost, forever. (full text).
Money , Politics, Religion – Election 2010, Oct. 13, 2010;
Mixing Politicss, Religion …and Money, on Vision, Febr. 3, 2008;
Religion, Money, Politics, A Cycle Feeding Itself, Oct. 2, 2007.