A couple days ago, on Wednesday, I received a call from Jason Witmer , a reporter with the Houston Chronicle. He asked if he could interview me for a piece he is working on for the D.R.E.A.M. Act. I asked what it would constitute of, and he said that I would share my story on camera. I’ve never been timid about sharing my story — if someone wants to know I tell them, but since the coming out action at Texas A&M sharing my story has elevated to a completely different level. I don’t know if I was ready for all of this, but when you dive in head first you must just keep going. Regarless of the immensity of this, I was excited to share my story with someone new the same way I am exicted when I share my story with a student, a teacher, a parent.
The interview was done at my house. It took me back to the first time I was filmed about the issue back in 2006 when I was a newbie in the movement. I was then being filmed for a documentary, mostly reading things I had jotted down in my journal, nothing concrete, more abstract. Still wonderful, the first time I openly talked about being undocumented. I’ve come a long way since sharing my story for the first time. I remember, the first time being filmed and asked about what the DREAM Act meant to me, how my life would be if it DIDN’T pass, I broke down, and the filming had to stop. This part of the interview didn’t make it to the final documentary, as a lot of times when I just couldn’t go through with it … as a lot of aspects of my life didn’t see the light of day 5 years ago. Because I was ashamed, because I was afraid, because I was apologetic.
On Wednesday, the interview was long, but not tedious. I was asked many questions, not difficult to answer, but questions that needed careful, thought-out responses nonetheless. Questions that I remember being asked before, questions that I couldn’t answer before because I was just not ready.
Jason asked me some questions that I had thought about before, but had never really given an asnwer to. Answers that I was hearing come out of my mouth for the first time. At some point in this interview, he asked me if I remembered anything from Mexico. I told him, no, the only thing I remember is the house we lived in when we lived in Matamoros right before we crossed over. However, I haven’t decided yet if I remember it because it is a memory or if I remember it because I saw it in a picture once and created a memory out of it. Often I think it is the latter, but I hope with all of my heart that it is not.
I don’t really beat myself up over it though, I try to connect to my heritage and culture as much as possible, and I told him, it’s understandable, right, that I don’t remember because I was 4 when I came and I’ve never been back. However, there’s an interesting story my mother told me while talking one day. I asked her, mom I’m gonna write a book, and I want to tell a story about you, if you could choose one time of your life that you would want to be told what story would it be. She told me, the day we crossed over. I asked why, dumbfounded, because that couldn’t have been the happiest, nor most memorable time of her life. I mean, she got married. She had two daughters. She went to school. She fell in love. When I told her this, she said that she would want that story to be told because it’s the oldest memory she has, the one is still in Spanish, the one on the border — the one that makes her feel closest to home.
I told Jason, isn’t it interesting? That when she crossed the border, she left everything materialistic behind, only carried what she could just to give us, my sister and myself, a better life.
Who would’ve known that she was leaving EVERYTHING behind. Her memories, her life, somewhere caught in the fences of the border, drowning in the Rio Grande.
© April 2011. T.A.