Being an immigrant in a country that hates you for something that is completely out of your control is often something that creates a lonely environment for many individuals. It consists of catastrophic and disheartening stories yet somehow amidst all the tragedy lies an immense amount of beauty, one that not even the deadliest form of degradation can take away. That is, the power of peace and love towards an identity that is permanently attached to your individuality. Giovanni Batz and Anayansi Prado capture these experiences in an exquisite manner to which they illustrate the very struggles that immigrants often face once arriving in their adopted countries. I further relate their topics to Maid in America and “Expressions of Maya, Identity, and Culture in Los Angeles: Challenges and Success among Maya Youth,” and dissect the way these issues have commonly manifested themselves within the lives of many foreigners both in positive and negative matters.
Identifying and accepting myself as an immigrant has always been a difficult impediment that I have endured for as long as I can remember. Immigrants all around the world face numerous struggles that set barriers within their paths, including mine. The stress of coming into a new country is followed by the fear of not being accepted or being allowed to hold the same privileges that others have. Oftentimes, migrating to a new country comes with a price. There are a lot of sacrifices that have to be made and oftentimes individuals (as well as I) find themselves resenting their identities. Regardless of these obstacles, these past two semesters have taught me the importance of accepting my status and identity. This Central American Studies 113 course has made me realize that there should be no shame in who I am. Those who identify as foreigners have fought for a place at the table and there should be no ignominy in holding pride in that.
Anayansi Prados’s film Maid in America firmly describes the struggles that people like me have had to encounter to be able to have a better future. The film makes the limitations and endurances of this community clear, as it portrays the two lives that they live–both in their motherlands and adopted countries. The women who bravely share their lives and experiences throughout the film accurately portray what it is like to feel that your identity is the root ingredient to the tyranny that you experience on a daily basis. This side of their character allows them to be exposed to a new world with a foreign lens while seemingly learning how to love every aspect of it throughout their journeys. However, it never was nor will it ever be an easy path. Immigrants who leave their motherlands have to learn how to adjust to their new homes, they have no choice but to accept that they will have to work harder than everyone else, and sometimes have to sacrifice a lot to be able to have at least a portion of what others have. There is, however, beauty in the struggle. My foreign tears, my balled wrists of frustration, the anger that has roared through the course of my veins are all signs of courage. Although sometimes I have to bite my tongue and grit my teeth when my lack of privilege degrades me, I will never let it cut through my vocal cords because I want everyone to hear my foreign cries. That same courage is then split in half as it exists in two different places. I never knew having two homes was a possibility but I, as well as others, are living proof of that. Those who have fought for a place at the table have earned it and this Central American Studies class has given me the opportunity to realize that those efforts should not go unseen.
Although sometimes I have to bite my tongue and grit my teeth when my lack of privilege degrades me, I will never let it cut through my vocal cords because I want everyone to hear my foreign cries.
In “Expressions of Maya, Identity, and Culture in Los Angeles: Challenges and Success among Maya Youth,” by Giovanni Batz, the article thoroughly illustrates how Mayan foreigners are often detached from their identities due to stereotypes and fear of being deported. These are challenges that individuals have endured for ongoing years in order to have a better life. I, an immigrant, felt deeply connected with this documentary and the article because I myself have come face to face with the barriers that this journey presents. A specific saying that I believe deeply reflects the hurdles immigrants face is one by Michael Ondaatje, “Do you understand the sadness of geography?” For a long time, I felt as if my story didn’t necessarily relate or had much importance compared to others. In other words, I perceived it to be something not worth grieving for, especially since I came to the U.S when I was just 8 months old, and did not have to experience the loss that many immigrants do. I often felt this void of not knowing the part of me that is so hated here in this country. I thought, “If God’s plan was to assign me as an immigrant, why couldn’t I have at least lived a small portion of my life in Mexico?” This course, however, helped me understand that a loss is still a loss. Our stories might differ in terms of how it plays out but we all share two things in common: the struggles we face in our adopted countries and the heartache we feel for our motherlands.
There are a variety of sacrifices that have to be made upon arriving in the U.S. Aside from leaving loved ones behind, our freedom tends to stay in our motherlands. It is in our adopted countries where we are met with prejudice and racist remarks made by society. Although it’s important to dream, it often becomes a roadblock for some individuals. Judith, one of the women presented in the film, mentions, “It's nice to dream but here we have to live in the reality of who we are.” The reality of it is that even though we come to this country for a secure future, it is never promised. It is there where we meet society’s standards and assumptions, which in turn, leads to empty promises that we make for ourselves. In this country, a social security number is beneficial to be able to get access to a lot of things, such as a job. This has been one of the many limitations that I have come across. A job is essential in this country, especially for those attending college. This has created anxious worries of not being able to afford future semesters but I choose to not let those thoughts take up the spaces in my mind. The fear that has filled up the environment of many has formulated unbearable circumstances that can, in turn, lead to isolation. In other words, it becomes hard to trust anybody, especially those outside your race. The obstacles faced by the immigrant community force us to work twice as hard compared to those born in the U.S. This course has made me realize that I, as well as other immigrants, should not settle for less even if that’s what we are often given. Additionally, it’s impacted me in ways that I thought it never would, such as formulating positive attributes towards my status.
Central American studies have allowed me to learn about who I am as an immigrant and allowed me to dive in-depth with my culture. My demographic consists of more than just a title. It includes delicious food, a loving community, music that can fill voids, and most importantly hard-working people who refuse to give up. I remember being intimidated by my status, feeling that burning sensation in the pit of my throat when people would ask about my ethnicity. The first image that would strangle my thoughts would often be of me being deported if I revealed “my secret.” The term, “ICE” was no longer just an enforcement agency but rather a threat to my individuality. It became apparent to me that fear and I had one thing in common: we always assumed the worst. Hearing about people like me being taken into custody by these individuals always made my stomach twist and turn. My heart became fragile at the actions of these people, and I felt myself weaken from head to toe. Though I have never come across these agents, it felt as if they had me at the palm of their hands. When it comes to who I am as a person now, I realize that I should not be afraid of my identity. In fact, it is something that I should be proud of no matter what society has to say. The truth is our generation has created societal standards that have manufactured limitations to those who are degraded by others. To be able to obtain an opportunity that has given me the integrity to accept my status is something I will always be thankful for. For the most part, it has allowed me to make peace with that part of my life and has given light to that aspect of my being. I’ve learned that being an immigrant means being an individual who is willing to put up a fight no matter how many battles await. Although fear still roams my mind sometimes, I no longer feed into it because doing so means that society has won me over.
Besides the fact that this CAS course has positively impacted my individuality, it has allowed me to learn what the term “transnationalism” means. Transnationalism affects a variety of immigrants all around. It forces families to be separated and requires sacrifices in order to migrate to a foreign country. Part of migrants’ realities is living amongst a community that restricts their cultural practices and beliefs. As a result, this fabricates challenges within their own identities. When I first heard about this notion, I thought about how having a life here in the U.S and in Mexico has impacted me. Eva, another woman introduced in Prado’s film, mentions how hard it was for her to leave her family behind to be able to obtain further education. As previously mentioned, I arrived in the U.S when I was 8 months old. Therefore, I never got the chance to experience first-hand what the motherland is like. A significant part of my life revolved around this missing puzzle piece, as living in a country that isn’t my own formulated countless restrictions. My mind consisted of questions such as, “What do I or should I identify as if I’ve never been to my birthplace?” I didn’t think I would ever have the answers but through this CAS course, I found that it does not matter how familiar or not I am with my motherland. What is important is that I take pride in who I am, where I come from, and in being an immigrant who has broken stereotypes.
Immigrants make this country function, it is shown through their hardworking hands and love for their families. Foreigners tend to encounter a great deal of prejudice and xenophobia yet still choose to forgive and move forward. Oftentimes we are stereotyped as drug dealers or rapists, which is heartbreaking. Although we are not a perfect culture, we strive to bring out the good in every situation. I have developed a better understanding of what it is like for myself and others in similar situations. It’s not easy being an immigrant living in an adopted country that consists of ways to make our lives harder. Additionally, it’s a constant battle between the country, society, and even ourselves sometimes. Batz, for example, describes how many Mayan women are unable to successfully use their “Trajes” out in public due to the fear of standing out and deportation. (45) Our identities are often held and torn by those who are privileged and are threatened so often that some individuals choose to neglect their own culture in order to blend in. Adapting to an adopted country can be a challenging journey for immigrants. The amount of weight that they carry on their shoulders often goes unseen yet that never stops them. Due to this, I have developed a new form of respect for immigrants, including myself.
Overall, the film, Maid in America, by Anayansi Prado, and “Expressions of Maya, Identity, and Culture in Los Angeles: Challenges and Success among Maya Youth,” by Giovanni Batz demonstrate the challenges immigrants face when leaving their motherland. In turn, this has allowed me to reflect on what my venture has been like. Being able to accept my status has been a barrier that I have endured throughout my journey. Immigrants who migrate to foreign countries come across numerous obstacles that formulate difficulties throughout their paths, including mine. Throughout these past two semesters, I have learned how to live in harmony with my status. This Central American course has given me the opportunity to learn more in-depth about who I am as an immigrant, and that I should hold no shame for it.
Batz, Giovanni. “Expressions of Maya Identity and Culture in Los Angeles: Challenges and Success among Maya Youth.”
Maid in America. Dir. Anayansi Prado. Impacto Films, 2005. Kanopy. Web. 6 Oct. 2019