Buried Faith

spool of thread

On Holy Saturday, April 14, 2001, I was baptized as a Catholic at St. Sylvester’s Church in Chicago, Illinois. I was 31. My husband Picasso was deported back to Mexico later on that same month.

When I moved to Mexico in August of 2001 to live with my husband,  I was exposed to a type of Catholicism that I had never experienced in the U.S.

It was a form of Catholicism where my mother-in-law confessed to the priest of her church that Picasso and I were living in her house, but we were not married by the church.

The priest told her that she was a serious sinner, the spiritual equivalent of aiding and abetting.

When my mother-in-law came home and told us what the priest said, Picasso and I went to find him after the Sunday evening mass. His name was Father John. My husband and I had been to mass a few times at that church with my mother-in-law.

The three of us walked outside. While Picasso was just as heated as I was, he grew up in Mexico, with a grandmother who ruled through the bible. He knew how this was going to go down and stood by me quietly.

I was still new to the team, one Resurrection Sunday as a baptized Catholic under my belt. I spit my anger at Father John, in Spanish and English.

“If you knew our story,” I hissed at him, “if you knew our story, you would see the miracle that exists here.”

The miracle of forgiveness between my husband and I. The miracle of living in the same country again. The miracle that my mother-in-law opened her home to us because her love and care overruled her fear that she was doing something wrong in the eyes of God.

I looked Father John in the eyes and said, “My mother-in-law is no sinner. She’s actually the embodiment of a good Catholic, literally giving us shelter when we had nowhere else to to go.”

Father John looked at me in the eyes and folded his arms. “You two are not married in the church. What your mother-in-law did is the same level of sin as murder.”

Murder.

Father John moved on to do his version of God’s work in the state of Guerrero. In April of 2014, he disappeared. During the initial search for the missing 43 Ayotzinapa students in November of 2014, gruesome clandestine graves seemed to turn up so many bodies, bodies that were not the Ayotzinapa students.

Father John’s body was found, a bullet to the head.

Murdered.

According to Borderland Beats, “It is believed that the priest was executed after he refused to baptize the daughter of a local narco leader.” 

On this Resurrection Sunday, I’m thinking about Father John. How his belief was deep and strong and unwavering.

And how mine hangs by a thread.

 

 

 

 

 

WTF

 

Photo: T.D.W.

 

I started this blog on September 11, 2009.

I was 39 years old. I’m 46 years old today.

I started this blog, (which was the continuation of an earlier version) because I wanted to speak, to scream, to seek out others who were in my situation.

What kills me today, what will always kill me is receiving messages to this blog from people who are where I was in 2009. Forget about 2009, it destroys me that they are exactly where I was in April of 2001, when my husband Picasso was deported. Which was fifteen years ago.

I watch the news on the TV. I read the articles online. I listen to the updates and testimony from friends, from the communities that are directly affected by the present immigration situation in the U.S. I receive the messages to this blog.

And all I can think is, why the fuck is this fucking shit still happening?

Why is it that what I was writing about in 2009, why is it that I could just cut and paste a lot of the previous thoughts and posts and they’d still ring true today, seven years later?

And what if I was blogging 15 years ago, in 2001, when Picasso was deported for the second time in his life, after we were newly married? We know what the cut and paste answer would still be.

How about in the 90s, over 23 years ago, when my husband was deported for the first time in his life, long before we had met? I’m sure there would still be a match.

Because for every time that a politico talks about what they do for the undocumented immigrants and their families in this country, for every U.S.citizen-led non-profit that supposedly exists to fight for the rights of immigrants, for every place of worship that supposedly talks about God and immigrants, for every supposedly sanctuary city, for every local leader that supposedly understands the needs of their immigrant communities, for every academic institution that supposedly supports undocumented students, for every researcher and editor and professor and reporter, I’ll raise you this:

I’ll raise you a U.S. citizen, usually married with kids, whose spouse is detained and/or deported. I’ll raise you immigrant children in detention centers and immigrant adults who never stop paying in this lifetime for past misdeeds. I’ll raise you Central America and Syria and the city where I lived in Mexico for ten years. I’ll raise you drug wars and power wars and political wars and the role of the U.S. in all of it. I’ll raise you black and transgender undocumented immigrants because they’re often the most invisible of the barely visible. I’ll raise you the bitterness and the exhaustion and the sadness of many immigrant activists. I’ll raise you the immigrants who died waiting for justice.

And I’ll raise you the messages that come to this blog in the middle of the night, even though I haven’t posted anything in over a year.

Read each one. Especially if you are a U.S. citizen, like myself, read each one.

And face the cards on the table. I’ve had to as well. Because we are nowhere near done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Album

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Long Island, New York, 1987. Saturday morning in my house, my house where our family had been through enough by that point to know that we were never going to be the family that poses together on a Christmas card by a decorated tree.

This is still the time of records. That Saturday morning, my Mexican mom slides a record out of a new sleeve and walks over to the record player. The woman, Linda Ronstadt, is singing what seems to be Mexican songs. In Spanish. My mother wasn’t as in touch with her Mexicanness back then. Neither was I. I jerk my head around to stare at my mother. What was this? What was my mother doing? What happened to her Donna Summer record that she usually liked to play Saturday mornings as she cleaned the house?

My Mom’s eyes go far away. She sits at the kitchen table, her cold hands wrapped around her warm cup of coffee.

And right on cue, my supposedly tone-deaf mother who has no sense of rhythm, perfectly belts out the mariachi’s grito, or shout of,”Ay ay ay.” She gives me a rare smile from that far-away place. Then she says no more and continues drinking her coffee.

Chicago, Illinois, 2000. Christmas Mass at St Sylvester’s’s church. The mass is in Spanish. Mariachis come out to play at the end of the service. I turn to my husband Picasso and notice he has tears in his eyes. I’ve never seen him with tears in his eyes before. He squeezes my hand to let me know that he’s O.K. He smiles at me lovingly from that far-away place. While Linda Ronstadt is not at the Christmas mass at St. Sylvester’s in Chicago, the music sounds similar to that Saturday morning record that my mom started to play on a weekly basis.

San Francisco, California, 2013. At my temp job, I listen to a moving interview with Linda Ronstadt on NPR and I remember that Saturday morning album, Canciones De Mi Padre.

I look it up on YouTube.

I hear this song.

The memory of those Saturday mornings, that St. Sylvester Christmas mass force me to stop my data entry temp work and simply listen.

The scent of my mom’s strong cup of coffee mix in with the almost overpowering scent of myrrh and pine from our first and last church Christmas in Chicago.

I discreetly wipe my tears away while “reviewing” a stack of papers.

And if someone passed by my cubicle right then?

I most certainly would’ve smiled at them from a far-away place.

Taco Tits

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So there’s this lovely little segment from Fox & Friends on what was apparently National Taco Day. It’s the interaction between Fox News host Brian Kilmeade and Fox News meteorologist Maria Molina that really just makes put my hand to my forehead and reach for the smelling salts.

I’ve been the Maria Molina of this segment. My husband’s been the Maria Molina of this segment. Mr. Vulcan’s been the Maria Molina of this segment.

When I was eight years old, my family moved from Jackson Heights, Queens (in New York) to the North shore of Long Island, the North Shore sounding like everything it represents.

We moved in the last month of second grade. I was teased for days without end about my dresses from Sears, my buck teeth, and how my mom sometimes wove colorful ribbons into my hair when she braided it.

In Jackson Heights, there were plenty of girls who looked like me. But in the North Shore of Long Island, it was all Jordache and Sergio Valente jeans. No dresses – forget about anything from Sears. And breezy Farrah Fawcett hair was in, not my stiff and sometimes colorful braids.

When I wore my dresses, I wore full-length slips – the kind that you pulled over your head, and adjusted the shoulder straps. For a kid who looked like no one else in class, and crashed landed into their insular world during the last month of second grade, these slips of mine that I wore under my dresses became the focal point of the teasing.

People whispered, as you do when you’re in second grade, that I was already wearing a bra. That I already was hiding something.

One boy in particular, whose name is forever burned into my mind but will not be uttered here, was the worst with the teasing.

And he’s the one who came up with this nickname: Taco Tits.

I honestly don’t remember how he found out that I was half-Mexican. But what I do remember of myself from that time is that for all of my buck-toothness and dress slips and braids, I was a very self-assured girl. The insecurities and body shame came later on down the line. But that year, and pretty much for the rest of elementary school, I kept my head up and I meant it. Wore my otherness proudly.

But that boy? All he ever saw was my otherness.

When I see a segment like the video above, where I’m no longer in second grade, I remember that boy. The way that white boy laughed as he said the nickname in front of others, even though I’m half-white myself.

And what makes me reach for the smelling salts on a day like today is that I know that boy is not alone.

I’m now 43. I’ll be out somewhere, and a man, usually white, upon hearing that I’m half Mexican and lived for many years in Mexico, says an equivalent of Taco Tits. With his words. With his eyes. Regardless of the fact that I quickly mention that I also have a Mexican husband.

On a day like today, I wonder how we’re truly going to create truly humane, socially just and permanent immigration reform here in the U.S., when even talk about a taco gets painfully fumbled.

Since September 17th

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On Tuesday, September 17th, I waited at the San Francisco International Airport, outside International Arrivals Gate G, for my husband to arrive from his flight from Mexico.

I took it as a good sign. Gate G, for Giselle.

There was a T.V. screen monitor where you could see who was coming down the hall before they appeared at the gate’s exit. I tried to watch and not watch at the same time.

I must have looked away from the screen at one point, because suddenly Picasso appeared at the exit of Gate G.

We hugged, I cried and then we walked to the BART to take the train back to Oakland.

We checked into a hotel that I reserved for a night, to give us a moment before we entered regular life.

And I proceeded to throw up for the next 12 hours. Literally. I could not stop. Running to the bathroom when there was nothing to throw up anymore.

I kept saying it was the food we ate. Although Picasso was fine.

When my husband finally met Mr. Vulcan and Heather Wilhelmina the next day, Mr. Vulcan gently pointed out that it was almost definitely my emotions and not the food. We laughed at the fact that I refused to face the obvious up until that point.

Since September 17th, my body and soul have settled down into this next phase of our life.

Since September 17th, I’ve watched what lights my husband up about being back in the States, what makes him laugh about being back in the States, what makes him mad about being back in the States.

Since September 17th, I woke up one morning to see my husband next to me, completely wrapped up in my fleece Hello Kitty blanket, snoring softly.

Since September 17th, there are times when I walk into rooms and I see my husband there. For a minute, my brain seriously fritzes and I think, “Am I in Oakland or Mexico?” After a minute, I realize that I’m in Oakland. That we’re in Oakland.

Since September 17th, my husband and I have been quietly living life offline, transitioning into what’s our new normal.

When Picasso was deported in April of 2001, I started to save any and all papers about his deportation in a lemon yellow folder. The initial notes from when he was first deported are on them. It traveled with me from Chicago, Illinois to Skokie, Illinois, to Mexico, to San Francisco and then Oakland, California.

Since September 17th, that lemon yellow folder, that lemon yellow folder that I’ve carried for the past twelve and half years, in my hands, in my mind’s eye, in my breath, that lemon yellow folder has now been moved to a cardboard box that sits on a shelf in a closet.

And now it’s your turn. That’s one of my deepest desires.

For today and the days to come to be your turn to move your version of the lemon yellow folder to a cardboard box that sits on a shelf in a closet.

Sock Puppet

Sock Puppet

I’ve been working a temp job where I clock in at 4:30 am. So I’m a bit slap-happy!

And people, a round of applause for Mr. Vulcan who drives me to the job at that god-forsaken hour. I laughingly told him the other day that I’m going to stop calling him Mr. Vulcan here on the blog, and start calling him My Limo Driver.

Needless to say, he wasn’t amused.

I’ve done a lot of interpreting work, particularly in Mexico. And while this temp job doesn’t involve interpreting, it does involve listening, headsets and timing, which reminds me of my previous interpreting gigs. And this morning, I remembered a story from one session:

I was visiting with a friend in the morning, and then was going to my interpreting job later that afternoon. My friend liked to take walks, so she suggested that we go for a boogie by her house.

I was wearing a long sleeve pink fleece pull-on jersey that my former sister-in-law gifted me one Christmas, way back in the day. It wasn’t always cool enough to wear it as much as I liked, due to the heat in our area of Mexico. So any time I had a chance, I wore it layered over another top, because it made me happy.

My friend and I took some big hills and walked for a long period of time. It became an unintended hard-core work out. I took off the pullover, tied it around my waist and did my best to keep up with my fit friend.

When I got to my interpreting gig, I had cooled off. The sun was lower in the sky. My favsie fleece went back on.

I’ve found that when an interpreting gig goes well, it’s a wonderfully meditative experience. Everything else is blocked out. A rare and welcome moment of stillness from my mental chatter.

While I was interpreting, I felt something hanging off the bottom of my pullover. It felt like…a tail.

I was in the zone. Without missing a beat, I reached my left hand back to pull on it. The tail came away easily.

Mind you, I’m still interpreting at this point.

I bring my hand forward, and see that I’m holding one of my husband’s brown dress socks. It was an old one, that had definitely seen better days. It was lumpy and fuzzy in all the wrong places.

After staring at it for a good ten seconds, with my hand extended, (still interpreting) I pushed the sock in my front pants pocket and continued on.

My husband and I had some clothes that we got back from the laundry that morning. That old sock must have latched on to my pink fleece for dear static cling life while it went for spin in the dryer.

It hung on through the walk workout, two log bus rides and me taking the pullover off and putting it back on. Resilient little bugger.

And no one, not the speaker that I was interpreting for, the person who had hired me, or the travel seminar participants, said a word to me afterwards about the sock situation.

I mean, they had to have seen it.

Maybe they thought it was my special sock puppet that I use while interpreting.

So kids, when life gets you down, and you’re feeling lumpy and fuzzy in all the wrong places – be the resilient little sock and hang on.