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July 23, 2018 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

A Ballad to Ending Nostalgia

“Our life is a story,” I remember being told, while engaging in the extensive oral tradition of my hometown, “a series of stories”. It is no coincidence that the word historia applies to both documented history and fairytales, as they both involve a level of curating events and experiences to create a coherent narrative. Of the many narratives that have dominated my life, whether it be sex, race, gender, or trauma, it seems a large overarching theme is they can all be traced back to the mountains of South Mexico, the place where I spent my childhood, and where I packed my bags with no choice but to leave. Even at the time, I was mature enough to understand my life would change in unimaginable ways, and eventually the foreign would become normal as time passed through no will of my own.
One thing I did not expect, however, would be that from that moment on, my hometown would become a figment of my imagination, constructed and reconstructed by my memories and experiences.
Every time I came to tell a new story about it, and every time I attempted to recollect its essence, it would become different from reality, even if only slightly; this place in my head was static and fictive while the real place continued to exist without me, with countless of other stories at its feet that I could never fathom alone. This is something my immigrant friends could relate to. Some of them romanticised their point of origin until it was unrecognisable, while others mourned their perceived lack of belonging, considering themselves outsiders in any place of the world. Still others, with wounds still fresh from leaving when they experienced the harshness of the outside world, mirror colonial attitudes towards their home countries.
I also did not know until after I left that in almost every place in the world, no society would accept me for who and how I love, just as I did not wholly understand that four hundred years ago my ancestors did not divide themselves into man and woman, but into their own ways of understanding the world (is it too heavy-handed if I point out four hundred years means eternity in Nahuatl?). Today we still have many of the same identities, yes, but they are no longer mine to claim, and even if they were, violence has made us silence them, and I would have to live in the shadows. Now I find myself awkwardly existing between two material realities, unable to pick between my indigenous identity and the one forced upon me. I was also not warned that my peers would reject me and violently discriminate against me. There was no way I could expect the years of self hatred that grew out of this new country; unable to look at mirrors in shame, while also being horrified of what I was destined to be. I forced my foreign accent out of my tongue and drained out all the femininity I could from speech and mannerisms because otherwise I would be mocked to the ground, just as I lightened my skin in photos, avoided the sun, and hid my face with my hands and a hoodie to avoid being perceived as who I was.

But one day my life in my hometown will start again and every story I have ever told of it, and everything I have learned about it, will materialise before me into reality. I will come to love manual labour when I dig out the old roots in my ancestral home’s garden, and plant gardenias and carnations like I always wanted. I will live with four generations of my family and their way of life will become mine again. I will eat the fruits from the trees my parents and my grandparents planted many years ago. I will dance in the park with others where live music is played daily for us to indulge in; I know I will cry into my shoes but eventually they will dry. My rusted speech will be as colourful as it was in my youth, and if anyone finds the standard Mexican accent that I adopted after leaving, I will lie and say I was only educated in another city, not caring if they believe me. When I visit the shrines of my ancestors, I will weep, as it is long overdue; at first quietly like I have learned to do, but then the I will wail unashamed from all the pain I’ve gathered.
I know everyone is sick of sad writings by the diaspora but this is more than that; this is a eulogy to my grandmother’s traditional singing as she sat over my bed waiting for me to sleep, this is a poem about the blood of my ancestors that spilled over the earth when the Spanish displaced my heritage, this is an epitaph to the surgery I finally received on my face after years of feeling too ugly for the coloniser’s standard. This is a xochicuicatl, a lyric piece decorated in flowers and feathers, dedicated to a place I do not know if I can call home because of the way my identities conflict with how I’d like to be treated.
It will be too late, but one day my hometown will cease to be magical, and will be a fully fledged entity with problems of its own. I will know who I am and who we were, I will relearn the indigenous language that I forgot, failed to learn. It will no longer be a place of resentment or hope, as I will run out of things to regret and my checklist will be full. Even if my hometown breaks my heart, I won’t care, for I will have buried my dreams and myself in its cemetery. And one day, I will leave again, this time with a new story in my head. One where my grandchildren will know of a world that loves them better than I did, and where home is wherever I build it.


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