An Immigrant’s Tale In Trump Land


I was 24 when I came to this country. I came following love; the love that today has given me a perfect little boy that I get to call my son. I came hoping to belong in a new family, a new community, and make new friends. It was 2015, and while I sat in the living room of my then fiancé’s family, sharing food and drinks while watching the event of the year – the Superbowl – I thought to myself, “What have I done to get this lucky?” It was a wonderful year to be young and in love.

I had always known that I wanted to leave Mexico, my home since I first opened my eyes, and where I was raised into a bright young woman who had dreams of becoming a writer one day. I knew it because I had a passion for languages, and speaking with people from different countries gave me a kind of thrill that few things in my life have made me feel. My English has always been so good that people would ask me what part of the U.S. I was from, rather than assuming I was from Mexico. And while I am not Caucasian, my looks tend to blend in with those of southern Europeans or other Latin Americans, depending on how much I’ve been under the sun.

I come from a middle-class background. My parents’ hard work allowed me to see parts of the world I would have only been able to imagine had we not been fortunate enough to have the right opportunities. So, when I looked at my future new home, I didn’t think of how anything could possibly go wrong if only I kept on being genuine and perseverant.

But then 2016 came, and an unexpected candidate was making his way up in the polls and winning primaries, during an election year that will undoubtedly go down as one of the most controversial in both world history and in my personal life.

I still get chills when I recall the blue background and the podium behind which Donald Trump pronounced those infamous words, “They are not our friend, believe me.” “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

I come from a complicated Mexico, torn from within by its own non acceptance of a wide array of social issues that are the product of 300 years of colonialism. And yet, when I watched that speech on television, I felt a knife twist inside my heart. Surely nobody that I knew was going to agree with any of this. All the Louisianans I knew were intelligent, kind, generous, and downright good human beings.
Then there was talk of a wall being built between both countries; a tall, strong, and beautiful wall that wouldn’t let any of those dangerous, filthy Mexicans come in. I entered this country by airplane, on a fiancée K-1 visa, married within U.S. soil, and got my green card. I filled out the paperwork, I paid the money, and I waited. I wasn’t fleeing. I came here willfully. My privilege allowed me to be here without fear or guilt, but I knew well that this wasn’t the case for millions of others. I knew children whose fathers had to leave and face unthinkable obstacles so that they could stay in school. Some of these children had been my friends.

Back then it was rare for anybody to say they actually liked Donald Trump. All of my husband’s friends and relatives had their chips on either Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, or any other of the multiple Republican candidates except him. I remember watching the GOP debates and agreeing with things that these men were saying. I was a virgin to American politics. I had no idea what it meant to be a liberal or a conservative; a Democrat or a Republican. I was sheltered that way from a reality that would change my life forever.

One day during a crawfish boil at which I didn’t know many people, only my husband’s family, we all sat together at a table peeling away the tiny red creatures. A relative made a joke about me during conversation. With the intention of portraying me as a tough little woman he said, “You better be careful, she comes from the land of cartels.” This wasn’t the first time he had poked fun at my nationality; he had previously joked about anchor babies and other things that, at the moment, I didn’t know what they really meant. But this one hurt; it embarrassed me. I couldn’t understand how, out of all the exquisite things that I thought I was showing these people Mexico to be, the worst and most painful of stereotypes could prevail. Yes, I had seen naked dead bodies lying on the street; I attended funerals of people who were lost to organized crime. It was for a while a serious problem that plagued our society and had taken loved ones away from us. But would you refer to a sick man by his disease over his generosity or the quality of his character?

Somebody called him out for being offensive, to which he defended himself by responding, “What? It’s a fact,” dismissing any possibility that he could be wrong. In retrospect, I wish with all my heart that it had ended there. While I kept quiet the remainder of the event, my mind started racing, and it drove me into a disastrous wreck in which I attempted to defend my country. I tried to use reason and empathy to make a case against the border wall, but in the process, I ended up turning the tacit patriarch of the family against me. A caring father and engaged member of the community, whom I had admired and loved, was suddenly questioning my intelligence and deliberately ignoring me at family gatherings. He never knew this, but he broke my heart and branded me for life.

After these unfortunate events, if I had looked for help, I’m sure I would have been diagnosed with severe depression. I wasn’t only experiencing a cultural shock like never before, but my sense of belonging to a new family and a new community had vanished into thin air. I was disparagingly labeled as the liberal, even though it took time for me to learn what that meant. I was even accused of brainwashing my husband with my ideas. Simultaneously, Donald Trump kept on ascending the Republican ladder until he became the official party’s nominee, and eventually won the election. At that point, nobody was ashamed to support him anymore. Everybody lined up like loyal comrades.

I withdrew myself from everything, and felt the urge to rebel. What may have seemed like contempt to everyone I had met, was really pain and a lost sense of identity. I had learned that I wasn’t accepted for who I was, but for what they had assumed me to be. I considered leaving, and while my husband had no fault in the matter, both divorce and suicide crossed my mind more times than I would like to admit. I felt like in order to thrive in New Orleans – whose suburban social circles are so tightly closed – I would have to hide my language, my food, my heritage; in other words, everything that made me, well…me. But not only that, I also had to be reminded by every yard sign, every t-shirt with boastful Trump slogans, every book proudly displayed – by all of these people that I cared about – of all the insults and attacks to women and men who looked like me, and that it didn’t matter. It was all means to a greater end: the restoration of the Catholic values that were allegedly getting lost, stopping reckless mothers from murdering their babies, fighting the imminent threat of socialism driven by the radical left, the safety of suburban white women and children who were at the mercy of evil brown men, and other distortions of reality pushed by conservative media.

The part that didn’t add up in my head was how people that I knew to be good and loving, who had shown me kindness and who I knew put great value on decency, could embrace so dearly a man who was vulgar, manipulative, reckless, and opportunistic. Any other Republican candidate could have delivered, if not results, at least the same promise of putting the country back on the conservative track. It seemed as if what had really hit the nail was the xenophobic message, the misogynistic behavior, the bulldozer attitude of not caring about who he hurt or stepped on in order to win, as if deep down it resonated with them and were finally able to admit it. I refused to believe this, so in order to not lose my mind, I had to go on a long journey of learning about the complexity of human behavior. From Sapolsky, to Pinker, to Kahneman, they all taught me about the role of tribalism – of cheering for your team no matter what, because supporting the other was treason, as if LSU were the Republican Party, and Alabama were the Democrats.

I never got an apology, nor a hint of empathy for what I was going through as an immigrant, thousands of miles away from her family, and with her support system broken. But I taught myself not to expect it, because I understood that the polarization we were experiencing not just as a community, but as a country, was never going to allow it. Instead, I forced myself to be vulnerable, to quietly forgive, and to tear down the figurative walls that this conman had built with his spewing of lies and fearmongering. If I wanted to be with the man I loved, I had to put in all the effort on my own, and never speak of my beliefs or politics before anybody ever again.

Jokes kept on being made in front of me every now and then, by my former boss, coworkers, or other friends and relatives, and my blood still boiled every time; yet I pretended not to hear. I would respond with a gift, or a compliment, or an act of service. My drive became to kill with kindness, and to multiply the love that I received when it was genuine. But as I watched the indifference to every single one of the scandals, the indictments, the hate speech, the domestic terrorism, the deaths, and the protests…my hope that the United States was going to resemble the type of home I had dreamed of, where one could truly be free and unafraid, was wilting like a Magnolia flower in late summer.

Fast-forwarding to today, after hearing the former first lady, the former president, and the new Democratic nominee speak uplifting and encouraging words, with a sensibility and human candor as refreshing as the first winds that announce the change of season, I found within me the courage to dig out the pain that I had buried long ago for the sake of acceptance, and to use my voice again.

I’m not here to tell you, Republican voter, to embrace taxation or to understand a woman’s right to choose. I won’t tell you to go hug the trees and to stop eating burgers. I will not ask you to give up your weapons and never kill a deer again. I don’t need you to think just like me. I simply want to make you aware of the fact that your blind and relentless support of Donald Trump has hurt lives, nearly destroyed marriages, and put people in real danger of losing everything they’ve worked for just because of their nationality, the status they were born into, their faith, or the color of their skin; Not of strangers you have never met, but of people who are part of your life, and maybe even of those whom you have claimed to love.

But on that note, I also know that you do believe in love, in helping others, in the preciousness of life, in friendship and in charity, in freedom, as well as in the right to pursue happiness. I hereby invite you to simply cast your net a little wider, so that we can all fit under it; to see that it’s okay to switch teams if the one you’ve always rooted for is now in conflict with your true values. Life is not football. It’s not LSU versus Alabama; it’s enlightenment above ignorance, country above party, love above fear, and tolerance above hate.

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