Archive for December 18th, 2015

Marisol’s Heartfelt Message

Rebecca has this right. Check out this piece on what is happening here:

Rebecca Elliott ‏@rfelliott 52s53 seconds ago

The new attack on Hispanic voting rights — a must-read by @jimrutenberg on redrawing Pasadena City Council districts http://nyti.ms/1m9KEbn 

I am skipping today’s MLB question and ‘Stros take.

Some of us received the following from Marisol Valero last night. It needs no explanation. Here:

Dear friends, I’m sharing something very personal and close to my heart and hope you will take a minute (or seven) to read what I wrote. I had to share my story, not only as part of my grieving process, but also to raise awareness of some of the struggles immigrant families face (specially as we enter the 2016 elections). Feel free to share it if you’d like. – Marisol

I grew up, for the most part, in the United States. My parents went back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico a few times while I was young. Although I don’t remember much from before I was four, I do have some memories of my life with my grandparents when I was five years old. I remember holding my grandmother’s hand on our way to pick up sweet bread at the break of dawn: I remember her cooking on her man-made wood-fired stove; I remember my grandfather getting on his bicycle and heading off to tend to his crops. These are some of the memories that I hold dear to my heart. It was bliss, sort of. Both of my parents were off working far, far away: my father in the U.S. and my mother teaching in a small village too far to travel back and forth from each day. So my brother and I were left with our maternal grandparents to look after us. This was 25 years ago, and since then, my mom migrated with my brother and me to the U.S. to be with my father in search of the American dream.

I buried my grandfather (mom’s dad), Francisco Torres Cortez, on November 11, 2015. I booked my flight to Mexico as soon as I found out. There was no time to cry, only to act. As I prepared my suitcase, I saw my mother with a very resolved look on her face. She was sad, sure, but mainly she was angry. Through that anger had come a decision that would shake me to the core … she had decided to move back to Mexico. A couple of hours before my flight left, she told me that when I came back, she wanted me to help her plan her and my father’s move back to their country.

My grandfather was buried on a beautiful Wednesday morning. The sun rose to a clear sky and my brother and I woke up to the sound of pots being washed outside, to the matriarchs of my extended family cooking in large pots on the patio, and to the patriarchs gathering outside the gates of my grandparents’ home with shovels and a couple of bottles of tequila.

By midday all of the food had been cooked, and my brother came back with a story. He had left with all the men early in the morning to go to the cemetery to take part in digging the hole where my grandfather would be buried. In Mexico, it’s a tradition, at least in the small town where we are from, to gather the deceased’s closest friends and family to partake in digging the grave.

He explained that he did some digging, but there were so many men that loved my grandfather helping to dig that he mostly stood around and listened to stories, about my grandfather, about the townspeople, about who was buried in that cemetery, and about many other things. He also told me that our grandfather would be buried on top of his mother, Gudelia; his father, Antonio; and his son, Diego. Part of the work the men had done in digging the grave had been to break apart the concrete slab that was on top of the grave of my great-grandparents and uncle who had been buried on top of each other (not all at the same time, of course).

As the time came closer to head to church, I kept thinking of my mother. While I was sad that my grandfather had passed away, I was devastated that my mom couldn’t come to bury her father. I also kept looking at my grandmother. She hadn’t shed a tear; instead, she kept praying and didn’t leave my grandfather’s casket, which had been placed by the funeral home right next to the dining/living area of her home. It’s customary to keep your loved one in your home (after embalmment, of course) until they are buried. I knew this coming to Mexico and it didn’t scare me; to the contrary, it brought me peace knowing he was in our home, safe, and with the people he loved and who loved him.

The final church bell rang at 4 p.m. My grandfather’s coffin was carried by friends and family from our home to the church. While all of this was happening and I saw it for the first time, I knew I wanted to always remember it and I wanted to share it with my mom. I took out my iPhone, and without caring about what anyone said or thought, I started taking pictures of everything I thought was important for her to see.

When my grandfather arrived at the entrance of the church, I was given one of four candles to carry in with the casket. We carried him into church and I carried the second candle to the left of my grandfather. The priest gave a beautiful sermon and then we began our procession on foot toward the cemetery. The funeral home had provided a hearse but the men decided to carry my grandfather through the town and to the cemetery.

Prayers led the way. Still carrying one of the candles, I took care that it never went out throughout the procession. When we arrived at the cemetery, my grandfather’s body was lowered down into the grave, and we were given the opportunity to bless his casket. We each took turns, grabbing a flower, submerging it in holy water, and sprinkling it on the casket as we made the sign of the cross. When it was my turn, I did the same and told my abuelito that my mom, Teo (as he lovingly called her), said goodbye, too.

Immigration reform has not come in the last two (almost three) decades. My parents arrived in the United States in the late 80’s and have worked hard all of their life, leaving friends, brothers and sisters, and their parents behind in search of a better future for their children. I’d always known that my parents’ sacrifice had been great, but it wasn’t until this tragic event that I completely understood and felt this sacrifice so deeply. While there have been various modifications to immigration policy that enabled family reunification, none have applied to my parents. Then, the horrific events of 9/11 sealed the unfortunate fate for most undocumented people in the United States. Immigration laws became harsher and immigrants have been blamed for many things in the years after.

A small victory won in 2012 by us, the Dreamers, allowed certain undocumented youth the opportunity to work legally in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Unfortunately, these administrative policies didn’t shield our parents, whom some, including myself, would call, the “original dreamers”. Thus, my parents have remained in the country as undocumented immigrants until today. The passing of my paternal grandmother two years ago was also very difficult, and at the time I was undocumented, too and, like my dad, I was unable to attend the funeral. I didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye for myself or on behalf of my dad.

I became a Lawful Permanent Resident in February 2014 (through a VAWA petition) and spent two weeks, during the Christmas and New Year holidays, reconnecting with my grandparents that same year. I had purchased my plane ticket to see them again one week before my maternal grandfather’s passing from a heart attack. It was a painful surprise to all of us.

November 2016 is when my parents are set to leave. Once they cross the U.S.-Mexico border (or any border), they will trigger a ten-year bar, which will prevent them from re-entering the U.S. for ten years. This is because they had previously entered the U.S. unlawfully and stayed. I have been dealing with this angst since the passing of my grandfather, but all I can do now is provide support. It is my time to look over them as they have looked over me for so many years. They, on their own, put me through college, and taught me to fight for what I believe is right, and showed me how to work hard for my dreams to become reality.

My mom will see her mother, care for her, and be there when she needs her. I will be there for mine, but will fight my hardest to bring them back. Going to law school could be the start of this uphill battle but not my only strategy.

I am proud that you have been a part of my life Marisol. I am with you all the way.

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