Hello. Did you miss me? I’ve missed you. I’m sorry for the hasty retreat but after November 9, I had to withdraw to mourn and rage and recalibrate. That emotional cycle has been repeating itself ever since but I finally felt ready to come out of hiding.
I did a good portion of my hiding in Mexico because that country and its people help me regain perspective. And because I’m fortunate enough to have a home there to hide out in. I’ve only just returned to the States a few days ago and so I was in Mexico for 45’s botched interactions with Mexico’s President Peña Nieto, threats about the wall and who would pay for it, and the ICE raids and deportations. All sickening to watch from my vantage point south of the border.
During my stay, my rudimentary and primarily present-tense Spanish never felt adequate for expressing my sorrow for, embarrassment in, and repudiation of what my country was doing to and saying about the people I was living among. By far and away, the words I spoke most often during my time there were “lo siento.” The quick translation is “I’m sorry” but the literal translation is more akin to “I feel it.” To my mind, it conveys so much more than regret and remorse; it conveys empathy and compassion in a way that “I’m sorry” can’t. Lo siento allows the apologizer and the wronged party to bond over the transgression, which is precisely why I felt I needed to say it to every Mexican cab driver, shopkeeper, acquaintance, and friend for the Pandora’s Box that was opened, and the ugliness that flew from it, during, and since, our elections.
It breaks my heart to know that people who have been so warm and welcoming and generous to my husband and I as we settle in to our new home in Mexico, are often met with suspicion, animosity, and outright hatred when they enter the US.
I returned from my trip bearing a green card. After a stay of a little over two weeks, a few rubber stamps, and a dreadful photo that makes my DMV picture look like an airbrushed glamor shot, I am considered a “Residente Temporal” of the country of Mexico. I wanted to recognize this small feat with a celebratory social media post but couldn’t bring myself to do it as I feel a bit sick knowing that a process that took me less than a month to complete traveling north to south, takes years for someone going in the opposite direction. Years. Or never.
Today–with the protest movement “A Day Without Immigrants” taking place–felt like a good time to finally get this post up. This morning I went to the small Mexican grocery store in my Bay Area neighborhood to buy habaneros and hot sauce and torment the clerks with my awkward Spanish but found it closed to support the immigrants who work there. My purchases will wait until tomorrow at which time I’ll express my solidarity and say “lo siento” once more. Sadly, I think this will be a much used phrase for some time to come.
Bonus: Because this is a food blog, I’m including the link here to an essay titled The Tire Iron and The Tamale shared with me by a friend. Truth be told, beyond the titular tamale, the essay actually has very little to do with food. It does, however, share an experience of compassionate, generous Mexicans that closely mirrors my own. I hope you read and enjoy it.