“Crossings are never undertaken all at once, and never once and for all.”
M. Jacqui Alexander

Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred  (2005), 290. 

Ella, fronteriza. Her, of the border(ed) lands.

I do not remember exactly when my life became of the border. Bordered, strewn across so many planes, places, and people in a mind-numbing particularity. A particularity, I am sure, that is anything but singular.

Perhaps I was not even there when it happened. Maybe it was when my white mother married my black father in a nation that cannot decide whether their union was a success (blackness whitened) or a failure (whiteness blackened). It could be that my parents were not even there when it happened. What is recently called la República Dominicana boasts “the first city of the Americas,” the first cathedral, the first hospital. The genocidal accolade turned tourism pitch is glorified as gift instead of a crime to be avenged (because remembering might not be quite enough).  Tal vez fue cuando nosotros, a family of four, moved to la linea. “The line,” a border region, caresses for both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. For a long while I believed it happened when, on a day in 1996, mami took brother and I to meet papi in a new place. The America. I do not know now whether I was right. I do know that English is my second language and leaving home the first.

I do not remember exactly when my life became of the border. Strewn. I cried on that flight back to mi isla in 2008. I did not know it then, but this would be a different type of return, not to a place in space, but to a displaced space of self and being (ser and becoming). Mami y Papi were afraid but brave-faced. They did not want me to go. I always joked with papi, that brightest of tarnished northern stars, that I’d leave home at 18. So, así, la nena se fue.  I was nervous, but hopeful. That kind of hopeful that only a life sustained by the too rare privilege of a (mostly) safe and (abundantly) loving childhood context affords. Y sabes, I didn’t get it, mi visa para un sueño. I had then already thanked mami y papi a thousand times for their labor of bringing me to. It would take more living to know that my deepest gratitude would be for their greatest gift, el regalo de poder volver a.

I learned, in 2009, that my illegality could be rehabilitated. Todo porque when I speak, I bet you’d never know that English is my second language. Because, my blackness is mostly digestible, less affronting, because I wasn’t what you had in mind when you thought of illegal alien, indocumentada, deportee. My foreignness is forgivable, isn’t it? As long as I consent to the rules of not pointing it out. Pearson Airport, 2009, 3am. A new arrival.

I do not remember exactly when my life became of the border. So many planes, places, and people. Another return. After two years of brave faces and broken hearts I sat papi down on a bench in the George Bush Airport. I handed him a juice I had rushed to buy and kissed him on the forehead the way one might kiss a knee-scraped crying child. Pero papi, papi had scraped his soul, or whatever sinews hold together dreams and hopes, imagination and belief. The ocean we crossed to gamble at dignity is a small thing in front of those tears.

Ella, fronteriza. Her, of the border(ed) lands. But borders are porous (whether by privilege or imaginative production). My prayer fronterizo is this, that I might be like her water and pass through the interstices without mistaking an aperture for a universe, a crevice for a cosmology.

 

Moca, Dominican Republic. 1990. 

New Jersey, USA. 1996.

Phoenix, Arizona, USA. 1998.

Istanbul, Turkey, 2017. Nikon One Touch, 35mm.