The Homeland of the Undocumented

By Ilka Oliva Corado on September 13, 2021

photo: Bill Hackwell

After the siege, the homeland becomes a perennial longing. The undocumented know it more than anyone else. It becomes that old letter of paper torn by so much folding and unfolding. It is in the memory of rainy days, of the milpa growing, of fresh chipilín flowers and the aroma of coffee cooked in a clay pot. The fog of the land left behind on the other side of the fence crosses the borders and seeps through the cracks of the windows of the skyscrapers where the generations who had to emigrate because in their own land they found nothing but violence and hunger work cleaning the bathrooms and floors; they were thrown into oblivion and forced to emigrate en masse.

The tender leaves of the red guava trees appear twinkling in the midday burn in the furrows where thousands of undocumented immigrants work in crews, dreaming of the cool water of the river and the shade of the tamarind trees; the homeland is then a delirium. It is felt in the shoulders of the bricklayers who carry the loads in the big constructions, because the undocumented is always the last one, the one who carries more, the one who works more hours, the one who receives less pay, the one who always says yes, the one who can never say no; there the homeland hurts in the wound of the soul.

It hurts in the hands of the women who clean houses, in the arthritis of the bones, in the arms of the nannies who shelter other people’s children while their own stayed in the distant land in the care of grandparents or aunts; the homeland then is an unfathomable emptiness. It hurts in the goodbyes that could not be said, in the news of the death of loved ones, in the postponed hugs, in the promises, in the plans for the future, in the need for reunion, in the final goodbyes when a candle is lit and prayers are said in the distance for the repose of the soul of the one who died; there in the bustle of a room full of undocumented immigrants.

It hurts in the claim of the children who demand from the other side of the fence, shelter and companionship. It hurts in the blistered feet and burst skin of those who have walked for days fleeing hunger and exclusion, looking for a respite in other lands. It hurts in the tender pubis of the sullied girls who were cannon fodder on the thorny road where undocumented migrants travel in the terrified races to other lands where they are seen as plunder; then the homeland is a raw wound and a lifelong trauma.

The homeland that excludes, that violates, that starves, that disappears, that spits, that humiliates, that forces to emigrate. That separates families. It is the homeland that hurts, the little piece of one’s land that is anchored to the chest, that emerges between the pores, that beats tirelessly in the wounded heart, that is tanned in the skin, that is aged in the weariness of the years and to which they wish to return one day, it is the ungrateful homeland that receives millions of dollars in remittances from the children it forced to migrate and who never forget it: It is the homeland of the undocumented and to love it that way you have to have the guts to jump to the other side of the fence, not just anyone!

Source: Ilka Oliva Corado blog, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English