Our Immigrant Origins

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Monday, January 2nd, 2017 | 1,454 views

My family’s undocumented past in America wasn’t known to me until I applied for dual citizenship with Italy not long ago. The vital records I gathered in the process offered a startling new perspective on our lineage, though it didn’t seem to matter much at the time. Some relatives even chuckled over how my great grandfather could’ve spent eighteen years living and working “illegally” as an economic migrant, not becoming naturalized until the 1930s, well after my grandmother was born. No one ever questioned his, or our family’s, place in this country as Americans. After all, his story was the embodiment of the American dream, having escaped the extreme poverty that ravaged the Sicily he knew in search of a better life.

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The Unthinkable

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Monday, December 26th, 2016 | 1,590 views

On election night, I was anxious. I thought Hillary would probably win. The polls were saying she would. Still, I’m a worrier. I started watching early, hoping for good returns. Hoping for 2012. As the returns grew worse, I flipped through the channels faster and faster, desperately hoping for different news, better news. Of course, I didn’t get it.

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My Non-existence Under a Trump Administration

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Monday, December 19th, 2016 | 1,234 views

When my mother patted the black tufts of hair on my head and gazed into my dark eyes for the first time, she was not a U.S. citizen. But, in my newborn pinkness, I was. The year was 1988 and it was an unseasonably warm day in November less than one week after Halloween. I was experiencing the world outside of my mother’s womb in healthy, even breaths that would not have been possible had it not been for my mother’s emergency C-section. With my umbilical cord wound around my neck, my birth was almost my undoing. My tiny mother was exhausted but relieved to welcome all eight pounds of me—alive!—with my American father by her side.

The site of this initial meet and greet was a regional hospital on a long, winding road in my hometown of Arlington, Virginia. As part of the Washington, D.C. metro area, the pipsqueak county may be one of the smallest in the United States, but it has one of the largest Salvadoran populations in the country. This is worth mentioning because my mother is Salvadoran. She, like the majority of her fellow Salvadoran immigrants, came to the United States to escape her homeland’s civil war.

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A Month in the Life of an Impending Dictatorship

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Monday, December 12th, 2016 | 1,607 views

Day 1—Election Day: You hear yourself saying to your husband, “Oh my…he’s winning,” and wonder why the feminist journalist on screen announcing the results is taking this so lightly. Then you realize, her mortgage is probably really high.

Day 2—The Day of Mourning: Everyone at work wears black and walks with his/her/their head facing the ground. You know it’s because of the outcome, even though it is raining. There are at least two people you encounter who have a spring in their step.

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My Appalachia: Coming Home in a Changing America

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Monday, December 5th, 2016 | 6,342 views

It’s April and I’m on the road jumping across the country promoting my debut book, a story collection about the residents of an economically-challenged small town in West Virginia. A large number of the stories in the book focus on the sometimes hidden and sometimes exposed lives of the gay men who live in the little town. It was an interesting concept for me—to juxtapose the lives of those stuck economically against the lives of those stunted emotionally. I modeled the setting on my hometown, a once prosperous place built with the big money of coal, timber, and railroad barons who built mansions that towered over the boomtown downtown. In the book, everyone’s clamoring—to stay, to leave, for a reprieve. In the book, and in real life, there’s this beautiful past to which everyone clings. It’s the past where the downtown streets were filled with the friendly faces of people with things to buy, where the future seemed bright and open.

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Trapped In History

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Monday, November 28th, 2016 | 937 views

Roberto Garcia

“People are trapped in history and history is trapped inside them.”
—James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village”

On a recent trip to the Canary Islands I was reminded that none of the languages I speak are native to me. The flight departed from JFK in New York City, would arrive at Madrid, Spain, and connect to a shorter flight that would ultimately land in Tenerife, Canary Islands. A few hours into the flight I asked the flight attendant for two whiskeys. I can never sleep on a plane and since this was a red-eye I figured a couple of drinks might help. I asked for the drinks in Spanish and his surprise was evident. His expression changed for an instant. Almost as if he questioned the reality of what was happening. A part of me can understand that, but another part of me can’t. Part of me thinks he should be used to Latinos by now. That his experience as a flight attendant dealing with countless passengers from across the Latino diaspora would have educated him on enough of our differences as to not be taken off guard by me. Then I got to thinking about language.

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Schrodinger’s Racists

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Monday, November 21st, 2016 | 1,912 views

The first time it happened, I was in the first grade. My family is Catholic, and on Sundays we attended mass. Afterwards, I went to my CCD class—religious education, for the non-Catholics—for an hour. In each class, we read a Bible passage and discussed its meaning and waited impatiently to run into the hall to get cookies afterwards.

One Sunday, I was the last child packing my bag at the end of class. My teacher sat at her desk. Apropos of nothing, she said, “My brother was killed in Vietnam.”

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