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.