The Burden of Gratitude
December 14, 2018
Searching for my Mom
The following interview was the first time I heard to my mother’s immigration story. Growing up, I only caught glimpses; I purposefully hid behind doors or stayed quiet under tables to overhear small mentions of my family’s story. These moments were so profound to my disillusionment that I felt more comfortable sidestepping any confrontation to their experiences as undocumented migrants. Reflecting on this now, I understand how silence has been passed down, almost as a genetic trait, to me. This narrative is my step toward my familial recovery; where I break away from the intergenerational traumas associated with the violence of forced displacement. Through our conversation, I learned more about what I consider to be the, “womanhood of acceptance”, that my mother bore. By this, I refer to her remarks on a lack of “choice” threaded throughout her story. She was taught, as women, to eagerly comply with any lack of choice and to practice gratitude along every step. As a first-generation Salvadoran-American, I stand on the shoulders of giants and therefore, I consider this a central theme in defining my own womanhood.
As a people, Salvadorans must unify under our fragmented history of the Civil War. As members of the Salvadoran diaspora we can only hope to include ourselves in this history with our stories. This testament serves to establish an acceptance of our brutal past and grim circumstances. As survivors, we have a responsibility to record our histories so they can serve to humanize historical events; and in turn we, will assemble our own means of closure.
As a member of a collectivist culture, my mother’s story includes everyone from her life. I found this interesting as I picked up on it through her constant mentioning of “we” (brief accounts of her own accomplishments were shared after many follow-up questions geared toward individualizing her). Throughout her life, my mother bore the burden of a maternal figure for her younger siblings. She accepted financial obligations that contributed to her family’s overall stability in the U.S. and back in El Salvador. She educated herself (both formally and informally). These are all roles that were negotiated within the new social/cultural context she faced in America (Salvadoran women were not expected to be breadwinners, for example). I intended for this interview to lack invasiveness into the details of her overall experience for I know she bears a deeper agony as a witness to her story.