This year, I will live in North Carolina for only a few weeks. I will be here to vote. That is mostly why I bought my apartment condo in Downtown Durham, though you could say I could vote absentee ballot. But to do that, you need a permanent address. A post office box will not do.
I’m prompted by this fact to remind myself that I am a Mexican immigrant and not an ex-pat. I will explain.
I am here, too, because I have good friends, dear family and a need to have one toe in the water, even though the water now is scalding hot. We are getting burned.
You haven’t heard from me in a while and there’s a reason. My return to Durham was interrupted by Hurricane Florence and the aftermath of clean-up and tragedy, babies loosened from the arms of their fleeing mothers, ripped away by the torrents of rushing water, lost forever. The news captured me. Saddened me.
Then, the drama of the Senate Judiciary Committee interviews of Christine Blasey Ford and a Supreme Court Justice nominee called Kav permeated every fiber of my being. I watched the entire day of testimony from start to finish. Big mistake.
Now, I’m in recovery, big time. I’ve been in near isolation for three weeks. Not much to write about, it seems, in comparison to the big events called politics in the United States of America. I understand why people want to escape. Go on a cruise. Eat ice cream. Not vote. The aftermath disgusts me.
In the meantime, I was asked to write a chapter for a book about ex-pat women from the USA who moved to Mexico. Did we flee a god-forsaken nation hell-bent on self-destruction or what?
I procrastinated. Then, I finally sat down to write it. As soon as it’s published, I’ll share it with you. But the most important kernel for me is that I came to realize I’m an immigrant, not an ex-pat.
The distinction is subtle and also simple. The standard definition: An ex-pat lives outside her/his home country. The standard definition: An immigrant claims their adopted country and intends to live there indefinitely.
Immigrants put down roots and embrace the culture, consider that the place they have moved to will always be home. Makes some attempt to learn the language and interact with the local community. Realizes that humility goes much further than arrogance. Defers to local customs. Waits for acceptance.
Ex-pats in Mexico are snowbirds, needing a warm and affordable place to spend the winter. Ex-pats might also be those testing the waters of retirement, determining where to live on a fixed budget that will stretch farther. They are far away from home in the USA or Canada, but for most, replicate that sense of home in a new place, sequestered in gated communities, attached to tennis clubs and those who speak the same language.
If I am being judgmental, please share your opinions.
This discussion gave me pause to think about where I fit in the definition, and part of the ultimate question we all must ask ourselves from time to time: Who am I? Where do I belong?
I’ve been part of Oaxaca for 13 years. Not so long in the scope of my life. But long enough to know it is home and I will live there indefinitely.
Next Monday, Omar arrives. He is the youngest of the Chavez Santiago children. He is bringing beautiful hand-woven rugs for sale and teaching cochineal dye workshops. After Durham, we are going to Philadelphia together where he will be hosted at five different venues. You’ll hear more.
Then, for me, I’m back to Mexico on November 8. After I’ve voted. It won’t be too soon.