By Leselle Hatcher
A Democrats Abroad Spain member living Madrid.
I am an American. I was born on American soil. I grew up in the nation’s capital. English is my first language. Growing up, I watched TGIF, Sister, Sister, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I ate Lunchables and Little Debbie snacks (much to the protest of my mother), and recited the pledge of allegiance with as much disinterest as the next kid. I listened to N*SYNC and Sublime. I fell in love with Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins. I was leveled by Phife and De La Soul.
Soy estadounidense. I am also the child of a Honduran immigrant. I spent summers in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I ate arroz con garbanzos and plátanos maduros. I spoke Spanish with my grandmother and my extended family. I watched Sábado Gigante and sang along to Selena; and every night, before I went to sleep, I’d pray with my grandmother in Spanish: “En el nombre del Padre y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo…” And every morning before I left for school I would turn to her and and say: “Te quiero, Tita.” “Yo tambien te quiero, mi amor,” she’d reply, “mucho mucho te quiero.” That was my life. It was all I knew.
A few days ago, at the Spain Democrats Abroad Annual General Meeting, I had the great pleasure of listening to Nevada Representative to Congress Dina Titus speak on the topic of immigration. As I listened to her share her perspective on one of the most consequential issues of our time—a perspective she shared with great eloquence and wit—I began to reminisce about my own upbringing and the profound impact immigration has had and continues to have on my life (even here in Spain, as I live out a different kind of immigrant experience). I thought back to all those mornings I had woken up to the music of Carlos Gardel as my mother began the protracted process of preparing Sunday dinner. I thought back to the afternoons I spent helping my grandmother press tortillas (with our hands of course), and the evenings I spent helping her clean frijoles for her black bean soup. I thought about the old black and white photos that hung on our walls: photos filled with people I had never met, people I would never know, from a time and place wholly foreign to me save for the memories and mementoes my mother and grandmother had brought with them to the United States.
As I stood there listening to Congresswoman Titus speak, I found myself in awe of the myriad ways in which Honduras was in me despite the fact that I was not, nor had ever been, in it.
That’s what it is to be the product of immigration. It is to be the product of intersections, cultural collisions and accretions. It is to be made of pieces, fragments and threads which, when pulled, tug at other nations. It is to be, in many ways, of somewhere other than here all while feeling yourself firmly anchored in a sense of home. I have been shaped by my Honduran immigrant upbringing as much as I have been shaped by my blackness, my gender and my education. Were it not for immigration, which is to say, were it not for the long-standing motif of human movement across the globe and the cultural, economic and social changes which inevitably result, I would not be who I am in the way that I am today—nor would the United States. To say that the Immigrant narrative is a crucial part of the broader American story, is to state the obvious, and quite reservedly at that. "We Need To Talk About Immigration" wrote Ryan Turner, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree; because, as Randolph Bourne once wrote,“America shall be what the immigrant will have a hand in making it.”