"I Can't Die Here"

As part of an on going multimedia series called "Arriving and Becoming: The Silicon Valley Story as Told by Immigrant Elders", Octavio Martinez tells the story of hearing his mother talk about coming to America to work hard in hopes to return to her homeland saying, "I can't die here."

As a kid I would always be reminded that I wasn’t from here, meaning the United States. It came from not knowing the language, being in “special” classes, being called a "wetback" by the other kids in school, and an over all feeling of not fitting in no matter how hard I tried. I knew my parents had to be carrying the same feelings as I was in their adult world, but I never asked. One day I overheard a conversation my mom was having with my uncle in Mexico over the phone that let me know how they felt as immigrants making a life in America. She said “we can’t die here,” and at that moment I knew we both shared mutual feelings.

My parents are hard workers that decided to come over from Mexico, my dad came three years before we did. Our life wasn’t bad back home, but my parents knew that barely making it wasn’t going to be enough when my brother and I got older. Poverty in Mexico is true poverty, the kind of poverty that doesn’t exist in the United States, and that was the fire burning my parents feet to go north.

To my parents, living in the USA is a sacrifice they were willing to make for us, but the thought that they would spend eternity stuck in this situation of never feeling accepted is one they can't stomach. That is the difference of “we can’t live here” and “we can’t die here.” They can carry on the struggle if they know at some point it will end, that there is a finish line. That is what my mother meant when she was talking to my Uncle back in Mexico. Their decision to live here has already paid-off in their eyes. My brother and I had a great upbringing with amazing an opportunity at higher education and options that we would not have back in Mexico. But to them, if they aren't able to enjoy the country they moved to in order to provide for their children, they want to at least end up in their native land eventually.

I knew my parents never felt comfortable here in the States, and while they live here for my brother and I, I know they dream of going home. They are constantly working on the house we are remodeling in Mexico, with high hopes of making it back to a place that no matter how hard life is, it would welcome them with open arms. That welcoming spirit is one that has eluded them here.

I have seen my dad do construction work on a house only to be told by the owner to “get the fuck out of here before I call immigration,” when it was time to pay for the work. He worked for free under another person to learn how to do landscaping, construction, cement work, fences, and so on just so that he can start his own business. Having to make our their own trail when they were told to no longer use the already made trails has been their existence in the United States.

The truth is it’s hard to call a place home when just about everything you do is looked down upon, and having to lie to others in order to get through life and having to always live in fear. I understand my parents feeling of not wanting to die here.  I also understand that acceptance is something that many people don’t have, but once you find it, it’s the only place you want to end up in, even if it only means dying there.

This piece is part of an on going multimedia series called "Arriving and Becoming: The Silicon Valley Story as Told by Immigrant Elders", supported by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's Immigrant Integration in Silicon Valley project.

About Octavio Martinez

Octavio Martinez head shot
Octavio Martinez is a photographer and journalist based in the Bay Area. Growing up, he spent many years navigating various scenes, but gravitates towards subcultures and countercultures. His lifestyle allows him to first-hand document what many have only heard of.

Instagram: tiburonfb


Tiburonfb is a psychonaut photograp(her) from the bay area who is always hungry to consume everything that is culture, counter-culture, and sub-culture, he is also founder of the up and coming cumulative photographer's website nowhereshome.com

Contact him at: tiburon1431@gmail.com

This article is part of the category: Immigration 
This article is part of the tags: Arriving and Becoming  / Cola  / Immigrant Elders  / Mexican  / Silicon Valley DeBug  / Tiburon 


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