It gives me great joy to introduce, Aracely Lara, to my column of "Weaving Healing in Spaces of Latinx vulnerability." Aracely’s writing is healing like water. It flows with imagination and nostalgia. And like water, Aracely’s writing is nourishing, filling the heart with emotion of sustaining hope.
-Itzel G. Garcia
I am anxious when I write. While working on my research, “Visual Forms of Transformation and Resistance: a Close Reading of East Austin’s Murals,” I began to stall the project’s writing process. My mentor, Folklorist and Associate Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Rachel Gonzalez-Martin, then suggested I ease myself back into the project through writing. Dr. Gonzalez posed the question of what lay behind my motivation to conduct this research in hopes that going back to the reflection would motivate me to keep writing. What resulted is this essay titled, “Home y La Esperanza Que Siempre Alcanza” (“Home and Ever-Present Hope”) that reflects on my family’s struggles and experiences that imbue me today with a deep, creative sense of what I call “home.”
Unearthing a place to live is complicated. There is reoccurring strife that I recognize in the life of my family. It has been that way for as long as my parents have lived. As long as my parents have been together and as long as they have built our family, acquiring a space to thrive is challenging. My paternal grandfather, Eduardo Lara’s dream, was for stability. According to apá, my grandfather Eduardo worked in construction. Apá says that Grandfather Eduardo built houses for people, people that needed them. He was always helping and working with his community in the Matamoros, Mexico. My grandfather, Eduardo, died after running errands with my dad. Apá was ten when they killed his father.
After the death of my grandfather, Eduardo, apá would carry a level with him everywhere he went. Apá says that people would pull him aside, and as they pointed towards their home, they would tell apá that his father built their home. In response, apá would pull out a level and measure the house. When apá was certain that the house was completely and neatly perfect, he would nod with a look of pride and self-satisfaction.
My grandfather Eduardo embedded in apá a love of the earth, together with the process of destroying and constructing with his hands, a gift that he passed down to me.
My mother is from El Mango, Comunidad Tandzumadz, Huehuetlan, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. My mom grew up planting seeds with my grandfather, Nazario, and baking bread with my grandmother, Paula. My mother’s childhood was interrupted by an older man. He decided he was going to take amá away, but a family friend warned my grandparents. They decided to send her to Matamoros to live with her cousin. Years after, she met my father in Matamoros. Later, when amá was pregnant with my older brother, apá would work on farms in the U.S. My father would travel back and forth on the border until he couldn't anymore.
My father had to stay in Texas and sent for my mother to cross a couple of months later. My mother attempted to cross the border three times. She was caught twice. The third time my mother crossed the border, my dad’s aunt gave amá a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She asked my mom to repeat a prayer to Our Lady. My mother told me she was scared. All she could think about was the prayer. When the bus got to the border, it was raining. Amá said the rain was heavy and the day was dark. Because of the weather, they let the bus pass without a checkpoint. My mother was able to come to the U.S.
A summary of my family’s experience with home. A tiny white apartment holding my mom, dad, and brother. Having to leave the apartment because my dad was struggling to find work. We moved to a little green house, living with my paternal grandmother, Maria. I was born in the little green house. After Grandmother Maria incited a fight between my parents, my mother left my father. We left the little green house for a little RV that protected three families. The little RV was next to a giant bayou, and toads took over the roads. It was my favorite home. A while later, apá found a little trailer in the middle of nowhere. My parents got back together por la familia, they said.
So we left the RV to live with apá. In our new place, the owner changed his mind and asked us to leave after a month. He gave us three days.
Then we found Cora Street.
Cora Street is a trailer park. My family moved within this trailer park four times. My experiences in this neighborhood cemented the concepts of art as transformative of space and my parents as artists. Cora Street was a giant circle with another trailer section in the middle. We lived with my aunt in the middle of Cora Street in a cream-colored trailer until my father was deported.
After my father's deportation, amá was forced to live with my grandmother, Maria. Grandmother Maria’s trailer resided on the outer circle of trailers in Cora Street. Grandmother Maria maintained different plantitas and trees including tamarindo, guava, limones, and a giant tree full of oranges. While we lived with my grandmother, Maria, we would receive an occasional call from apá, and a prolonged conflict about my grandmother stealing money from the funds my father sent to amá, resumed.
A week later amá found out she was pregnant. She decided that it would be best to move into a bright-yellow trailer that anxiously sat on the far back of Cora Street with my aunt Rosy. My siblings and I would share a mattress on the floor with amá. The bright yellow trailer seemed frail and unsteady, but amá fortified the trailer’s foundation with her stories of running through el monte to get to school and meeting a nagual (a personal, guardian animal spirit). She shared that those experiences lead her to believe that we are always protected. Her comfort and strength reassured us that the roof and walls wouldn’t crumble in our sleep.
A month before amá gave birth, dad successfully crossed the border. We moved into a green trailer around the entrance of Cora Street. Because we lived at the entrance, the neighborhood gangs would fight in front of our trailer. My siblings and I were frequently woken up by our parents, urging us to get under the bed. Despite those occasions, I will always love Cora Street.
On Cora Street, I found that my family transformed space physically and spiritually. In a physical sense, my father used a mallet to break down the trailer walls. My parents’ ability to re-envision our reality was magical to witness. I loved my dad’s tiling work. He would cement the hallway, and I would pass him my favorite tiles. Together, we paved the trailer’s floors. Our trailer’s spiritual transformation would happen during the days that my parents were not able to afford the light bill. After praying, amá would light candles and tell stories about UFOs, La Llorona, death, and fairies. I now understand that the physical changes that our trailer underwent not only re-asserted our ever-present hope for family stability, but like East Austin murals, represent revitalizing expressions of survival that re-create our world anew.
Aracely Lara is a senior, majoring in English and Mexican American and Latino Studies at the University of Texas at Austin who also volunteers at Academia Cuauhtli.