19 Dec Mojado: Migrant Music Mondays Continues!
In 2003, my parents crossed paths with a lawyer in hopes of beginning a new chapter in our lives. My Mom and Dad hoped to become legal residents of the country which had become the epitome of opportunity. John Doe was selling opportunity, happiness, and a new beginning. Our lawyer was selling the American Dream and we were buying. For a hefty price, John Doe assured my Mom and Dad that I too could immediately become a legal resident. Unbeknownst to us, this would become a nightmare. John Doe was greed personified. A real scum of the earth. Knowing full well the case, as it was submitted, would not hold up, he fell off the face of the earth, and my family became victims of fraud.
At our hearing, we were put in an unwinnable case with no legal representation, because John Doe did not show up. In fact, we haven’t heard from him since. We were placed in removal proceedings, with very little hope, and very little faith.
My parents, sweating and crying. I, crying because I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. With our sweat and tears we were, in the literal sense, mojados. A slur used to degrade our origins and methods by which we seek a better life. Before the courtroom and our Judge, we became the stereotype.
I had attended court and been on record without knowing the situation in its entirety. I only found out about 3 years later, that I was undocumented as well. I was unaware of my immigration status because my mom wanted to protect me and always said she didn’t want me to know I was at a disadvantage because she wanted no excuses. If only she knew, it wouldn’t become an excuse for failure, but rather a catalyst for a need to succeed. Though that’s what it has become now, at the time I was lost. I understand this may sound cliché. But really, I was lost.
As the years passed, I became plagued with a perpetual state of identity crisis. My identity was struck by the idea of not being able to call this place my home because I’m “not really from here,” but not being able to call Mexico my home because I have yet to visit since having been born. Being caught between not being Mexican enough for Mexico, but not being American enough for The States, led me to find shelter in music. Particularly, music that wasn’t necessarily from Mexico, but rather helped me understand my story, the story of my parents, the story that binds us all. The story that tells the struggle of being undocumented, with all odds against you, in hopes of seeking a better life and coming out ahead despite the criminalization of being undocumented.
In 2005, Ricardo Arjona released his album “Adentro.” In that album, there would come to be a record that would help me cope with being an undocumented immigrant myself and having my parents give up everything to provide a better life for our family. More importantly, I understood there are many more who have it just as, if not more difficult than I do.
The record, “Mojado,” helped me grasp with the struggle of not only being undocumented but helped me understand that someone’s terrible situation does not invalidate anyone else’s, as we all have a goal to provide a better life for our families. For the entirety of high school, I played records such as “Mojado” during my walks to and from school, with a sense of pride from where I come. I noticed a pep in my step and a growing urge to listen to more music that told our stories with all of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I sought refuge and found comfort in the harmonic sound of the accordion, and rhythm of my native language dancing off the tip of my tongue when I sang along to:
“El mojado tiene ganas de secarse,/ El mojado esta mojado/ Por las lágrimas que brota la nostalgia/ El mojado, el indocumentado carga el bulto / Que el legal no cargaría ni obligado.”
(A wet back wants to dry himself,/ A wet back is wet/ by the tears shed by nostalgia,/ a wet back, an illegal immigrant, carries a load/ which a legal person wouldn’t carry, not even by force)
Despite my utter lack of talent for singing, these words of the immigrant struggle resonated with me as my pride for my origin danced confidently. The emphatic manner in which this song conveys the sad reality we live as immigrants, helped me realize that I am neither the first nor the last to be undocumented in the U.S. As a result, I decided I was ready to take on the stereotypes and negativity that comes with being undocumented, and help my community cargar el bulto que el legal no cargaria ni obligado (carry the load a legal resident wouldn’t carry, even by force).
This song’s soothing intro and relatable verses helped me understand where my parents were in life as he decided to come to the U.S., very young with no life experience, but willing to gain plenty on their journey. Music, particularly the immigrant story-telling lyrics, like those in “Mojado” helped me turn my disadvantageous situation into an urge to better myself and help my community in hopes of demonstrating how capable we truly are of contributing in big part to a place we can’t legally call home.
Ultimately, the message that resonated exceptionally with me was in the last verse:
“Si la visa universal se extiende el día en que nacemos/ Y caduca en la muerte, por qué te persiguen mojado/ Si el cónsul de los cielos ya te dio permiso.”
(If a universal visa is issued the day we are born/ and it expires with our death, why are you persecuted wetback/ if the consul of heaven has already granted you his permission)
In this verse, Ricardo Arjona portrays the of equality and human rights that ties neatly with an American ideal put forth by one of our Founding Fathers in the preamble of the United States Constitution. As Thomas Jefferson eloquently put it, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We, in the undocumented immigrant community, will exercise our right to pursue our happiness.
Erik Garcia is an AB540 Student at Fullerton College and will be transferring Cal state Fullerton pursuing a BA in English, in hopes of pursuing a career as an educator. He is involved within the community to help inform and educate residents about the importance of voting, resources available to help make college less expensive, and the importance of organizing in their respective communities.