Saturday, October 24, 2009

On Identity

In the film El Silencio de Neto, Neto's uncle says that he has come home to die...that only where you were born are you able to die in peace. The film was filmed, for the most part, in the city of Antigua, Guatemala...a city I know and visit quite often.

I saw the film a bunch of years ago, when I was still in college and I struggled with my national identity. It seemed as it is now manifested, that I was not sufficiently American here, but I was also not sufficiently Guatemalan there. Thinking back, that is why I subconsciously chose to be a double major. In more ways than one, I was trying to reconcile these two opposites. For part of my day, I was an English major and then for another part, I was a Spanish major. Leave it to me to try to find my way through the wilderness of cultures and languages.

I remember when a professor flat out told me I was a hyphenated self. I was a Guatemalan-American and that hyphen served as a bridge between two worlds. There. Done. He had fixed all my problems for me.

Last month I went to visit my parents to celebrate my dad's birthday and my parents' anniversary. I had a friend ask me what I was, what I considered myself to be.

"As far as nationality?" I asked already knowing that's what he meant.
"I was born in Guatemala, but I grew up in California...I guess you could say I'm a hybrid".
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, I seem to not fulfill all the requirements on either side so I have decided to respectfully send each group to hell and be my own person".

There was laughter followed by an awkward silence.

Ten years after college, I am done searching for my identity. I am made of different ingredients all necessary to my being. I do not struggle between worlds nor do I adhere to either. I am able to use the best from both and form my own opinions.

That is, I see myself in Neto's uncle. He can live in Guatemala and even adapt to his surroundings, but he is not completely blind in order to ignore that having lived outside of Guatemala has marked him for life. He is able to see things from more than one perspective.

In the end though, I wonder if I will be able to die in the land where I drew my first breath. I do not mean to sound morbid, but it is something that has crossed my mind. I would like to think that I will be at peace no matter where I am. Poetically though, going back to the land where one was born does sound like a beautiful way to close one's story.

Note: I wrote this in August of this year and had it in a blog that I no longer use, but I find it is necessary to start with this post on this my new blog.