In The Strenght of My Rebellion, one of the texts of the book Borderlands, Gloria Anzaldúa, Chicana writer and academic, opens her reflection by remembering a photo in which, as a child, she is with her parents, holding hands of his mother. “To this day I’m not sure where I found the strength to leave the source,” says she, who was the first and only one of her family at the time to leave her home. That same reflection passes through my mind, more frequently than I would like. In January 2022, I won a scholarship for a master’s degree in Portugal, Ireland, Poland, and Austria; something I had been aiming for for a long time. In spite of the fact that I have been away from home for only one year and I left at an advantageous time, living and understanding myself in another place has been an arduous experience. My gaze is always drawn towards Colombia and what is contained within it that I feel is so personal to me.
The experience of moving away from my place of origin has been filled with challenges, incredible experiences, and others I wouldn’t want to repeat. Through this text I wanted to reflect mainly on two of them: that the notion of home has become entangled among so many bureaucratic turns and occupations, and that I have been seeing other people and being seen by them only from the point of view of difference.
Whenever I think of my home, I think of my parents, my sisters, my friends, my family, my books, and my precious things. As of now, 9 thousand kilometers away from all that, I believe migrating does not mean that the home is gone, but rather that it is a changing space. This experience has forced me to learn to open the root, to be attentive to drink a little from that source when the outside world is suffocating. Moreover, that root does not have to be an immobilizing anchor; It can be the comfortable tangle in which the body rests when it needs it, without forgetting that in the same way one’s home is the body itself, the body and the space that it inhabits and builds along the way.
Likewise, being outside inevitably means seeing and being seen (or ignored). Seeing the way other people see me and, at the same time, seeing the way other people see how I see them. While at a party, I spoke with a black man, from Ghana, and during the conversation I asked him what was he doing in Vienna. He replied, with a tone of sarcasm, Am I not supposed to be here? I was a little startled, because of course my intention was not to make my question a xenophobic claim, but I understood his reaction because I have been there too.
I, as a Latina woman who on her path has encountered people who have exoticized her and highlighted her origins and because of them, questioned her right to be where she is; that man, as a black person living in a country in which less than 1% of the people are black, we are part of the different, and the different tends to be equated with the particular, the peripheral, the deficient – in front of the universal and the central (Karakola, 2004, p. 10). Traveling has helped me deepen my understanding of what the other person is, of how I myself have constructed notions of the other (from a difference-angle) and of how I am part of the notions of others.
I think that the difficult thing about migrating is that the point of being far from the source and of existing as part of what is considered different are intertwined in ways that make you feel that there is no home, that there is no one to look at you, or care for you, or give you support. In my case, I have found refuge in the friends I have met along the way and with whom I have shared political horizons, and I am on my way of learning to find approaches to forge alliances across differences; to find points of connection despite and thanks to them and to understand said articulation as a relational and transformative political practice (Karakola, 2004, p. 15).
I receive as a gift what I interpret as an invitation from Anzaldúa to feed on the tension and political richness that implies existing among several cultures, using several languages, and seeing my privileges, keeping in mind that sometimes I will not be welcome. If the norm is that someone like me is not taken into account in the center, I make the periphery my center; I assess my border and stand on it.🛡️
Karakola, E. (2004). Prólogo. In Otras inapropiables Feminismos desde las fronteras. Traficantes de sueños.