Monday, September 29, 2014

The story of an undocumented journey in the Sonora- Arizona desert.


My book by Ilka Oliva Corado


It´s not easy to sit here, in front of this computer, and try to write about my book. I´ve been avoiding this moment because I expected it to be this way, and I wasn´t wrong. It´s a challenge because, again, I have to face my memory which is surely unconsciously keeping away memories of experiences that marked my life and which emerge when I least expect it. These memories stop right in front of me, challenging me, they find me unarmed and without willpower to fight, because I no longer want to question, or explain, and not cling on toexcuses as a castaway.

A long time ago when I was a little girl I used to sell ice-cream in a market and I was totally invisible and outcast, rejected and abused. This marked my life in a negative way and I remained on the defensive all the time and everywhere. I didn´t even realise it, until the blog started growing and the number of readers extended to different countries, I felt uncomfortable being in the spotlight and receiving congratulatory comments about my writings. I do not enjoy it and rejecting recognition is something I usually do, something few people understand, maybe only those who when I was selling ice-cream, called me by my name and not just “ice-cream girl” as most of them did. I hide from applause and I do not put myself on display to be photographed toasting to the health of the privileged– and the opportunists-, I run from celebrities, famous people and when a meeting is unavoidable I make an effort to make sure the contact is in an unseen place because I do not want people to accuse me of wanting to ride their fame. It´s not because I care about what they will say about me, all my life, I never cared what people say about me. But rather, it´s something I cannot avoid, something clearly marked in my way of being and my way of thinking, which indisputably has something to do with my invisibility as a street-vendor.

The market and my ice-cream cooler was my school.They are my north and my south, they taught me to deal with the exclusion and they showed me that the path of impossibilities is always uphill and that to the deluded of the gutters, the fantasies will be a forever rejection.

I strive not to do anything to dishonour the ice-cream girl, I don´t give a damn about disappointing the world but failing the ice-cream girl is a question of life and death.

So, when I received messages from readers of my blog or my writings in independent media, my mood soured, I did not know how to live in the limelight and it has been very difficult for me to understand that there is a part of me that is visible, and that is my words. They are the purest part of me, the most loyal, they are only thing that undresses me and puts me in front of the mirror to facemyself: human, scarred, impure, transparent, and imperfect. Maybe, because of this, I feel uncomfortable because the letters expose me in front of others, without mercy of my modesty and without a mask that is forgiving of my defects and fears.

I have been able to overcome it little by little, writing is an exercise that helps me a lot, my therapy. I have been able to understand that with the light the responsibility increases and the armour strengthen, because even though I write in a corner of my room where I chose to put my desk and I prepared a nest where to rest my wings, when my letters seek a place in my journal they are exposed to the world and I have no control of them, because they are my wings flying across the horizon and I let them be and I admire them free.

Getting to this moment of holding the book in my hands has been an arduous journey of ten years during which I went through a deep depression to reach tranquillity, from the storm to the calmness, this book arrived at the time it had to, not at a time I needed it to, in its own time, it wrote itself, I did not have to think about it, I did not plan it, it spurted as burst veins during long lethargic winters of confinement that made me feel withdrawn, absorbed, weak, and failed.

Curing the wounds of the soul seemed like an impossible task, a prolonged struggle because it is not comfortable and needs a lot of courage and letting go of embarrassment in order to see your own skin seeping and in rags jump back. Raising from the gutter and muster strength to face the demons inherent of an undocumented crossing.

It is more comfortable and easy to get excited bystimulating the erogenous zones until reaching pleasure alone in front of a mirror, without any type of modesty of seeing the body in flames, or getting undressed in front of someone else and together reaching prohibited orgasm, than alone facing total dispossession of prejudice, labels and complex wounds of the soul that are able to keep afloat our greatest fears that become ice-bergs and keep us in the cold of solitary confinement.

The story of an undocumented journey in the Sonora- Arizona desert is the compilation of the 11 chapters that formed the series Journey in the Sonora- Arizona desert and which, surprisingly to me, were published in different countries across the globe. It was also translated to Portuguese, I never thought it would reach such heights of exposure and that it would allow me to touch the hearts, conscience, fears and experiences of the other people, like me, that are undocumented or people who have never left their country of origin and because of this series were able to know a little bit about what it is like to live the experience of an undocumented migration.

My story tells of crossing Mexican territory and the Sonora and Arizona deserts on the border of Mexico and the USA, a journey of thousands, bitterness that many try to forget, experiences that consume, crushes, silence, and ruins you. In this book I speak of the hell of fleeing the Border Patrol and the three days of crossing the desert.

I could not have told it before, these ten years slowly healed my wounds, and when I sat down to write, it was because my soul was in complete peace. I had overcome and I was able to tell the story in an objective way, you can never forget what you have lived, more so the traumatic parts, I have never, even for a minute forgotten that experience however it no longer consumes me. At that moment the words would emerge without confusing emotion in-between, without anxiety, without fear, without disturbances, and they wrote themselves, freely and consequently. Inevitably I’m the main character of this experience however I’m not travelling alone, other people accompanied me, other thousands of human beings who, like me, are being confronted of the disgrace of the border.

I wrote from my heart what most people see portrayed on television, in a biased report in the newspaper or from an essay that was comfortably written by someone with a university degree or in a thesis as part of paid field work. My version is the people´s version, without immunity, my version is the blood version, fear, sweat, nightmares. My version is the raw stare of a reality reflected in my expression, in my grey hairs, in all the years I stammered because it was impossible to express myself because of my levels of anxiety. My version is the many years of sleepless nights due to nightmares. My version is hating myself, undermining myself, feeling worthless after the border. But here I am with my head held high and my scars exposed, with my own voice, the voice of my demons and my emotional achievements.

I don´t think it´s necessary to explain that it was not published by any famous editorial because I am undocumented, that even though I knocked doors in my own country and in the USA, not even one door opened, not in my own country, probably because of having emigrated, one of those who leaves and are only interested in the financial support. What could possibly a migrant of all trades offer to literature? What could an editorial possibly win by publishing something by a house cleaner, without important contacts supporting her? I firmly refuse to enter the game of contacts and favours, my way is to knock doors with my own fist, andwell, if they open, great, if not, I continue, I have enough experience of this type of exercise, I have never forgotten that I am an invisible person and all it has taken me due to my weaker condition, pride of which, I hold my head high.

In the USA I also knocked countless doors of editorials and the answer was always the same, being undocumented means I don´t exist. I don´t exist in my own country for having emigrated and I don´t exist in the country where I reside for being undocumented. If I think back, I have never really existed, and if I start counting one by one all the times I have been discriminated in my life just like millions like me around the world, and maybe this is what have called attention to my words in other countries, because outside of my confinement there are millions more being discriminated and facing their own demons and those that have been set upon them. And it is not making myself a victim, this exposure is real and we see it all around and it hasn´t just happened to me and I´m not pretending to make it mine, I´m just telling the story out of my own point of view.

The book was published in an electronic version in Greece, a country I will probably never see, in that part of the world people are probably learning about what happens on the border between Mexico and the USA thanks to my testimony. I have not earned one penny from this publication because the editor offers reading for free online, it does that in order to question the reader if having a free version they would bother paying for the text. I am not going to give it much importance, it is human nature that we want to read something for free and use the money we would have spent to buy an ice-cream to eat in the park or buy two beers, there is a higher level of conscience in those who have the two options and decide to support the author economically in order to continue being motivated by writing. I a human and I would love to receive economic motivation for my writing, who wouldn´t? However my blog is for free, I do not restrict the access to anybody, anyone who would like to can copy my texts, I only ask that they keep in mind the source of information and the name of the author. I live of my job of a thousand trades. If over there they are reading for free and decide not to support economically is less important, the important thing is that they are learning of what is happening on the border, this was my main objective, of reporting.

It was amazing to see my book published on another continent and in a country so far away, in an electronic version. What would it be like to hold it in my hand in a printed version? Again my fleeting cloud pokes me when I least expect it, it questions me why they did not publish on printed paper. I thought about it for a few days and then decided not to give up and I learnt without contempt that for being invisible and for preferring the effects of the contacts it was normal that my words were not considered for an editorial publication. Just as easy as it would be to make a phone call or to write an email asking more than one person that they would speak of me, that convenience of not doing things for oneself, however I was not able to, ever.

I learnt that my thing has always been and will always be invisibility, that´s my trench, so I did the publication as an author and went through Amazon.

Amazon offers the tool of publishing electronically and on paper, I opted for the paper option because the electronic version, which is the most popular in the USA, is quite difficult, many requisites that as undocumented I cannot complete, but also because I am more interested in the printed version. That was how I decided to publish on Amazon, which prints the amount of copies that the client buys. It is a rustic version of a book in comparison with the elegance of an editorial that exclusively dedicates themselves to this, however I do not dismiss the quality and more importantly still, the content It cannot call attention on a first glance, however the essence is in the blood, the suffering, the love of life and the huge achievement of emotional gain in spite of everything.

It is no secret that my life has been an uphill journey and that I have fallen on countless times and on many of those brought down and ready to give up, I never imagined that the letters would be my most loyal expression and with which I would manage to be, to have my first book in my hands is a feeling that I cannot express not with my voice nor with my words. There are moments when only tears can suit the happiness and the sadness of the heart. I cried a lot when I held the first copy in my hands and at that moment I looked back on the long and tiring journey I travelled, I don´t regret anything, I lived what I had to live in order to be me.

I am not going to tell you to buy the book, I am not going to pursue you as the days when I sold ice-creams, following the people in the market, which in the end made my voice hoarse after many years of shouting down the aisles, at the bus station, in the village, with my cooler on my shoulder on my waist. What do you want? What are you going to get? Ice-creams! Ice-creams! Ice-creams! I have peanut flavor, pineapple, nance, creamy milk flavor, blackberry, zapote. What do you want? What are you going to get?

No, I have not written this to ask you to buy my book. I have written it because it could be only my personal experience but it is also that of millions and it is my obligation and responsibility to thank the light that the letters have given me and take advantage of this moment of being able to report, because this book is a social report that no all will understand and that many will not want to know of, however it was, it is and it will be because the undocumented migration is something of every minute, of every twenty four hours of the day and of every single day of the year.

I write because it reaffirms that I am on top of the struggle and that I keep resisting and that I believe in a better world.

I do not write this in order to receive congratulatory message because of my book, for this great achievement, because I dared and it was time to write a book. The congratulations are sweet and they make you feel good, of course they are appreciated.

The text is here so that whoever would like to have it knows that it is a social report that is written with my blood and every pore of my undocumented being, and it doesn´t talk about pretty butterflies nor the petals of the daises.

With this text I have overcome a frustration I did not existed and I have learnt why I was refusing myself to write about my book, I was afraid of returning to my young years and that instead of holding a cooler in my hands, I would have been holding a book that I was offering to the people in the aisles of the market. This blog today show how I thought of writing my book, that it was like offering bread just out of the oven, like the fruit of a street vendor, like receiving the worthless glares of those years long ago that so many people gave me seeing an insignificant girl selling ice-creams.

I felt sudden embarrassment because I did not want to see myself needed again, with hunger, with worries of adults overshadowing my young life. This book of 100 pages has removed the mask of an internal chaos so deep I did not even know it existed.

I have never felt embarrassed about selling ice-cream in the market and of nothing that I am, however my childhood and adolescence were filled of frustration of indifference of others and of having to be obliged to always shout and pretend to be happy- as a clown- in order to offer my ice-creams, even though on the inside I was dying, necessity is a hard life they say and I know it. Shouting and pretending to be happy helped me survive those years when instead of selling ice-creams I needed hugs and guidance. My smile that attracts people because they say I´m a person of light, for me means resistance, my own invincible persistence because even in the toughest moments of my life I dared to smile, even though I was hungry, cold, with my head bowed and ignored, I have kept believing that this world ca change and that I can contribute something for that to happen.

This book is the same as my ice-cream cooler, I will not offer it, I will not pursue people to buy it, I will not ask people to do me a favor, that the support the author and neither will I describe it as the best text they can find.

It is just there and if you would like to buy it, do it, not for me but fort hos millions of invisible people who I´m giving a voice through my report. If you do not wish to have it, don´t get it, no one is forcing you, manipulating you or asking you to spend money on this text.

I have not made any public presentations because I am not willing to receive acknowledgement in exchange for my words- there are lots of invitations from otherworldly beings- and I will not allow that opportunist hang on to it, I have not done it and I´m the creator of it, I will not let others take advantage of it. And never ever, even if the opportunity comes to do it, it will only be because the time and place, in conscience and integrity has all come together. I will not let opportunist take advantage of the report of someone invisible in order to taint those millions who have yet not found their voice. I am sorry if I am being frank and direct but I just cannot behave any other way.

This book is available on all the different platforms of Amazon.com on all the continents where it can be found. It is also available on creatspace.com and onbarnesandnoble.com

I have my first book, I cannot stop sharing my happiness with you, I had to do it my way, wild and alternative. Actually, it happened in August, the month of torrential rain, the month of the jocote bud and the flowering of the chipilín in my hometown of Comapa. The time of the gladuolis flower in the village of my childhood, where my eyes were enthralled by the majestic mountains of a green bottle color. Time of mud on the streets where I walked for so many years with my ice-cream cooler in my beloved city of Peronia. Time of the sunflowers, the singing of the crickets and cicadas, the light of the fireflies in the country where I am today a tenant.

Posdata: I am just starting to present my second book Post Border. –It took flight-.


Translation from Spanish to English by: Emelie Viklund.

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