Translated by Cheyla Samuelson
It’s a grey morning in the Second Ward, the most traditional Mexican barrio in Houston, Texas. It is also an unnervingly quiet morning. The neighbor across the way, who usually comes out shirtless to hang out clothes, has broken his routine. The sounds of motors and footsteps are also missing. The radios, which usually invade the space with songs or interviews, have been silenced. The lonely streets, lined with motionless walnut trees, let pass unchecked the cold wind that announces the still subtle presence of winter. It is a war zone. It feels like a war zone after everything has been lost. It is the morning of November 9th, 2016, and against all expectations, Donald Trump has won the presidency of the United States.
How does it feel? It feels like shit.
There are questions, also silent, when faces start to appear on the sidewalks, at the bus stops, in the classrooms and the offices. The buried vulnerability of those who feel exposed. The gaze that can’t yet understand. My colleagues, my professors, my neighbors, the people that I pass in the street every morning or every afternoon, ¿Did they vote against me? The question could be innocent, if it weren’t terrifying. The white vote, by white men and women with and without education but ready to do anything to preserve their privilege answers yes, yes in fact, they voted against you. The vote of the white working class, which saw their jobs in heavy industry disappear owing to NAFTA and the swift effects of neoliberalism answers yes: I voted against you. What are we going to do when we see each other in supermarkets and banks, at family gatherings, at the entrance to school, at the gym? How can we look each other in the eye, knowing what we now know, what has become chillingly clear?
Because one thing is true: The ethic and racial diversity of the United States is irreversible. We are going to keep seeing each other and keep encountering each other in the same places where, until today, a certain civility has existed, sometimes a clumsy one, sometimes tentative and often conflicted, but always dynamic. The 14.99 million Latinos that, according to the census, live in California, and are the largest demographic there since June 1st, 2015, are not going to disappear. My son, who yesterday went out to vote for, among other things, the proposition that made legal the recreational use of marijuana, asks: Would it be better to leave? I don’t hesitate to tell him no. To tell him that we will stay here. To tell him that this has been our country for at least three generations. To tell him that our work gives us the right to have a life as happy and full as anyone else here. To tell him that we can’t think about fleeing, but rather about building. To tell him we have to protect our strongholds, and put ourselves in contact with our others in order to continue building vital and resilient communities.
And this is what we do at work, where we all arrive with eyes still full of fear from the nightmare, and the fear of the reality. It’s an emergency meeting to plan the strategies that we will have to put into action if we want our projects and our programs to continue receiving the resources that we have won, thanks to the fight of entire generations of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos and Chicanos who have made this university a Hispanic Serving Institution. The terror presses down on us, but what lifts our spirits is the speed with which ideas arise and the urgency with which each one of us goes immediately out to do their work, as if time was running out and we were risking our lives.
Time is running out and we are risking our lives.
Or maybe it’s the opposite, perhaps time is starting and we are taking life very seriously. I have had so little confidence in a democracy of the powerful for the powerful. And I am convinced that the devotion of neoliberalism to profit is more or less shared by all the parties in play. What we lose in this moment when the mask is removed is not democracy or equality, but rather the façade behind which we have been offered a bad deal as if it were a good one. When the enemy reveals its face in such an obvious manner, when things say their name with no shame and without the veil of good manners, it is the moment to show our true face as well. It is called living in resistance. It’s called searching among the debris of the morning after for our others in order to imagine the unimaginable: The world we wish to live in.
Hard times are coming for us, without a doubt. But also for them.
Cristina Rivera Garza is a Mexican author and professor best known for her fictional work, with various novels such as Nadie me verá llorar winning a number of Mexico’s highest literary awards as well as awards abroad. She is a regular contributor of Literal Magazine via her column Overcast. (Author´s image by Santiago Vaquera)