In a remote town in the Northwest of Guatemala, Nebaj, a point in the Ixil Triangle, I sat down an early morning to eat breakfast alone. I was served corn tortillas as is customary. I broke one in half and the steam filled me entirely. I was brought to tears by this experience and contemplated my reaction. This is from my journal:
Garcia-Marquez wrote that the sense of smell is most closely linked to our memories. What really is a memory anyway? How is it that some things are stored therein, and others are not? Beyond lived experience, how is it that we associate certain, seemingly unrelated things with our memories? It may seem odd that the smell of a tortilla can make a person cry. I hold that it is evidence of my own consciousness. When this unique smell of lime-stone and masa inundates me, I’m suddenly, simultaneously transfixed and moved from this most pleasant moment to memories of a land that is mine, which witnessed my birth and in essence IS me, the same land where my beloved departed uncle now rests his bones; where others also departed saw me grow up and poured their love upon me. The land that now holds the remains of those long departed, who fixed my lineage– our lineage to this land. This land that will eventually take everything with it, this same land of corn that feeds me and at the same time tears at my heart with its suffering and its pain.
The sensation I experience when I go home is often similar to the feeling I have experienced when I see my mother again after a lengthy separation (I am indeed very lucky to be close to my mother.) I have also described this sensation as the feeling one may have upon finally resting one’s head on a pillow after a long and arduous journey. It is above anything else grounding and supremely peaceful. I believe the peace comes from a resolution to that longing I mentioned. It is the only relief I know that exists to calm this low frequency hum of anxiety that is ever present.
I needed, for my own healing, to go visit my land again and to find myself again; to find the inspiration and the strength to keep working and sustain my soul and my spirit. An important objective of this trip was of course, to take my kids to their land as well, to allow them to feel the earth and grass between their toes, to bathe their skin in that beautiful sun, to have their lungs filled with the air that fills me so they may also feel complete and know peace like I know it to be. I wanted to share with my mother/land my excitement and bring them so she may see and kiss their faces and so I could say to her, “look at these angels, who are flowers from your land, can you see how happy I am? Do you see how much they love!!”
I believe the healing process for immigrants and refugees is a life-long endeavor. It is a process that never ends, that is not to say one cannot ever heal, it is simply part of our experience, and one we must embrace. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to go back to Guatemala so I may continue my own process. I know what it is like to long for that.
I have written these words in solidarity and for all our brothers and sisters who find themselves far away from their land and who long to one day find peace. My heart is with you all and may your journey grant you happiness like I continue to find.
By R. Bernal Cruz Munoz