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What comes to mind when you think of Latino immigrant minors coming to this country to live and join their parents already here?  Some people may experience conflictive feelings, when they think of one more immigrant person coming from a poor country to try and find a better life for themselves, especially at a time of financial instability in the USA and for that matter, in the world.

Or else, perhaps you come as a reader already familiar with the struggles that create this worldwide phenomenon of immigration: masses of people leaving their own land to find a place where they feel life would be better or safer.

The idea of this blog is not to counter argue any predicaments about undocumented or documented immigrants.  Much has been written about that in editorials and position papers, if you want to find out more about the many antecedents and consequences of their presence. What this blog intends to do is to invite you, particularly, if you work in close proximity to this youth and their parents, to enter into their lives, just for a little while, and experience their world and see what many of them going through in the road to adapting to the new culture and their new life as a family.

Moreover, a lot has been written and studied about the difficult process of acculturation or, adaptation to a new culture for any person who is a newcomer. There is even an old term for it: culture shock. However, there are still somehow, some people that tend to think that the beauty of being in this country of very attractive places, buildings, comforts, wonderful stores and abundance, is rewarding enough to make people easily forget any other place.   They then remember images of people kneeling and kissing the soil when they arrive to this country, after horrible experiences of persecution and suffering; people feeling perhaps the wonder of the happiness of finally being in a safe place.  So, those observers, sometimes are surprised to hear that pretty soon many of the new arriving persons, young or old, may go down a road of profound sadness, homesickness and a sense of loss and grieving very much like the mourning suffered by the loss of a loved one, when death or other circumstances take him/her away.  The word “homesick” is a wonderfully descriptive word much like the beautiful word “saudade” that the Portuguese speaking Brazilians use so well to describe the nostalgia for a place or someone gone.

In the summer of 2007, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I saw this wonderful exhibit of a visiting cartoonist coming from the beautiful Eastern European city of Bucharest. His name is Dan Perjovschi.   His cartoons depicted many of his impressions of life in the USA. One captured my heart.  It was called “Immigration”.  When I showed this cartoon to non-immigrants, most did not understand it.  However, when I showed it to an immigrant adolescent, he or she got it right away.  Let me try it on you, here it is:

Cartoon immigration

Projects 85, Dan Perjovschi, May 2-August 27, 2007 MOMA. The Donald B. and Catherine C. Main atrium, second floor

What the kids in my high-school would say when I showed them the cartoon was that the man was broken after immigrating.  After crossing the border, it was like his self was no longer whole.  And we would talk about all the ways that he was broken:  he had lost his home, friends, familiar foods; his familiar language around him, the sounds, the smells, the colors and all the particular things that gave him his identity.  Things like the feeling that he was from that town, that family, that school and everybody around him knew what he was referring to and could understand what all of that meant when he told them.  Each one of those losses hurt and made his sense of self fragmented and confused.  He no longer felt whole and secure in his identity. The young people to whom I showed the cartoon could really relate to that image and “get it”.  And they then experienced the sadness again, right then and there and felt the homesickness that is such a familiar feeling for most of them, with just a few exceptions.  The only good thing was that because we were together, all of us immigrants in that room, we could at least not feel alone with it and we all understood what it felt like.

Unfortunately, this was not their only loss.  Because these kids in this room I am remembering at this moment were all from a recently reunited family, where the parents and the newcomer children had been separated for many years…