I rode a bus into the state of California; I did so laying down at my mother’s feet. We had crossed the border during the night; the large wheels of the bus against pavement sang me a song. The dips and bumps of the road crackled and popped like an old vinyl recording that already held the feeling of nostalgia for our old life. It was a broken down rest stop just outside of Los Angeles that welcomed us into the United States.
One warm sunlight morning in July, I watched my mother stumble over the jagged and precarious peaks of the English words “Two donut, one coffee”; her Mexican accent still fresh and punctuated, barely audible over some country song. It was among the rows of chips and beef jerky that I knew we had finally made it to El Norte—Mexico’s north, America’s West.
I am one of many to give up everything I knew to make this journey. Whether you arrive from the east, the south, or the north, there is something about the notion and promise of the west that still pulls at our humanity. To me, the American West is movement, it’s work, it’s opportunity and freedom, it’s a migration path, it’s a gateway for those who come from Mexico and beyond. The west holds the waves of these migratory generations, each shaping the landscape, molding it with their hands, filling the air with the sonorous sound of their languages and their homesick hearts. The land clothes itself with the changing seasons of crops, sunlight and water turning into produce, product into profit, and paychecks into a temporary wealth in the far away homelands of those who harvest the bounty.
I am also a product of that migration. After many years of calling the West home, I have become a hybrid of Mexican tradition and American progress. I am living the future promised by my parents who labored in a land that held no respect for them.
I am a hopeful confusion of languages, cultures, and loyalties. I want to hear the voices of dishwashers, construction workers, maids, cooks, crop-pickers, mothers, fathers, and children telling their stories. I want their words to become a part of the physical vocabulary of dance, to speak of their presence here and to give dimension to the debate over borders and immigration reform. I want dance to give a human perspective to this issue that is now very much a part of how we see the West, the New West.