Motherhood During Migration

The image is a collage alluding to motherhood in the midst of migration. Illustration by Patricio Vera

Our meals, our prayers, our stories and memories, our celebrations (birthdays, independence parties, Christmas, Easter)… Everything revolves around our Salvadoran and Chilean identities.

By Perla Guatemala (The Clinic)

HAVANA TIMES – Since my children arrived, my life took on another meaning. Today Matías is 12 years old and Nicolas is 8, but I am sure that, if I would want to, I could remember even the smallest details of the first time I felt them in my arms. I also think that in those first moments I didn’t see the signs of the adventure I was about to live over the next four years. Because being a migrant mother in Chile has been a total adventure.

There are always internal struggles that must be fought and they would have worn me out if I hadn’t kept my eyes on my goal. My children today are on the way to recognizing themselves as Salvadoran- Chileans. And that is a constant effort at home. I believe that all learning begins at home: our meals, our prayers, our stories and memories, our celebrations (birthdays, independence parties, Christmas, Easter)… Everything revolves around our Salvadoran and Chilean identities.

Having dishes from both countries on the table and laughing at the different names. Raising both flags for independence (Chile and El Salvador both celebrate in September). Having a Salvadoran-style piñata with a Chilean-style table set for birthdays… These are small acts that generate impressions, comments and memories.

It has not been easy to realize that I must take on promoting our values ​​and making them stronger and bigger together with those of this beautiful country (Chile) that opened its doors and heart to us. Being a migrant mother in Chile has been a total adventure, and for the better. As a responsible adult, approximately 13 years ago, I knew that I had a high probability of living outside my tiny country of El Salvador – mi pulgarcito – with a Chilean husband, and that I would see my children grow up in a different place. And I liked that idea.

However, I never imagined that this adventure would take me down a very different path with some serious personal lessons. Four months after arriving in Chile I was diagnosed with breast cancer, with around an 80% probability that it had spread to my internal organs. I remember it so well: I saw myself with my oldest son by the hand as I held my baby close, crying and thinking about the future of that mother-son relationship, which was just beginning.

Now I understand that I channeled my migratory grief into all the pain, therapies, feelings of abandonment, needles, hospitalizations, fainting, nausea and more. It was in the middle of that path that, unconsciously, I decided to really hold to my cultural and family traditions. I clearly remember that I began to make sure that my children knew the national symbols of both El Salvador and Chile: songs, books, stories, and games. I made sure that birthdays were celebrated just as they would be if we were there: with the piñatas, decorations, food, even the number of guests, and there had to be a lot. So many celebrating life.

Chile is different from El Salvador. Chile is similar to El Salvador. That complicated tangle has me explaining to my children each day the riches and poverties of both countries. It has me thinking about giving them better explanations of their innocent and also thoughtful doubts about where they come from, and where they are going … 

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*Perla Guatemala (39) is a social communicator. Salvadoran, wife and mother of two Salvadoran-Chilean children

Read more from Chile here on Havana Times



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