Of the many roles I’ve played in life, the least expected one is that of immigrant. But that’s what I am now. Spoiler: Canada is not U.S.A North.
Similar but not the same is what living in Canada is like. Besides their use of the metric system, and European spelling of many words, there are so many things that are uniquely Canadian, that I feel like the other here. At this point, I still feel like more of a participant than a Canadian. This is all fine and dandy for the moment.
Immigration has multiple layers: geographic, cultural, economic, political. But I think the layer most people don’t think about is the human one.
Immigrants are people, each with a story and some sort of catalyst that provokes them to move. Some, like me, move by choice, not necessity. But that’s not the case for most. Canada it seems is the new land of opportunity, a place where the world comes to try for a better life. In fact, immigrants make up 21.5 percent of the Canadian population. Consequently, many parts of Canada are very multicultural, and tenacity is the commonality they share.
Living in Canada requires tenacity. We have long, cold winters with shorter days. The country’s longetude places the sun in a lower part of the sky. It’s easy to become depressed here in the winter. But people persist. They get up, shovel their walks, scrape down their cars and go to work.
Immigration I’ve learned, also takes a lot of bravery. For me not so much. I didn’t have to learn a new language or find a place to live. I came with a vehicle and didn’t have to negotiate public transportation. But for many others, it’s a whole palava. Going to a new place entirely to start over is a daring leap into the unknown. I look on in awe as my fellow immigrants learn this new way of life. It’s humbling.
Thinking about my own family history, it’s funny that I should be in this place. On my mother’s side, I’m second generation born outside of Mexico. But she grew up in the frontiera, the borderlands, so the distinction is geographic more than anything. My father was from San Antonio. His mother was born at the Alamo. My assumption is that that side of the family originated from the area. I always felt indigenous to the Americas. There is some European in my background in addition to African, Arab, Asian and Jew.
For me the worst part about immigration is the feeling of being unsettled, neither here nor there. Tis the unknown that is unnerving, and then what lies beyond that. COVID contributes to the angst. How does one plan when we don’t quite know what the future holds?
Maybe I’m being dramatic. We never really know what the future holds. Normally for me that’s part of the adventure. More recently though, it’s a source of anguish.