In this guest post, author Claudia Guadalupe Martínez reflects on the universal story of coming and going across a border while emphasizing the forgotten history of Mexican Repatriation. Still Dreaming / Seguimos soñando is available wherever books are sold.
I never learned about Mexican Repatriation in school, even though it’s U.S. history. When I stumbled on it on social media, I couldn’t get it out of my head and eventually started working on this book.
One of the things I decided right away was that the narrator of Still Dreaming / Seguimos soñando should never come right out and say this story was about “repatriation.” This is because I wanted the story to be something that could be happening at any moment in time. Likewise, I wanted the family’s destination to be ambiguous. Were they coming or leaving? For people like many in my own family, it’s never quite been one or the other. According to my Apá’s tía Pepa, my grandmother was part of a whole generation born on the US side who grew up in Mexico. The border has been fluid for the larger part of history.
During Mexican Repatriation, many families left the US in order to stay together. But despite the removal of 2 million people and the clear message that Mexicans weren’t welcomed, the Mexican American and Mexican population in the U.S. surged again. Some U.S.-born kids had refused to leave and stayed behind with relatives. About 500,000 Mexicans continued to enter the U.S. legally every year.
In 1965, the Hart-Celler Act set a limit on immigration from the American hemisphere for the first time in U.S. history. It resulted in half as many visas for the entire American hemisphere as there had been for Mexicans alone in the past. And still, people continue to come—not just from Mexico but everywhere in the world. It is estimated that by 2065 nearly 20 percent of the population will be foreign born.
As such, this really is a universal story that could be happening at any moment in time. With immigration ever changing, the looming fear of being separated from family continues to be a reality.
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Claudia Guadalupe Martínez grew up in El Paso, Texas. She learned that letters form words from reading the subtitles of old westerns for her father who always misplaced his glasses. At age six, she already knew she wanted to create stories. Her father encouraged her to dream big and write a book or two one day. Although he passed away when Claudia was eleven, her mother, family and many others continued to encourage her writing. She went on to receive a degree in literature from Claremont McKenna College on a full ride and later moved to Chicago to become one of the city’s youngest non-profit executives before turning her attention to the completion of her first book, The Smell of Old Lady Perfume.