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  • Estefania Mitre

How a Lana del Rey song manifested my future in the U.S.


Context is important here, up to the point I had my quinceañera I was oblivious I could move to the U.S. or become a citizen.


Picture this, in 2013, Tumblr is ruling in México, and all the girls want to be alternative, "única y especial," me included. I'm turning 15 and the stakes are high. Usually, girls are offered a big party with their friends, almost like a wedding but with no alcohol and no husband. Or a trip to any location. I chose a party.


My quinceañera, one of the biggest events in a woman's, according to my family's perspective, is just around the corner. Peaking in my face, my mom agrees with me that, under no circumstances I would dance to Tiempo de Vals by Chayanne.


"Sobre mi cadáver," was my response to anyone who asked if "Tiempo de Vals" was my Quinceañera waltz.


As any other girl of my age


glued to Tumblr, I was obsessed with Lana del Rey. I knew each of her songs and their meaning thanks to the kind people on Youtube who uploaded translations in Spanish to her songs.


One stood up, "Radio," also ironic as I work for a public RADIO company. The reason to chose it? The tempo, to my unofficial choreographer's mind the song sounded like floating in clouds.


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My mom and my uncles had been talking about my Quinceañera, or quinque as my friends from high school used to refer to it back then, from the moment I was born.


It was such a crucial point in my life, and it truly went beyond what I could have imagined.


My English was trash at 15 year s old. Now, as I consider myself fluent I revisited the lyrics fully understanding each word – hits different.


"American dreams came true somehow // I swore I'd chase until I was dead // I heard the streets were paved with gold // That's what my father said.


Those lyrics written by Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, would define a future that was awaiting me just a few years away.


I grew up in Ciudad Juárez, Méxio. Unaware of what Latina/o/x meant, and even ignorant that three years after my Quinceañera I would earn the title of being called an “immigrant,” or a "Latina." I was raised by my mom, and brother who’s thirteen years older than me. My mom’s family lives in Durango and Mexico City, we were the only ones living in Juarez. My mom moved to Juárez a year before I was born in 1997. She moved to Juárez under my dad’s promise that Juárez had better opportunities, due to the 90s explosion of the maquiladora industry – factories, than what she had built in Durango. They wanted to start a new family, a new life; my mom packed her essentials and took my brother with her on this “new adventure.”


While my mom was trying to understand the city’s complexities, my dad was balancing another life on the other side of the border. He was married and had another family in El Paso; they have been together for the last 40 years.


Both my mom and dad thought it would be a great idea to have one family in México and another one in the United States. And well, that itself could be a Netflix drama, the bottom line is that it didn’t work out, and my dad was never part of the picture. But to make amends, he, as a naturalized U.S. citizen could inherit his citizenship if I became a resident before turning 18 years old.


I made it, I crossed the border as U.S. resident two months before my 18th birthday. By law, if you are a minor and any of your parents are citizens, you become an American citizen once you step foot in U.S. territory. Nonetheless, almost nobody seems to understand that, not even the U.S. Department of State. Which, needless to say, was overwhelming for a teenager whose English comprehension didn't go beyond Lana del Rey's lyrics.


Since my parents never got married, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) required extra documentation to prove my father was my father. The process started when I was 16 years old and concluded four months after I turned 19.

It was a wild ride: from DNA tests to send a photo album of nearly 150 photos with English and Spanish captions and dates. That’s only a fragment of how complicated the U.S. immigration system is.


A year went by, and on December 25th, 2017, as my “Christmas gift,” I received my American passport that states I am a U.S. citizen born in a foreign country. During that time, I was newly living in El Paso. I got my first job in a fast-food restaurant and enrolled in the local community college. I was previously living for some time with my dad but decided to part ways for the sake of my mental health.


That was not the only change I experienced during that year, I went through an identity shift; I became a new, different person.


Personally, up to this point, the Latino/a/x identity is pretty confusing to me. Whenever I have to check a box on a form, I am confused about what box defines me the best. Do all of these identities intersect?


I am Mexican; that’s all I know. What does being Latina mean? A simple checkbox can’t define my experience, and my experience is different from other Latino experiences. I came to this country looking for a dream.


I don’t see myself as a Latina, Chicana, or Mexican. Each time I talk to my friends from Juarez, they call me “gringa,” or “malinchista“. When I talk to people from the States, it feels as though I should prove myself, or they look down on me and say, “Oh, yes, Montana, in case you didn’t know that’s a state.” For the record, before I started the residency process, my dad lied to me and made me study American politics, history, and geography; he said I needed to know the basics before becoming a citizen.


None of those “boxes” genuinely represent who I am.


Don't take it wrong, it doesn't mean celebrating the comunidades Latinx is not important, it's a moment to remind the pride of our countries of origin. It is just that thin line where several migrants like myself, whose memories are in one place and whose future is in another, make everything more complex.


I am not entirely sure if Lana del Rey is canceled, still canceled, or was never canceled in the first place. What I know is her lyrics did some brujería, that drove my motivation to the point I am here, today. Someone who is standing between many lines.


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