A Letter to Jeanine Cummins | Una Carta a Jeanine Cummins

Dear Jeanine Cummins,

We hear occasional sarcastic comments about “the drug lords in Mexico,” or “all of the murders” in Colombia, and at first they were just that–sarcastic and insensitive comments.  I was vaguely aware of the violence and terror rampant throughout Mexico and Central America, but blind to the reality of the migrants’ world–watching one’s companion get knocked off La Bestia and sucked under the rails, being practically owned by a gang member and known as nothing but a sexual outlet in order to keep one’s sister safe from danger, watching one’s entire family get gunned down at a birthday party because the leader of the local cartel was in a bad mood.  I was completely unaware of this world until I read American Dirt

 American Dirt has helped me to nearly experience the hardships migrants face when they decide to flee to the United States.  Before I started reading American Dirt, my knowledge of migrants was limited to occasional news articles or clips and a persuasive essay assignment I had in middle school.  Now having read your book, I feel as if my entire awareness on the subject of immigration has shifted dramatically.  I quickly experienced through your writing that there is so much more we choose not to see–the many individuals and the magnitude of their stories.  Your writing is extraordinarily engaging and authentic, and because of this, I began to care about Lydia and Luca as if they were close to me, I began to feel overcome with gratitude every time a special individual would show them kindness, I felt extremely disgusted by the atrocities they faced and the horrible people they encountered, but most of all, I began to desperately believe in the “American Dream” right along with them.

Before I started reading the book, I’ll admit, I was quite unaware of the real reasons migrants want to live in the United States.  Now, I’ve learned about how hard it is for migrants to make a life in this country that tries so hard to keep them out, but all I figured is that it just must have been really bad where they come from.  Before I read your book, the ideas at large I had were that migrants just needed money to send to their family, or in general wanted to leave poverty and violence.  But now I can see how generalizing these statements are.  Now I can feel that getting to el norte is the only means of survival for many and that the tough working conditions and legal obstacles they will suffer are still more desirable than enduring the horrible situations from which so many flee.  For example, Soledad explained how if they could just get to America and get a job, they could save enough money to bring their Papa home and out of reach of the gang without putting Rebecca at risk of violence and sexual harassment.  Through the tragic stories and determined mettles of Lydia, Luca, Rebecca, and Soledad, I began to feel the desperation to reach el norte, and to feel the faith of the dream.

Upon such realizations, I realized that if I am learning everything I am only by reading this book now, many other people in our society are just as unaware.  Many people talk about undocumented immigrants and make claims as if they are experts in the field, and while I respect the fact people are entitled to their opinions, I do not believe that every single one of those people know everything about the subject.  For example, I never knew the extent of the power drug cartels had over regions and how much their occupence and intel affected the lives of the residents, or that riding on the roof of La Bestia and risking rape, kidnapping, and facing la migra would be the best possible way forward.  I think it would be wonderful if more of our society read American Dirt and took the time to educate themselves about everything before making generalizing, judgemental claims and teaching the subject to others.  Only then, would society as a whole be able to make quantifiable progress.

Thank you for writing such a beautiful, poignant, eye-opening novel that helped me to become more aware of the terrors Mexican and Central American migrants face and their reasons for coming to the United States.  Maybe one day, these migrants can look forward to a new reality–one where their lives don’t have to depend on the vicious cycle of undocumented immigration into the U.S.  American Dirt has made a huge impact on me, and I hope that soon, many other people will say the same thing.

Sincerely,

Lindsay Haukom

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Estimada Jeanine Cummins,

American Dirt me ha ayudado a casi experimentar las dificultades a las que se enfrentan los migrantes cuando deciden correr a los Estados Unidos.  Antes de empezar a leer American Dirt, mi conocimiento de estos migrantes se limitaba a artículos de noticias ocasionales y a un ensayo persuasivo que tenía que escribir en la escuela media.  En sólo 400 páginas, siento que toda mi conciencia ha cambiado drásticamente.  En lugar de sólo las estadísticas y el razonamiento de “querer una vida mejor” que aprendí desde una distancia cómoda dentro de los muros de nuestra sociedad, rápidamente experimenté a través de su escritura que hay mucho más que elegimos no ver: los muchos individuos y la magnitud de sus historias.  Su escritura es extraordinariamente viva y auténtica.  Empecé a preocuparme por Lydia y Luca.  Empecé a estar agradecida cada vez que un individuo especial les mostraría amabilidad.  Me disgustaron las atrocidades que tenían que enfrentar y la horrible gente que encontraron, juntó a ellos empecé a creer desesperadamente en el “Sueño Americano.”

Antes de empezar a leer el libro, admito que no era consciente de las verdaderas razones por las que los migrantes quieren vivir en los Estados Unidos.  He aprendido lo difícil que es para los migrantes hacer una vida en este país que se esfuerza tanto por mantenerlos fuera, pero todo lo que pensé es que debe haber sido realmente malo de dónde vienen.  Necesitan dinero para enviar a su familia, o quieren dejar la pobreza y la violencia.  Pero ahora, puedo ver cómo se generan estas declaraciones.  Ahora puedo sentir que llegar al norte es la única clave para la supervivencia para muchos, que las duras condiciones de trabajo y los obstáculos de legalidad son increíblemente más deseables que las horribles situaciones de las que huyen.  A través de los cuentos trágicos y los personajes decididos de Lydia, Luca, Rebecca y Soledad, comencé a sentir la desesperación de llegar al norte, y a sentir la fé del sueño.

Sobre tales realizaciones, me di cuenta de que si estoy aprendiendo todo lo que soy sólo leyendo este libro ahora, muchas otras personas en nuestra sociedad son igual de inconscientes.  Muchas personas hablan de los inmigrantes ilegales y hacen afirmaciones como si fueran expertos en el tema, y aunque respeto el hecho de que tienen derecho a sus opiniones, no creo que cada una de esas personas sepan todo sobre el tema.  Creo que sería maravilloso que más de nuestra sociedad leyera American Dirt y se tomaría el tiempo para educarse sobre todo antes de hacer afirmaciones generalizadoras y juiciosas y enseñar el tema a los demás.  Sólo entonces, la sociedad en su conjunto sería capaz de hacer progresos cuantificables.

Gracias por escribir una novela tan hermosa, conmovedora y reveladora que me ayudó a ser más consciente de los terrores que enfrentan los migrantes mexicanos y centroamericanos y sus razonamientos para venir a los Estados Unidos.  American Dirt ha hecho un gran impacto en mí, y espero que pronto, muchas otras personas digan lo mismo.

Atentamente,

Lindsay Haukom

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