You know those welcome signs that they post over freeways when you drive across state lines? Like, “Welcome to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia!” (Okay, so that’s not the WV state slogan anymore because it was derogatory, but you get what I’m talking about.) I had a friend in college who used to take pictures of all of those. So whenever we drove to the conferences of the East Coast Chicana/o Student Forum, he’d bust out his camara and snap as our car sped under the sign. I never did that, but there are many moments when state-border-crossing was quite memorable.
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Last August, as mi manito and I drove along I-40 from Burque to Los Angeles, we passed a sign indicating that we’d have to stop at a check point in about 5 miles at the California border. We, of course, thought it was a border patrol check point. Even though I was born in the states, the border patrol just freaks me out. As papá used to say when I was a kid, “They can deport you just for the color of your skin, or your last name.” Well if that’s not enough to strike fear in a child’s heart, I don’t know what is. So we turned down the music, stopped singing along with the playlist at the top of our lungs, and mentally prepared for the stop, both of us more serious than before. In the passenger seat, I put on my chanclas, which I had taken off over the course of the drive. We pulled up to the stop and this blonde white lady came to our window and cheerfully said with a slight twang, “Hi there! Are you traveling with any animals or plants, fruits or vegetables?” Say what? Manito was stunned. “No,” we said solemnly.
Manito said it took him a moment to realize she was speaking in English because all the other times he’s been stopped, the border patrol dude (and it had always been a dude, not a chick) was Mexican and only spoke to him in Spanish in order to get him (my brother) to respond only in Spanish. Well that’s just a dirty rotten trick, I tell you! But I digress… After driving on for about a mile, we both burst into uncontrollable laughter, manito poking fun of me about putting on my chanclas. (Actually, manito says “champlas” instead of “chanclas,” but I have no idea where the heck he got that from.) “What were you going to do if it HAD been the border patrol? Run away in your champlas?” he teased. Pues, of course! My first instinct is to run, and running in chanclas through the desert seemed better than running barefoot. (And hopefully they wouldn’t shoot me down with their guns.) Just another day in the militarized borderlandias…except this was just the California-Arizona border, not the U.S.-Mexico border.
Anyway, that was a really long way of saying that I got this map thing from Kisha, and I think it’s kinda fun!
It reminds me of those silly get-to-know-each-other games I make my students play at the start of the new semester. They’re annoying, but if they’re done right, they can be really useful introductions to the course. I always begin with the game, “2 truths and a lie,” which I make into an exercise about the interpretation of primary documents and so-called “objectivity.” I always go last and list the same 3 points. One of my “truths” is always that I’ve lived in 6 states and it’s the one that my students always think is my “lie.” (Truth be told, I never give a “lie.” If I ever teach enough in the same school, they might figure it out. But the mechanics of the exercise and its pedagogical uses is an entirely different post all together.)
Now that I moved to El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, I’ve lived in 7 states! So with all that moving around, I’ve visited a lot of places in the U.S. And no, I did not count the states that I only drove through–just the ones I actually visited.