Where Do I Belong? Pondering About Borders and Belongings

Where do I belong?

I spent few days with my family in Brazil. My main desire was to visit my 93 year old Mainha. Every time I arrive in Brazil I have an immense feeling of groundedness. As soon as I leave the airplane and feel the air something potent comes over me that makes me say “Wow! This is where my soul came from! Here! This is the place where I was wonderfully and fearfully made. All of the materials of the stars in the universes found a way into this piece of land, this poor neighborhood and composed my body, heart and my Spirit breathed for the first time in this world. All of the particles of the stars got together with the flowing of the waters, the movement of the air, the sparks of fire and soil/humus that took eons to be compose and create the perfect climate that allowed me to come into this form of being.
When I arrived I joined billions of other living creatures, all alive, sentient beings, making this earth what it continue to become. Every night when I take Amora out for our last walk, I secretly bow (fearing my neighbors will think I am even stranger than I already am) to the four corners of the earth and to the moon thanking the Great Spirit for being alive. I start bowing to the South where my soul found its birth, where my body became time and place and the Spirit of life breathed on me. Since then, coming to Brazil and touching the ground of this land provokes in me a deep sense of belonging, a feel of awe that overwhelms me. It is as if I find my origin and from there I can experience the Milky-way! It is as if this territory gives me the largest possible measure of my own subjectivity! A full sense of self that can only be experienced if in relation.
When the airplane opens its doors, I am visited by my past generations, I am greeted by my ancestors, I am received by those who came before me. I am reminded by a song that says “I came from there, I came from there when I was very little… somebody told me to touch this ground very softly…” when I gain this awareness, every being around me gains an aura of wonder, the class differences tears me apart, the poor everywhere breaks my heart, the trees tell me they are still surviving, the birds tell me they can only survive in the polluted chaos of São Paulo by sheer stubbornness. The voices of the Tamanduatei river remain silent since it was murdered by the burocrats of the city who covered him with cement. The Pinheiros River can’t open its eye, and the few capibaras around him scream “help we are all dying,” but the sounds of cars mute their voices. Nobody notices. The traffic fills the air with poisonous smoke and skyrisers are everywhere. The city is growing up since there is no more space to spread horizontally. Houses give space to huge apt buildings and it is not difficult to see people suffering, becoming sick by the strangling of a capitalist system that is robing the most vibrant soul of this beautiful country. Even my soccer team is a royal disaster! But my family is here and they lift me up. They are the garden where my life sprang. My therapist is here too and to see her in person is a celebration. This time I didn’t run around much. I just couldn’t. A friend told me that giving space to myself to walk slowly ended up creating in me a spacious environment where I could move slower and more fully. And that changed everything…
Not long ago I realized that I have now lived more years in United States than in Brazil . That realization came with a deep sense of sadness, and entailed a mourning I had not expected. I didn’t want to feel that. It seems that mathematically, I am now less Brazilian, which does not coincide with the feeling of being more a US citizen. That calculation creates an unreconcilable unbalance within me. When you become an immigrant, you become a citizen of nowhere. I have two passports and not one real belonging. Both places remind me I don’t belong fully there. Hence, my deep sense of (lack of) belonging becomes, with time, more pronounced.
My therapist asked me: where do you go to have a sense of your own belonging? I said this without thinking much: in pieces taken away from me, in pieces added to me, in the loss of my own territory, in the returning to my territory, in the gaining of a new territory in a new land, in the gathering of my family in Brazil and in the shelter of my family in US, in Wajcha my clown, in Formaggio my rat, in the hearts of my closest friends, in the body of my wife, in the closeness of my kids and in the tail wagging of my dog, in the always welcoming heart of my in-laws, in every arrival in Brazil, in the shadow of Wonder, my shelter tree who lives right at the Conodoguinet Creek who offers me a belonging I never thought I would find, in the nearness of this potent ancestor: Susquehanna river, the oldest river on earth, in the little ecosystem behind my house with the many birds that come every day to eat and to sing, in the visits of squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits who always come even amidst of Amora’s furious complaints, in the young trees I planted and continue to grow in spite of my improper way of caring for them, in the songs I listen, in the sunflowers that keep coming back every summer no matter how the world is going, in the mercy and forgiveness I keep receiving, in the force and presence of my students, in the few people who still fight for justice for the least even in spite of clear losses. In sum, belonging is a space/time moving event and not a fixed structure.
I could go on but I have to catch my flight. On the way here I was reminded of the beginning of the same song I mentioned above that comes as a response to my sadness of living longer elsewhere than here in São Paulo. When I arrive in United States very soon I will be happy for living there. And if people
Come calling me I will say:
I am here, what is the problem?
I am here.
I’ve always been obedient
But I couldn’t resist
It was in a samba circle
That I joined the bambas
To distract me
When I get back to Bahia (Sao Paulo)
I’ll have a lot to tell
O godfather, don’t get angry
That I was born in the samba circles
And I just can’t stop… (dancing, singing)
I live in the borderland which Gloria Anzaldúa said it is an open wound. But the wound is also my medicine. Thus, filled with the samba that shaped my body and soul and that still makes me dance, therefore defining my thinking, my feeling, my being in the world, I can’t wait to drench myself in my deepest sense of home: Katie, Libby, Cici, Ike and Amora. Wajcha and Formaggio.