Quest For Identity Essay Example
The Professor's name
Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a voice of people belonging to a generation of Mexican-Americans born and raised in the USA. He is the voice of people who are at a constant search of finding their identity and trying to discover their home. They are not Mexicans, they are born in America, but they are not Americans as well. The reason for this is because the American society sees them as Mexicans, as intruders. The essay, Exile, presents the impact that the politics of race has on the consciousness of Mexican-Americans and the never-ending confusion regarding their identity. In the same way, Benjamin Alire Sáenz testimonies about his childhood and his quest for identity and belonging in the presented video.
The essay, Exile. El Paso, Texas written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz presents a young student and a teaching assistant living on the border of Mexico and the USA. He is faced with constant raids of immigration police who chase and catch illegal Mexican immigrants. The fact that the main protagonist is born in the USA does not help him to be excluded from these raids. The color of his skin gives up his origin and for the USA authorities he is a potential immigrant. Every time the patrol car sees him, he is faced with the same questions, "Where are you from?, What do you do?" (Sáenz, p. 311). The physical border between Mexico and United States of America only aggravate the situation. On the one side, there are Mexicans who are poor, unemployed and do not choose ways to come to America and on the other, America stands as a representation of the land of equal opportunities for everyone, a place where dreams can come true. However, opportunities are not the same for anyone. Even though the race or the color of skin should not have a role in the USA, it turns out that it is of important significance, regardless of the place of birth. The main character in the essay is confused, bewildered, and angry with the practice of chasing, hunting everyone who resembles to illegal immigrant. Everywhere he looks, he sees green cars, waiting to ambush someone. The border also represents the divided sense of belonging. Where do I belong? Am I really an USA citizen? It seems that the price of being a USA citizen is high and forces the main character to search endlessly for this answer.
The video that presents the writer Benjamin Alire Sáenz has two parts. In the first part of the video, Sáenz presents a poem Arriving at the Heart of Tragedy from his book of poems, The Book of What Remains. In the poem, Sáenz reflects on things that once done cannot be undone. By using powerful figurative style, Sáenz writes about the consequence of human actions and words. In this way, a strong connection between past and future is established. Our future is defined by our past. In the second part of the video Sáenz talks about his childhood in New Mexico, USA. Here, Sáenz refers to his Mexican origin and his road to trying to discover his identity. Sáenz says that as a teenager he fought not to become American, a part of American society (2014, Sáenz). Sáenz says that he lived in a small world and that thanks to books that he read he managed to find his place in the big world (2014, Sáenz). His confusion arises from the clash of two different cultures, American and Mexican.
In both sources, Sáenz contemplates about his origin and his identity. For every individual, it is difficult to find a place in this world that would set ones soul at ease. One reason for this is the impact of the direct surrounding. By being exposed to prejudices and stereotypes regardless Mexicans, constant interrogations about the origin one gets confused. The politics of race is discriminatory for every individual. The essay Exile. El Paso, Texas contains autobiographical elements of Saenz’s life. With his story, he tries to illustrate the struggle of living on the border between two worlds, the worlds whose inhabitants change places frequently back and forth at long nights over the river and hidden places. As far he is concerned, he is a Mexican living in country that he does not like because he knew that he was "treated different, because I was born on a particular side of fenceand glued me to the country I did not love because it demanded of me something that I could not give" ((Sáenz, p. 315). The practice of chasing illegal immigrants frightened him. Sáenz sees police officers as his enemy, "He didn’t like me. I didn’t care. I liked that he hated me. It made it easier." (Sáenz p. 313). In his mind, the police represent America. The way in which the police officers treat immigrants is inhumane, and the writer compares it with "deer hunt" (Sáenz p. 312). He sees them as helpless animals trying to survive and find a better life. On the one side of the border they are conjoined with their origin, and on the other, they are cursed to be interrogated over and over again. Based on the presented video, Sáenz managed to overcome his living in "a small world" with books. Books offer our imagination a different perception of to the world that has no borders, a world in which a reader can enjoy regardless of his race. The writer states the books that helped him to overcome the pressure of a small word including Small Prince and Great Expectations.
Sáenz managed to evoke the life of Mexican-American and his struggle with identity in a comprehensive way. His search for identity cannot be only applied to Mexican-Americans, but to anyone who is different from the majority, anyone who lives near the border of two different cultures. The road is painful and difficult, but based on the example of Sáenz, it is possible to find a place in the word and embrace it.
Sáenz, Alire, Benjamin. Exile. El Paso, Texas
Sáenz, Alire, Benjamin. 16. April 2014. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91efA8I15G0