Undocumented and Awkward: Episode 11

The idea for this video came on the BART very late at night, on the way back to the East Bay from a night of debauchery and a gluttonous intake of tacos in the Mission district. Catherine (from ASPIRE) rode with Julio and me, and we chatted about painfully discomforted situations of our past. Catherine then showed us her foolproof techniques of leaving uncomfortable circumstances by introducing us, one by one, to the residents of her awkward zoo: the awkward snail, the awkward starfish, the awkward cow, etc.

Admittedly, though Julio and I tried to follow her direction, we couldn’t match the same effect as Catherine’s interpretation of each animal. Julio and I are awkward people. But we’re not cute-and-charming-awkward like Catherine. We thought that making a video with her as the central person communicating these strange gestures would make an interesting video.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it went down. Though we made plans to shoot the following day (we had an idea that we thought was hilarious, and we wanted to record it before the novelty of the idea wore off), Ms. Catherine called a few hours before our scheduled shoot and cancelled.

So there we were, Julio and me, inside of a small post office in Oakland, scrambling to adjust the idea so that we could still move forward with the filming. We couldn’t remember all of the signs that Catherine demonstrated for us, so we started making up our own: the awkward horse, the awkward escape, the awkward hide-and-seek. We weren’t sure, but we thought that we still had a shot at making it work. The possibility revamped our excitement, and before we knew it, we were laughing loudly in line.

Suddenly, an older Latina woman approached us and asked us if we spoke Spanish. We responded that we did.

“I need help. I’m a little confused. I’m trying to mail this envelope out to my brother, who’s currently in detention right now. He’s set to be deported sometime soon, and I just want to make sure that this gets to him before… you know… before they send him away. I need to know which form to fill out.” Her eyes were tired and sad, her face almost undaunted and strong.

Shit got too real too quickly.

Julio quietly asked the postmaster and interpreted the response to the woman. She thanked us and walked away.

It was a sobering reminder that, although making these videos is fun, the real reason we make them is because the reality behind our situation is just too heavy to process sometimes. It reminded us of the small amount of privilege us DREAMers have when lined up against other undocumented peoples.

But overall, it was a solid reminder for us to stay focused and remember those faceless deportees who are systematically shipped out of this country like commodities. Undocumented people seem to be this nation’s most profitable export.

We didn’t get that woman’s name, didn’t get any information about her brother and where he was being deported to, but… we made this video with them in mind.

It’s not that we wanted to forget what had transpired in that post office in that moment in time. We were just trying to numb the pain enough that we could swallow it and then create a moment of temporary relief for all of our viewers, hoping to inspire a smile or two.

In solidarity,

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