Rerooting and Replanting
In the book that prompted my decolonization journey, Ada María Isasi-Díaz writes,
“As a foreigner in an alien land, I have not inherited a garden from my mother but rather a bunch of cuttings. Beautiful but rootless flowering plants—that is my inheritance. Rooting and replanting them requires extra work on the part of the gardener; it requires much believing in myself to make my life flourish…” Mujerista Theology, pg. 14
Her imagery in that first chapter drew me in hard, because it is so devastatingly true.
As children and grandchildren of immigrants, we often feel that way—beautiful but rootless. Como dice mi gente: ni de aquí, ni de allá. It’s a difficult place to be. We often find ourselves grasping at history, traditions, culture, anything to help us develop a sense of belonging. I grasped at language, intentionally strengthening my mother tongue in an attempt to feel less lost. My Spanish helped me communicate more effectively with my parents during my teen years, a much too tumultuous time for me. My Spanish holds the words I love dearly, like incertidumbre and desahogar and coño and joder. My Spanish taught me the lyrics to the salsa I danced to while meeting my husband for the first time. My Spanish helped me pray with women trapped in sex-trafficking and for their liberation. My Spanish made me a safe place for the newly-immigrated students in my classroom. Yet, more than anything, my Spanish continually recovers what I know I am always in danger of losing in white dominant culture.
When I think about why I am raising my son bilingually, it is this. It is for the moments when he feels rootless and unsettled. I pray that he would find a home in his Spanish, that it would be for him a reminder of his belonging. I don’t know what his journey will look like. The only thing that I do know is that I am laying the groundwork now. I am showing him the value of learning his mother tongue, how this too is a part of who he is.
I frequently think about Ada María Isasi-Díaz’s quote (because good books stay with you) and how it rings true in parenting. In raising my son bilingually, that is exactly what I hope to do—reroot, replant, and tend my ancestors’ garden. This will lead to his flourishing: the connection to a people that came before him, his people. We carry them with us in our hearts, in all we do, in our Spanish por siempre.