Finding A Way Back
The term immigrant is defined as “a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence” (“Immigrant”). In her autobiography, Barefoot Heart, Elva Trevino Hart speaks of her immigrant ways and how she fought to become the Mexican-American writer she is today. She speaks about the working of land, the migrant camps, plus the existence she had to deal with in both the Mexican and American worlds. Hart tells the story of her family and the trials they went through along with her physical detachment and sense of alienation at home and in the American (Anglo) society. The loneliness and deprivation was the desire that drove Hart to defy the odds and acquire the unattainable sense of belonging into American society.
Hart draws a childhood picture of endurance, inconsistency, and wants on many levels as well as the struggle to escape and the compulsion to remain in her migrant society. Elva had to struggle with living in the different societies as her family travelled each year to Minnesota from Texas so the adults and older children could work in the beet fields as manual laborers. Elva also didn’t have the sense of belonging or the security of her siblings of belonging to that community of the other families working together in the fields. Her father (Apa) did require that his family return early each year to Pearsall, Texas so his children could receive a proper education. He was very adamant about all of his kids graduating from school. In her own family, she had a sense of isolation since she was the youngest child and was unable to work the fields; she could only stay on the sidelines and watch. The first summer, Elva and her sister were separated from their family and had to live in a place supervised by nuns. The following summers while on the side of the fields watching for Apa’s signal to bring them water, she passed most of her time in virtual solitude. Elva remembers her birthday being celebrated only once during her childhood (Trevino Hart 58). She had a close community and family but she was “stamped with aloneness” (41).
Through this autobiography, Hart mentions the feelings of not belonging completely and questioning her existence: It seemed I had been singled out for my aloneness my whole life. In the womb was the first time I was unwanted, not part of the family. […] Then I was separated by age. […] I was like an only child, separated by seven years. I spend much time feeling that I bothered everyone; the only time I was all right was when I was alone. And now it looked as though there was more alones in my future. (205) Elva’s feelings of being unwanted in the womb is what made her have the need to write about her life and find her sense of belonging with her family and community in her adult life. Her sense of feeling all right when she is alone and spends a lot of her time reading, she is still aware of her status of “a Mexican migrant child with dirty, bare feet playing at the edge of the field” (206). This implied that she didn’t completely belong to her family, community, or Anglo world.
Every day Elva fought with the awareness that she was an unwanted pregnancy and throughout the book it tells the feelings that Apa and Ama couldn’t show love or affection to their children. This led to Elva’s feelings that she would never fit in and she would always be searching for her sense of belonging in family, community or both: I grew up with a vague feeling of being unwanted and wondering if anyone could love a child like me. I spent much time feeling as though I bothered everyone; the only time I was all right was when I was alone. And I was alone a lot. (73) Elva realizes that she can not contribute to her family such as working in the fields as her brothers and sisters and at home she is starved for attention and will anticipates a moment to curl up on her mother’s lap or have her mother search for lice on her scalp to receive a little intimacy with...
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