“Don’t Pass Me The Phone” (The Diasporic Dilemma)
In an interview with César Vega Magallón, Oscar Díaz, a Salvadorian artist talked about their art piece, Mal De Amores (Mercedes), and stated in the interview, “I think most people with fragmented families relate to this uneasy experience of being passed the phone. We feel uneasy because the people on the other end are strangers, even though they are our brothers, sisters, moms, aunts, and grandmothers.”
Every child of an immigrant can relate to this particular fear of being passed the phone to talk to relatives who live in our “native” countries. It’s a strange feeling being a child of the diaspora, being influenced by two distinct cultures, yet never fully understanding either of them. A phone call is like a mini trip to the “motherland.” And we all know that traveling to the “motherland” is usually a dreaded task; being met with the unfamiliar staunch of this foreign country, having to meet your relatives that you can’t seem to remember but expect you to (even if the last time you saw them was when you were two), living for weeks in a wifi-free or slow-wifi zone- nothing sounds very appealing. It’s a reminder that most of the family we have, we don’t know. We don’t connect with. We simply cannot connect with.
The phone is a reminder that sometimes we can’t operate in our native tongues. A reminder that there isn’t much conversation to be had with family back home besides how schoolwork is going. A reminder that we’re slightly different from our families in an irreversible way. We’ll forever be branded as the posh foreigners to them whose accents will be the running joke at the dinner table and they’ll always be the traditional, conservative relatives who we appreciate yet cannot stand at the same time.
The phone is a reminder that being a child of the diaspora is a wild journey that you have to take on your own. Your family isn’t quite your family so you create a tight community with other people. People just like you who are confused about their identity and their culture. People who like you can’t go to their immediate parents or grandparents or cousins for everything because they simply don’t understand. People like you who fear about being failures to their immigrant parents. People like you who keep their heritage alive through dance, music, movies, and each other. We’ve created something beautiful, fusing our past and our present, our ancestry and our home, but these things also reminds us of how much we wish I had that immediate support and understanding from the moment we were born. These things reminds us how much we wish we didn’t have to maneuver around to find a community. How much we wish that being handed the phone weren’t such a frightening, daunting task. How much we wish the people on the other line felt like family.