I rarely learn about the futures of migrants who have passed through the comedor. But on occasion I hear a continuation to the story. Such as one 15 year old, whose family I have written about a few times. He had spent 12 years in the US before his parents decided to visit family in Mexico and then were unable to cross back. After two deportations, they decided to return to Puebla and I sat down to speak with him about his future plans. He spoke of the desire to continue his education, of how he would join military in order to pay for prepa (high school). He spoke with confidence that life in Mexico would work out for the best. In March, when his parents tried to cross again, I learned more about how the past few months had gone. He had trouble enrolling in school. Faced with financial difficulty, he was working in the fields harvesting avocados. He would try to go back to continue his education but I know the statistics – youth, once out of school for a prolonged period, don’t return. As I listened, it seemed that all of these plans that I had put my hope in had not come to fruition. What squandered potential. And yet his mother said that he is quite content in Mexico. He is making the most of what he has.
“Primeramente Dios” and “Si Dios quiere” are colloquial phrases in Mexico that always accompany statements about the future. They both mean “God willing.” “I will see my family, primeramente Dios.” “I will get an education, si Dios quiere.” Even, “I will see you tomorrow, primeramente Dios.”
They are figures of speech, but they also create a level of detachment from the future that describes some of the migrant experience. I can’t be sure that I will succeed in crossing the border. I don’t know if I will find a job when I go back to southern Mexico. I will make a plan and do my best but then know that it may not work out. Solamente si Dios quiere. Migrants hold their future with open hands, knowing that they don’t have absolute control.
The great irony is that, for all the money and opportunities, we at Georgetown or in the US have little more control over the grand scheme of the future than the ordinary migrant. We just fight it more.
Sometimes the pieces of life start coming together. Sometimes the plan seems to be underway. I have experienced those moments in the last week. But the scary part is that these seemingly clear futures come with great pressure. That we will squander the potential. That we won’t live up to the awards we have been given. We think that there is only one course of study, only one career to which we must devote our lives to make a true difference in the world. We live under a looming fear of failure.
Saying “primeramente Dios” reminds us that we are not powerful enough to stop God’s work and his perfect will. As we approach Good Friday, I think of Jesus’ limp body, being lowered from the cross. In Christ’s lifeless passivity God worked to bring resurrection and eternal life.
So we make plans. We study. We take jobs. We decide to migrate or return. But ultimately, we look toward the future with open hands. We are content and make the most of what we have. Not grasping to our opportunities but rather realizing that in surrender to God he will work in our small steps and guide us to his great will.