I have never been so dependent on the generosity of others. Most of my life, from my day to day routine to the research that I am carrying out, involves continuously asking for support and accepting the kind hospitality of others.
From the beginning, the sisters have welcomed me with great love into the house where I live. Beyond this house, I have also been welcomed into numerous homes since I arrived here as people give me a room and a bed to sleep in when I am in a different town. Last week, I was welcomed in to sit on the only chair in the only room of someone’s house. I have been invited to meals across the city. I have been fed by many people in the communities where I do interviews, with delicious meals, often from the food they had harvested that week.
I have been accepted into the academic life of the city. Busy researchers have given me some of their time to share their perspective. They have built networks of contacts and support so that we can work together on this project. They have dreamed with me about the possibility of longer-term action and more comprehensive support for deported and return migrants.
Most humbling of all, I have been welcomed into people’s lives. A woman explained to me the challenges of re-emerging machismo now that she and her husband are back in their hometown. Last week, former gang members shared with me the challenges of a life in Mexico where no one will hire them because of their tattoos. A youth who was a return migrant in a community in southern Jalisco confessed of his fear of staying in the country because of the violence by drug cartels in the area – violence that was brought home when his cousin disappeared.
I have no right to these stories. With great generosity, people share their experiences with me and trust that I listen in good faith. They are willing to answer my questions and be vulnerable and honest.
I have nothing to offer in return. Whereas in other environments I could at least reciprocate with food or support for their kids’ education, here I cannot respond with anything tangible or immediate to the people that I meet and interview.
But I suppose that is the whole point of hospitality. In a spirit of hospitality, the people I meet don’t act with the hope of an end result but rather with a simple generosity, willing to share what they have: food, shelter, contacts, and life stories. I am grateful for the hospitality that I have been showered with here in Mexico. And challenged in humility to accept these gifts and embrace my own position of dependence.