Hidden Secrets on my Sleeves

Hidden Secrets on my Sleeves

By: Ezequiel Santos

I was born in the city of Hermosillo, Sonora. In 1993, my parents migrated to Mesa, Arizona in their twenties and I was just 2 years old.

While growing up I have always expressed my positive and energetic energy, yet a part of me grew up in the shadows of fear and uncertainty.  As I was getting older I started to understand that there was a taboo in my family. My parents did not want me to ever mention that we migrated here since it would minimize the risk of being deported. This was a time in my life when I couldn’t comprehend the complexity of our situation. At the same young age I was dealing with a personal secret. Growing up in a very religious family and community, it was not easy to accept myself much less tell them or anyone else that I was gay. Even with all these secrets, my nieveness and my hakuna matata style of looking at life yielded me from realizing that I felt shame and embarrassment for being both undocumented and gay.

As I was getting older things begun to change. My friends and their parents questioned little things, like why I didn’t have my driver's licence or get a job like the rest of my friends. Naturally, when they asked, I felt puzzled, nervous, and anxious. I would quickly answer their questions and judgement by jokingly saying that I had to wait until I obtained my Eagle Scout rank before my parents allowed me to actually work and and get my driver's license, privileges that I thought I would never reach. I knew it was the only passive lie I could say since most people in my community would only accept that from a young adult like myself, I didn’t like lying, it only amplified the fear of them finding out my secrets.

2010 and Beyond…

After graduating high school in 2010 the shame went from what people at church and school thought of me to what I thought of myself. I realized I had little to no opportunities of obtaining a higher education or getting a job. It all felt heavy. Behind closed doors I wondered where my life was headed… I knew I didn’t have full control of my dreams, goals, and future plans. I lost hope.

Years passed… Thankfully, I realized that thousands of young undocumented men and women organized and protested for the same issues I was dealing with.

In 2013, I was approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which granted me the opportunity to work and easier access to higher education. While I didn’t exactly know where I wanted to take my future, it was liberating to see a glimpse of hope. It felt like I had a new superpower.

Soon enough after DACA, I started working hard, taken full advantage of all the new doors that had opened. No matter how big or small of an opportunity, I accepted every challenge.

With this newfound superpower I had the courage to come out of the closet and the shadows to everyone and with some bumps in the road, I found peace and love within myself, my family, and people around me- I couldn’t be happier.

A Morning in America

I’ve always been “the guy behind the scenes,” the one you don't really hear about but was still there. Yet, I knew that I had to stand out and make a change, not just for myself but for those still in the shadows. In the last four years, I was that behind the scenes guy who collaborated with many organizations and participated in many actions. Every leader and soul I crossed paths and worked along with enabled me to learn how to organize, love myself, grow out of my comfort zone, and gain confidence. These last four years have empowered and prepared me to take action during this cruel administration.

This year,  I decided to step up and become more involved. I wanted to be proactive, stay informed, help others in my community, and educate people in my day to day circle.

I started seeing Reyna promoting Aliento, who is someone I have seen and respected in the fight for a few years. Reyna and Aliento’s message and mission was ideally what I was aspiring for. In February I decided to attend the retreat and become a member. Around the same time I was accepted to Mesa Community College (MCC). With the support of Reyna and the staff at MCC, I have initiated a petition to start a club for undocumented and DACA students at MCC.

I want to create a space where undocumented and DACA students can find peace, build confidence, and learn skills that they can pass along to help others, their families, and communities. I want to spread compassion to other students who aren’t aware of what it is like to be undocumented. I want to clear any misconceptions, in the hoping to bring supportive allies to the movement. I see this club as a place that will connect students with resources, legal services, and activist organizations. I do this because I know that there are many undocumented and DACA students who do not have access to these resources, especially in Mesa, AZ.