Before you ask, the picture above is of Arequipa, Perú, taken sometime last year when I was backpacking South America without a plan.
I complain about Mississippi a lot. I feel like I’m always in a scene of Get Out and err on the side of paranoia. My taste in fashion was totally warped when I went to South America and now I have to buy almost everything online because I don’t like most clothes here.
But that’s another story.
I love Latin America. It’s no secret, but Latin America also prepared me for life in Mississippi. For one, I’m far more used to hustling and dealing with inflation. Talk of the recession, despite how horrible it was for me to go through the one in 2009, doesn’t scare me much because there’s always work for hard-working bilingual people, at least here.
Sometimes I complain about Mississippi but I remember that I had to put up with a lot in Buenos Aires. Yes, Argentina is far more progressive, but there were so many queues, delays, and things that didn’t work. Even though I didn’t have to drive everywhere, I still had to be in busses for hours sometimes.
Even going to church there wasn’t easy. I attended Iglesia Rey de Reyes, where I was mugged once after leaving church. Well, it was an attempted mug because honestly, the guy was so thin I couldn’t take him seriously. He took my glasses because he couldn’t snatch my purse.
I would sometimes have to wait for my bus in the rain, there was hail once during a church service, and in summers I’d get there in the heat. I often had to stand in the corner because it would get so full, and once, a Christian singer from Mexico, Marco Barrientos showed up and I had to wait for an hour in 5°C weather or something.
There were times when I had to make miracles happen just to pay rent and groceries, and I had to leverage absolutely everything I had just to make it one more day.
In Mississippi, there’s too much food, everything is in excess. You can get whatever you want. You don’t have to pay a ridiculous tax if you buy clothes form Topshop in the UK because the U.S. lets buy clothes from just about any country in the world.
You can get peanut butter at a reasonable price, you can even get an extension on tax fees from the IRS, and though there are racist people everywhere—and I face them sometimes, when I leave the house—there are organizations I can turn to that could possibly represent me for free. I could make a few phone calls.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that life in Mississippi is tough sometimes. I’m glad I’m able to freelance because I doubt I’d be happy at a regular 9-5 job at a regular company here. My car is here. My family is here.
Latin America prepared me for whatever difficulties I may face here. I struggle to find my purpose in Mississippi, and for some dumb reason, I actually feel there’s a reason why I’m here.
I think a lot about Paul. He wasn’t just as an ordinary guy from the Bible. He had dual citizenship. He wasn’t just a Jewish guy that was raised a Pharisee, he was also Roman. He was afraid of absolutely no one and probably loved traveling. So wherever he went he had a mission.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a pit of wolves, and that there’s a mission I’ve got here. I’m not sure what it is. It certainly isn’t to liberate Latinxs who live here because I’m too jaded by the non-profit industrial complex to try again, but whatever happens, some days I wake up and realize all the bureaucracy I survived in Latin America taught me lessons I’m meant to apply here.
So why am I here?