• chantalmcanales

I Have Never Visited The Country Of My Birth, And That Terrifies Me

On the first day of school, everyone shares an interesting fact about them under the questioning of a very eager teacher. I always shared mine with little pride and more longing for a place I have never been.

I was born on a small island in the Caribbean Sea, tucked away between the countries of Aruba and Bonaire called Curacao. Living there only for six months after my birth, I never had the chance to explore the island’s beaches or its historic downtown marina. Growing up, I have always been told about the island’s charm and quaintness from my parents, who met there 20 years ago at a travel agency. I was always called an "island girl" when I was young, going along the rhythm of life without a care in the world.

But I have never visited this place full of life.

Curacao, with its pastel-colored Dutch buildings and the most vividly blue waters, became simply an idea in my imagination. From photographs taken by my parents to the word of mouth, I created an idealization of where I was born, from the beach lifestyle to the exciting nightlife.

However, I am afraid I will never discover if my idea of the island is true. Having been raised in Texas for the majority of my life, I have only come to know the world of the United States. Every year that passes that I don’t find myself on the small island I should call home, I believe there is less of a chance that I will ever identify with Curacao. I have traveled abroad, walking streets of cities that I wish I could call mine. But to discover the place that I came from, where my mother grew up and where my parents met, is something that could and will change me for the better.

There are many people in the United States who feel displaced, longing for a place they feel they belong. Immigrants move here for the promise of a brighter future for them and their families. Some leave to escape war, famine and persecution of their own people. They may find refuge here, but they may miss the place they came from. I have been fortunate enough to have lived in the United States for a majority of my life, but I constantly wonder what I may be escaping because I never visited Curacao.

My mother constantly tells me stories of her childhood on the island, and she always compares her upbringing to my own. Half of my extended family resides there, and the only chance I have to see them is the seldom times they come to visit my mother. Lacking the proximity to my grandmother, aunts and cousins has been difficult for my mother, but I know she has found happiness with our family. She has the same longing to return to her home as I do to make Curacao part of me. Her voice aches for a place so far that I wonder what I will be like after I visit.

Will I have that same love for Curacao? Will I finally feel a sense of pride of where I come from?

The only way to know is to step out of my comfort zone and find myself in Curacao.