As cheesy as it is to title a blog post by the most iconic song of my favorite Disney movie as a child, I just saw the new Aladdin in theater last week and loved it just as much as I did as a little girl watching my VHS tape over and over again on snow days in Minnesota.
Seeing the movie as an adult brought back so many memories of a little girl who dreamed to be Jasmine and fly on a magic carpet with my own Aladdin and live the life of a princess fighting the evil Jafar and conquering the world and falling in love as all Disney princesses do. (sidenote: Seeing Will Smith play the Genie was a highlight of the movie, he was brilliant, funny and sure can sing and dance. )
Seeing the movie and having “A Whole New World” song stuck in my head now for a week has got me thinking about this life we live in Mexico.
This life abroad which was only going to be two years and has quite quickly turned into 12 years is a whole new world.
It's a whole new world that I never would have experienced if I stayed in Minnesota, if I would have stayed comfortable with the life I was planning since a little girl. It's a whole new world that speaking Spanish and taking a risk opened up.
To take this blog post and metaphor to a whole new level of “cheesy” I could even say that Walter is like my Aladdin showing me a whole new world, a whole new way to see life from a different perspective.
Meeting my husband who spoke no English, who was living in Mexico supporting his parents in Peru, who was working late nights singing salsa looking for a better future for himself and future family was a whole new world.
My husband’s story alone has changed my life. It’s a journey that I may never have had a first-row seat to if I stayed in Minnesota.
On our date night a couple weeks ago, Walter talked about what his future would have been like if he stayed in Peru.
He talked about his friends who got caught up in drugs because it was easy money but they have either died addicts or been killed in the trade.
He told about his friends who hitchhiked from Peru, through Central America, through Mexico and who now live in the States some illegally and some legally. His friends who now live in the US and send money home to Peru every week.
He told me about his own life as a young boy having to work to help his family. Stories about he and his brother when they were only 10 and 11 and started working in the equivalent of a sweatshop to support their family. Everything he earned had to go to his parents so they could buy food for the family because his dad’s earnings as a barber weren’t making ends meet and his mom had to stay home with the little kids.
The first time he ever got to keep any of the money he worked for, he bought 4 pairs of tennis shoes. Yes, that may sound extravagant. But for a kid who has never had a new anything in his life, he bought 4 pairs of knock-off Converse shoes because he could. 2 of the pairs he gave to his younger brother. (To this day, he and his brother have the cleanest and whitest tennis shoes I’ve ever seen. They learned from a young age that you have to take care of what you have.)
Walter’s journey was shaped and changed by another Peruvian family who had migrated to Mexico to start working. They were able to support his younger brother Paulo and bring him to Mexico. Paulo found he could make more money in Mexico than in Peru and sent money home every week. But as with many immigrants, life is not easy. To make a long story short, Paulo got seriously injured and was in the hospital needing help. That’s what brought Walter to Mexico. He came to support his brother in 2007. They both learned that life in Mexico was more profitable than life in Peru. And here they are 12 years later.
Through tears on date night, Walter said, “Dom, I would’ve done anything for my family. Anything. Staying in Peru wasn’t an option. There was no money. Not enough food. I got lucky and came to Mexico. I got a second chance.”
This whole new world has been opened up to me. A world I so easily labeled when I was younger as illegal or wrong. I put a label on immigration because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know anybody in the struggle, who had gone days without enough food or had been forced to work as a child because there were no other options.
A few months ago, the migrant caravan passed through Guadalajara.
Thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries. Mothers and their nursing babies, kids without shoes, men doing the best they could for their family. It broke my heart.
I know that in their situation, I would have done the same.
From my facebook post on November 13, 2018 I wrote: “Walter and I both wanted to help.We went with various friends from church and our community in Guadalajara went to help at the Auditorio Benito Juarez where in November 5000 migrants had shelter on their walk North. As we were arriving, hundreds of people were getting ready to start the next leg of their journey. We saw so many families and little little kids either in cheap strollers that aren't made for long distances or babies held in a mother's arms or 3 year olds walking alongside their parents with blisters and so exhausted. We saw people with tired, scared eyes as they moved forward yet you could sense a feeling of hope, of a better life somewhere.
We were only able to talk with a few people as many were moving out. We spent the next 3 hours sweeping, mopping and cleaning up the stadium for what we thought would be the next wave of the caravan coming through Guadalajara. It felt good to do something, as little as it was.”
And in this whole new world we are living in, I can’t help but be grateful for a new understanding, a new perspective. It may not always be “shining, shimmering, splendid” as the song lyrics go over and over in my head, but it is a “whole new world I never knew.”
And this whole new world is worth knowing.
It's worth helping.
It's worth hurting.
It's worth seeing a new perspective.
It’s worth loving.
It’s what we’re here to do.
Love one another.