I remember putting Ya No Estay Aqui on my watchlist after seeing the previews on Netflix’s upcoming latest films. I thought to myself that this film, with Netlfix’s vast streaming catalog, might be worth watching. Also, most of the foreign films, no matter which genre it may be, from comedy to drama, are more worthwhile than the films produced here in Tinseltown.
The production value of the film was distinctly captivating. It captured the counter-culture of Kolombia in Monterrey, Mexico, to the depiction of immigrant communities in the fast-paced, bustling streets of New York City. Moreover, The music soundtrack of the movie, cumbia rebajada, captivated my ears, with its dreamy, yet, upbeat sounds. The music was so good, that, every time music played in the scene, I would ask my girlfriend to Shazam the music playing. I love technologies.
Besides its compelling storyline, the coming-of-age narrative made me more absorbed into the whole theme of the film. I had to rewatch it again because I couldn’t write it down in one sitting. Something resonated with me and the idea of the film, but I couldn’t find the right words to describe it. Looking for better words to describe it, I relied on Google to find me an analysis of the film’s central idea, to copy-and-paste it, and, to sound more intelligent. But my attempt to find a more compendious summary of the theme only led me to rehashed reviews. After hours of searching the internet, I realized that I didn’t need other’s perspectives or an expert’s analysis of the film, because, after all, I was the subject of the film. An immigrant who tried to assimilate to a society that is unknown to me.
The main character, Ulises, a 17-year-old Mexican kid, is having a hard time adjusting and assimilating to a new culture he has suddenly immersed in after running into trouble at home. The film opens up with the description of Kolombian counter-culture in Monterrey, Mexico. Briefly defining the music and lifestyle. It then went to a scene, in a black background with white text, describing the Spanish word terco—someone stubborn, resistant to change regarding his/her attitude.
Then I realized what the sentiments I had with the film when I immigrated to the United States. After seeing that scene, I slowly remember being in the same emotional state. First was the separation. I remember leaving everything behind, from friends, that I know, I will never see again, to familiar, and at the same time, home to me. Then the parting of ways to the families I love, whom, I know, I will never see again for a very long time. Just as Ulises, my life suddenly took 180 degrees.
Just as an immigrant, looking for a better life, migrating to another country offers you to clean your slate. However, reinventing yourself, and starting a new clean slate, in another country, will have a price. And that sacrifice requires almost all of you.
A perfect example would be my father, who came first in the United States. I still utterly remember when he left the Philippines to escape wrongfully prosecuted by a corrupt government. I was 7-years-old at that time, and I remember seeing my father on every Philippines national TV news, fighting for labor workers. At first, I didn’t understand. Even before he left the country, I didn’t comprehend the gravity, the danger, and the revolution he was fighting for during that time. All I understood was that he did something bad, and needed to run away for the actions he did.
Nevertheless, he left his love of defending the oppressed. He left his passion for labor laws. Above all, he left his family for a decade.
After reuniting with him after a decade, he would tell candidly tell me stories of his struggles being alone in the US. It was a way to help me move on, and have the sense, to reinvent myself. After all, I was already a teenager when we left the Philippines, and those years, adolescence, is a period of life with specific health and developmental needs and rights. I was in a stage in my life where I need to learn to manage my emotions and relationships. A point in my life, that I learn attributes and abilities that would help me enjoy my adolescent years and assume adult roles.
I was defiant, and, in all of a sudden, drastic change of environment turned my life around. I refused and resisted change. But I knew better. Life was not going to move if I didn’t embrace change. And I know that it will leave me behind.
If I refused to change, I would have ended like Ulises. I would have been back to the country that I missed when I first left. Who knows, I may have been more alone, wondering the streets of Manila, thinking, if I had made the right decisions to resist change. I may have been something else if I let my emotions dictate who I am.
Conversely, it doesn’t happen like that in a real-life scenario for any immigrant here in the United States. The harsh conditions of having to grow up in a developing country give you more drive, especially in a country full of opportunity. It also reinforces your identity, as opposed to the film’s portrayal of the main character having a hard time to assimilate and fit in. The US, being the melting pot of all cultures and values, where every citizen hail from different nations, has embraced all aspects of cultural background.
It’s just the matter of the individual’s determination to establish themselves, to solidify and reinforce their dreams in the land of opportunity. Because if you don’t strengthen the foundation of your passion, life will swallow you, whenever and wherever you are. My fate could have just as been as Ulises in the movie. On top of a condemned building, wondering what my life would have been, If I only persevered, in a country, foreign to me, while everybody marches on the beat and sound of the city.