For this Hispanic/Latinx/o/e/a Heritage Month, I’ve decided to come back to the theme of sueños.
One of the most important traditions I’ve learned from my indiegnous ancestral bloodline of dreamers is that connection to nature is key to survival. All of nature is pretty miraculous. Madre tierra is actually the one who gives us the place to dream. If our antepasados were around today, they probably wouldn’t stand marveling at structures like the empire state building (which sits mostly empty now due to the pandemic), they would look at how we’ve treated the earth. They spent their time in awe of the magnanimity of trees, the distance to the stars, and the natural wonders of the sun and the moon, gods and goddesses they named Huitzilopochtli and Metztli (Aztec), and Ixchel and Itzamná (Mayan).
If my ancestors had the capacity to build places like Tenochtitlan, Uxmal, and Palenque, then they were also crazy dreamers. I am a descendant of those sonadores.
So was mi papa…
He was born in 1928 in the small city of Tampico on the gulf of Mexico. Tampico smelled like chapopote (black tar) and fish. My dad's parents were moderate, middle class, “don’t rock the boat” kind of people. Neither of them went to college, but that didn’t stop my father from his academic ambitions. My dad dreamed of becoming a doctor, so when he was offered the opportunity, he took a chance and enrolled in college. Luckily, his parents supported him. Right off the bat, he knew he wanted to use his degree to help people who were deaf and hard of hearing. To this day, his fixation on hearing loss is a curiosity to me: there was no one in the family or close to him who was deaf or hard of hearing. It was fundamentally a scientific mystery he wanted to help unpack.
I mean— talk to me about a wild dreamer. He made that dream come true in 1954 when he received his MD from the National Autonomous University of México (i.e. UNAM). A few years later, he got an opportunity to move to the U.S. to work at one of the most prestigious universities in the country: the University of Chicago. He accepted, and eventually joined the otolaryngology section (i.e. the medical focus on the ears, nose, and throat) of the surgical faculty. The university drafted him to do research on pathology of the ear. He became a part of the large research team that created the cochlear implant, a surgical implantation that helps provide people with hearing loss the ability to hear again.
So many of my own dreams have come true because of the work ethic I modeled after my father’s. I founded my own media company. I wrote a critically acclaimed memoir. I was in a Hollywood film. I made a frontline documentary. I had two kids and still am in love with my husband after 30 years. And then Facebook appeared during the pandemic and asked if I would like to create a community through a weekly newsletter called Bulletin.
I said yes.
I thought about a journey I have always wanted to make, one that I would be able to take my readers on. It’s a wild, decades long dream. No, I don't want to fly to the moon, but I am a cancer moonchild who loves the stars.
Ever since I learned about the Aurora Borealis, I have been intrigued. I fell in love with the sound of those words, encapsulating the peace of the northern lights. And so dear reader...I am going to make a dream come true for me and will take you all with me.
I believe the stars put us closer to our loved ones who are no longer with us on this earth, like my dad or my best friend Cecilia. They are otherworldly.
I remember the time I was closest to the stars was when I visited Lake Titicaca in Peru. I felt like I was being swallowed up by them, and in the darkest moments of the night, I wasn't afraid. In fact, I understood that those stars were filled with the stories my ancestors told— their discoveries, fears, births, battles, love affairs...the stars were their telenovelas.
Now it's our turn to sit under the stars and retell those same stories, and create some of our own. I’m pursuing this journey in memory of mi papa, for Ceci, and for all of mis antepasados. And I invite you to ask yourselves: ¿Cuál es tu sueño más grande?