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On my mobile home

Aug 12, 2023

This column first appeared in El Sol del Valle

When I brought my first girlfriend to my home in Rifle, I felt a flicker of insecurity pinching the edges of my heart—not because she was meeting my parents for the first time, but because I lived in a mobile home.

It wasn't until that evening that this notion of mobile home shame wormed its way into my consciousness, making me acutely aware of any creaky part of the floor and chipped stone in our pathway.

All of a sudden, the warm home I lived in turned into a great neon sign of shame.

I had seen my girlfriend’s place before—a two-story home with a dreamy basement with a home theater. I can't deny it; a pang of longing gnawed at me, and my own place, in comparison, felt a little underwhelming all of a sudden. 

So, I grappled with this secret shame for years, my home feeling unworthy in my eyes. My college friends visiting only intensified this insecurity, turning their stay into a source of anxiety.

I think about this shame today and can’t quite pinpoint where it came from. Perhaps it sprouted from the expectations thrust upon us by others. A lack of dignity mirrored by our region. Or maybe it took root in my own internal battles—this fierce self-hatred and insatiable hunger for privilege. It was my own beliefs, my own perceptions, that draped me in a heavy shroud of shame. In my mind, a mobile home was unbecoming, an unworthy thing, a mark of disgust.

In the stasis that is being a child of the immigrant experience, there’s a lot of self-defining that doesn’t come easy. In this quest for self-definition, we often find ourselves straddling two worlds, trying to integrate while holding fast to our heritage. In this process, parts of our Latino identity might receive less attention. In fact, it could even be advantageous to drop that Latino-ness which ultimately leads to repulsion towards anything that reminds us of our roots. Home included. 

But that is where I grew up and made memories. That’s where I played with my cousins. Had sleepovers with friends. Did my homework. Explored the internet. That’s where I had my growth spurt and grew my first mustache. Most importantly, it’s where my mom and dad call home. 

If I carried so much shame about my home, did that also mean I had the same feelings against my parents, whose love and care filled those spaces? It’s a terrible thought, but one I had to confront if I ever wanted to rest in my own home again. 

Every time someone new visits my house, they tell my mom how beautiful it is. And they're right. She keeps it spotless. Lush plants throughout the house. Natural light shines through in the morning in such a way that everything seems to glow. Food tastes better there. I sleep deeper. I rest.

I had to do a lot of reflection to melt away the prejudice that was built inside of me and reveal the tenderness I had for my neighborhood. Deconstructing internalized hatred is a task that requires us to confront our own biases. I only came to recognize this subtle prejudice when I attempted to bridge my two worlds—the Latino parts of me and the American world I navigate.

Today, I’m proud of my house. What my parents have built there. It’s a sacred place to me, just like it is for anyone else. Coming home is a ritual. Inviting someone over is a rite of passage. Behold my place. Oozing with memories and stories.The headquarters of my youth. Behold the essence of who I am and the stories that have shaped me. 

Every time I step through the front door, it's like coming home to myself.

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