As migrant farmers, many of my family members spent years toiling in the agricultural fields of our nation that make up the surrounding Texas border towns along the Rio Grande Valley, like that of Brownsville, San Benito, Harlingen, McAllen, and Victoria. These towns have served as navigational stopping points for many, including my grandparents and their children as they journeyed to Houston from Mexico where each stopping point played a pivotal role in personal and social transformation.
Identity and the politics that emerge from migration as they intersect with ideas on geography and government, labor and movement, economics and culture have always had an impact on my practice. As such, I am interested in questions related to the discourse of the complexities of migration; like that of leaving home, of belonging and of recognizing Other.
Over the years, Laura Drey has worked as an art educator through various art outreach programs in Houston, Texas, where she has fostered community involvement and supported the arts in education. Drey is an interdisciplinary artist, and her current work focuses on the liminal and complex aspects of migration and immigration.
by Laura Drey
Families crossing bridges into a future.
Valleys and coastline, meandering waterways feeding the land
One end to another.
Men working the fields.
Sweet golden rows of citrus, berries, and melons
One end to another.
Women, all day together and alone,
Scared to move because they don’t know how.
Fields of gold are not for them.
Under a bridge, babies in arms, all day together and alone.
For some, modernity is mobility and independence,
Job and wealth, leisure and travel.
For them, it’s trekking the land in dark nights,
Dodging spotlights, escaping a perilous past,
Yearning for new tomorrows as modernity passes them by.
They stand tucked away at the underpass, they are not seen,
they are invisible, but—Lo tengo que hacer
They have seen the things not meant for them, but—Lo tengo que hacer
They still see the future, but—Lo tengo que hacer,
And because they have a will that can be broken…
They remain exhausted even after a full night’s rest
They are disheartened despite the hope that the crops yield
They are overwhelmed by their fears even after they let go
They are scared of the freedom that is meant to lift them up
So they get carried away
invisibly drifting, but moving, still—Tenemos que hacerlo.
Inspired by migration stories, family history, and cultural identity, this piece was created through a laborious process of weaving and culling from the general fields of time and memory; recollections of a journey made on land, navigated by crops.
Using the idea of the palimpsest and incorporating patchwork that resembles the American Quiltmaking process this piece tells its own story about the process of transformation. Incompatible narratives of identity meet through fragmentation, patching, cutting, and collage and become a hybrid of differences that tell a new story.