As if given the power to look into the future, a short story written by author Rudy Ruiz describes the policies affecting the border between the United States and México.
While diving deep into “Vexing Gifts,” the reader might think the author wrote it a few weeks ago, when in reality he did it a couple of years ago. Topics such as a border wall, mass deportations, and birthright citizenship, are in between its lines.
“These policies are cruel and they can lead to consequences not only for immigrants but for the whole country,” Ruiz said in regards to the general topic inside “Vexing Gifts.”
The description of efforts to build a border wall by a government and how two cities, and families, are separated by it, is palpable.
For him, a border wall is not the answer, but on the contrary, the United States should help its neighbors, Latin America, solve some of the problems causing people to run away from violence and poverty.
“I don’t think people want to leave their home. If they felt safe in their home they wouldn’t want to leave it,” Ruiz said.
He believes that the U.S. can’t block the rest of the world out but instead should continue the tradition of helping people in need.
The short-story reads “When the wall was raised it took years and billions of dollars to build. Enormous machines were brought to prepare the earth, cranes to raise the steel beams, mammoth cement turners to churn the sand and water and pour the foundation. Thousands of workers flooded into the border. Scaffolds rose along the river, winding through mountains and valleys, spanning deserts.”
The American author’s description is vivid. He referred to “Vexing Gifts” as a magical realism, a satire with symbolic characters. Per example, the Grandmother Magdalena represents the past, while a young Juan, the grandson, is the future.
“I visualize the stories. I’m really a big film buff, so when I write I like to envision it, as when watching a movie, so I try to describe things,” Ruiz said.
The wiser Grandmother, with her leadership, represents what we still see in the Latino culture, someone with an extra power who can see what their children are doing, and they seem to know what’s going to happen.
On the other end is Juan, who can still make choices even when difficult circumstances appear.
“Juan has a hard time accepting (his role),” he explained. “When the older generation passes on, the new generation needs to step up and take the lead in a family, and that’s hard to do. It’s a burden.”
In “Vexing Gifts” the grandson questions how he can live up to his Grandmother’s amazing life, and even though at the beginning Juan doesn’t want to take that leadership, eventually he realizes he has to if he wants to save his family.
For Ruiz, the story not only relates the political policies issue but the personal struggles a family goes through in life.
Known for being an advocate and social entrepreneur, Ruiz has always used his talent to express his desires and to defend his points of view. He is not a stranger to the border since his roots are there. He was born in Brownsville and spent long periods of time in Matamoros, México.
“I really believe that sharing stories about the border and its people it will give the readers around the country a better understanding of our culture and how it works to be more accepting and more tolerant,” he said. “Instead of a wall that divides us, the border can be a symbol of people coming together, with unity and collaboration (because) that’s the border that I grew up in when I was a kid.”
He remembers the border as a place to build bridges, but he thinks the actual policies are more abound building walls.
“You can see how Trump has shifted the whole conversation from where few years ago the topic was a comprehensive immigration reform, and today he’s shifted into where the U.S. is turning away refugees before they even reach the border,” Ruiz said. “I think it’s a very frightening time for immigrants and for the descendants of immigrants and we need to continue bringing our stories to the rest of the country so they can better understand our reality down here on the border.”
Ruiz hopes he can reach people’s heart and humanize the Latino experience for people who are not personally a part of it.
“If I can open one person’s eyes, is one less person that hates immigrants, or is opposed to immigrants coming here and making a life here.”
This November “Vexing Gifts” was published in the Summer/Fall 2018 issue of the Notre Dame Review.