After 5 Years, I Went Back To Where I Was Born

The last time I went to my birthplace, Asunción Ocotlán, Oaxaca, it was for my niece’s quinceañera, and I was 13 years old. 

I returned again this year, five years later at 18 years old, but this time for the first death anniversary of my grandparents. The reason for returning wasn’t the best circumstance, but it was needed because I’m not sure when I would’ve gone back, if ever. 

I was happy and excited to go back because I wanted to see my family who lives in my small town and be able to experience living there for a bit.

My dad had a house in the town which is where my grandparents lived. After they passed away, he remodeled the house so our family would be more comfortable and safe when we stayed over. I did feel more comfortable in the house, but I did miss my grandparent’s presence, especially my grandmother who always made hot chocolate for breakfast and traveled with us, as well as their plants and animals which were sold off. My dad left some family photos, furniture in the house untouched, and three trees as a memory of my grandparents.

Being older now, I’ve grown to be grateful for the experiences and things I have. I know all the hard work and struggles my parents went through were to be able to give me and my siblings a better life. 

During my time in Oaxaca, I acknowledged and appreciated the hard work everyone was doing to provide for themselves and their families. Especially when it came to the handmade and creative works people had to sell and offer, like wooden art sculptures, embroidered clothes, beaded bracelets, and other jewelry.

I was really happy to see such beautiful art in many forms. I am a creative person, and there are not any of my family members who are in creative fields or work. I’m the only one who seems to be heading down that path. It helped me feel very connected to see the creative and artistic aspects that are part of my birthplace and culture. 

In my hometown, many of the residents speak Zapoteco, especially the elders. The majority of the adults in my family can speak it. My niece can understand and speak it, though my cousins can’t speak it well, but can mostly understand. 

My siblings and I know a few words, but don’t understand it fully or speak it well. I’ve been wanting to learn Zapoteco, but my parents wanted me to be able to know Spanish fluently before teaching me. My Spanish isn’t as good as I’d want it to be, but I’m able to communicate with other Spanish speakers. I managed to find a Zapoteco dictionary that is somewhat accurate, so I can learn a bit on my own when I have the time. I hope that one day I’ll be able to speak it well and keep the dialect alive. 

During my stay, I had a new routine. I would wake up early to go with my family to buy needed items in town, Ocotlán de Morelos, or San Antonino Castillo Velasco. We would eat at home or find somewhere to eat at the place we were headed. 

After shopping, we’d come back home, eat again, and clean up the house. Many days were spent shopping to prepare for the family gathering happening at our house for my grandparent’s one-year death anniversary. I’d spend most of my time helping clean the house as there was a big mess after it was remodeled. My aunt, uncle, and cousins would come to help us clean and set up for the gathering. We ate dinner with them often and enjoyed spending time with them as they told stories of their childhood. 

When not cleaning, we’d go to my aunt and uncle’s house to visit or walk around town to buy snacks or food. Since Christmas and New Year’s were close, my cousins would buy small fireworks and light them up in the streets. After they left our house, or my family would leave their house, we would go to sleep late at night and wake up for a new day.

I spent a lot of time with my cousins. I wanted to make the most of my time with them since I’m not able to see them as frequently as the rest of my family. I enjoyed learning about their lives, as well as knowing what their interests were. I was happy to find out that we had some in common. I appreciated our time together and how they helped me and my family navigate life in Asunción Ocotlán. I gave each of them a small weaved gift basket with things I thought they’d like as well as a bit of money to buy something else they’d like. I wanted to show that I care and listen to them.

Overall, my experience at Asunción Ocotlán was absolutely wonderful. I really loved all that Oaxaca had to offer. During the day and night, the sky was always beautiful. I loved looking at the sky and trying to take good pictures but my phone couldn’t do it justice. I loved connecting with my family there and being able to celebrate many things with them. My family only visits family members a few times a year. Spending twenty days with family was amazing and something I wished happened more often. 

I get to go back again later this year, and I’m really happy I’ll be able to see my family again. I hope visiting them can become a yearly thing.

Nancy Aguilar (she/her/hers)

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