After I close out a meeting with Ana Mac Naught, Community Developer at Baker Ripley Neighborhood Center — where I’ve been running a women’s workshop and am now planning a public conversation next week — I ask her to participate in an interview for my blog. We chat in the lobby, while a zumba class unfolds before us. In her discussion about “home”, Ana says:
Responding to a question about “feeling at home” is tough for me to answer. For a while, “home” was where my mom was. She was a single mother and she was my pillar. We were in Puebla, Mexico till I was twelve years old, and then my mother got married and our family moved to South Carolina.
Today, I’m fascinated by the experience of moving. That’s something my mother shared with me – that there’s a world and we should go live it. I’ve lived in seven different countries, and each time I lived somewhere, that was my community.
I ended up in Germany even though I was determined to go to an Italian exchange program, but they required prior knowledge of the language. The German exchange programs didn’t, so that’s where I went! I also did my masters’ program in Germany and have spent time in India, South Africa, and other places. And of course, since I studied formally in Germany, I acquired German as a language also.
But now that I’m in Houston, I’m not sure where my community is. I don’t have many friends in Houston. I have more in Germany and everywhere else, actually.
I’ve been in Houston since 2009, the longest that I’ve been anywhere. My husband and I are homey because we feel like outsiders anywhere we go. It’s hard for me to find that concept of “home”— it’s a shifting term for me since I’ve moved all my life. I’ve always thought of myself as a person who would never settle.
I visited Puebla again last week and that’s where my grandma, uncle and other family members live. Though I love it there, I couldn’t live in Puebla but I could move to India!
Further down the road, I want to move to Latin America. We’ve thought of Peru for a while — my husband is Peruvian. I want my children to have the cultural life of Latin America, the accessibility of the USA and the education of Germany.
I wish I could move to Mexico, but I get exasperated there. Mexican people have no sense of hope, and there’s a lot of intolerance. There, I find extremes of both interesting and beautiful things as well as ugly. And people are struggling. There’s a sense of violence and impotence since 22,000 people are missing and no one can account for it. And you get things done if you push, if you’re a bitch.
I, myself, moved to South Carolina when I was twelve. I was sad to leave my family in Puebla. But now, I can move anywhere. And I don’t see having kids as a challenge. I think my son will adapt well.
The only things that keep us in Houston are the grandmothers and work, of course! My mom is now in McAllen, and his mother is here. She spends a lot of time in Peru, traveling back and forth, but she is here. That’s my challenge: how to move and yet make sure the children get their time with their grandmothers…. — Ana Mac Naught
This conversation is part of my What Is Home? project that is funded in part by the Mid America Arts Alliance’s Artistic Innovations grant.