02 Jan, 2015

home is a space that I create for myself and not one that’s defined for me …

Sehba Sarwar
02 Jan, 2015

Filmmaker Yunuen Perez Vertti drops by my Houston house to eat a meal prepared by my mother. A native of Mexico City, Yunuen lived for a decade in Houston before relocating a few years ago to Vancouver, Canada. She talks about what “home” means to her:

Nowadays feeling at home means feeling at peace with myself. Home is not a physical space any more. Home means to be comfortable in my own skin, and comfortable being myself. It’s a space that I create for myself and not one that’s defined for me.

Identifying cities or spaces as “home” is difficult for me right now. I just moved to a fourth or fifth city in the last 20 years. And I tell myself that every city I go to – and while I’m there – that this is where I need to come back to. But then I say I wouldn’t live here any more.

Physically, I’m not grounded to one space. Always, I’m from Mexico, but I can’t live there any more. It’s so nice and cool, but I want to leave. Mexico is always the place where I’m from. Right now, Vancouver is what we say is “home” – but when I go there it doesn’t feel like it’s home. We’ve just been there for two years and we don’t own a home…

Aswinee (husband) and I are gypsies. And we don’t have a place we can say we want to call home – we are from different places. And we shift our children because they need to be in a neutral zone! We’ve cut out India and Mexico – perhaps we’re suppressing our desires. It’s very complex.

We have both been thinking: do we see ourselves growing older here, being Canadians, being in Vancouver? And right now we can’t come up with a clear answer. But we don’t want to come back here (to Houston) either.

Perhaps we’ll explore a few more places before we decide where we want to call it home. And it’s hard to accept that we want to move around. Perhaps, we as a society, impose it upon ourselves to ground ourselves in just one space. Perhaps Aswinee and I want to move around and do it for the rest of our lives! – Yunuen Perez Vertti

Sehba Sarwar

I draw Yunuen’s 12-year old son Kalyan into the conversation. His responses are succinct:

I will always consider Houston my home. No matter where I live, I’ll be proud to be from here. I was born here and it became my home.

I feel good I’m in a new place, but I still miss my friends. Vancouver would become my home if I lived there for a long time – for 10 years like I lived in Houston. But not India or Mexico. I have a lot of family there, but both are dirty places, and I don’t want to call them “home.” – Kalyan

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.