Yosimar Reyes

Yosimar Reyes reading an excerpt from his work. (Signal Photo/Sandra Plascencia-Rodriguez)

Yosimar Reyes, well known undocumented poet, writer and comedian shared his wisdom and educated Stan State students on what it really means to be undocumented.

Part of the Undocumented Student Week of action, the event, called Undocu-Joy, revolved around shifting the narrative of what it means to be undocumented.

“Often times when we hear narratives of undocumented people, it’s very gloom and doom right? And one of the biggest things that concerns me is the fact that often times we’re so used to consuming undocumented trauma and pain and I feel like we reached the level that we’ve been doing those narratives for the past ten years that now I want to do joy,” said Reyes. 

Reyes explained how undocumented folks should be very careful when sharing their story and how it can be twisted or exploited. 

“I started questioning the way that our media consumes or thrives on making undocumented people relive these traumatic things. For me, your trauma and pain is sacred and you should choose who you want to share it with," said Reyes. He added, "Undocumented people get pressured to share all these things that happen to them simply because we want to be a beacon of light or we want to showcase something but at the same time, we want to be very careful and intentional when sharing your story because it should be honored. It should not be used for clickbait because ultimately you get explioted and I don’t want undocumented people to lose that.”

As for Reyes’s advice for folks with the privilege of citizenship,“For me one of the biggest things that I started hating was when citizens would say, ‘we need the undocumented people here because they do the jobs that nobody wants to do’ and I would take offense to that. Yes, we need to be critical of the jobs and how we get treated and the job conditions but we shouldn’t shame people’s labor.” 

Reyes also explained how citizens could help. 

“When citizens ask us, ‘what do we need to do for you?’, what you need to do is not speak for us. Trust that we know how to articulate our own situations,” said Reyes. 

Being undocumented is not a sad story, it’s an empowering story. Reyes explained how powerful it really is to be undocumented.

“In the early 90’s, we were the kids that would translate for our parents. We were the kids that would be out here doing all these things, filling out applications we didn’t know how to fill out. While we were doing these things, even though it was hard on us we were gaining something very important; cultural power, cultural capital, the way we can navigate and switch between two languages. The way that we can think about our experience and deconstruct it. Yes we were undocumented in the 90’s, but these undocumented little kids have morphed into adults who are undocumented, graduated from college, understand how this political system works. These are the kids that were organizing and got you DACA.”

Vanessa Ramos Morales (sophomore, Criminal Justice) attended the event and appreciated the experience.

 “I liked that it wasn’t very formal. It was more like a friend talking to a friend type of thing,” said Ramos Morales. 

Others like Jennifer Campos Lopez (freshmen, Undeclared) explained how the event empowered her. 

“A lot of us could really relate to us him and his story, we are more empowered, we have a voice and we are being seen. It was really inspirational,” said Campos Lopez. 

Others attended to unlearn about the dark portrayal of undocumented folk.

“It was a lot of fun. I liked the positive narrative with undocumented students because media and society tend to portray undocumented people very dark and gloomy,” said Carlos Ortiz (junior, History). 

The Undocumented Student Week of Action ends tonight with an Undocumented Paint Night.  


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