My Super-Hero Boots
Mariana Barron (+Video)
Coming from the sea and sand of Mexico, I had no idea about Canadian winters. The first snowfall seemed like magic falling from the sky, but when I fell badly on ice, and my life flashed in front of me, I realized I would have to find some superhero strength to cope with the challenge of a new country. By becoming the strength and support for others, I rediscovered my lost voice.
When I came to Canada, I didn’t know anything about winter—and of course, I didn’t know anything about winter boots either. But I’d been told I would need some. I went shopping by myself on Banff Avenue for suitable boots, and I found a pair of beautiful brown ones: flowers on the top part, laces from the bottom to the top, toasty warm on the inside, with a flat sole. I tried them on, and they were very comfortable. I asked the salesman for the price. This was before I spoke English well. He replied so fast that I didn’t understand. I asked him to write it down on a piece of paper. I saw the price, and I thought, too expensive! But I knew I needed boots, so I bought them anyway.
The first snowfall was like magic falling from the sky. I went outside—I was ready, with my precious winter boots. I was excited to wear them. I felt like a superhero, wearing the special suit. I walked bravely out into the snow with my new boots, enjoying the magic—and then I fell. I fell really badly, smack onto my back on the sidewalk. They say when you are dying, your life flashes before your eyes. Well, for me, lying on the icy cold concrete, that was the moment when my life flashed in front of me. I realized that I was in Canada, that I was by myself, far away from my family, and I didn’t speak the language.
When I decided to come to Canada, I had no idea what I was about to encounter. The biggest challenge was learning English. Even though I had earned a Psychology degree back in Mexico, here in Canada, I was practically illiterate. Because I didn’t know how to communicate, I was back to zero. When you don’t speak the language, it’s like losing your voice. Very frustrating for someone who always used to have something to say!
Back in Mexico, my voice was louder because I was very confident. I was strong. I felt the power of my voice. In order to become confident again in my second language, I had to study hard, be more involved with my community, and pretend to be outgoing enough not to isolate myself—even if I didn’t speak much and only listened.
My beautiful brown boots remind me of my transition to a new life. First of all, the experience of losing my voice and getting it back slowly. Second, and more importantly, I have a family now. I fell in love with a Mexican man who was going through the same transition as me. We got married by the Bow Falls, surrounded by the amazing view, and suddenly, our family got bigger: we have two precious kids and new challenges as well.
Coming to a new country makes you vulnerable. But when you have emotional support—and when you become a support to someone—everything seems easier. When I think of being vulnerable, it is kind of like being barefoot. You are sensitive to every situation, and sometimes you feel unprotected. When someone helps you in your journey of adapting to a new country, culture, and language, they help you to build your confidence until you feel complete again. It is like they give you super-hero boots, and you become strong again.
MARIANA BARRON came to Canada from Mexico in 2008 with a work permit for two years. She met her husband, also from Mexico, and in the second year, both decided to build a life together. She has two kids and volunteers with the Bow Valley Literacy Program. Her family became Canadian citizens in 2017. She has made a career in hospitality in Banff and has taken different courses and programs to improve her English.