Monica Olvera Olmos (+Video)
As an immigrant and a woman, I have found it odd to think about my shoes, yet they represent many interesting life stories of victories and hard work. My shoes are my artifacts in my day-to-day activities—like the shoes of a high jumper athlete that boost you to fly in the skies.
If you are as idealistic as I am, just being able to live not knowing if you will become a citizen or not, but still remaining positive and hopeful, becomes one of your greatest victories. Turning negative into positive lessons is the path my shoes are on, helping me to become like my favourite athlete: a “learning athlete”.
My story takes place where, in spirit, I stepped in Mexico for the last time. It was a lake that used to be a place where Canadian loons migrate every winter and now has become a place where senseless birds and fish are found dead on the shores, covered with a layer of radioactive green substances due to the pollution created by factories and people.
This is where the acidic nightmare started. You could imagine the litany. My widowed and unemployed mother lived and depended on me. You could breathe the toxicity of the environment. I was getting sick every week from the contamination of air and water.
My mom and I were living at my cousin’s house in a guest room. They let us stay there when we were homeless. It was unbearable, I felt like a dead person in the morgue, waiting for months to be cremated.
I am a committed student, writer and artist. I have always tried to keep up with my preparation skills, but unfortunately, the only thing I got was rejection, mockery, and neglect by any welfare or grant opportunity. Only one in twenty people I knew back then could tell me with honesty, “Monica, you’re gonna make it! Canada is waiting for you.”
Even when I was in my first few jobs in Canada, my shoes felt tight with feelings of inferiority. To be heard at work, I had to fake a smile. It felt like a lie. Lies, lies. My fantasies started vanishing. I was only twenty-three.
In that job, I needed to prove to myself that being Latinx doesn’t mean you have to have labels or stigmas from others on your forehead. If I am good at something, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I was pretty and smart enough to be molested, but not enough to be respected at work because I am not a Canadian yet.
A Canadian wouldn’t understand what it means to live with the fear of being deported, having no status and repeatedly being underestimated while facing globalization in one of the most dehumanizing eras in history.
I still remember having to continue working after being touched obscenely. I was crying in an old condominium lobby with a mop in my hand in front of the security camera which was the only witness to my humiliation.
In this moment, I decided nobody could tell me who or what I was. As a woman and an immigrant, I needed to turn these experiences into learning and strength to achieve my goals and keep growing. I could become a high jumper. I jumped and my shoes gave me the power. My hope is that someone will see me, what I am capable of. I am currently focusing on my art and hoping to go back to school.
I am a pegasus riding in the skies of Kanata with imminent speed. Thank you for that. Being here has converted me into the mythological creature that found its shoes’ sport as a learning athlete.