Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case that could result in me being kicked out of the only country I have ever known. On Jan. 29 a musical called “¡Americano!” opens at The Phoenix Theatre Company based on my life story.
It is a strange time to be me. It is a strange time for many, including those who want to be Americans --- who are Americans.
My story is this: Inspired by the horrific tragedy of 9/11, I spent the next several years wanting one thing: To be a Marine.
So on my 18th birthday, I went to enlist. There I stood as recruiters asked for my birth certificate and Driver’s License to start the process. But I didn’t have either. I didn’t think it was a big deal but the recruiter did, and then got angry that I was wasting his time.
He told me to go home and confront my parents. I did. They had lied to me. I was undocumented, brought to America from Colima, Mexico when I was 2 years old.
Have you ever had your dreams shattered, ironically because you were, or are, a “Dreamer?”
I was lost. After graduating from Camelback High School in Phoenix, I tried community college. But then it became unaffordable as Arizona voters decided I had to pay out-of-state tuition.
That’s when one of life’s sliding doors allowed me to walk through and walk down a different path.
I became politically active, fighting to change that which had held me back. I was the first undocumented immigrant to ever work at Phoenix City Hall. And, while I did not get to serve in the Marines, I played a key part in electing a Marine, Ruben Gallego, to the United States Congress.
I started a business. And, now my story is the inspiration for a musical! What a crazy, beautiful and incredible country this is. And, it is my home.
Yet, on the eve of being celebrated on a stage in the fifth-largest city in America, the United States Supreme Court may kick me out if they side with this administration over the previous one.
I don’t know much about musicals. In fact, one of the scenes in Americano! makes light of my deficient dancing skills. But I do know they involve curtain calls if they are good.
And “¡Americano!” is very good. Will my curtain call ultimately be to raise my hand and take the oath of citizenship, or be forced to return to a country and place I’ve never known.
Imagine one day if “Americano!” got nominated for a Tony Award but this Tony could not attend. That’s not a dream. It is a nightmare and prospect for 700,000 people just like me. But I will always be a Dreamer, not just for me but for all of us.
Editor’s note: Ms. Valdovinos is a resident of Phoenix, a Dreamer and the focus of a Phoenix Theatre production