Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Asynchronous Blog Post on Cerezas por papeles/ Cherries for Documents


1. Read “Cerezas por papeles/ Cherries for documents” by Helen Ceballos (Blackboard: Course Documents).

3. Pick ONE of the following options and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is Wednesday, 4/26 before the class.

200-word minimum.

Option One

Can you describe the various risks associated with migration and traveling as discussed in Ceballos’ piece? Additionally, what strategies are suggested to cope with these challenges?

Option Two

In Ceballos’ piece, could you provide a more detailed explanation of the concept of performing citizenship?

Option Three

What intergenerational knowledge does Ceballos gain from the women in her family? Please discuss.

20 thoughts on “Asynchronous Blog Post on Cerezas por papeles/ Cherries for Documents”

  1. Option 2

    The concept of performing citizenship is illuminated as a cog that’s central to the clandestine immigrant experience. It’s the ability to be fluid and adaptive to the challenges foreign settings provide. This is best exemplified in the concluding half of the essay where she details the many eclectic jobs she’s taken, many repeated several times over. It’s a statement of intent; one that signifies the weight of the challenge they’ve completed and those yet to come, because when you’re willing or necessitated to sacrifice your home, your tongue, and your peace in the name of something greater, there’s nothing you won’t do. No job, no role you won’t contort yourself to, in order to get the job done and lay low. Like Ceballos mentions in the peace, silence is the tool of choice for immigrants that lead this life, and because things have to be this way due to the social and technical obstacles that this country provides they’re sentenced to a life of servitude; because even one mistake can bring the house of cards down. Karim didn’t intend to invite scrutiny onto his friend, but he doesn’t understand the implications even one’s name can have. It begs the question, how do we see people from our communities continually be reduced to this box, and how do we change it?

  2. Performing citizenship can be also known as a sort of skill that one must acquire to survive and blend into the crowd of a new country. Ceballos first had to perform when she arrived in Puerto Rico, her family was going to stay there and to secure her stay in the island, in the meanwhile they were going to ‘rent’ an American citizenship of a Puerto Rican girl; the requirements for this documentation pushed Ceballos to assimilate Puerto Rican qualities. Once older, Ceballos gained experience performing in theater and she related those experiences to her immigration tales. Performing citizenship, wherever she went, required the erasure or secrecy of her native background, to fully acquire the essence of the people from the host country so that she can pass by unnoticed and unbothered, blend into the crowd as best as possible, while doing all sorts of odd jobs. An example of this would be Ceballo’s time in Argentina, where she was advised to speak in local language, likely to accommodate Argentinians used to their accent, “If you speak how you speak no one is going to understand you, you have to camouflage.” This word- camouflage- accurately describes Ceballo’s efforts throughout her life. Most immigrants know the need to camouflage, blending in with their surroundings, like chameleons do in self-defense, to avoid trouble when they’re only working on having a better life than the one available back in their native land.

  3. Traveling through a yola is extremely risky in general but it seems especially risky as a woman given that if she is caught bleeding, she will certainly get thrown overboard to apparently prevent her blood from attracting sharks (assuming that there are sharks in the first place) and this risk is so common that it often gets mistaken for plagiarism. Ceballos was given grape syrup in an attempt to induce her to sleep and prevent her from seeing such things, but it doesn’t mean that this strategy will work, especially on an overcrowded yola that demands alertness. There was also a very good chance that Ceballos would never see her mother again once she made it to the shores of Puerto Rico and although she was told to stop a car and ask for help if that was the case, a child like her would be much more likely to repeatedly call out for her mother, which is exactly how she copes with the situation.

    The fact that documentation is so fragile is also a significant risk of migration as anything can go wrong easily and quickly, which is exactly what happens when her friend Karim asks her why she’s called Helen instead of her “real name” Maria Cristina. This results in her getting interrogated by border control and at the very least missing her connecting flight but other than hiding away into silence like her aunt Cathy, which clearly isn’t the preferable option, there’s not much that can be done to cope with that particular challenge of migrating.

  4. Migration and traveling from one country to the next presents numerous difficulties, especially under the conditions Helen Ceballos describes in her text. Her experience migrating in the yola was haunting and traumatic. Being that she was young, her mother gave her grape syrup to put her to sleep, serving as a shield to what was occurring on board. Ceballos describes seeing the woman thrown off of the yola for having her menstrual as a way of “protecting” the others from the sharks. This altercation emphasizes that the issues present on land do not disappear during the journey. The men’s lack of knowledge and care for women accompanies them on the yolas, making the voyage much more dangerous for all women on board.
    Furthermore, the health risks of migration pose as another threat to the safety of migrants. Entering a new territory comes with a need to acclimate under new conditions. Considering the circumstances and structure within the yolas, these migrants are also prone to sickness aboard. Ceballos discusses the many people lost during the trip, a 60 person voyage with only about 15 survivors.
    Ceballos copes with migration by assimilating to Puerto Rican culture, like many immigrants do. She takes on many jobs and makes an active effort to blend into the social structure as much as possible.

  5. One of the main problems in traveling through the sea in a Yola is the presence of violent abandonment. For example, a man drops a woman into the water because she is bleeding. Because of this, “She fell into the sea, screamed, asked for help, said that her daughter was waiting, she asked that we don’t leave her.” This is a terrible thing for anyone to have to see and go through. This is the type of stuff that could permanently scar a child to the point, where by the time they got to their destination, they would be so emotionally and mentally disturbed that they would not be able to succeed in life. So the solution given by Helens mother is to give her cough medicine so that she just sleeps through it all. Although this is not the best solution, as there can be many adverse side effects from drinking to much cough medicine, the truth is that whatever these side effects are beat the damage seeing such violence would do to her child. As privleged western people its important to no judge those in less fortunate circumstances than ourselves. Because oftentimes many people have to chose between bad and worse.

  6. In her work, “Cerezas por papeles/ Cherries for documents,” Helen Ceballos explores some of the risks associated with migration and traveling, as well as the strategies that can be employed to cope with these challenges. According to Ceballos, one of the most significant risks associated with migration and traveling is the possibility of being subject to exploitation by unscrupulous individuals or organizations. Migrants and travelers are often forced to rely on others for their basic needs, including food, shelter, and transportation, which can leave them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Migration and traveling can also have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health. Migrants and travelers may experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety, as they struggle to adapt to new surroundings and cope with unfamiliar customs and traditions. Despite these risks, Ceballos suggests several coping strategies that migrants and travelers can employ to mitigate the challenges associated with migration and traveling. One of the most effective strategies is to build a support network of friends, family members, and other individuals who can provide emotional and practical support. Ceballos also suggests that individuals take steps to educate themselves about the risks associated with migration and traveling, including researching potential destinations and routes and seeking advice from experienced travelers.

  7. Option One

    There are so many risks associated with migration, and especially through yola. One of the risks of migrating is that you may be attacked based on your gender. Gender Violence constantly occurs in Latin America and it isn’t excluded when migrating. One of the examples of this Gender Violence is when Helen Ceballos talks about seeing one of the women on the yola ask help to pee, and when the man helping her sees that she is menstruating he lets go of her. He claims that her blood is going to attract sharks, and that it comes down to the majority surviving. When Ceballos visited out classroom came to our classroom she explained that this isn’t necessarily true, the woman did not have to be left to die because she was menstruating. The Gender Violence could also be applied to the risk of sexual assault on any trip. Another one of the challenges faced is the survival of the trip itself, when it comes down to the amount of resources each person has, how they make them last. It is a trip that lasts at least a couple of days, and when other resources are used up, people will try to take advantage to steal. Everyone is on “survival” mode, and have no interest in having empathy for others. I think the strategies to cope with these traumatic experiences, are basically to express them. As Helen Ceballos said in person, what has helped her is bringing her memories “a tierra”. Acknowledging what she has gone through, sharing those experiences so others feel seen and heard. In terms of in the moment of migration, all that can help you are your instincts.

  8. Option Three
    Throughout her piece, Helen Ceballos shares with us some of the intergenerational knowledge she has gained from women in her family. As Ceballos mentioned during class on Monday, many of her memories are not clear and there are gaps within them. In order to fill in those gaps, she has had conversations with the women in her family that have helped her understand more. The process of acquiring this knowledge makes the piece not only about Ceballos but also about all the women in her family. There is a specific section in which she shares different anecdotes her mother recites. These are ‘dichos’ in Spanish, and they are often passed down from generation to generation. These dichos are just another form of knowledge that has been passed down by the women in Ceballo’s family, going back to the grandmother she never met. Furthermore, this passing down of knowledge reflects the theme of women empowerment. Throughout her piece, Ceballos has highlighted not only her experiences and struggles but also those of her Mother and Aunt. Their stories show that it is possible to overcome hardships and that one generation has the ability to empower the next by sharing their experiences.

  9. Option 1
    Helen Ceballos explores the risks associated with migration and traveling. The risky travel, which sometimes entails continual dread and vulnerability, is one of the most significant risks. Because any slip-up might result in deportation or worse, migrants must be careful not to bring attention to themselves. Exploiting vulnerable migrants, such as selling forged birth documents or passports to those looking for better chances, is a further concern. In addition, immigrants often experience prejudice and linguistic hurdles as they attempt to integrate into new cultures and civilizations.
    Ceballos also talks about how immigrants overcome the different challenges encountered. Creating networks with other migrants to provide support and security throughout the trip is one such technique. This enables them to keep one another safe while sharing knowledge and resources. The compassion of strangers, like the one who assisted Ceballos and her mother on their trip, is a different tactic. Additionally, migrants may use strategies like hiding or blending in to avoid being seen by law enforcement or unfriendly people.
    Ceballos also emphasizes the severe emotional toll that migration may have on individuals. Many migrants are compelled to leave their families and loved ones behind, and they often go through agony and loss while traveling. Some people, like Ceballos’ aunt Cathy, can find themselves in a precarious situation where they cannot legitimize their papers or leave the country. Migrants still undertake these trips in pursuit of a better life despite their great dangers and difficulties.
    Overall, the hazards and difficulties of migration and travel are clarified by Helen Ceballos. The narrative illustrates the harsh reality faced by those who travel covertly, from the risks of doing so to the exploitation of weak people looking for a better life. People still migrate despite the dangers because they want to live better lives. It is essential to have plans to deal with the obstacles of migrating since, as the narrative illustrates, doing so might be challenging. These tactics may include looking for legal assistance, creating supportive networks, and taking precautions to guard against exploitation.

  10. Option 2
    The term “performing citizenship” in the context of Dominican migration to the United States, refers to the ways in which Dominican immigrants seek to claim and assert their rights as citizens, even in the absence of legal documentation or official recognition by the state. Desire for better economic possibilities and a better life for themselves and their family often motivates illegal Dominican immigrants to set out on the risky sea voyages. In their eyes, the United States is a land of opportunity where everyone can live out their American Dream. This method of migration is filled with danger and risk, as many of these boats are overcrowded, unseaworthy, and lack basic safety equipment. In Ceballos’ piece, she mentions how a man sacrificed a woman by throwing her overboard. The man sacrificed her for the safety of the rest of the people on the boat. Dominican immigrants are vulnerable to deportation and are often denied basic rights. Referring to her Aunt, in the story it says, “She lives without papers, off the radar, in a cloister induced fear of deportation.” Overall, the desire for a better life and the quest of the American dream are reasonable, however “performing citizenship” by yolas is a very risky and unsustainable technique of migrating due to the risks and difficulties involved.

  11. When migrating from one place to another there are various risks that come along with it, these risks could occur whether migrating by land or by waters. Survival is one of the major goals when it comes to migrating especially in this case in Cerezas Por Papeles, where traveling by Yola was an intense experience when it came to survival. Yolas carried many people and by the time it arrived at its destination, only a few people remained. Helen described the faint memory that she had of her time in the Yola and how her mother would give her medicine so she could stay asleep during the travel. Helen also described how her mother would stay awake throughout all day and night with the help of cocaine, that way she could stay alert and grounded. It seemed that the people who were in the Yola couldn’t be trusted, as many resources such as water, food, clothing were scarce. So, if there was an opportunity where someone could sacrifice another person for their belongings, they would take it. Some strategies one would take to cope with this experience is to have a support system if possible. Having to experience migration could be a very traumatic experience therefore, revisiting this memory could be very difficult for most. Having trusting people who could support you and how you feel could be a very useful way to cope and heal from this event.

  12. According to Ceballos’ article, migration and travel include a variety of hazards. There are both physical and emotional concerns to consider, such as loneliness, cultural shock, and homesickness. Physical risks include disease, injury, and aggression. Additionally, immigrants and travelers may encounter legal difficulties like deportation, detention, and discrimination, as well as monetary hazards including lost wages, uncertain employment, and debt. All of these things definitely cause stress and trauma. Such stress and trauma can have health effects.
    Ceballos offers numerous suggestions for solutions to these problems. Among these include asking for social support from family and friends, forming new connections with locals, taking part in activities and cultural events, and, if necessary, obtaining professional therapy.
    Additionally, reducing financial risks may be achieved by making wise decisions like conserving money, having a backup plan, and doing research on the location. “My aunt’s process of legalization seems more and more distant every day” this quote actually shows the importance of planning from a legal perspective. It’s very important to have backup plans because this country’s immigration system is deeply flawed. Cultural barriers may be lessened and integration can be improved by learning the language of the host nation. Finally, it is critical to have a positive view and concentrate on the chances and advantages of movement and travel, since doing so helps foster resilience and adaptation.

  13. What intergenerational knowledge does Ceballos gain from the women in her family? Please discuss.

    In her work, Helen Ceballos recaps her life as a migrant. The things that her mind and body force her to forget are forced back out as the identifiers as to why she performs in her childhood and teenage years. Trying to be the perfect daughter, the perfect citizen, and trying her best to stay out of trouble are big pieces of what it means to be a migrant. If her family gets in to trouble, or she has a hard time in school and that is picked up, the very life that they live would be in danger, and it is that pressure that makes your mind force down other unpleasant memories. After speaking to her family, she gains a lot of insight on the horrifying things that she had to go through in the Yola that her family did not want her to remember during her childhood. She learns about how her mother had to drug herself, about how her mother had to drug her, and how her older family has had to look away when horrible things have happened to others in the name of survival. It was interesting to talk about how these tropes, such as the one shown in Cherries for Documents is so common in other people’s migration stories, yet seem so unique to us simply because it has never been spoken about. It is a horrifying truth, yet is also one that truly shines a light on how we treat the individual stories of certain groups of people as irrelevant.

  14. In her piece, Helen Ceballos discusses some of the intergenerational knowledge she has gained from the women in her family. One of the biggest and most important things she learns is surrounding the idea of survival and how to navigate through a world in which women are given proper access to resources. Throughout her piece, she shares stories of her mother and of her aunt to highlight the struggles they both experienced trying to make ends meet after migrating. She shares that her aunt, despite having been in the U.S. for so many years, still hasn’t been able to receive her papers. Her aunt also struggles to earn enough money to pay for her son’s medical expenses when he fell ill. In class, Helen Ceballos also shares with us that while on the yola, her mother had consumed a big amount of cocaine in order to stay awake and take care of not only their belongings but of themselves. Illustrating this theme/idea of women empowerment, Helen Ceballos looks up to the women in her life and is reflected on herself throughout the years, taking on so many jobs and making a name for herself and for people like her.

  15. Response to prompt 1 )
    There are various risk involved with traveling in this way. One of these risk is the actual travel. These risks included any kind of shark attack or falling overboard and drowning. These are risks that everyone on board has to deal with. Along with these risk are the risks of dying from not enough food or water. You could not bring enough water and then die from that, and those around you won’t share. This brings me to the last risk which is the other passengers. We see that they are willing to cause the death of a women just to steal her sheets and water. Even if they try and justify their actions we see that in these travels it is dangerous to go alone and need to rely on anyone. The way to solve these issues are first to bring just the right amount of supplies. Not to much to get robbed but not to little to die from lack of them. Two is to be very alert. We see in the story that her mother never sleeps because she needs to be alert throughout the whole trip so that they can both be safe. This being awake and alert makes it so no one can harm them, along with this they also have a weapon for self protection.

  16. Option One
    Migration comes with many risks, some that can be expected by going to a new place such as putting yourself out of your comfort shell when you are forced to introduce yourself to new people, to find a new job and home to sustain yourself. These issues are also amplified when a family migrates somewhere because then they have those additional people to care for like in Ceballos’s novel. Ceballos’s mother had to sacrifice her well-being by maintaining herself in a constant state of survival so she could keep Helen safe. She went without sleeping, eating and drinking the necessary food she needed, and using the bathroom so that she could get her daughter to the destination safely. This is one of the unexpected risks that comes with migration. By going to a new place, you are no longer surrounded by a familiar environment. You do not recognize the people near you so you cannot rely on them.

    Additionally, the method of traveling also can worsen immigrant migrant experience. Traveling on a Yola endangered Helen and her mother because of the terrible living conditions. People do not have access to the basic things they need to survive so they become the worst versions of themselves. The Yola may initially be a tool that allowed Ceballos family to seek a better life, but it quickly became a sign of death and danger as 45 people died. When the people on top of the Yola kept seeing that people were dying, they were getting scared, and that fear led them to try to hurt Helen’s mother.

  17. In the story “Cerezas por papeles/Cherries for documents” By Hellen Ceballos The people are traveling on a Yola. Traveling on a Yola can be very dangerous. There are multiple risk from migrating from place to place. There can be emotional distress when migrating. Being away from your family can cause that. You can possibly lose loved ones while migrating. Physical dangers can also happen. Migrants risk being robbed. For example food can be taken. because food can be really scares on a yola. In the story a lady had got thrown into the ocean because she was bleeding. That isn’t right. Not even makes it on the whole yola ride. To cope with these challenges, Ceballos suggests several strategies Building a support network. Like having your family by your side. Also taking jobs can help cope.

  18. Option One
    In Ceballo’s piece, there are many risks in migration that are heavily listed and discussed at length. Such risks include death, being thrown overboard as a pregnant woman so as to not attract sharks to the boat, losing loved ones.

  19. Migration and traveling as someone who isn’t from the place you are going is a process that is very dangerous and risky for several reasons. In this piece, Ceballos says that she migrated on a yola. Yolas are a very common way that many people migrate to different parts of the world. However, it is a very dangerous trip where there is no supervision, the boat is crowded, and the waves can get strong. Along with this, a young child was told by her mother that if she didn’t make it, the girl should stop a car and go somewhere else that is away from the shore. Although an adult can understand, a small child is more likely to yell and scream for her mother than stop a car. Unfortunately, a lot of times, many people suffer dangerous traveling and find themselves in situations that can get bad very easily. One of the strategies that stuck out to me in this piece is when they were told to camouflage with others. This represents blending in with others and adopting the traditions and cultures of others that are originally from the place you are migrating to.

  20. Option 1
    The risks associated with migration from DR to Puerto Rico discussed in this piece is the fear of not making it. By dying or giving up along the journey is a risk from migrating. You have to put your own life on the line for a hope of a better future that’s not even guaranteed. Cebellos describes one of these interactions of death in her journey “Two people struggled over the gallon of water and the sheet left by the woman swallowing the sea. Nobody talked. Slaps in the water, the yola continued”(Page 1). The yolo continued without being affected by this death, its survival at this point. Traveling as an immigrant as told by Ceballos is gut wrenching. Ceballos states “ Without realizing it, more than asking, he uncovered the inequality gap that divides his existence from mine”(Page 5). Being racially profiled and threatened to be deported is a struggle she had to face when traveling. One of the strategies she uses to cope with these challenges is being able to create an identity different from yours and hiding behind it. By living all these different experiences you learn along the way and live different lives. This coping mechanism is creative and teaches you all the different ways of life as one person.

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