I was raising my daughter in Rome, Italy, and rent was more expensive than anything i could earn in one month. UC Riverside offered me a teaching assistantship and admitted me to their graduate program. I got a student visa that way. My daughter Paola Coda joined me the second year and stayed until the end of my doctorate. At that point I had a big dilemma. Would I go back or stay? The answer came when Vanderbilt University in Nashville offered me a job as Assistant Professor, and processed a green-card for me. The job was discontinued a few years later, but the green-card stayed. That’s when I moved back to California to be an activist in the LGBT community and practice holistic health. I came to Puerto Rico about 20 years ago to resume my academic career. All these decisions were very difficult to make at the time, and involved many inner conflicts and painful choices.
Some of these are narrated in my memoir, Eros: A Journey of Multiple Loves. Where I explain that because my father was an independent senator elected in the PCI, I was always afraid that the FBI would at some point catch up with me. When I finally got my green-card it was a big relief. That’s when I felt I could really be myself. A few years later an anti-immigrant proposition passed in California. Like many others, I woke up and applied for citizenship so I could vote next time around. And I have ever since.
There is more that I want to say. In Italy people also talk a lot about the influx of “foreigners.” They call those from poor countries “extracomunitari/e” which alludes to them being from outside the EU. They are afraid of them, and avoid them. There is a difference though. In Italy there really isn’t an immigration system, as in, say, ICE or the former INS. They way people become “documented” is by waiting enough years as undocumented, until an amnesty comes, at which point their years as “clandestini/e” count. So one would think that there the act of voting without the right to do so could be interpreted as an act of civic presence, as in, say, I’m here, see, I want to perform my responsibilities as a citizen.
aka Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD
Convenor of Practices of Ecosexuality: A Symposium
Project: “Amorous Visions: Ecosexual Perspectives on Italian Cinema”