Michelle Montaño '20
Editor’s note: Michelle Montaño wrote this reflection two days after the U.S. presidential election, offering her whirlpool of thoughts as an international student from Ecuador.
My name is Michelle Montaño, and I am a freshman and I am an international student from Ecuador. The first time I thought about studying in the United States, I was a junior in high school. Every time I watched the news, I would hear how Ecuadorian journalists were being sent to prison because they did not agree with our president’s decisions. That was the moment when my dream of becoming a journalist flew away. I no longer wanted to study communications or media at all because I did not want to go to prison for saying what I thought. To maintain my passion for writing, I decided to become a writer.
However, I knew that I was not going to be able to do it in my country, especially because that career did not even exist and literature was not even offered as a degree. Therefore, I began to believe in the “American Dream.” Around two and a half months have passed since I got here and right now I am not sure if this is the right place for me. I thought I would not have to see what I wanted to escape from in the United States of America. I was not prepared to see Trump taking the presidency. But here I am. Here we are, and I am afraid. I am afraid that everything this president-elect represents will surface––misogyny, xenophobia, racism, narcissism––whatever it is, it will not be in my favor. I do not know if I will be safe to go to Hannaford by myself. I am not sure if I am ever going to be heard and I do not even know if next year I would be able to do my Field Work Term in the USA. I am a proud Ecuadorian and I am a very proud non-white woman, yet as this presidential election’s result unfolded, I could not help the chill thinking about its aftermath effect.
I remember the first time I went to Starbucks in a mall at Stamford in 2012. I wanted a latte with whipped cream, but I could not even ask for it. The cashier saw me and immediately screamed: “There’s a latina here, come and help her please.” I did not know how to feel;I remained silent. That experience that I have not talked much about was my first encounter with racism. I am “white” in Ecuador, so I had never experienced anything like that before. At the moment, I am scared, and all I want to do is pack my things and go back home, but I can’t. My parents have sacrificed a lot so that I can be here and going back will mean giving up on my dreams.
Yet, I do not know what to do. I do not know how I should feel about the rising of Trump. I do not feel safe. Today I am more aware of my cultural and racial identity than any other day. I am scared as hell, for what is coming ahead, to be honest. But I know for sure that I am not going to run away. I saw my mom and my little brother fighting two horrible diseases for a long time and survived. I am not ready to give up right now because I have learned that life is not always rainbows and sunshine, and there is nothing that does not have a way out.
I cannot promise myself that my fear is going to go away, and I certainly cannot pretend that everything is going to be okay right now. I do not know what is going to happen after Trump’s first days as the new president of the United States, and I do not know how his policies may affect my life. Nonetheless, I know that I have to channel this anxiety into something real and I cannot let it stop me from fulfilling my dreams. I am grateful that I am here at Bennington.. I have my teachers, my bosses, my advisors, my friends and even president Mariko Silver by my side, offering me their support. I am hopeful that together, as a community, we will overcome any obstacle that may appear in the way. Angela Davis said, “people can collectively generate the kind of power that can be earth shaking, that can make change.” Let’s come together and create the community we need to be to win this battle.