Undocumented Lives Between Divided Landscapes in the Sonoran Desert and Ayiti


In this text, Lauda Virginia Vargas shares with us memories of her experience as an undocumented child and young adult in Arizona, which we asked her to place in dialogue with her reflection on the last decade of violence deployed by the Dominican state against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent. From the Caribbean Sea to the Continent, she dreams of futures where the colonial lines no longer hold such violent power on people.

Vargas Funambulist 3
Abuela’s archive family swimming, Dominican Republic border wall construction at mangrove forest, sunset in Samaná. / Artwork by Lauda Virginia Vargas for The Funambulist (2023).

The beige carpet of our Arizona apartment mimicked the color of the rock landscaping outside, and the beige stucco of the exterior façade. In this apartment, a relatively short drive to the US–Mexico border, and thousands of miles from our tropical home in the Caribbean, my Mom would keep stories of the island we had never been able to visit since I was two years old. My memories of the island were quasi-non-existent, and my mom’s stories of the Dominican Republic in the 1960–80s became my memories of the island. Suburbia in the arid desert was a ripe place for my imagination of an island in the Caribbean, where plantain trees grew in our backyard and sounds of dominoes being slapped on plastic tables would fill public spaces. At times I struggled to grasp my parents’ reasons for leaving, trading this island that seemed full of life and love for the constant fear that we were now living under.