Marie Clare is a Mexican born creative and social worker currently living in London. A city she’s called home for the past 2 years. Shortly after losing both her father and grandfather, she left Mexico at the age of 7. Leaving Cuernavaca, a bustling city and relocating to Tamworth, a quiet rural NSW town. When she’s not working with families, children and young people, Marie Clare writes poetry; especially in those moments where most cannot articulate their thoughts and feelings.
It’s been a long time coming but finally, after 2 years of speaking on the internet, Marie Clare and I were able to meet up during my time in London.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Mexican heritage?
I was born in Mexico to two Mexican parents. My paternal family is made up of a long and proud line of Mexicans. I actually think my brother and I are the first to have immigrated. My maternal family is a bit more mixed; my maternal grandmother is Australian but my mum doesn’t identify as ‘half’ anything but rather as Mexican. It’s fundamental to how I see myself and how I see my family. It is part of us.
Why did your mother decide to relocate you and your brother to Australia?
My dad was very sadly and unjustly killed when I was 6. I don’t know if my mum decided but rather, the act of us losing him made that decision. That kind of violence robs you of any conceivable notion of safety and disturbs all sense of stability. Everything was disturbed.
It’s not a decision which was joyfully made; you don’t leave home unless you have to. And that pained our whole family for a really long time.
Can you remember that transition period of moving from a large city to a rural town?
Moving to Australia let alone Tamworth was an absolute culture shock! It was kind of like growing pains; it hurt so much to grow into the place because there was a lot of grief and confusion and shock and resistance to work through. In that really drawn out process, there was a lot of inner conflict, discomfort and restlessness which I internalised; I knew why we had to leave Mexico but I just fought against accepting that we had left.
I was always so aware and appreciative of the peace that came with the physical safety we could have but I don’t think I was held much space in Tamworth or that I held much space for Tamworth. It seemed to demand so much justification of who I was and it felt as though my ‘acceptance’ was premised on me abandoning what I knew belonged to me: my identity.
Can you describe your experience growing up as a Latin American in Australia?
I didn’t really conceptualise myself belonging to a broader group like Latin American until I was at university. I suppose that reflects the bubble I grew up in, how for a long time I felt that my identity was this thing I ‘did’ at home and the fact I felt so alone in my identity growing up as a first generation in a small and almost monolithic community.
Only later, at a point where I started to befriend other Latin Americans did all the pieces fell together; it was like this sense of belonging and pride had resurfaced. It was really reaffirming to have a shared experiences and to be able to share those experiences. I mean, to share and discuss sweet vs savoury pink tamales and how Frida would not be cool being printed on the tote bags of white feminists or to know that when we reference Selena it has nothing to do with Selena Gomez and – yeah, that was sick.
Was there a Latin American community in Tamworth?
Surprisingly, there were a couple of families from Latin America who we formed close relationships with. I remember those shared times so fondly. It was the closest I could feel to how what we left behind felt.
Have you been back to Mexico?
I try to go back once a year. I moved back to Mexico in 2016 and it was amazing and surreal. It was also really difficult trying to navigate my homeland as an ‘immigrant’ – that was wild, literally being an immigrant in the country I was born! It was really a very diasporic experience and in that sense really emotionally testing.
I felt like my whole life in Australia I was made to feel I was other but then in México I kind of felt like an imposter of sorts. I felt like everyone else thought I was a washed down version – which is not how I perceive or perceived myself – but I felt like and they could just smell I wasn’t ‘really from here’.
I’ve been in London for about 2.5 years. I left Mexico for similar concerns which originally took us to Australia; having the autonomy to exercise that choice was terrifying and it probably was the hardest decision I have had to make. It felt like I betrayed many versions of me.
When was the last time you were back in Mexico?
I last visited in February 2018 and heading back again in October 2019. I will be there for Day of Dead, I’m gee’d.
Do you think that your Mexican heritage has anything to do with your chosen career path? If so, why?
I’m not sure that my cultural identity put me on this career path directly but I think the experience of growing up and feeling like there was never space for me or at least not knowing how to re/claim my space makes me more attuned to the work that I do. I think the things that I am passionate about and advocate for are definitely influenced by things that I was made aware of as a result of being first generation or as a result of navigating between two different ‘worlds’. Being formally educated in the ‘first world’ gives me a lot of systemic privilege so I felt I needed to share that or use that in some kind of tangible way.
What do you miss most about Mexico?
Everything! My family, the food, the smells, the noises, the people, the warmth, agua de horchata, chiles en nogada, el pastel de Helen, tamales, the chaos, the love, the language, the land, the colours, my abuelita’s house, household shrines to La Virgen de Guadalupe, bugambilias adorning all of the streets. I miss how everything feels so familiar and so rooted.
Where is home to you?
I will always feel like my first home is Mexico. It might sound so pretentious, but there’s this overwhelming but really grounding sense of being connected to self – past, present and future – whenever I’m there.
On top of that, I have many different types of homes – some physical and some more ~spiritual~. I don’t think necessarily of ‘coming/being home’ as getting to a place; it’s more achieving a feeling of rootedness, of being able to ‘undress’, ‘unpick’ and ‘strip back’ and that for me has increasingly been more attached to certain people.
Marie Clare’s Instagram: @nach0bae