On Monday evening, audience members flooded Cammilleri Hall for Visions and Voices’ “WET: A DACAmented Journey,” a solo performance by Alex Alpharaoh in which one man’s words powerfully express his story as an undocumented American.
“WET: A DACAmented Journey” is a theatrical performance that combines Spanish and English to share the true story of Anner Cividanis, Alex Alpharaoh’s birth name, and what it means to call a country home even when that country refuses to recognize you, marginalizes and attacks your livelihood. Alpharaoh was awarded Best Solo Performance for the show by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle in 2018.
“When you’re undocumented, your whole life is fragmented, frustrated,” Alpharaoh proclaimed.
Alpharaoh vividly recounted what his distressed mother told him the very first time he asked about his legal status, prompted by teasing at school.
“You must never tell anyone that you don’t have papeles,” Alpharaoh said. “As far as anyone is concerned, I gave birth to all four of my kids in the United States. You have to be smart hijo because if they come for you, God forbid they come for me, then who is going to take care of your brothers and your sisters, huh? You have to be smart, Anner. Keep your head down and never draw any unnecessary attention to yourself.”
Fast-forwarding from his childhood in the 1980s, Alpharaoh describes the unending uncertainty undocumented people continuously face, from promising moments of hope during the Barack Obama era to widespread fear at the hands of the current administration.
In June 2012, the Obama administration established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, providing some undocumented Americans who entered the country as children certain temporary protections.
“Those who were brought here as children, through no fault of our own, granting us the opportunity to call the United States our home,” is how Alpharaoh captured the hope DACA provided certain undocumented people like him.
Alpharaoh explains that DACA excitement is short-lived though, as, on Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump became president and began working to restrict immigration.
“If I have to go away to a place I have never stayed except for when I was a babe with no memory to be recollected,” Alpharaoh said. “Tossed out as if I were defective. How then is my departure constructed if my whole life can be relocated, decimated, dismantled? My whole dealings with a stroke of a pen. My livelihood should not have to depend on political trends.”
The performance then shifted toward Anner’s story of visiting Guatemala for the first time to see his dying grandfather.
“Guatemala is a beautiful place, but it’s not my home, it simply isn’t,” Alpharaoh said. “Now arriving to Guatemala was a huge cultural shock. It was the first time in my life that I had ever felt like an actual immigrant.”
To get to Guatemala in the first place, Anner had to deal with troubling government proceedings and wrestle with the idea that he may never be allowed to return to America after leaving, the only home he has ever known. After a close call, Anner was let back into America at LAX.
“I was allowed back into the country, but I’m still not fully welcome home,” Alpharaoh said.
Alpharaoh explained some history behind the show which was written in 2017 in response to Trump’s decision to phase out DACA and how things have escalated since.
“It’s not fair. It’s not fair that as a DACA recipient I have to plan my life in 2-year increments,” Alpharaoh said. “That every 18 months, I have to wait in line for a work permit that I may or may not get … Since the beginning of the 45th Administration, there have been constant attacks towards the undocumented community.”
“There are people that are trying to destroy our country: Pulse in Orlando; Las Vegas, Nev.; Dallas, Texas; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Baltimore, Md.; New York City, N.Y.,” he continued. “There has been one mass shooting every single day since the beginning of the 45th’s administration and like I said I get it. There are people that are trying to destroy our country, but it’s not us, the DACAmented.”
Closing out the performance in Spanish, Alpharaoh shifted briefly to make one final declaration in English.
“Mi nombre es Anner Alexander Alfaro Cividanis,” he said. “I am an American in every sense of the word, except on paper. I’m a son to an American, brother to Americans, father to an American. I’m an actor, writer, director, producer, poet, social worker, friend. What I am not, is your enemy.”
A standing ovation ensued.