A film about the life of Ulises, a Mexican teenager whose life completely changes. From living in a small town in Monterrey, Mexico, to surviving in the streets of New York City, where he faces a reality many Latino immigrants know too well: the feeling of losing a home and wondering if they’ll ever find one again.
In this award-winning film that debuted in the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, we see how the music genre that is known as Cumbia amongst the Latino community, has a bigger meaning in the life of teenagers like Ulises or his protege El Sudadera, an even younger kid who Ulises takes under his wing.
Los Terkos, the name of Ulises’ gang, translates into “The Stubborn Ones,” which is a word that not only defines how determined and persistent Ulises’ gang is, but it seems to also echo how strong-willed Latino immigrants are.
The genre Cumbia which we see Los Terkos dance to comes originally from Colombia, where artists like Shakira, J-Balvin & Karol G, to mention a few, are from.
The powerful and catchy music style, also known as “sonideras,” has taken over every Latin American country—one country, specifically: Mexico. In the state of Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, in which a huge underground began in the mid-’50s and can still be seen until today.
A song we can constantly hear being sung by the gang it’s named, Lejania by Lisandro Meza, the verses we hear in the background and between scenes are:
Me da, que tristeza que me da, me da, me da la lejania me da, que tristeza que me da estar tan lejos de la tierra mia. Translation: It gives me a lot of sadness, it gives me, it gives me, this distance, it gives me a lot of sadness being so far away from my homeland.
Lejania is only one song of many anthems known amongst Latino immigrants, who had to leave their homeland in search of a better life in the US.
In the US, immigrants are constantly referred to as brave, and we see a clear example of how brave Ulises is after getting beat up by his former roommates.
However, the problem is that focusing on how “brave” Latino immigrants are, dismisses how no immigrant wants to be brave, and no one wants to be an immigrant.
In fact, this so-called bravery implies an illusion of choice, as if anyone, would willingly go through or put their own children in life-risking situations, where they could be separated from their parents, traumatized for life, or be left alone to die.
The truth is that no one chooses to be an immigrant; you end up becoming one.
I'm No Longer Here, is a film about the sadness, nostalgia, and hardship an immigrant faces, along with the never-ending search of a place where he can feel at home again.
Originally, named Ya No Estoy Aqui also makes a profound remark at the different lives lower-class Mexicans live, versus the upper-class “whitexicans” who complain at having to stop at Bath Bed & Beyond throughout their shopping spree while Ulises spends hours locked inside the “Mcallen Shopping Tour” van.
Moreover, this film also touches upon identity and the need to belong and connect with others, as the director explains in an interview at the Argentinian newspaper Pagina12.
“Belonging is a human need, and your identity is based on feeling like you belong.”– Fernando Frias de la Parra
Frias de la Parra also shared the surprising fact that the kids appearing in this movie are not actors at all, which helped make the film even more authentic.
“I wanted to tell a story within a context (in which it could be understood) and through a human perspective,” said film director, Fernando Frias de la Parra.
In an interview with Noticias 28 NL, Daniel Garcia talks about how his character Ulises and him didn’t live such different lives since he grew up, in a rough neighborhood where many times he saw dead bodies and people being beaten to death.
Garcia was formerly part of a Cumbia music ensemble with his family, so jumping into this role with no previous acting experience was slightly easier because, just like Ulises, he knew a thing or two about Cumbia Colombiana.
Ya No Estoy Aqui debuted in Netflix on May 27, 2020, it has won The Golden Pyramid for Best Film and took seven years to make, after being adapted from a short story into the now acclaimed film it has become.
Click here to learn more about Cumbia and its impact in Monterrey, Mexico.