In 2017, Ambar Cruz – the Dominican-and Mexican-American artist who goes by Ambar Lucid – released a tender single she wrote and produced called “A Letter To My Younger Self.” The track is a quiet and disarmingly beautiful example of Cruz’s intimate dream-pop; she fills the spaces of the song with gentle, celestial keys while comforting a grief-stricken younger version of herself through gauzy vocals. She sings, “Ya no quiero que llores, the universe is gonna give you muchas flores.” (“I don’t want you to cry, the universe is gonna give you many flowers.”)
That line sticks; it’s a promise of healing and growth that will one day come. While the exact root of Cruz’s pain is ambiguous in the writing, Cruz released a short yet powerful documentary called Llegaron Las Flores (The Flowers Have Arrived) on Friday that reveals the trauma behind the lyrics. In tender, carefully observed footage, Cruz and her parents share that Cruz’s father was deported to Mexico more than a decade ago, an agonizing split in the family that permanently altered Cruz’s childhood.
As the title suggests, Llegaron Las Flores – which was directed by Robert Semmer – is Cruz’s attempt to reconcile with what happened while mending the wounds left from her father’s absence. The 20-minute film functions as the follow-up and companion visual to “A Letter To My Younger Self” and sees Cruz arriving in Mexico to reunite with her dad and to meet her little sister for the first time. For the 18-year-old New Jersey artist, the journey is a foray into adulthood and maturation that is hopeful and heartbreaking – and it’s a process that was completely inspired by Cruz’s own songwriting.
“Honestly, when I first wrote ‘A Letter To My Younger Self,’ I never ever imagined that I could have even possibly had the experience that I did in Mexico,” Cruz told Remezcla. “I wrote that song during a time in my life where a lot of things seemed absolutely impossible and I felt very hopeless about my direction in life, so being able to reconnect with my father after so many years and being able to meet my little sister literally because of music is still something difficult for me to comprehend as a reality. It’s very beautiful to see what my music has allowed me to experience and I am very thankful for that.”
The documentary is understated, but it includes moving scenes with both of Cruz’s parents, who agreed to share their stories on camera. Through tears, Cruz’s mother remembers how the deportation of her partner shattered her dreams and her family. “I think I was never the same person again,” she says. Later, Cruz’s father talks about the mix of numbness, isolation, and hurting that he went through after he was forced back to Mexico. “Sometimes you act like a coward. You don’t want to feel anything,” he explains. “I put it away in my heart and guarded it, until one day it exploded. I suffered everything I had to suffer.”
For Cruz, having her parents discuss such personal issues in public was a significant and emotional undertaking. “I was very appreciative that both of my parents were willing to share a bit of what they had gone through, especially my mother because I know how uncomfortable the topic is for her so I was surprised and proud at how open she was and the lack of hesitancy from both of my parents,” she said.
Cruz’s experience is all the more stirring, given the current sociopolitical debate around immigration and the Trump administration’s violent policies against the undocumented. The video arrives during a week in which Trump announced sweeping ICE raids that threaten more than 2,000 families in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco, continuing his practice of terrorizing communities and tormenting them with the fear of separation. Llegaron Las Flores is a reminder of the long-term effects and pain wrought by agonizing deportations among relatives.
“What I really hope that people who have similar backgrounds take away from this documentary is that there are many others that understand and experience similar situations, I want them to recognize that they’re not alone,” she said. “When I was growing up, I didn’t feel that there were many people around me that could relate to my situation because it is such a sensitive topic for most people that experience this. “
But the film is also a portrait of the love and resilience that Latinx families show even in the face of trauma. The film ends with Cruz and her father making amends with the past, as he tells her
“Things are going to be different now. Very different.” Cruz said that already, they’ve taken steps to moving forward in their relationship.
“My dad and I have gotten to know each other better since seeing each other,” she said. “They’re both very proud of how this documentary turned out.”
Watch the documentary here: