Self portrait with Chopped hair.

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We grow our hair like weeds for people that will never love us. To later chop off all the dead weight, once they leave us. This time, I wanted to do the leaving. I wanted to cut the man at the source, and resort to every dramatic episode I could think of. Because it was never his choice. It was my choice, my decision, and it was my turn to leave this time.

If you cut your hair, I will leave you.

How I watched every strand of hair grow to the middle of my back. How happy he seemed as he ran his fingers through it, paid no mind to the person before him. It’s when I think I have him, that he leaves without notice. His ghost that trails behind then lingers once he leaves. It’s when I think I have won, that I have lost everything before me.

When you believe you love someone, you’ll fall for anything. Even something simple as leaving every strand of hair on your head, just as they like it. I loved him, from the deep parts of my soul, to every long strand of hair that fell across my back. I watched as my hair became my shield, my armor from the world. My way of hiding these feelings of doubts and worries. My hair continued to grow into a tangled, tousled, mess. I continued to listen to his threats, as empty as the love he gave me. No matter how long my hair grew, he never came back.

Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait with Cropped Hair - 1943

I wanted him back for all the superficial reasons I hated. I wanted to stop this numbing suffocated feeling of being alone that drugs nor alcohol could fill. My hair continued to grow and I continued to wait. He said I was perfect and to never change. If I cut my hair, he would only leave me. He would never come back. And I continued to wait. Until the weight of my hair became the weight of my worries. Until my hair became heavy, that I could no longer hold my head up to the sky. We do these foolish things for love but at what cost does it love us back? At what cost do people understand that we are people underneath all that hair? That our hair doesn’t make you love us any less. There were days I wanted to rip every strand from my head. Tear apart the existence of what I believed he wanted. Because for a brief moment I was perfect to you, don’t I ever think of changing.

I watch as the strands of hair fall to the ground. Inch by inch. The memories of you and the ghosts before you. If you cut your hair, I will leave you.  I try to keep myself composed. Hold the tears back. Love was never what held us together. The strands of dead hair that laid before my feet; bear witness to this change that comes over me. I am more exposed to the world without my shield. I am showing the world who I really am, beneath the hair.

 

When the final strand of hair falls, I will forget you. Someone will come in and sweep away the memories scattered on the floor. It won’t be me this time. For the first time, I have stopped listening to ghosts.

 

Tonight.

He was easy to talk too. Someone, I could come home too. Come home from a long day and talk about everything. He carried a charm about him, that I found myself enamored by things he would say. Every minute became easier to be around him.

Could he really be this charming? Or is it all the drinks I am consuming?

I didn’t love him. Maybe, if anything, I had tiny feelings for him. At this point, who don’t I have feelings for. I would have feelings for a lamp post, because it gave me light. But thats just who I am. I love people only to disappoint them in the end. If anything he just made me feel safe. Like I could be honest about everything without judgement. Some part of him would be familiar, as if I had felt these sentiments before. I just couldn’t pinpoint where.

“Stop looking at your phone. Everything you need is right here”

He didn’t mean it condescendingly. Some parts of it is a corny drunken slur. And yet, I believed him.

I don’t want to go home. As dark as it was at the Bar, I could have stayed here for hours. Maybe I did, I can’t remember. I found myself drinking this ache in my chest away. With every sip, I will cut you out of my heart.

Maybe not tonight.
Tonight, let’s just think of something else. Anything else.

With every sip of his beer, his words would slur into something more meaningful then the next.

I didn’t buy it at the time. At the time, I couldn’t think of anyone else but someone else. Someone I should have left in the dust of my memories. Someone I should never have brought with me in my new life here. The same person that made me check my phone dozens of times, instead of realizing “everything you need is right here”.

“That’s not what you’re looking for”
“What am I looking for then?”
“Me”

I could have kissed him right there. In my drunken haze, in this dimly lit bar. I could have.

But I didn’t.

No amount of drinks will rid the person that hurt you out of your heart. No matter how many boys you kiss, its not going to take the taste of his lips away. No matter how many times I cut myself, its never going to get him out from under my skin.

I feel stupid drowning out my sadness with someone else, thinking about someone else.

Everything I need is right here.

And I know better now.

Burbank, CA 2009

 

Do me a favor and don’t reply.

He wasn’t a character I normally liked. Then again, I fall in love with people so fast it’s almost a joke. A slight change in the weather, a smile in September; before I know it, I am hooked.

I knew it wasn’t love, it was nothing like it. He had a way of making butterflies flutter out of the dark caves of my soul, and I liked it. I had closed myself off of male attention for so long, that any attention made my heart skip a beat. The more I tried to place him, the further he would get away. I wait too long for people that don’t exist. He was no exception. When you wait too long for things to happen, you start making up stories in your mind. Maybe thats what this all was. My crazy mind getting the best of me.

I am crazy. I am absolutely crazy. I know nothing about him, but I can’t stop thinking about him.  This is how crazy people think, right? This is how it starts when your mind starts to go? I can’t stop myself. I find myself jumping right back in, after I promised myself I would keep myself 10 steps back. Here I am standing on the ledge between reality and make believe. I am a rational person. I am crazy but I am not bat-shit crazy. I know the difference between whats right and whats completely stupid/foolish/wrong for me?

Here I am standing in front of the man that could possible change my whole life. The man that ignited the spark after the years of broken solitude and sadness.

I can’t help but look at him.

Boy, is he something. It was a spark, a break in the melody that I would die to hear on constant repeat. A drum beat that kept my heart in constant motion.

I should have known better. Should have seen all the red flags, paid absolute attention to all the signs, but I didn’t. You never know who you will open yourself up too. Never know who your heart will decide gets the keeping. I am crazy to think that stupid sparks mean something. Including when everything feels one sided.

I always end up the girl in the pretty dress that cries at the end of the story. The girl that makes up all these weird scenarios of “what if” and breaks her own foolish heart in the end.

But maybe this was different.

I mean. Why else did he keep coming back?

“I just need to be alone for a while”

Of course he does. He wants to put an end to the narrative that hasn’t even started. Everybody needs to be alone for a while. But nobody really wants to be alone, right?

I feel myself screaming on the inside.

“Give me a chance. Choose me! Look at me!”

Now I am sitting in the pretty dress, wondering what I did wrong. If I did anything wrong at all. If my crazy fucked up mind got the best of my reality.

Why is it when shit starts to get real, men just want to back track. Like they weren’t hitting you up at all hours of the night. Like they weren’t asking all these personal questions, pretending to be invested. Only to need to be alone.

“You understand what I mean right? You’re alone”

Ouch.

I seem to bring that out of men. This breath of honesty that men can’t help but exhale out, and I can’t help but inhale in. He just happened to be no exception. It becomes natural for men to be so brutally honest with me, like we are the best of friends. That talking with me is like talking with one of their bros. I wonder if thats what they think of me. Just one of their bros, their friends, their buddies. After a while, I don’t know who to blame anymore. Is it my fault for being quiet about how I feel? Or their fault for assuming I am no different then they are.

Its been months since we’ve talked but I couldn’t rid him from my brain. I keep replaying the same image of us. Me the dreamer, him the realist. Me, believing that he would see through my armor. He, just feeling this need to be alone. I knew it was a lost cause. I knew deep down inside that everything was a no-go. But curiosity got the best of me. Because why are people that are not meant to be together, keep coming back together again. Even if it means nothing, why did the spark hit me like a lightening bolt?

It had to mean something.

Then the water works start to form. I become the girl I have come to know and fear and hate and just can’t stop myself from becoming. What in the fuck is wrong with me that men feel the need to be alone to find themselves. That I am some sort of stop on the way to their destiny. Are they aware that the manic-pixie dream girl died for men years ago; that we as females can be the heroes of our own story??

I don’t want to be the girl that got away.
I don’t want to be the girl you marry at the end of the day.
What in the fuck is wrong with the “right now”?

This “alone” time ends up being everyone else but me.

I start seeing images of him with someone new, every few weeks. I am not a factor in his mind until it doesn’t work out. Then like clockwork, he comes back. Maybe a second look would do the trick. Maybe, I am what they want in the long run, but just not right now. Not right away.

Meanwhile I sit here, miserable. Asking myself, what did I do wrong?

Everybody wants everybody else.
Someone prettier with their shit together.
Someone thinner.
Someone imperfectly perfect to their own liking.
Is it too much to want the same thing everyone else wants?

Seriously, why the fuck not me?

Yeah you go ahead, be by yourself.

Me too, dude. Me too.

Oakland, CA. 2013

Shake it out.

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I should have written this a long time ago. The minute my heart changed, and we went our separate ways. Like a broken record, I yearn for the tragic melodies of yesterday. The pain that cuts you straight down to the core. Bleeding through your veins and making your heart beat faster. I love the hurt, I need the pain. This sick desire for self destruction never leaves. But at this moment it has started to escape me.

You can take everything you want from this. Every letter, every word, every sentence, every verb. Everything. Let it manifest itself into what you want to believe. Because if I cared even an ounce about you, I wouldn’t feel the need to rid myself of you.

I do not break for you.
I do not cry for you.
I do not love who or what I believed you were.

You’re the needle that scratches my record player, wanting to hear only my favorite song. At this moment, everything sounds differently now. Even you look different now. The past always stays in the past, no matter how many times a ghost haunts you. The ghost lingers then drifts away, just around the same time the melody ends. Ending with the memories, ending with the sadness and all the tears.

Its through this pain that I thought a million things about you.

I thought I loved you.
I thought I missed you.
I thought I would self-destruct without you.

Thinking only leads to dreams that never truly existed. An end to our story. Waking from the blissful dreams into our badly lit reality. Its then we find ourselves back at the start. Back to the beginning.

Scratch that.

We can’t take things back to the start. We have maxed out our ideas of new beginnings. What’s done is done and every girl after me is just filler space. Because men like you hate the voided vacancy of present tense.

I will shake you out from underneath my skin. Out from every inch of my bones, into the dusty mist where you belong. Because I am doing just fine without you. Every night is another night to forget you. I watch as memories turn to dust and leave behind all these scattered thoughts about you.

I am doing just fine.
I am doing just fine.
Just you wait and see.

Duele.

It doesn’t hurt, I am okay.
No duele.

Jump to your feet.
Dust yourself off.
Pretend it doesn’t hurt.  While the tears are forming at the corners of my eyes.

No duele. No pasa nada.
It doesn’t hurt, everything will be okay.

Be strong. Fuerte. I am bigger than my cuts and my scrapes. Bigger then my falls and failures. Bigger then the embarrassment of the hurt I feel inside.

It doesn’t hurt, no duele.

It hurts. Straight to the core. In the deeper depths of my soul. I could paint the wound any color, but it never stops hurting. How strong am I suppose to be? How strong am I suppose to allow the world to see?

Levantate. No pasa nada. Pero todo duele.

Everything hurts. From my skin to my bones to the very depths of my soul. I have been programmed to make every scrape disappear. Every broken blood vessel nonexistent. But it hurts. It hurts every inch of my skin and I am too afraid to say so. I was brought up to believe that if you can’t see pain, the pain doesn’t exist. Cover up every cut, bandage every bruise and broken bone. If it’s not there, it doesn’t exist.

I will lie through my teeth. Clinching my fists to stop the tears from forming.

It doesn’t hurt.
It doesn’t hurt.
It doesn’t hurt anymore.

No duele tanto. Pero, duele suficiente.

 

Somos Mas Americanos.

Me gritaron mil veces que me regrese
A mi tierra por que aqui no quepo yo,
Quiero recordarle al gringo yo no
Cruce la frontera la frontera me cruzo.

To the man in the expensive suit, who thinks he knows my story. Who has walked a mile in my shoes. Worked the jobs that I have with the variety of diverse people I have known. Whose idea of hard work is barking orders and instilling fear into his colleagues to do his own job.  You do not know me, you do not know my story. You haven’t experienced my failures nor my struggles. You look straight into my vulnerabilities and believe you know everything about me. Everything you say is right, everything I do is wrong.

To the man who has told me to not speak my native tongue. Who has bullied my family, my friends, my peers for speaking in the tongue that comes naturally to them. Who has made speaking a foreign language  a burden more than a blessing. What gives you the right to judge a person by the language they speak? Who are you to create a burden of a language barrier, because you fear change. My language has nothing to do with you. My language is my way of communicating with my peers, my friends, my family, and in no way is it threatening or offensive. You have no right to take that privilege from anyone.

To the man in the expensive suit who believes that screaming out scare tactics will get a point across. That fear and hate will drive a wedge between my past and my present. Who believes building walls will separate ignorance from fear. Your fears are becoming more juvenile then a toddler’s tantrum, and I just won’t stand for it.  You are nothing more than a boy that cried wolf. Screaming every single one of your ignorant fears to anyone and everyone that will listen. People are listening, but they are also ready to stand up for what they believe in. No amount of screaming and crying will stop the truth from coming through. The truth always comes out.

To the man who has told me to go back to my home country. For I am a criminal, a trouble maker, a hoodlum, on the basis of my race and last name. This is my country. This is my home. I was born here, 33 years ago and you cannot take that away from me. You cannot take away the struggles my parents have gone through to have a better life. Do you think it’s easy to leave everything that’s familiar to you? Do you believe it’s easy to move miles away from your home country, to learn a new language completely foreign to you? Do you understand whats its like to speak a tongue completely foreign to you, to have native speakers looking at you as if you are slow or stupid? I have worked hard to prove who I am to far more fearful people then yourself. You will never know the struggle to have to prove to multiple people that you are more than your last name. More than your struggles and your failures, without having to use scare tactics to get a point across.  I look at you in your expensive suits, driving your expensive cars and expressing your hateful rants. Your dream of making America great again. The same man who is a by product of living an american dream. Whose family is a product of immigrants who fought hard to obtain their status and dreams reality. The same dreams we share. I would gladly go back to my home country, because my home country is here in the United States of America and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The American dream is the ultimate underdog story, based on immigrants of all different races. People who have done everything in their power to make a life for themselves regardless of circumstances and setbacks. Neither of us is perfect but we all strive for the same dream; to make a better life given the circumstances we have been raised in. I am proud to be an American, but I am also proud of my roots that grow deep into the Mexican soil. The same soil that raised my parents into the hardest working people I know. No man can ever take that away from them. No man can ever take that away from anyone. You cannot scare a spirit that has been broken before. You cannot take away our past because you are fearful of the future.

So I say, to the man in the expensive suit, who is a by product of living the american dream. Whose own family is a product of different nationalities. Are we not the same instead of different? Don’t we all deserve the same right? Are we not all americans in our own right and reason?

Piénsalo, Mijo. I am sure you would realize that in the end, we are not so different after all.

 

…Somos mas americanos que
Todititos los gringos.

 

Somos_SpanishTwitter

Hotel Chelsea.

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She was easy to lie to. I don’t know why I did it, but I found myself lying to her a million times. It never phased me that it was wrong. The way I figured, I was protecting her from something.

I have learned that with people, if you tell a person everything, they will use everything against you. All your secrets, all your dreams, everything. I loved being secretive, being able to keep something for myself. She just never understood that, instead I was a liar. I defied everything she stood for. I led her to believe I was someone else, when I wasn’t. I did this to myself, this I know. I lied, I made myself into a different person for different people, and often forgot who I was. When you make a mockery of yourself, you become the caricature you create instead of yourself. Just a fragment of a person you’re suppose to be. With her I only gave her a fraction of who I was. I could never be myself around her and she was my best friend.

It had been years since we had actually been friends to each other. We were more like acquaintances that tolerated each other. We lied to each other constantly, that it felt like nothing at times. She could lie about everything, but no matter what I did, I was always the liar. I found myself distancing from her. Becoming my own person with my own life and voice. Maybe it was all the lies we told each other. Or maybe we were just finally growing apart from each other.

We had gone to New York before. We made up stories of living in different boroughs and meeting in the middle. Talking hours about our dreams and made up lives of the future. Childish dreams that never came true. Every time we stepped off the plane, we had different experiences. She craved this indie celebrity that came with the internet world, and I just wanted to be a complete nomad. I wanted to hide from the world underneath every skyscraper, write in a million notebooks from tiny hole-in-the-wall cafes. Anything to get away from the boring and mundane of my tiny hometown.

We may not have agreed about a lot of things, but the one thing we could agree on was New York, and The Hotel Chelsea.

My apartment in LA, held photos of my New York.
A New York she never knew.
A New York she never saw.
A New York that she had never seen with me.
Where we weren’t looking up 5 star reviews.
Where we weren’t seeing who ate where.
A New York that felt New York to me.

During a visit is when she asked me about those photos, I lied. Those photos weren’t mine. I had never been there, I could never go without her. When talks came about the Chelsea, as she held a photograph of the Hotel, I told her I had never been.

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I should have been honest. I should have said everything I felt at that very minute. I don’t know why I did that. As she stood there looking carefully at each photograph, I couldn’t help but continue this stream of lies. Something inside made me believe that had I told her, it would just break her heart into a million pieces. This fear of missing out before it became the moniker “FOMO”. We were suppose to do everything together. We were suppose to share our hopes and dreams, and here I was defying those thoughts.

For all she knew, The Hotel Chelsea was her thing. New York was her thing. Even if we shared the same hopes and dreams, it was always her ideas. Her wishes, her dreams, and everything I loved came in at second. She would speak enthusiastically about things I had already heard about. Films, I had seen a decade prior. Bands I had known about for years, songs I had heard weeks before she did. She would make these elaborate mixes of bands I had heard, and bands I had never heard of. Sometimes she would play songs I had heard weeks before she did. If I made a mention of liking any of the bands or any of the songs, she would complain that I copied her, that I was being her. All of the lying had made me into someone else.  I had lied to her multiple times that I didn’t have the heart to explain. Every thing was her thing. From the men she loved, to the people she obsessed over. If I spoke up about anything, I was her carbon copy. How could I, a person of my stature know these things? My character was making her believe what she wanted to believe.

I was ready to move on and grow up. To pack my bags and leave to bigger cities. To fall in love with people that I didn’t make up in my mind. But I waited for her. While she was afraid of being alone and paralyzed by self doubt, that she locked herself into her room and dreamed about life in a big city.

“New York could save me. The Chelsea will save me.” she’d say.

I couldn’t help but feel the same way too. As if she had taken the words out of my heart and spoke them out into the universe. This idea that a big frightening city could change everything. But all of it was just a dream, and reality was living in cities closer to home with people who made us feel at home.

I wasn’t allowed to go to the hotel without her, let alone New York City. It was an unspoken, unwritten word, among our friendship that we wouldn’t go without each other. I would watch the months go by and realize I was waiting for the dreams we shared to start. Start over as different people in a completely different city. I was waiting as the days came and went, as each year we toasted to the future. Every birthday card lined with false illusions of what our future would be. She was the star and I was the assistant. She pulled the stings and I made the things happen.

Still I waited.

I knew it was wrong. I was becoming the fraud, a mere caricature of myself.

The photographs scattered around the apartment were mine. Had she been someone else, I would have recounted all the stories. With her, I didn’t have the heart to tell her anything. That every inch of the hotel I wanted to keep for myself. That I still had tiny shampoo bottles hidden in my dresser drawers, underneath the ticket stubs of our scattered youth. I wanted to keep this New York for myself, my story. I have waited for my life to start that I couldn’t wait any longer. I wanted to keep that part of New York in my story. Keep every inch of the hotel for myself. It was just another lie, amongst all the other lies I’ve told. Lies about everything. Hide every inch of the hotel’s memory deep within the confines of my apartment. Even through the lies we couldn’t hide from our reality. The truth was we were growing up and growing apart, and neither of us had the guts to tell each other.

I was the liar. I was the carbon copy. Because someone like me, should never know the greatness of the Chelsea Hotel. I should have never grown up with stories of artists being inspired by that very hotel. A hotel so grand and majestic, with it’s ghosts trapped inside every inch, crack, and scratch. I never understood how lost I felt, until I walked the hallways of the Chelsea. How sitting on window sills, looking down at the lights of the city, made you crave warmth from people. How cold February nights made you wish for people that no longer existed. How being deep inside the bones of a hotel can play tricks on your mind and your soul.

She would never understand. How my needs of comfort and growth, could ever surpass her loneliness and self doubt.

I grabbed my camera and took photos of every inch of that hotel. The famous stairwell, the beautiful bohemian art, the beautiful architecture of the building, everything. I wanted more than just a mental memory. I wanted something to look back on. Something that was mine. A memory of sitting in an empty bath tub and crying over boys that break hearts and friendships that are going no where. This fear of growing up and being everything that I hated. Realizing that adulthood is frightening and sometimes, you have to fly halfway across from the familiar to find yourself.

I could never explain to her, how I slept with the big thick drapes of the hotel shut and wanted to breathe it all in. Breathe the hotel deep into my lungs and take a piece of that hotel everywhere I went. How haunted it felt in my soul, and how I left a part of myself in that hotel and still want it back. People are so afraid of missing out that they forget, we are all missing something too. Sometimes you need to fly across the country, on a weekend where it’s suppose to be about love, and cry in the tub of a dusty hotel.

I was a liar. For the first time I didn’t care. I felt no sincerity in apologizing in my life. She would never understand, like she never truly understood me. Because in the end our friendship was nothing more than two people lying about who they really were.

I found everything I was looking for at the Hotel Chelsea, and I’ll never be alone.

 

Los Angeles, CA. 2009

“White” Mexican.

I don’t sing Corridos.
I can’t dance Salsa.
I have brown hair and dark brown eyes, but my skin is pale as snow.
If it wasn’t for my last name, you would think I was like everyone else.

“She’s not like a Mexican, she’s white.”

People have a way of being cruel without intending to. Saying a variety of ignorant things without realizing the sentiments. No one will ever see the words that sting like tattoos on my flesh that no amount of ink could cover over. My pale complexion does not show the color of my blood that flows through this vessel. The blood that roots itself down like the roots of a tree; each root firmly planted in each equally diverse culture. I stand here amazed at the words that make no sense to me. Am I not the product of my ancestry, because of the way I act toward you? Do I insinuate more of one culture than the other? Am I not a true Mexican, because I lack all the stereotypical characteristics you think of? I was not aware that being a product of two different nationalities, I had to prove myself to everyone.

 “She’s more of a white-washed Mexican.”

I listen to Joy Division and stand in the background like a wallflower; bobbing my head to the music.
I sing old latin folk songs, while also singing every motown love song.
I didn’t grow up in a rancho, I grew up in a suburb.

I was born and raised in the United States. I say  “Like”, “dude” and every other juvenile slang word you can think of. The only time I give myself away is talking an octave above everyone else. When I am passionate about something, I become loud and obnoxious, much to the dismay of my peers. When I express myself, I use my hands when I talk, and over exaggerate everything. I am not hiding who I am. I do not have to run with the Mexican flag across my chest to prove that I am Mexican. I was raised in a predominately american environment that has allowed me to be close to my american culture. I am not white-washed, because I do not have an accent when I talk. I am not white-washed because I love american customs just as much as I love mexican customs. I was raised under the belief that I could be who ever I wanted to be. I don’t have to prove my identity to anyone. This isn’t a sick competition of who is better at their culture, because no one will ever win. I am American, I am Mexican, I am both. I am born American with a Mexican ancestry.

But none of that matters to you.

“She’s a coconut; brown on the outside, white on the inside”.

I don’t have an accent when I speak.
I seldom ever wear a color louder than neutrals.
I have tattoos you will never see; none of which are my last name across my back.

I am not a coconut.  I like what I like for my own personal preference. My style is understated because that is my aesthetic. While I talk with my hands, I speak fluently in both languages, and I love chisme/gossip just as much as the next person.

But, no.

Instead you see the outside and will never understand my insides. You think you know my struggles just by looking at my face. But you don’t know. You think that by saying words, they don’t hurt after they have left the tip of your tongue. The words stay with me long after you have gone on to the next subject. How dare you defy my identity, on the basis of not being your stereotypical race. I am not the spokesperson for being of two different ancestries. I am not here to prove to you how much of my nationality that I know. I am a Mexican-American. An american born, mexican-american culturally raised, citizen of the United States. I am not a “White” Mexican, nor a white-washed mexican, or a “white” girl.

I am just me, and the best I will ever be.

 

Se Habla Espanol.

I speak Spanish.

It’s not a sign I wear often. I don’t scream it from the rooftops. It’s not perfect, but when I need the language to communicate, it amazes me how it rolls off the tongue. I don’t advertise it on my skin, but I do wear it like a badge of honor. In an English dominated country, I find myself torn between the two languages. I am very proud of my languages, my cultures, and my roots. I am very proud to be of two different and very diverse cultures. Even prouder to be able to have my heart in one country and my roots in another. The past couple of months have been a wake up call to my heritage. I am watching people whom I have considered friends and family, turn around and speak against the very foundations of my language. It’s only cool to know the Spanish language when people see fit to their needs. When a holiday comes up, or after a few drinks, and everyone thinks it’s funny to say a word or two. I have watched people make a mockery of my language in a series of comedic jokes and racist rants. I have sat and watched my peers ask me the correct pronunciations of words, to later mock someone speaking in their native tongue.  These are my languages that I speak to communicate with everyone. English or Spanish, Espanol o Ingles. I may not always get the words right, I may fumble and mispronounce sentiments, but these are my words.

My language is not here to intimidate you.

When I speak in a tongue that is not natural to you, I am not here to intimidate you. There are many misconceptions about knowing two languages, but I use my language to communicate with my gente (my people)–my familia (my family), my friends, my colleagues. I am not observing you, I am not judging you. I have nothing to hide from you. I speak passionately, poetically and profusely about my life, in a tongue that is natural to me. Using my hands, speaking an octave higher than most, because that is how my language expresses itself. My first language, my second language; voices that come from me in the moment that I need to communicate to a variety of different people. How can a person who doesn’t know me at all, ask me to speak in a tongue that is natural to me? Both languages come naturally to me, and I use them how I see fit.

My language is not a party trick.

When I speak the words you do not understand, it is not an open invitation to entertain you with. Yes, I know another language other than English. No, I will not sit here and prove to you that I know how to speak said language. I am not a magician. I am not pulling words out of a hat, while wearing a sparkly costume. My language is not a party trick, my language is my lifeline; it’s my alma/soul and my corazon/heart. My secret power that allows me to be close to my roots –to my ancestors, to my family, to people who understand me. I did not come here to impress you with my words that you will use against me. Telling lies of how my language holds me back from my peers; the same language you want me to repeat.

My language is not here for you to state “Say something in Spanish… It’s so much prettier in Spanish“.

Spanish, as well as English, is a beautiful language.  Both languages with written words have a poetry about them. Spoken in terms of endearment or passionately in a rage, but my words are not here to turn you on. I will not roll my “r’s” at you. I will not come at you in a rage of anger and speak obscenities for no reason. I am not here to fulfill your fantasies or desires of a certain cultural stereotype. I am not spicy, I will not call you papi, carino, amor, or any other stereotypical terms of endearment. I have a Papi, and he didn’t raise me to belittle myself to become a caricature of your fantasies. So, No. I will not say something in Spanish. I will speak to you in English, because it’s just as pretty as Spanish.

Spanish or English, Espanol o Ingles, I will be protective of my language. Speak passionately and not allow anyone to make me feel less of a person by speaking it. My language gives me the strength to be brave and to feel a sense of pride of where I have come from. A pride in my heritage and the people that have spoke the language before me. Something that has taken a long time to realize.  Proud of who I am. Proud of the very roots that have allowed me to grow into the person I am today. One language isn’t stronger than the other. As the years go by, I realize it is a blessing more than a curse to know both English and Spanish. No matter what anyone says. I may not always get the words right, but eventually I will make things right.

 

11/1/2015 – Day Thirty – Four.

I am not a cook. I can say that without flinching or getting an anxiety attack. I am not. I can do a variety of things; cooking however is not one of them. A lot of my cooking is based on watching other people cook, learning from the experts as I like to say. I can’t give you a recipe to make salsa, but I can show you. “I can show you”, is a motto that I have been taught on numerous occasions. No one taught me how to cook, I just learned by watching others. I can get by with simple step by step recipes, but I cannot cook for the life of me. Part of it has to do with lack of patience, and other half has to do with pure laziness. Do not ask me for the perfect recipe for the greatest salsa because I do not have one. I don’t have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. I don’t even know how to make pie crust from scratch. I consider a lot of family and friends, the bakers, the chefs, the experts that can cook, etc. They can whip up a pie at a moments notice. They can make a variety of different meals that would put some minute meals to shame. To say that I am a bit jealous, I will admit to it. I would love to be able to make something without a recipe, or just be able to make something from nothing.

For the past couple of years I have grown an interest of knowing more about my culture. Whether it be stories about my family or knowing more about my culture itself. Being of Mexican descent, I want to know everything.  Everything in my culture is a story, with a purpose and place, which I find absolutely fascinating. Cooking is a big part of my culture, especially in my family. Every one in my family cooks; from my Abuelita (grandma) to my Tios (Uncles), Tias (Aunts), and primos (cousins). I am always fascinated by how simple ingredients can be transformed into epic feasts. My Mom has often stated “There is no reason to go hungry. If you have rice, beans, and tortillas, you are set”. She’s right. A lot of our meals have consisted of simple ingredients that make up these amazing meals. Most of the times we do not need a special holiday to make these delicious feasts, but on the day that there is a holiday they become these emotional and elaborate works of art. When I was growing up I always had a fascination with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I loved the idea of having a day to celebrate with your ancestors that have passed on. Eating all the things they loved, celebrating life, discussing stories of the past, and my personal favorite eating “Pan de Muerto” (bread of the dead). It sounds a little morbid, “Pan de Muerto”, but I assure you it’s absolutely delicious.

While I love all aspects of pan dulce (sweet bread), Pan de Muerto has a different meaning on this day.  While breaking bread with your family members you would share a piece with your ancestors and continue this celebration of life and death. Pan de muerto would be the center piece that adorned your alter, the bread you would break and share with each family member. We have usually purchased a large pan de muerto (to share) or bought tiny individual ones to place on our alters to consume. This year I wanted to do something different. I have always depended on going to a panaderia (bakery) to purchase bread, but what if I made the bread myself? What if I put together all the ingredients and made it myself? People thought I was crazy. Honestly, I thought I was crazy. I’ve never cooked with yeast. I couldn’t tell you about kneading anything of that matter. Making pan de muerto, when I could very well just go to the local panaderia and buy it? Like are you crazy?!?

Considering that all my baking consisted of following a box recipe, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I mean, I wasn’t expecting perfection. Edible, yes. Perfection, no. I wanted to see if I could honestly pull this off. I can follow basic instructions. I can follow directions. After scouring the internet, I stubbled upon a recipe by Dariela of Mami Talks (www.mamitalks.com). Something about her recipe sounded like I was talking to a relative who was giving me instruction. I have the disadvantage of having a majority of my family members living in Mexico, so asking them for a recipe is harder with translating, language barriers, measurement differences, temperature changes, etc. Or sometimes they’ve never made it themselves, which is why the internet is amazing! After gathering the ingredients in the recipe, I started the grueling process of making the bread. Let me just state, it was not an easy process. Its a process that takes a lot of patience, which I often times do not have. A lot of waiting around for dough to rise, then kneading, letting dough rest, etc.

Whew!

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I give props to every baker I know. Especially the bakers in panaderias. There were times in the process, I would get frustrated. Was all this work, really worth it? Do they not have little canisters of pan de muerto that I can pop in the oven? WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE!?!?! You know all my little dramatics rolled into one bread. When the bread was ready to pop in the oven, I did the sign of the cross and prayed it didn’t burn. I could have taken the easy way out. I could have complained about driving 3 minutes to the local panaderia. I could have picked the perfect pan and went on to do my alter. But I didn’t feel close to my culture that way. If I had done that, I wouldn’t feel the flour in my hands, watch the dough rising from the bowl. All these processes I would have missed by doing what I normally do, depending on someone else to do something for me. I have been so dependent of everyone to save me from myself. Even simple cooking, I would rather have someone else do.

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It may not have been the prettiest pan de muerto, but it sure was yummy. All that anxiety, all that complaining, proved that I could do it. It may not have been a recipe passed down from generation to generation; I may not have perfected the art of pan dulce. After making this recipe, I felt like I could cook anything. More importantly, I didn’t feel dependent of having someone else clean up my mistakes.

I made this and it was delicious!

Shout Out to Dariela of Mami Talks for your amazing recipe of Pan de Muerto. I cannot wait to make this next year and share this with my family.