Month: March 2017

I tried to drink it away.

I tried to drink it away.

I can’t stop thinking about that line.

It’s a haunting reminder of a past and the person that goes with it. Who I am, who I was, and everything in between. But the way the words linger, I can’t stop hearing over and over.

If I could drink it away, I would. Every last drop. Every thing to keep this memory from forming a nostalgic image in my romanticized past. Everything through rose colored glasses. Everything blurry, messy, vile and perfect.

All I have are memories. The late nights in crowded rooms. The cigarettes I’ve smoked. The countless men I have kissed, just to wish it away. The countless times I tried to drink it away. Nothing worked. Even sitting here going over lines in my head, I can’t keep it away.

I rub my hands together in nervous energy. Running the fingers down the palms of my hands. Thinking of a million things. People I have longed to forget. Everything just keeps coming back. If I say everything out loud it just puts words into the atmosphere. It makes the names disappear but the faces remain. When all I want is to do it take this pain away.

I drink to forget. I drink to let go. I hold the bottle close and wish this away. Years will pass eventually and the nostalgia of you will disappear. Until then, I continue to drink these feelings away. Putting out words in the atmosphere until you disappear completely.

I am going to let you go.
One drink at a time.

 

San Francisco, CA
January 21, 2009
#thisishowIletgo

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Your English.

WOW. Your English is very good.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that sentence. I would probably be out of debt by now.

I try my best to bite my tongue. Because no one wants to hear what I have to say, let alone care to hear where I come from. If they only knew how many times that happens. How people often talk to you in Spanish because they hear the thick accents of your parents. How people assume you don’t know a lick of English. How people assume that you were born in Mexico and ask you questions about where you are from.

My Mom would tell me how ladies would look at her and ask what part of Mexico my brother and I were from. When she would reply, “They were born here”, they more then often would repeat the question. They would ignore her. Because her accent gave her away. You’re not from here and neither are your kids.

Growing up people always asked how I spoke English so fluently. Because the minute they saw my name on paper, they went straight to my last name. Didn’t matter that my paperwork was in front of them.  All they saw was my last name before they saw me. I remember how my childhood friends parents would talk. Talk as if I wasn’t in front of them. I was always “that little Mexican girl”. How it was amazing how the little Mexican girl can enunciate her English words. Just as fluently as the Spanish words come out.

How do you speak without an accent?
Is your first language English or Spanish?
Why is your English so good?

I wish people would stop talking. Or when they try to be funny and talk in Spanish to me. As if my language is a party trick for their amusement.  After they had second guessed my English.

It doesn’t matter what I say. It’s not what they want to hear. They want to hear my accent. They want to hear me mess up my words and be there to correct me. They want to prove a point that no matter how many times I say I was born in the States, they want to tell me I am from Mexico. They want to hear me get angry in Spanish. They want the Mexican to come out of me.

One day, people are not going to like what I have to say.
One day the taste of blood in my mouth will not hold back my tongue.
One day  I am going to say “Funny, how English is my Second Language and I speak it better than you do.”

But I won’t dare. That’s what people want from me. Instead, I bite my tongue. Allow my mouth to overflow with the blood of my tongue. The blood that keeps me together. The blood that keeps me sane. I have learned that at this point, it’s not worth a fight. It’s just best to let this all go.

My English is good because I was born in the states.
My English is good because I was born in the states.
My english is good because I was born in the states..

Am I making myself clear yet?

 

Two First Names.

My Mom has two first names. Not a first and a middle name like we do in American culture. But two first names. She rolls them off her tongue with such ease that it intimates people around. She hates when people  use only one name. She hates when they call her “Rosa” or “Rose”. The names that remind her of being reprimanded by her Mami or reminded her of family members with the same name.  The way people over enunciate the name once they see her last name. “Row-za”, just the thought of it shoots a shiver down her spine.

That is not her name.

She speaks clearly and firmly, and repeats herself often. It’s uncommon to have two first names. Even though there are names like Anabel, Isabella, etc. Names that look so beautifully together. It’s almost too hard to comprehend that she was so special she needed two first names.

The name field is never big enough for her. Always cutting off half way through the second name. Having to remind every person she does business with that her name is composed of two names. Not first and middle name, but a full strong fuerte first name.

I didn’t understand it when I was younger.

“Why does it matter what they call you?”, I would say.
“Porque no es mi nombre”, she would reply.
Because that is not my name, she would say.

I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. She is “Rosita” at home in Mexico. She is “Vieja” or “Honey” to my Dad. She is “Martha” to people who know her best. Why one name made such a difference. Why was it so important.

It was in the way people say her name. In the way people hesitate and question as soon as they read off her last name. They way people break down each name into individual entities. How people acted forgetful when they said her name. Then later annoyed when she corrected them. It became this battle between what was right and what was culturally correct. Another chance to Americanize her with what they think is right. It was taking something away from her that was a part of her. Taking away her name that she fought hard to protect all these years.

When she got sick, I understood. It was me correcting the doctors. It was me telling the nurses to re-do her paperwork correctly. It was correcting people who called her by one name as she walked into the office and watching them roll their eyes when I corrected them. It was correcting every single one of their hesitations and even correcting how they enunciated her name. Something that for years I thought wasn’t important, until I understood what it was like in her shoes.

Stop calling me by a name that is safe to you.
Stop trying to correct me as if I don’t understand you.
Stop hesitating the minute you see my name written in front of you.

I think back to the times I would argue with my Mom about it. How she needed to let it go, that people would never understand. Now that I am older I realize how important it is to her. How much it truly means to her.

My Mom has two first names and everyone should be okay with that.

 

 

 

It happened to me.

He says he’ll leave me if I cut my hair.
So I wear it longer on the days I see him.
When all I do is hide behind a curtain of hair to hide every scar I am feeling.

He doesn’t like it when I wear that color. It reminds him of her. So he bans me from wearing it in order to please him. I don’t hesitate. I don’t say no. I just do as I am told. To avoid an argument. To avoid the words that he holds still and strongly behind his tongue.

I am afraid to speak at times. The outcome outweighs the lasting effects of anything I could ever say. I don’t know myself at times. I was a smart girl. I was a strong girl. Now I am letting someone else dictate my thoughts and actions.

I don’t know who I am anymore, I tell myself.
I am not me without you, I say out loud.

It’s not the fists I am afraid of. It’s this unseen power a person can hold over you with the mountain of words that follow. How easy it is to say how you feel and mean what you say. How easy it is to cut down a person without giving it a second thought.

I found myself saying that I’d wish he’d hit me. Something to show the world of the vile person he was. Create the villain among the sinners. All they see is my reactions to every one of his actions. All they see is my skin burning red and my tongue lashing out at everyone that defies me. All they see is my anger and his calm demeanor. Because he was always too cool and too good of a person to hurt people. He was always the cool guy in his nice kicks. He couldn’t hurt a fly they’d tell me. How I wish he’d hit me just to prove them wrong. Just to show them that I was right and they were wrong. Then all these feelings would be real not under the surface.

People always say “That would never happen to me”. I hate that. As they see a girl cover her face or hear a story of a girl who just couldn’t take it anymore. They don’t know what it’s like. They don’t know what it’s like to hide from your friends and family. To pretend your okay when your whole world is falling apart. How it feels to cut your arm in places because the words were too big of a burden to keep to yourself. So you punish yourself for being the sad expectation of who he wanted.

I was the dead weight he refused to carry, he’d often said. If I was skin and bones he would love me more. Hold me tighter. I believed him. I was stupid and I believed him.

I used to say “It would never happen to me“. That I would be one of the lucky ones to fight until my hands were red and my throat was raw. They don’t know that sometimes when a man loves too much they just ignore you. Tell you how worthless you are. How every time they see you it makes them sick. They don’t know how sometimes it’s more than physical. That words have a way of leaving bruises and scars on every inch of your skin. But they’ll never see it. They’ll never know.

They’ll never know that the reason you stopped dating is that you hear his voice in the back of your mind. That nobody will want you after he has had you. That nobody will ever love you as much as he had loved you.

Nobody.

It would never happen to me, they’d say.

But it happened to me.

Tracy, CA. 2015
#ThisishowIletgo

Latino Representation.

 

A year ago, I read an article on Remezcla about a Gala that was dedicated to Hispanic Achievements in the Arts. Each guest was asked about the First Latino they saw on television. While the guests replied, Rita Moreno, Desi Arnaz, Freddie Prinze Sr., etc.  After reading everyone’s responses I started thinking to myself, “Who is the first Latino I saw on television”. I came up blank. I could name a dozen Latino actors that are killing it at the moment. But the first Latino actor I saw on television,  I couldn’t think of anyone. I could remember the first actor I saw on TV. I could remember the first cartoon I watched. But I couldn’t remember the first Latino I saw on television.  For some reason that question struck a chord with me. I spent the last two weeks after reading that article thinking about that question.

How could I not remember the first Latino Actor I saw on Television? In the span of two weeks, I asked my fellow Latino friends if they remembered the first Latino actor they saw on television. We each went over every sitcom we grew up with. We talked about the Latino film scene, actors on the rise, even the late night circuit of Sabado Gigante and Siempre en Domingo. But to remember an actor on American television, we each came up empty. After a few back and forth conversations, it finally dawned on us. The first Latino actor we ever saw was Sonia Manzano.

Sonia Manzano as we all greatly remember is “Maria” from Sesame Street. Sesame Street was big in the 80’s, I don’t need to go into detail that  Sesame Street was ahead of it’s time. Being at the forefront of groundbreaking television and being first and foremost a children’s program. I grew up on Sesame Street as well as many other children from my generation.  I remember very clearly how big of a deal it was that Sonia was on the show. Every time she would come on the screen my Mom always made a big deal about it. “That’s Maria, mija. Ella es Puerto Rican/ She is Puerto Rican.”. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time. I just knew that when I looked at her, she reminded me of my Mom. How gentle she was with all the characters and how much patience she had explaining letters and lessons to each person. Even after I stopped watching Sesame Street, it took me a long time realize how important the character Maria was. Maria was our neighborhood. Maria was our community. Maria was our Mom that comforted us and took care of us. It took me a long time to understand why my Mom always pointed her out. Why she felt the need to say that she was Maria and she was Puerto Rican.

Growing up, I watched a lot of television. I grew up with the 90210, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which later turned into the Sex and the City, and 30 Rock, etc. As much as I loved those shows and commented how I was a “Brenda” or a “Carrie”, I realized that I wasn’t any of those characters. Shows would come out yearly that would generate buzz and be marketed toward my age group, but I found myself disillusioned with them. They were the same faces, the same flawed characters, the same unlikable people, but none of them were me. While people around me were applauding the groundbreaking characters and direction, I just couldn’t do it. Not that I was trying to be difficult but I wasn’t these girls. I just wasn’t these white characters. Characters that as entertaining as they were with their beautiful hair and hilarious one liners, I wasn’t any of them.  If anything I was the complete opposite of these characters. I found myself re-watched my old favorite shows. Soon realizing that as much as I loved these shows, I stopped relating to these characters.

I think back to Maria. How my Mom would point out that her character’s name was Maria and she was Puerto Rican. How honored my Mom felt as a Mexican woman living in the states that this character, a latina of Puerto Rican decent was on a highly popular children’s program. It made me think  back at all the shows I watched and how I lacked a character of my own. I lacked families that mirrored my own, I lacked a sense of diversity, I lacked a sense of color. I realized why it was important to point out characters like Maria on Sesame Street, to show that we latinos could be on any of these shows. I spent year watching countless shows come and go on TV. The House of Buggin, George Lopez Show, Freddie, Ugly Betty; shows that showed a fraction of what it was like growing up in a Latino household. As shows would be cancelled and a new wave of shows would start, I would scan the trailers and hope to see characters that looked like me. Characters that reminded me of home, of my own family. Shows that I could point out and say “Mira Mom, that’s Maria. She’s Puerto Rican”.

Latino Representation isn’t just a gimmick. It’s not our way of pushing other characters aside or saying how our values are more important. It’s showing that we can play characters that are flawed, broken, and misrepresented. We are more than just sidekicks, vixens, and thugs. We are more than just the maids that clean the houses. Our families are more than just some comedic relief to generate cheap laughs. Latino Representation is everything. It’s seeing a new character on Star Wars and hearing his accent that reminds me of my Mom’s accent. It’s seeing the Abuela on Jane the Virgin and seeing the face of my friend’s Mothers and Grandmothers. It’s watching George Lopez’s standup “Why You crying” and remembering stories your Dad told you of his youth in LA. Why Princesses named Elena and Sofia are important, because they’re the names you grew up with. It’s more than just ratings and shiny award shows. It’s seeing faces that look like every member of your family and feeling a sense of home. It’s showing that we each have a story to tell and they’re just as funny and as entertaining as everyone else. It’s pointing out the characters and saying “That’s Jane, and she’s Puerto Rican”. “That’s Oscar Isaac, and he’s Guatemalan”. It’s pointing out that character and saying “Hey, that person is Latino. That’s character is like me”.

Every year I am thankful to a new breed of shows that showcase Latino actors. Every season I sit and watch through the trailers and see how my culture is represented. Every season I hope for a new batch of characters that remind me of people I grew up with. Characters that remind me of home. Every time I see a latino character, I won’t stop pointing out the characters and saying they are Latino. Because that’s what Mami would do.

 

Loud.

They called me L O U D.

I don’t talk like normal girls.
I use my hands to express myself.
I talk an octave higher than everyone else.
I express my emotions when I am happy or upset.

Girls always said they could hear me a mile away. “You’re so loud.”, they would say. That’s the first impression I give people.

I never understood why that was bad. Why people felt the need to silence my voice because their voices quivered in comparison. Why it always left me feeling like I had done something wrong.

“Porque gritas? Aqui estoy.”, is what my Mom would say. Why do you yell. I am right here.

Minutes later she would grab the phone and talk to my Tias. In a voice louder than a whisper. I would hear her laughing and talking into the phone as if she was screaming to me from another room. But she’s talking to her sisters.

“Mami, why do you have to yell on the phone?”, I would ask.
“No estoy gritando. That’s how I talk!”, she’d answer defensively.

I am not yelling. That’s how I talk.

I find myself shrinking myself for a lack of a better person. Shrinking myself into a shell of who I used to be. My voice becomes softer than a whisper and causing me to mumble in places where I should be talking.

They call me “Loud”, when I express myself. “Loud” in places where I should be whispering. “Loud” when all I am doing is talking.

If I can’t be me, who should I be? I should stay quiet for the fear of what people will think of me. I should speak no louder than a whisper for people to find me delicate and gentle. But that’s not who I am. I am tired of shrinking myself to make other people feel better. Instead I speak louder than my voice. Causing shakes through my bones. Opening waves through the dark corners and making cracks through the pavement.

I would rather speak an octave higher than everyone else. I would rather express myself through hand gestures to get my point across. I would rather be LOUD, then ever be told to speak no louder than a whisper.

Loud is who I am.
Loud is how they see me.
Loud is what separates me from everyone else.

But I am not Loud. That’s just how I talk.