bilingual

“Quédense, unos minutos con nosotros…”

“4 and 3 and 2 and 1”..

It’s the street where we grew up. It’s the block where we came from.
To the people who look like us, who talk like us, that grew up just like us.
No matter what people say. People can’t help but think we are all the same.
We are loud in the quietest of places.
We are overly expressive in the sounds of the oppression.

We are the bad bass on every street corner. Playing the same played out Chente song.
Big banda, cumbia, salsa, ranchera songs that your heart can’t help but mimic into heart beats.
Watching your head sway as your feet mimic the beat in your Nike Cortezes and your Converse Chucks.

It’s Domingos in the church in our Sunday best.
Clutching our Jesus pieces and praying tomorrow would be better day.
Light a candle to guide your way, because Mañana is another day to be extraordinary.
As we rush through the rituals and sign of the cross at the entrance of the wooden gates.
Paciencia y fe, as we look to the cruz.
Paciencia y fe, because we have nothing to lose.

We are bright colors on your plain unmarked white walls.
We are Graffiti on your pristine street signs.
We are Old schoolers playing oldies as if time never skipped a beat.
Los viejitos on the front lawn in their lawn chairs with the same stories of what could have been.

We are big hoops and bright red lips.
We are the loud printed fabric that clings to our every curve.
Ladies with the big bags walking on the sidewalks in the sunshine.
Always places to go. Always places to be seen.
Walking out the streets like this week’s Vanidades cover.
Even when you mocked us. Even when you said we were too much.
Mucho mas y todo eso.

We become your aesthetic.
We become your mood board.
Your own reflection of cultura that you seem to know more about then me.
We become what every young person thinks they know about but they never truly lived through. Because if you knew what we lived through can’t be taught, until you lived through these breaks. You can’t scream out our words in the attempts of filler space.

Latino and Proud isn’t a t-shirt you can put you.
Latino and Proud isn’t this seasons look in this month’s Vogue magazine.

You ask me where I am from.
You ask me where I am going.
We all beg to leave but afraid we stay.
We can’t be proud.
We can’t be who we are.
Unless it better fits your mood, another look to add to this month’s pinterest board.

So, when I tell you I am Latino and proud. I watch you shiver in places in your newly bought huaraches. Hiding behind your $99 dollar serapes that the urban commercial markets be capitalizing on.

You want to be like us.
You want to act like us.
You want to take everything from us.
But don’t let us be proud of who we are.
Until the next season fad shows up.
Another culture to add to your bookcase.

When the chorus comes in, don’t forget where you’re from.
Latino and Proud, then on to the next song.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

“Baby, I’m going on an airplane..”

.”..and I don’t know if I’ll be back again.”

It’s 12:17 am.

My flight leaves in the next 6 hours. It takes me an hour to get to the airport (traffic permitting). About the same to get through check-in, security, and head towards the gate.

My Mom always asks about weight limit for luggage. Seeing if I can squeeze another two pounds in my suitcase.

Una sueter para tu Tia. A sweater for your Aunt.
Una falda para tu Abuelita. A skirt for your Grandma.

A new toy for someone that just had a baby in the family. Don’t forget that each pile is for each family. She continues. I am lucky enough to fit an extra pair of shoes in my suitcase. She does this every time. If I am allowed to take three pieces of luggage, I’d take them full to the max, with a carry-on packed tight and personal bag. But all just two pounds below the weight limit. With all the restrictions there is to fly and each airline charging for luggage, I make it always two pounds below the weight limit. 1 suitcase per ticketed passenger and a small bag for carry-on.

All packed tightly.

Going to the mother country takes months of preparation. Figuring out dates, budgeting costs, meanwhile securing the best deal possible. Of course flights based on luggage allowances doesn’t hurt either. An extra cushion to bring something for someone you love. If the months prior of shopping for each family member hasn’t prepared us, its the extended family members as well. She does this without even flinching. If she had her last dollar on her and found something that reminded her of someone; she would buy it.

That’s my Mom. Always thinking of others.

Then you have the special requests. Various family members asking for items that are too expensive in their country but cheaper and easy to come by at home. Never giving you notice. Always when your bag is packed and you’re ready to go; that your whatsapp sends you an alert.

Hola, te puedo pedir un favor? Hello, can I ask you a favor?

Sometimes I want to throw my phone out the window. Why do you wait until 3 days before I leave?  When you’ve known for months I was coming. But still, I always oblige. It’s what my Mom does. It’s what I have always been taught.

I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve been to Ross, Marshall’s, Target affiliate stores to prepare for this trip. Or the countless times we’ve been to the Segunda. Not including the countess times I’ve complained, begged, pleaded with my Mom to stop buying things. Nobody needs anything. They have more than enough. Remembering a Prima that just came back from the states and went on a fancy shopping excursion. Or mentioned about a family member that always cried about being broke, yet has money to vacation everywhere. I am always told to be quiet malagradecida, ungrateful.

It’s 12:37 am.

I’ve watched as she unpacks then repacks everything. Remembering a hidden shopping bag of items she had bought for my Abuelita. She’s had this suitcase packed the minute after I purchased my ticket. Confirming that it wasn’t as much stuff as last time. Tu Tia a ayudado mucho (Your Aunt has helped a lot), reassuring that every item had it’s reasons.

I am lucky if I could fit my own stuff in the suitcase. A pair of shoes, a book, something.

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t pack anything. Puros malagradecidos. No one ever says “Thank You” anymore. It’s as if they expect something every time the plane lands. Especially after the last time. Where everyone pointed a finger at my Mom, that she was the dramatic one. Too sensitive, too passionate, always wanting everything in her way. She’s been away for so long, she doesn’t understand how we do things here.

I remember thinking. You try living miles away from your mother. Not in another state where you’re just a bus or plane ride away. In another country, where you have to adapt to a new language and completely new customs. After the last time, I wondered what they think. Do we seem better off because we live in such a glamorous country? Because honestly, I don’t feel better off. Traveling back and forth isn’t easy with just a swipe of a credit card. Including when you have no money, including when you haven’t worked in a few months. But the glitz and glamour of gringolandia makes people believe otherwise.

I sit starting at the suitcase wondering if she remembers what I do. If that even matters to her. I harbor grudges. I become angry. If they only knew the things we have suffered here with no sense of family. If they only knew the things we have been through being miles away from people we could trust. But I am the ungrateful one? Malagradecida. I wish I could put everything back. Return everything. Get my Mom something she really deserves. Because she of all people deserves a suitcase full of everything she loves. Not them.

I remind my Mom about the many times our family members come to the states, without thinking twice about coming to visit. Using the pretext of shopping in bigger states, going to awesome theme parks, and how it’s just not easy for them to travel like its easy for us too.

How easy going to Vegas must be then the extra miles it would be to fly out to SFO. How silly of me an American to understand spending money in the most expensive country in the world.

My mom thinks of everyone. Even after they have yelled at her. After they have talked behind her back. After she spends a few days in silence after some new bullshit arises.

Remember this bag is for your Prima.
Don’t forget to tell your Abueilta, this sweater is for when she goes it temple..

I wish I had my mothers heart. Able to forgive people as easily as they have hurt you.

It’s 12:55 am.

I go over my flight itinerary, who’s going to pick me up, who I will hug first and what I am going to say when I see my family.

I know she’d rather go in my place. That I am in no position to be going anywhere with my current financial state. I should be home instead of boarding a plane and enjoying every moment being somewhere else.

I sit with anxiety and wonder what awaits me. Will I still be angry? Will I learn to forgive?

When I wake up I’ll forget everything. I will board the plane, sit in my assigned seat and watch the plane take off into the clouds toward Benito Juarez International. I’ll sit and fidget the 4 hours it takes to get there; wondering why I make this trip at all. I think about going back. Taking the trip back home and sitting in my miserable state.

It’s at that moment I wish my Mom came on this trip with me. How she would be sitting by the window, making her plan for the whole week. Going over ever last detail of the contents of the suitcase and how happy it will make everyone to see what they will receive. I think about how happy it makes her to see the people she cares about happy. How happy she was for me the minute I purchased my ticket; knowing I will be spending time with my Abuelita. It’s at that moment, I do feel like a malagradecida (ungrateful).

I shouldn’t be here. I need to stop being angry. I need to get over this feeling, just as my Mom does the moment she comes back home to the states. Because out of all the people in the world, she deserves to be going on this trip. She deserves to spend time with her Mami, my Abuelita. Not an ungrateful person that holds grudges such as myself.

I know the moment I land in Mexico, it will all be different. My attitude will change and my anxiety will lift away. The moment I see my Abuelita, every feeling I had will disappear. She deserves to be here where I stand, not me. But I promise to be grateful on this trip, just like she would want.

But I can’t help but wish she was here. Because she deserves to be here more than anyone. Not me.

 

 

A clove of Garlic on my window.

My Mom always had a thing with putting a clove of garlic on the window. As far back as I could remember, it was one of her little superstitions. Like having a glass of water by the bed before you sleep. Eating 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The garlic clove on the window became her little quirk.

She had been doing the garlic thing for so long that when I was younger I believed all windows came with a clove of garlic. When I’d see a window without one, I’d assume the window was broken. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I understood it was one of her many superstitions.

“Para la mala vibra.”, she would say. For the bad vibes.

When you’re 15, you think anything your parents do is crazy. Everything they do is just weird, off, and super Mexican.

“Mom, you sound crazy. Who would want to give us bad vibes?”, I’d say.

“People. Not all people know the vibra they put out”, she’d respond.

Just another thing to add to the we are different pile. We mexicans are a rare breed of crazy. Superstitions, bad vibes, all of the cosmic universe hocus pocus.

We have a superstition for everything in my family:

Do the sign of the cross before you start a journey. To ensure your journey is blessed.
A St. Christopher medallion to ensure safe travels.
A glass of water by the bed, to trap the bad dreams.
Never place your purse on the floor, that way you will always have money.
A clove of garlic on the window to suck out the “mala vibra” before it enters your house.

I didn’t believe her at times. I didn’t want to. I refused to believe that anyone would want to harm us. Who could want to put out a crazy vibe like that? What would they gain? But I obliged her wishes. I wouldn’t mock or say anything. I just allowed her to work her brujeria  and hoped for the best in everything. Keeping a “buena vibra”, a good vibe going.

Two weeks ago, I had a crazy spell of insomnia. Something I have never experienced. My body would collapse on the bed but I couldn’t shut my mind off. I would find myself falling asleep only to wake up an hour later in a panic.

“Something is wrong. Something happened.”, I would think.

I would look out the window and see my street, black as night. For two weeks, I couldn’t get it together. I tried everything. I took baths with essential oils. I slept with lavender on my wrists. I would watch tv until my eyes felt heavy but nothing worked. I would have resorted to sleeping pills, had it not been my mother handing me 3 cloves of garlic.

“I’m sorry, mija. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t changed your garlic. Here, put this garlic on each of your windows”. She instructed.

I haven’t told her I hadn’t been sleeping. Just briefly in passing. I didn’t want her to think it was serious or that I needed to go to the doctor again. But somehow, without saying anything, she always knew.

I haven’t slept right in a few days. I find myself staring at the ceiling at night, praying to sleep. I hadn’t spoke to God in a long time and these past few days, I’ve been having long detailed conversations with Diosito. I refused to believe this is a coincidence. That this garlic clove is going to solve anything. It’s just a vegetable on my window. Everything has an explanation, a scientific answer. But I could hardly keep myself awake anymore. I wanted to cry from all this stupid exhaustion. I am not sure how much longer I can keep this going.

I replaced each clove of garlic, one clove for each of my windows. The first garlic looked like a raisin. Completely brown with the life sucked out of it. Nothing out of the ordinary, it’s how they usually look when my Mom changes them. I find myself doing exactly as she would do when she would change the garlic; saying a prayer to each garlic, something only she would understand. The second garlic started its stage of regrowth. Equipped with a sprout of life inside of itself. My mom always said when a garlic sprouts life, you have buena vibra, good vibes.

Upon replacing the second garlic, I didn’t understand why I had a third. The only rooms I occupy are taken care of, maybe she miscounted? Then I remembered that nothing my mother ever does is without reason. Handing me 3 garlic cloves for each of my windows, means something. I was too tired to ask her; another lecture of why we do this and what it’s for, etc. It wasn’t until I remembered the third window, that I remembered why the third clove. A window in a room that I don’t normally occupy. A room I only go into to throw miscellaneous items away. The room has always been too warm, too cluttered with objects, old relics of the past that I haven’t had the time to clear out. I never go in there, I tell myself. But it’s worth a shot.

I walked toward the window and see the shell of the garlic. I pick up the shell and start replacing the garlic. I say my final prayer, my wish.

“Please allow no harm to me and my family. Please protect us from negativity and harm from the outside world.”, I said.

I start walking toward the trash to throw away the last dried up clove. Upon inspecting it the clove started disintegrating to ash. As if the clove of garlic held on enough just to become a pile of dust. I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there, with the skin of the garlic and felt every emotion inside turn to dust.

“They can’t hurt me no more. They can’t hurt us anymore.”, I found myself saying.

I didn’t wanted to just throw it away in the trash. I wanted to rid myself of that “mala vibra”. I flushed the ash and the garlic skin in the toilet. Walked toward the sink to wash my hands from what happened. Its through that, that I felt a weight lift off my chest and completely off my shoulders.

Was this the reason why I stopped sleeping? Was this the reason of my insomnia? There’s a reason for everything, right?

I walked toward my bed, turned off the light, and covered myself with blankets. I didn’t have a chance to look toward the ceiling before falling into a complete deep sleep. It could just be coincidence. Just my body finally giving out and allowing me to sleep. But I tell you, I have never slept more soundly then I did that night.

Brujeria, superstition, or not, I will continue to change the garlic on my window. As long as it guarantees me a good night sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

Amor Eterno.

When I think of home I think of the music of my childhood. The music that blared every weekend morning before starting our day. The songs of Pedro Infante, the harmonies of Steve Wonder, and the tender voice of Juan Gabriel. There isn’t a memory that doesn’t include a song of Juan Gabriel. Every car ride to school and every family gathering. Even a distant memory of being in Mexico and seeing mariachis strumming the first chords of his songs, before belting out the beautifully tragic lyrics. A man with such a vibrancy for life; who captivated the world with his songs of love and heartbreak. We invited this man into our home to remind us of what we have. To remind ourselves to love, to embrace heartbreak but not give into it, and to understand we are never alone.

I can’t help but think of a lifetime of memories that his songs bring. Songs that we’ve all sung at family gatherings, birthday parties, and even sitting in your car thinking of the one person you told yourself you wouldn’t think about. Of all the songs that he has written, Amor Eterno is the one song I can’t help but grab my heart and cry. Crying for lost loves. Crying for people who have passed. Crying for people whom we miss and wish to have one more day with. Another day to say everything we needed to say that we couldn’t say when we needed too. Then the tears start to form at the corner of my eyes as soon as the strings start playing. I hear his voice so clearly. Dedicating the song to every mother, including his own whom he lost long ago. A loss he felt so deeply that her passing is immortalized into this song.

This song reminds me of a family who’s son passed away in route to Acapulco. Forever bringing to light the tears as soon as the line “El mas triste recuerdo de Acapulco” is sung. Of my strongest prima that never lets anything affect her and catching her singing the lyrics softly with tears in her eyes. Her own loss for words and deep profound love within her heart. I think of the countless times my Mami has skipped over this song because it reminds her of my Abuelita, her Mami. How much she misses her and no matter how many postcards and phone calls she makes, it is never the same as seeing her face to face. How I have seen her sing the same words over and over, and trying to hold back her own tears.

I can’t help but think of the the last time I saw my Abuelito. Looking out from his favorite window over looking the street below.  Then later holding his hand at the hospital in Mexico City and knowing this would be the last time. I feel myself breathe a little harder. This deep feeling in my chest as my heart begins to break. I think of my Tia who recently passed and a memory of her in her home filled with warmth and love. A home filled with all her relics and accomplishments. Every conversation I had with them, forever remembered and returning through this song. I think to myself, I should have tried harder to keep in touch. Let me have one more day to make amends.

Yo he sufrido tanto por tu ausencia,
Desde ese dia hasta hoy, no soy feliz.
Y aunque tengo tranquila mi consciencia,
Se que pude haber yo hecho mas por ti.

I sit in disbelief that a song with the simplest words and such a powerful melody could fill the spaces of your veins and tug at the heart. How no matter how many times you hear a song after that, this song will forever haunt you with memory. With a feeling of nostalgia and your only response is to think back at that memory. No matter how many times you want to stop the tears from forming, you can’t help yourself.

I hold myself tighter. Refusing to give into the song, even though I am watching as my surroundings become blurry. Slowly I lean into the melody. Into the words that I have found myself repeating before the next line. This aching lump in my throat when I try to sing. This pain. This sadness. This memory I have tried to forget. I sing louder as if these spirits could hear me. As if they held my hand and sang a long with me. This song overtakes all my emotions and I watch as one by one the tears start to fall. It’s been a long time since I have cried like this. A long time that I let this heartbreak be a reminder of how much I am missing. Because I miss them. With every inch of my heart that beats to the words of this song.

Its only until you have lived through the words of his songs, that JuanGa opens his arms out to you. And like a familiar friend, you outstretched your arms to this man. Taking comfort in his words, and sing a long to the melody. Forever I will be grateful for this man. Who opened his heart to the world and allowed us to take a part of his journey.

Even after the song plays out, I still cry out for one more day. I scream out how much I am hurting and missing, until my cheeks hurt from sobbing. Its been minutes since the song has stopped playing. I slowly start collecting myself and watch as I wipe away my tears and pick up the remaining pieces of my heart. Thank you, Juan Gabriel. Thank you for these cherished memories and for always feeling like home.

Obligo a que te olvide el pensamiento,
Pues siempre estoy pensando en el ayer.
Prefiero estar dormida que despierta
De tanto que me duele que no estes.

 

Self portrait with Chopped hair.

IMG_4079

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.

 

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.

 

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