magic of the borderlands

our skin is blessed by the sun; our eyes are dark, like roasted almonds; our lips are thick and pink, like grapefruit; our hair looks as dark as baked cacao beans. we look like this sometimes.

other times, the sun irritates our faces; our eyes mirror blue rain drops; our lips are small like new-born peaches; our hair a deep yellow, like a broom’s straw. we look like this sometimes, too.

some of us are descendants of la malinche, oshun, george washington, and gasper yanga. their stories pulse in our hearts, their past pumps the blood that fuels our existence. they are the creators of the magic that drips in our sweat and exhales in our breaths. they are the conductors of our immobility and our mobility, our exclusion and our inclusion. our founders have trapped us. they have also freed us.

we are those who left our beautiful mother. we have different mothers. some of her names are guatemala, cuba, méxico, and el salvador. we are also those who were born in the u.s. but whose parents never let us forget their mother. we also have different grandmothers: honduras, colombia, dominican republic, nicaragua—just to name a few. when we left, our mother understood. when we were born, our grandmother understood. we promised that we would carry all of our memories of them in our hearts, in our hands, in our stomachs. as a going away gift, our mother, our grandmother, gave us magic. a magic to help us remember them and their beauty. a magic to help us remember ourselves.

we are stuck between cultures, between nations, between people. sometimes, our mother or grandmother does not remembers us. sometimes, those who live with her tell her that we are not hers. they don’t remember our names, even though we share the same cousin. they don’t understand our accent although we speak the same language. they don’t understand our jokes or thoughts. we are only the children of the u.s. now. we bare only their magic now.

we can also move between cultures, between nations, between people. sometimes, when our mother or grandmother does remember us, we throw big parties. she makes us home-cooked meals and we all sing songs about our ancestors. we dance to her heartbeat—sometimes she demands a fast-paced, rapid rhythm, other times she requests a slow rhythm to calm us down. at the end, she blesses us, murmuring our names. reinstalling her magic.

we like having two mothers. we don’t like having two mothers. it can be hard to handle three mothers (some of us have more than two. imagine having more than three? our mothers get jealous. which of them do we love the most? which mother loves us the most?).

some of our mothers and grandmothers have abandoned us. the u.s. doesn’t want us. neither does our other mothers and grandmothers. they don’t remember the magic they created inside us. they don’t recognize us. we don’t look like her children. they say we’ve changed too much. we don’t eat like them, we don’t speak like them. we’ve included new things at their parties. some of us have stopped believing in her magic, and this upsets our mothers and grandmothers. they disown us. they no longer love us.

we are left in-between them, in-between mothers and grandmothers. we wait for one to open their arms to us, to hug us. the wait has been long. many of us who are here in-between created a different magic. one recognized only by us, by we who have been rejected by all of our mothers.

the alchemy of our magic is still working. it is still breathing, still singing, still dancing. one day, we hope that our magic and the magic of our ancestors can become one.

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2 thoughts on “magic of the borderlands

  1. I loved this 😀 Your pieces are always so thought provoking. I got goosebumps reading this. I can’t really relate because I’m Caucasian, and my German ancestors came over in the 1800s. But my husband is a Japanese citizen, and we are planning on trying to start a family soon. My husband’s whole family lives in Japan. So our kids will be torn in a way between their American and Japanese heritage. I’ve read about the struggles children who are born half of one nationality and half of another have. Although this felt like it was talking more about people from another culture living in America like my husband.

    This was definitely my favorite part, “their stories pulse in our hearts, their past pumps the blood that fuels our existence. they are the creators of the magic that drips in our sweat and exhales in our breaths. they are the conductors of our immobility and our mobility, our exclusion and our inclusion.” I read it a few times because it was so beautiful. You captured the essence in the hearts of immigrants and their direct descendants and sort of the struggle that they face living in another country. The only thing that didn’t make sense is that exhaling is letting out your breath and inhaling is breathing in. Unless you meant that to be a contradiction?

    The ending was really beautiful and filled with hope. I know my husband has shunned America and doesn’t want to be a citizen, which is okay with me. But for our kids it will be more difficult, and I’m hoping we can give them enough of both cultures that instead of feeling like they are pulled in two different directions, it will feel like they are being embraced by both.

    It’s hard for me to give constructive criticism on something this stylized because it’s like abstract art. This was your vision, and to change things would disrupt the flow that you created. So this is more of a stylistic difference that concrit, but I feel like the whole “it was, but it wasn’t” is repeated a bit too often so it’s not as effective . I think it would be more effective if you only used it once or twice. And the word mothers is repeated more than I would like. But this is your piece, so I think you need to do what you feel is best.

    Thank you for writing this. I really enjoyed it ^^

  2. Thank you for reading this. 🙂 Although it can be seen as a struggle, being from two cultures, it is also a blessing. Sometimes they will identify as more American than Japanese, and vice versa. It all depends on how they were raised. I hope they will love both cultures, just as I do. I understand how your husband feels tense towards the U.S. I feel that way, sometimes, too. But I also recognize the opportunities the U.S. has given me as a citizen. It’s a very bittersweet feeling I have towards it. It’s just such a complex situation, especially as it pertains to one’s identity.

    And about the exhaling part, that is what I meant. The magic inside them is also exhaled just like carbon dioxide. It’s in their sweat, it’s in their breath (which both things are released from the body, at least that’s the connection I saw haha). I guess it wasn’t conveyed really well. I’m still working on how to covey my thoughts correctly, because sometimes they are difficult for others to understand, especially with the way I tend to write certain things.

    I appreciate your constructive critique 🙂 . In the future, I may try to avoid unnecessary repetition. I’m glad you found this piece thought-provoking, too. Once again, thank you for such a detailed comment–it means a lot. 🙂

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