los dreamers

i am not a dreamer, and i cannot image the heartbreak of those who are.

today, our president committed an inhumane abuse of power; he terminated the deferred action for childhood arrivals program (daca). daca recipients are forced to renew their work permits within the next 30 days (if eligible), only to be potentially granted two additional years of “protected” status. needless to say, thousands will be left without legal status in the united states, and in turn, unprotected by the very government they chose to expose themselves to. they will be left unprotected by the law they have upheld and respected. they will be left vulnerable to communal and legal abuse because they will be left stateless in a country they were permitted to participate in only yesterday. individuals will suffer from such institutional manipulation. families will crumble financially and emotionally. more people will live in fear in the “home of the brave”.

i have not been proud of the united states for a long time. i have been disgusted by it; i have loathed it; however, i have appreciated the privileges this country has offered its people. i am grateful for the opportunities it has given me. but, today illuminated the encroaching terrorism that has plagued black and brown communities for centuries. today is another example of how bigotry is entrenched in our policies. in our people. our government.

i am outraged by today’s cruelty.

dreamers, i am here to serve you the best i can. we are praying and fighting for you. you are loved.

the demons

in a room full of gabachos,
he says: good afternoon everyone,
my name is silvio marquez. he says his name
like water gliding on wet rocks,
with an accent as loud and beautiful as a river.

he begins his presentation, and the river
is quiet now; his estadounidense-born accent
refers to laws that he recites without a pause,
reminding gringos who haven’t done their homework
that the answer to their questions are in section 17.08-F.

at the end of his presentation,
i wonder if i could get his business card and i
think about how to get it:
should i only mention that his presentation was informative?
should i only mention that i am now considering this field of work?
should i only mention that as a latina, seeing latinxs with power
helps me envision having it, too?

in the midst of my planning un gringo me dice,
he’s so scary.
i look around the room.
silvio is so scary, he’s listing all these laws
and provisions and i have no clue…

i stop listening.

whether we are on the streets
or we work for the government
people of color are still demonized, criminalized–
we are still scary.

my mestiza consciousness

i woke up this morning and there were so many thoughts slipping and hovering throughout the motions of my morning routine and i am inclined to untangle everything on paper. what you are about to read is an unedited stream of consciousness, an in-cohesive essay, a rambling. this is an extremely long read.

you have been warned.

now, let me start by describing the wallpaper on my computer (it relates, i promise). my wallpaper is a painting of a beautiful young latina who wears a red dress and sits on a mexican and united states flag. her gaze is fixed on something beyond the flags she lounges on, and an enormous aztec calendar rests behind her. i do not remember the painting’s title nor the artist’s name.

this painting evoked many thoughts, one of them concerning the dual identities that xican@s navigate today. the identities that i am referring to are that of the host country and that of the country of origin. for example, as a xicana, my dual identities are mexican and estadounidense. many xican@ scholars have described the plethora of identities that makeup the mexican culture and influence mexican identity, specifically indigenous identities. these scholars, and other xican@s, have affirmed their devotion to their indigenous identity that has been hidden and ignored by many before them. this identity is a current reality for many and an obscured ancestral memory for others; this trinity of identities, then, is what many xican@s are accepting and honoring as their own. this is a wonderful and much-needed aspect of the movement that has continued to expand and has lots of work to do throughout the states and latin america.

i want to briefly state that i understand the complications of trying to separate identities to make sense of them; all cultures intertwine and are influenced by each other, but i am hesitate to describe mexican identity as indigenous. the mexican culture does practice and preserve many aspects of its indigenous roots, and there are so many cultural variances and overlappings that exist within mexico that i cannot fully distinguish indigenous culture from mexican. however, i am describing indigenous identity as one that practices and bathes in its native languages, beliefs, cultures, and customs. of course, the extent to which one practices these aspects are relative, but i contend that there is a difference between indigenous and dominant culture in mexico, a dominant culture that has tried to hide and eradicate the existence of its indigenous roots and peoples throughout its history.

with that being said, there are many xican@s who feel a sense of responsibility to accept and pride themselves on their indigenous identity although they are disconnected from it. this sense of devotion to a once hidden and shamed element of their historical identity, of their ancestry, has sparked questions of identity for me. more specifically, who qualifies as ancestry? when will we also acknowledge the multitude of historical cultures and identities that have shaped our peoples today? i am thinking of the how ancestral blackness is not celebrated, nor asian, and other identities that xican@s may not practice today but have surely influenced our culture, like the indigenous identity. although it can be contended that the emphasis on indigenous identity is an overall attempt to empower native, mexican culture that was oppressed and diminished by colonialism, such thinking depicts indigenous culture as pure, untinged by other influences. it still does not insist on valuing and exploring other historical influences that may have enriched or added to mexican culture. my thoughts have also stemmed from the recent, cruel and horrific attitude of dominican leaders to ethnically cleanse the state. whose culture is worthy of acknowledgement and value in our own?

many may wonder: what is the point of knowing one’s ancestry, despite the need to soothe that curious craving to uncover one’s past? by understanding our pasts, we can better discern our identities that help us maneuver current societal conditions and institutions. in other words, the past defogs the answers to questions of why we look the way we do, why we speak the way we do, why we believe in the things we do, the foundation of which our families and communities have grown and lived in, and how all of this helps shape who we are today.

and, despite the abundance of racial diversity in latin america and the seemingly overwhelming denial of racism that xican@s say come with it, i am wary of the argument that latin america is ignorant of its racism. many xican@s have argued the latter, but i believe such thinking is another version of internalized colonialism. i am confident that latin american scholars have explored race relations in their country. i am confident that there are latin american scholars who have studied how racism manifests in latin america. now, whether xican@s have access to their findings, theories, and studies is another story: in general, the west is portrayed as the sole incubator of liberal thought when that is not the case. or, at least, i do not believe it to be so. whether or not these scholars have evoked social movements to move towards racial equality is yet another story, but even then i am sure there has been some type of work done. there has to have been.

these are incomplete thoughts, and i welcome more thoughts, complete or incomplete. i know i have much research to do: i plan to read more xican@ literature and investigate the work of others, especially those in latin america, who have delved deeper into this abyss.

**throughout this piece, i refer to xican@s as those of latin american descent who grew up in the united states, in general xican@s refer to those of mexican descent but i think this experience can be applied to those of other ethnicities.
**i refrain from saying “american” to describe united states residency because central america, south america, and latin america are all americas. estadounidense refers to being from the united states without designating the u.s. as a focal point in the americas.
**mexico has experienced mass migrations and influences from the aforementioned peoples i mentioned. i am sure there are many others that i did not mention as well.

exotic incantations

my accent carries familiarity and intrusion,
tinged with the folklore of aztec ruins
the conquista failed to bury with the relics
your imperialist nature insists you authenticate.
your mask of curiosity and fascination
hides the suppressed desire
to conquer realities blazing with possibility
and to discover the cultural gems we have preserved
by means of fidelity: the devotion to our pasts, our futures,
and our people. the uncovering of the jewels
we fought so hard to defend ignites
your self-led excursion to a realm we call home.
the frantic itch to find the remains of our past
embedded in our modernity troubles you–
to leave without newfound jewels from your
excavation suggests that our culture is lost and
unknown to us, when in fact, it is only
lost and unknown to you.

not misnamed

I use to wonder
if I should have been named
something that reminds me of the nopales I eat every morning,
sautéed with tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and chile.
A name with the smoky scent of tortillas I flip
on the comal. A name that illustrates the Mexican sun
breathing life into the Sonoran desert and
small, purple cactus flowers.

My name is Julie
Julie because my parents heard it on television
once and thought it was prettier
than cactus flowers. You see, my skin,
as deep as L.A. sands,
and my hair, as dark as burned corn husks,
confuse people.

I introduce myself,
and strangers say “Nice to meet you, Julia.”
I tell them that it’s only Julie
and they apologize. They say
they thought they heard me say Julia.

I think they heard Julia because
they think I don’t look like a Julie.

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.