Driving through the winding street lined with multi-story homes, tall pine trees, and manicured lawns, on my way to Point Loma High School, I am a bused-in student making my daily trek to a school worlds apart from the place I come from. A feeling of alienation, of estrangement comes over me. I don’t know if the students with skin the color of earth are wanted, or even noticed. I wonder if, like me, they feel inferior as they are confronted by a world that knows nothing about them. Not inferior because we are different, but inferior because the bridge to cross is only one-way.
IF YOU WANT TO BE SOMEBODY YOU MUST COME HERE.
Every day, the trek cuts deeper into my self worth. Reminding me that where I’m from is not a desired place to visit. I think about what we leave behind, hidden, when we cross that imaginary bridge. A part of me, concealed like the basements in the multi-story homes. Gaucamole, chipotle, burritos and sombreros. Those are things you know about me, but they are not the whole me. Why is it easier to acknowledge those things, and deny that I AM a part of you.
HOW CAN YOU SEE ME AS SOMEBODY WHEN I AM INCOMPLETE TO YOU?
Whose story is told? Whose story is heard? The danger of a single story, an incomplete story, is that it creates stereotypes – incomplete portrayals of a person’s living experience – and robs people of their dignity.
Where I’m from the grass is parched,
blades of dreams grow from earth
so scabbed it can’t feel its roots.
Where I’m from sowthistle and prickly lettuce
break through concrete to catch desire
in a ray of sunlight.
I am from café con leche
with buttered bolillo
so early in the morning
you can hear the silence of God.
I am from frijoles and tortillas
from long lines and waiting,
from oil-stained driveways
and broken down cars.
Where I’m from family extends
like the limbs of the majestic oak,
and songs arouse memories of
of cornfields and agave nectar.
I’m from Corridos and Boleros,
from Marimba and Jaranas,
from my grandmother’s wails
for a land whose syllables
she never relinquished.
I am from eyes that cautiously wait
for a day’s work at corners,
where hope for a better life
totters on the capitalist horizon.
Where I’m from the border is 2,000 miles
of decomposed aspirations and desires,
the precipice of human will
deceived by a mirage.
Where I’m from letters with serrated edges
embellish chipped painted walls,
proclaiming – I AM Somebody!
I am from hands stuccoed with masa,
the hustling entrepreneur
who sells tamales from her van
or pushes his carrito de paletas
in an illusive street economy.
I’m from mi cielito lindo, mi vida, y
From the Salinas circuit of
the arthritis that seeped into
my grandmother’s bones like
the frosted dew in the toiled soil.
I AM from the warmth of the Temazcal,
The might of the limestone mountains
who guard the central deserts.
From vanilla dreams of copal awakening
jaguar spirit within.
I am from the moment of courage
my grandmothers had when they
left their abusive husbands.
From the 12 hour work shifts
followed by laundry loads and
piles of dishes yearning for attention.
From Ojalá and Si Dio Quiere.
I am from the little voice in my
ancestral tree whispering,
Si Se Puede.
Inspired by conversations with youth, my experiences, and the poem, “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.