Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cultural Contradiction


I didn’t know you were Hispanic!
She said, as if it were to my detriment.
My Mom was white, my father Spanish,
I explained grinding together my back teeth.

In my ribcage I feel the war rage.
behind my carefully handled breath and words
I remember when my Grandparents
struggled to speak English well just to get a job.

No accent in these generations,
nor color in my skin.
This, I say to the woman,
is the product of cultural blending.

And so I no longer have a heritage.
Confused and diluted,
blood lines blurred,
now etch my existence.

Or so they say.

She still calls me her hijita,
smothers my plate with chili rojo,
rolls tortillas on the fat of her hands,
and tells me about her childhood in New Mexico.

It is here that I am home.

Those pendejos  beyond the threshold
Have no power here!

I wish I could speak her words that still whisper in my veins,
The oppression and struggle through ignorant lands
The border crossed over our family,
Westward expansion they called it.

Hijita, she tells me
We have lived here for more than a hundred years.
Mi familia, with deep roots.

Fled during the war My Mother says.
My Great Grandmother's voice belonged on the Opera stage
Grandpa would tell me, his eyes wide,
distantly remembering the voice of his Mother.

He would smile and tell jokes just to draw my lips upwards
Her journals still written in her native language,
hidden in a trunk, lost among her descendants.

I can’t read German.

My Great Aunt,disowned my Mother
when she married Him.
That man that was too dark.

I smiled when she came to my wedding,
knowing she’d avoid the other half of the room.
You see, I married a white man.

My skin not so dark, eyes not so wide.

When my Grandmother told me,
"Mi hijita it's good thing you look like a white girl."
when I moved to the south,
because the ignorant people wouldn’t understand
I thought she was wrong.
The south had changed and
after all it’s a new century.

Until one day, sitting in her living room,
glancing momentarily in my direction,
as her friend whispered the usual slurs,
ignorance dripping from haughty lips.

I listened,
my eyes straining,
desiring to stretch my skin,
to become a filter,
over the ears of my children.

She whispered and insisted,
we didn’t belong
in a pure white south.

The woman smiled and nodded,
and then met my eyes.

I didn’t know you were Hispanic!

She had to tolerate me
Relation by marriage,
but not my choice.

Though I’m just white enough to fit,
and speak just enough Spanish to pass
I still have enough Latina in me 
to know when not to.

I’m the most ethnic friend most of mine have
and they don’t even know it.

Culture fading in the grey scale.

I am an American.
A Latino, Anglo American.
And no one can tell me my heritage no longer applies.
That my life has been too far blended to see the truth.
I know the places where I feel safe again,
the places where the earth breaths
setting my feet upon the paths my grandmothers walked.

She walks again,
not as strong as before,
and her eyes,
heavier than I last saw them.

Ojo feliz, beneath the aged flesh
Mi Abuela,
welcomes me home again
and in her arms I find strength
and in her eyes I take the fear she has
for her children and grandchildren
and take it back with me
to ignorance once more
into the dying world
to educate the uneducated masses
who have been blinded by the white.

It’s time they see me,
see us all
in living color.

Not gray lines across the census page.

This is my America,
my culture,
my color,
my life,
and their future.

The new has come,
and the old... well,

19 comments:

  1. this is top notch, fabulous story telling with just the right amount of emotion points along the way...i really liked this...speak it!

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  2. I am an American. A Latino, Anglo American. And no one can tell me my heritage no longer applies...

    ...Amen! Felt.

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  3. @Brian, thanks! *hugs*

    @D Gracias ;)

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  4. Wow, this is great...I really felt you.

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  5. We are all ONE, yes, tho all of cultural differences and maybe varied features.

    one heart. One love. One light.

    I love this writing! Felt so sad about the struggles you wrote of.

    We are so lucky to know what we know, to have so much more than our ancestors did. Mine were very poor strugglers who ended up in a snowy land, freezing 8 or 8 months of the year. I appreciate their love that brought me.

    And I appreciate your poem.

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  6. passionate write, a story told with so many emotions :) very nice.

    Jannie expressed it right,
    One heart, one love, one light :)

    My Post Is Here

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  7. Thank you for telling this story. Thank you for your truth and perspective. It means a lot to me personally.

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  8. @Ayala, Thank you for taking the time to leave your comment. It's much appreciated!

    @Jannie, Thank you sweetness. I know that I am thankful that we live in an age where our growth as a culture isn't where it was, and I do hope we get the opportunity to grow to another level. We as a whole. Thank you lovely one!

    @Vinay, I appreciate your words, thanks for the comment!

    @Theron Thank you for your comment. The truth of our stories is powerful, when we have the courage to tell them and we all have a story to tell :)

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  9. Enjoyed this, awesome talent.

    Invite you to join poets rally week 42 by sharing a free verse today.
    Appreciate your input.

    Hope to see you in!
    Have A Blessed Easter!
    xxx

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  10. Thanks for the invite, and the comments, I appreciate it!

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  11. Hello:

    You have won The Perfect Poet Award Week 42, Due to your performance in the present or previous Poets Rally!

    Please leave a link under the award post after you take it,

    This award will Not be given to poets who reject it or previously rejected it.

    Happy Writing, Thanks for the support!

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  12. Hello, Apryl. I'm delighted that you visited my page 1513fusion. Your call has brought me here to read your superb poem - it is both moving and profound.

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  13. Harry,
    Thank you for your kind words, and your excellent verses as well. I look forward to hearing much from you fellow poet.

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  14. brilliant.

    and i have a favour to ask. can i use your poetry on one of my assignments for "race and ethnicity in contemporary American lit" course?

    and congrats for the award.

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  15. Paulami, thanks for your comment. Drop me an email apryl.gonzales.writes@gmail.com

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  16. wow. this is stunning and so moving. you think we could make it required reading for the "post-racial america" crowd?

    the image wanting skin to be a filter stretched protectively over small ears--that got me good.

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  17. Suzannah, I like that "post-racial America" Perfect terminology. I appreciate the time you took to stop by and comment, loved your post at Deeper story, write on girl!

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