There are periods of your life that are in constant flux. Some would just call it growing up, but at one point it felt like I was drowning in a sea of responsibility and accountability. What with, finishing school and living on my own, and paying my own way, and having a full-time job. Although it wasn’t overnight, sometimes it feels like it happened… overnight. All this change and constant pressure got me thinking, maybe subconsciously, about what it means to be a female. What it means to be a Latina. What it means to dream and struggle and live beyond the constant state of survival.
Yes, that may seem like an odd jump in thought for some, but when you’re laying in your very first little box of a room the day after moving in, you’re completely alone. For the first time, you realize how quiet the world is when your family isn’t filling the halls with noise, and you begin to track back.
I am a privileged woman. I owe these luxuries to the person that was brave enough to bring me to the United States alone.
My mother, the woman who has taught me how to be fearlessly honest. All this change has me thinking of her. Because you are the realest woman I know. Flawed, angry, kind, giving. And because before I could ever experience my own hurt, I witnessed yours.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a mother? And then think about what that means for a Latina, alone in America. Just her, and the little girl she dreamed about for years. What was life like for the two of you then? I think if we hadn’t come here, I’d be a different person. I’d carry myself differently and sound different and I’d think on a different wavelength, for better or worse, who knows.
But what about the lens that is put upon us Latinx, the moment we become citizens of America?
In my own experience, I’ve come to some conclusions. The Latin women that are known around the Americanized modern world for their attitude, their “spiciness,” their sexiness—live quiet, internal lives. So quiet that maybe they do not realize that they have every right to suffer out loud.
My mother: a strong, willful, God-fearing woman, screams and screams. She is angry all of the time. But I’m not sure we are listening anymore. We who came from her. We for whom she built a home. For whom she cooks up meals from scratch with her bare hands. Then in her quietly loud desperation, after all the screaming falls on deaf ears, she turns to God. The only true constant in life I hear. She tells us to do the same.
Growing up made me painfully aware of the idiosyncrasies of being brown. We are not allowed to wallow because we are too busy running. Too busy being twice as good for half the recognition. Busy taking care of everyone. Even those that aren’t yours. This is not a statement to the detriment of others and I do not mean to put my own people down—it is simply the truth, a truth I am proud of.
I can recount all the times the expectations that were put on me were insurmountable because I’m not only carrying my own hopes and dreams, I am also carrying my family’s. And so it has come to my attention that I am not like the woman that made me. Much to her disdain, sometimes my own, and although my actual birthplace would beg to differ, I am American. I speak English when I’m frustrated and I curse in Spanish. I say “I’m sorry” instead of “perdóname.” Depending on the lover, I say “Te amo.”
I am the definition of intersectionality. I am the American Dream.