Disclaimer: This wasn’t written to insult anyone, this is just my own insight into a current issue that still lurks in many cultures, being of Mexican heritage, I thought I would focus on my community first.This poem was inspired by a 7th grader who is a Latinita who is an English learner and is possibly new to California. I tutor her along with other kids her age, all Latinos and Latinas. However when she did not fully accept her native American/indigenous heritage and identified with her Spanish roots. I tried to open her mind to the idea that as a mestizo or any mix of more than one ethnicity that we should appreciate them both equally and examine how our differences make us special. I don't know if I fully convinced her, but I think I planted a seed. While you may not have this inner struggle yourself, hopefully you can still take something from reading this. Or at the very least inform and entertain you.
“Yo soy Morena-clara.”
I am in the middle of the spectrum, between dark cocoa and light vanilla skin.
I am caramel mocha.
When I was young, the only people who looked like me on TV…
were the maids in Telenovelas that were often love interests of a lighter male.
I, at the time, always wondered: “why?”
After hundreds of years were our minds still colonized.
Still that question runs through my mind…
I’d like to think things have improved, that our inner struggles are understood.
However, it is not just the outside world that doesn’t know through which lens to perceive us;
we, no different, judge each other and our own biases deceive us.
I thought I got lucky with my skin color.
No one doubted my Mexican heritage.
I was never insulted or teased with the words “Guerra” or “India”.
However this made me wonder,
why is “India” more of an insult than “Guerra”?
Why is it associated with lack of intelligence or class?
Clearly the Mayans thought of the zero, they were smart;
and while the Aztecs were ruthless, they were still royal.
Did people forget that all so suddenly?
Then I thought…that’s a form of self-hate!
Why? Where did it come from?
Before the Europeans settlers came, indigenous faces, long ebony hair, chocolate skin and thicker thighs were in vogue.
Yet what am I forgetting…Oh yes! THE BOAT!
Cortex and his men came ready for exploration.
Tricked by the lack of melanin in their skin,
the indigenous people mistook him for a god.
Why, after all these years are we living this fraud?
The Malinche, the mother of the mestizos got the worst wrap.
She was sold into slavery by her own mother while leaving land to her brother.
Hoping for a spiritual revolution and an overthrow of tyrants, she sided with the person she mistook for Quetzalcoatl.
Eventually she was labeled the traitor by her people, but at the same time, didn’t WE come from her very womb?
Our history says we are by-products of conquest, lust for power, violence and greed.
How is it then, that our mother is the one we place the blame, and the most hate?
How self-righteous can we be?
Telling someone they couldn’t possibly be Mexican by the pigment of their skin.
Loading a word, like bullet filled with hate and inflicting it with violence like a Spaniard with a sword.
This is no longer 1963!
Yet today towards the end of class, a Mexican girl checked the ethnicity box “Spanish” without a second thought.
Her teacher asked her “Mija, did you forget to also check Native American?” Her eyes grew wide and she backed in fear.
“No soy India!”, there she uttered the word.
Who would have known that in the year the Mayan calender starts anew,
that their descendent’s eyes, some colored brown, green or blue,
would have such mixed feelings and kiss half their identity adieu.
Changing our last names from Gonzales to Garrison, and dying our hair blond.
On the surface it doesn’t seem so wrong.
There are some still around that do take pride and wish not to alter their appearance nor do they wish to fit in.
But more often than not, we distance ourselves from our mother with a desire to blend into the “dominant culture”.
My fathers skin is rough and sandpaper textured,
it is tanned from this weeks labor, yet his features are reminiscent of Spain.
My mother in her youth was brown-skinned, her hair was jet black and her almond eyes showed kindness, and her smile looked like she was hiding a surprise.
Now her skin is more pale and her hair is silver and white, what remains the same?
Her bright smile and kind eyes.
And who am I?
I have my father’s Spanish surname and nose, his curls and his toes.
I have my mothers smile, her coloring and her laugh.
I resemble a painting in the past.
However my favorite three features, if I had to pick,
are my skin tone, my high cheekbones and my slanted eyes.
I am mestizo, I am Native American, and parts of me resemble Spain.
Next time I hear someone shout that name “Indio” filled with hate,
I will reply: “Don’t insult our mother! You know you didn’t directly yield from Spain,
no matter what you look like, indigenous or white, you are Mexican.
You are a mixture of genetics and culture, you can’t praise one more than the other, you must love yourself before you can love others. “
No matter how long I toast in the sun,
I still try to look in the mirror through my mothers eyes.
I whisper to my reflection “You are beautiful”,
she replied back “You are your parents daughter.”
“Which parent?” I inquire,
my reflection just winks and smiles.
While I cannot change everyone's views,
I will say “I love you and you are beautiful too. No matter what you look like, everyone is a mixture of two.”