Mexican-American. Latino/a. Are the hyphens and slashes connecting these forces more like borders or bridges, separating or unifying to the touch? Why can’t I superimpose Mexican and American so that they Rest upon each other like stacked hands, and then maybe we would see transparently, the redundancy of those two worlds.
I cannot occupy entirely one or the other, so I live within that hyphen, on that see-sawing slash.
I become the bridge, a body split, but connected as one. For years it was a contemplative space of confusion.
With age I have created a home on this terrain of the in between, a space of self-portrait that embodies my family and my fate. Thin though it was, it expanded with the shelter of self-love, too many years in the making.
Remembrance: I am sixteen years old and just received my driver’s license. In class, I show my friends, no barriers around my pride. The redhead, she blurts, “you look like a mojado!”
A wetback, because it was spring a more intense shade of dirty bronze. I grabbed my ID with feigned anger and it would not be until decades later that I could cradle this offense in real anger. That I could bear to see her racism for what it was: not only an affront to me, but also to the hardworking, last resort, fire-in their courage-Mexican migrants seeking asylum beyond the Río Grande, trading one form of poverty and discrimination for another.
Remembrance: I am a junior in college and my parents give me a car to live off-campus. My five friends-turned-housemates pile into my hunter green Toyota Camry. It’s crowded and unsafe, and one of them says, “We are piled in here like a bunch of spics . . . oh . . . sorry, Amanda.” And when this happens, when I feel like the Mexican border stereotype materializes on my face, I play nice. I play quiet. But to this day, I can’t decide what stings more: the racial slur that “accidentally” tumbled out of her or the apology that followed it.
Retrospectively I recognize how these kinds of experiences fortified me, guided me through the grit of growing a dual pride. I became whole and decided that this punctuated stretch of mestizaje is part of the map of who I am and who I want to be. Emerging through the inter-realm of a seemingly incidental hyphen, this land from within, has not only a story of racism and hanging shoulders, but of truth-seeking and resilience. This story has the power to weave in and out of Spanish, English, Aztec, Mayan, European, their dirt and bloodlines flowing over the bridges, surpassing the stick-like borders creating my own unique, muddy prism of being.
Can you see how a border can be a bridge? Seek out that space where the two connect, where the
lines can begin to blur, blend even, and transform the division into one-complicated-yet fully human dignity.
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