My Legacy and Yours

Dear Antonia,

In your story, I saw my own possibilities. I grew up looking up to my mother’s dedication to that which made her see potential in herself and her children. She was opened up to a possibility of self-discovery, change, healing and progress.

When she first arrived in New York City, she was plagued by an inability to apply for jobs that weren’t part-time. Although she started college in Santiago de los Caballeros (her hometown) in Dominican Republic, my grandmother couldn’t finish payments for more than a few months.  She came to this great city for a chance at possibilities, and to stray from my grandfather’s lack of dedication. My abuelita, she was the one with drive and dedication.

Abuelita, tired of being held back by her husband’s routine and general passivity, became her own breadwinner. She started to sell homemade ice cream with the spare allowance she got from my grandfather’s paycheck. She invested in her own future, and in her children’s futures in a way that he never chose to envision. Abuelita invested in herself. She had to see the potential in herself so that she didn’t have to feel nailed down to a home life that threatened to keep her caged for decades to come.

My mother’s awakening came a little bit later. Upon arriving to Inwood (no, not Washington Heights), she invested in herself. When enrolling my brother into our community school (P.S.5), she discovered the organization that has been part of our family’ life for more than 25 years. The Children’s Aid Society literally saw my grow up since I was born, and up until the moment I write this letter. My mother enrolled my brother and I in the Head Start program, the after school program, and the programs offered during winter and spring break. I’ve gone on to volunteer for the same Head Start classroom I was part of and to work for the Summer Camp program for two years. My mother has worked as the Parent Coordinator of the program for almost 15 years, and my father has been a custodian for the program for about the same time.

The program connected me to my potential as a first-generation Dominican-American to reap the benefits of my education and beyond. They, along with activities and programs my mother led, helped me find a connection to the roots of my culture when I most questioned my claim to “Dominicanness”. My mom organizes parent workshops like English classes, how to get Spanish-speaking parents confident to help their English Learning children with school work, family life and sexuality classes, and nutritional cooking classes. My mother was my role model because I could see the change she made in mothers’ and fathers’ lives, while also forming friendships with them. She has never failed to create a community of parents that want to place an essential stake in the betterment of their own lives and their children’s lives in school. My mother welcomes immigrants from the Caribbean, South and Central America, the Middle East and Asia into the Family Room, famously known as Room 110. This is the safest space I’ve known growing up for conversations, jokes, chismes, support and a space for next steps.

This is what I’ve seen in you Antonia, and what I hope to awaken within myself, and something my mother has tapped into. Your legacy even gave my mother a place to comfortably takes workshops and a few credited classes at Boricua College — who would have thought I’d read about your part in my family’s life.

I most see myself in your accomplishments through my desire to work with bilingual and ESL/ELL students. Like you, I have seen the downfall of the educational system for the students that are simply thrust into an unknown language, but are expected to keep up with everyone else. Its disheartening. I must claim privilege to having a grasp of the English language since a young age, but I can’t deny that I was given support by my teachers, my parents and the CAS program. These factors aren’t necessarily true of everyone, so I want to be that factor in a student’s life to help them balance a foreign language and their own language. I recall the pulling forces that made me feel guilty for not speaking enough Spanish, or not enough English — you can’t please everyone. To this day I am made to feel self-conscious of my duality, but I have learned to take pride in my circumstances. Like you, I want to stop that. I want to follow in your footsteps.

-Dayi

 

Adelina Otero “Warren”

Mestizos independence from Spanish Colonizers

new laws and rights had been given

to children and women as in paper one might find

till this day reality still lies.

We cannot pretend that paper writes itself

yet in the enforcement of it we must participate.

 

Hardships as women we must always fight

that even to this day our last’s names we would trade

for some white privilege I must say,

just like Adelina Otero “Warren” did,

this still  happens today.

Every female generation attempts to upgrade,

however the same struggles seem to prevail

let this not be a feeling of fail,

yet a reason to keep working on ourselves

just like Adelina occupied the first congressional seat,

in the next eight years we might find a glimpse of our own selves

in the United States next presidential chair.

Cultivate a better future

As I look at this random picture from google, I find myself thinking deeply about the institutions. These establishments whose intentions are to convince our children that some people are better than others. Perhaps, they want to cultivate a divided society. Evidently, many do not realize the power that adults have over these kids. Pura Belpré understood that in order for us to have a better future, we must abandon the socially constructed beliefs. This can be done by teaching them the importance of culture and the acceptance of other cultures as well. Additionally, the truth about their history. As Belpré said, the goal is to show them the similarities that they have, instead of teaching them their differences. As a result, we can create a more unified society.

This image represents the actions that we do. If we do not water our plants they cannot grow. Moreover, if we do not teach our children the right things, our society cannot progress.

 

 

 

 

The Power of the Pen

I was really moved by the story of Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burnton. I actually think it has a lot to say about the latina experience in relation to writing. I know at least in my family, all of the women have an affinity for writing. Whether it’s an elaborately written birthday card or a grocery list scrawled on a napkin, one of mis tias o primas is always jotting down something. What they write doesn’t necessarily have to be as entrenched in ideas surrounding inequality such as  Burnton’s writing, but I do think that growing up always having my latina relatives’ writing surrounding me taught me a lot about the latina experience. Especially when I was younger (and definitely before I had a Facebook), mis tias y primas would send me hand-written letters from Mexico so that they could practice their English. Not having grown up speaking Spanish, I wrote back in English as well. It became so that in the years between seeing my relatives I would still be able to grow close with them through letters. Of course, with the changing of the times these letters have not been sent in almost 10 years. While I’m happy that it’s so much easier to keep up with my relatives on social media (which I can now do in Spanish after spending the last 4 years studying it), I do think that the tangible writing of letters was so intimate and was really what grounded me to my latinidad before I was comfortable with outright embracing it. This is why I think the pen is so powerful–the emotions that one conveys through ink can sometimes be just cathartic enough to really express the depth of one’s feelings and thoughts.

Latinidad?

Me dicen la gringa

Tambien la prieta

I don’t know who I am

Nor where I fit in

I’m mixed

I belong no where

In a community that is supposed to be united

Too much division exists

Latinidad?

I’m not always convinced…

I face a lack of understanding from each side

We are all Latinx

Yet both of my cultures remain subject to judgment

Me dicen la gringa

Tambien la prieta

I am none

And I am both

Forgotten

We, the women, gave you birth

We, the women, teach you how to live

We, the women, struggle since the beginning

We, the women, are tired.

 

As heroins we, the women, are forgotten

The recognition, never shows, never appears

Battles we fought, battles we win

We, the women, are tired.

 

The society, you protect, we battle

The power, you enjoy, we desire

The education, you waste, we beg

We, the women, are tired.

This is to my legacies – Poem

My legacy of being a Nuyorican

Will not die

You must be a Mulatta

Why did my ancestor have to be questioned?

 

Money buys color

Why did my ancestors need money to be colored?

 

 

Lola Rodriguez de Tió

Fought for me y mi mama

So much devotion

Why did I not know about my ancestors until now?

 

Hay, Pantoja thank you…

For the education of the latinx community

 

 

As I take this pen I write my legacy

So listen to this rhythm of my story

 

De pura sepa!

Ya hear that

But your too dark to be Puerto Rican

Excuse me,

You probably do not even speak spanish

Claro que si.

 

From hate, to being unwanted

But your ignorance is meaningless

because

I am still Puerto Rican

But you are just a girl, a spanish one too!

 

I am college, making your perception of me

Meaningless

I am still that Puerto Rican woman

Long Hair, Caramel Skin

I never hated being in my own skin

 

I love being a leader …

When I walk into a room I am Lola, I am my legacies

And forever will embrace that.

 

 

Response 2

A poetry response to La Prieta’s, Who Are My People? by Gloria Anzaldua.

 

Loving someone for their pure existence;

Should not be tarnished due to differences or personal hatred;

Do not apply your insecurities to someone else’s strength;

And then successively, turning their strengths into their weaknesses;

“Treat others as you would want to be treated;”

Would you like someone to pierce you with their offensive slurs?

Or choke you with their disapproving glances?

So do not commit these transgressions onto them.

 

I do not care if you are white, black, or purple;

If you are straight, gay, or pansexual;

If you love me, then I love you too;

But beware, not everybody is capable of this love.

 

I would like to ask those who struggle with their children’s identities;

Why does it bother you so much about who they become?

If not to live vicariously through them, why do you care how your child looks or who they love?

If they are happy, why do you care?

 

So to those outraged about your child dressing as the opposite sex;

Or to those squeamish at the thought of your child caressing and loving someone of the same sex;

Would you rather walk your child down the aisle?

Or put flowers on their coffin?

I must tell you that I found extremely interesting the way the writer emphasized that latinos reveals a lot about themselves and a about how diverse we are just with the nomenclature that each of us identified with. Although people commonly labeled us as latinos or hispanics there is a hole variety of identities and each one of them possess qualities that makes them unique. After this, when they talk specifically about women on the earliest periods of Hispanic life in the Americas, it is established that their lives were conditioned by raced, class and marital status, also indian and black women were considered to be part of the bottom of the social scale. However, their participation didn’t end up there, they were also members of area missions since they were recruited to performed services as housekeepers, midwives, cooks, healers, teachers, seamstresses, and business managers. Women who had this kind of opportunities, shown the strength that characterized spanish speaking women, to put one example I can tell you about Apolinaria Lorenzana and how she was able to perform successfully multiple tasks after becoming the housekeeper at the San Diego mission. Thanks to the closure, Indian and Spanish/Mexican women formed something like a sisterhood which can be proved through some cases. On the one hand, we are taught the story about a Hispanicized Indian, called Victoria Reid, she was born as an indian woman but her identity was modified to Spanish/Mexican after she got married, she demonstrated to possess a great capacity as a businesswoman, however when she became a widowed, she became an Indian again, this situation could be considered as the living example of how race and marital status used to affected women lives in the past. On the other hand, in contrast to the situation that Victoria suffered, Spanish/Mexican women could retain the power and control over their lands after marriage. Then we came back to the historical context, in which we learnt that during the nineteenth century a bunch of conflicts  turned out to be the downfall of the colonialism, with this cultural context we are introduced to more prominent  female figures who shared the ideals of being in a land free of the Spanish conquered. After this time went trough some organizations were impulsed to encourage and to retain the cultural and ethnic roots, one example of this was the hard-work that Pura Belpre put on her job as the first latina librarian in the new york city library system, she was concerned that children were growing up without their culture or native language, so she started a series of bilingual library programs that were merely focused on culture and folklore, this is just one of multiple examples that can be cited of women who dedicated a highly portion of their lives to conserve their roots, so that future generations could understand and valuate the struggles that their ancestors had to go trough have a free and independent land.