It was thrilling reading these first few testimonios. In general, I felt an immediate connection to the storytellers and their use of language and form. Nothing ever felt too formal, too academic, or too dictated in usual forms of writing. In my creative writing course, my professor said one of our goals for the semester is to separate the self from the story and move away from personal reflections. At this point in my life, that’s something really difficult to do. My identity, and the exploration of my identity, has always come from my writing and my reflections. My creative writing isn’t a diary entry, but it is a testimonio to my experience in conjunction to my creative freedoms. I write what I know and that comes from within. Writing was my coping mechanism in difficult times, my hobby when words and sentences came to me in aesthetically pleasing ways, and now its a form of self-discovery and rediscovery of an identity that I feel like is slowly being lost. I’ve been channeling this course a lot in my creative writing exercises:
“My land is distant and familiar.
These memories of un cafecito
Under the sun en el patio de
Abuelita are displaced by incessant
Honking and rumbling subway tracks.
My land is distant and familiar.
I cannot be one without the other.
I exist as city lights and mango trees.
I am my memory and my mother’s.
I am the generation that remembers.
I am the memories of fiery summers
Of frio frios and sancocho shared
With abuelita en el parque with
No person or place demanding our
presence away from each other’s company.
I am my mother’s memory of desire
When shoes were a hard bargain over
Groceries since a mother’s sacrifice
Is her own perseverance in spite of
the lazy misogyny holding her back.
I am my abuelita’s memory of
Pain, soledad, la lucha and success.
I am the author of her untold stories
Waiting to be remembered by those
made possible by her resilience.
My land exists en las mujeres
Whose language refused to be lost
In a new land. This land is mine and theirs.
I am their choices and influence in
Moments of fear and hope, siguiendo el esfuerzo.”
(Dayamara Cruz, Creative Writing 2)
This poem is absolutely not polished or has any semblance of completion, but it is something I want to expand upon and reflect back on. It’s my attempt at a cinquain which means it is written in five line stanzas, and the assignment also included writing in iambic pentameter (which I fail at following time and time again).
This poem (which I wrote last week) reminded me a lot about Yvette Gisele Flores-Ortiz’s and Celia Alvarez’s testimonios. Ortiz’s reflection and stories resonated very personally with the stories my mother and grandmother tell me. I’ve also had the privilege of growing up with powerful and inspiring women, and I can’t imagine myself being so independent and resilient without them. I never deny my father’s strength and what he has done either, a lot like Ortiz, especially when he recounts the women of his upbringing being essential in a fatherless childhood. Her ruminations of belonging and bridging the gaps of her own life with those of her parents’ expectations and live speak a lot to the duality of Latinas’ identities when they are the children of immigrants. We are their hope from the despair of their pasts, both unspoken and well-known.
I connected a lot with Alvarez’s ruminations of the power of knowledge. Her “responsibility” as gifted by her parents is something that she shapes within herself. Her way “to knowing” wasn’t just reading the usual classics, but her sense of honor in her mother making her read Spanish newspapers. Not all people of Latino descent necessarily speak Spanish, but her reality felt a lot like my own. My mother, father and grandma only ever spoke Spanish at home, which is funny to think about since I never really registered that my parents could speak English until I was in Middle School. She claims knowledge as something granted to her, but as shaped and made relevant by her own circumstances. She doesn’t let the knowledge define her identity, but instead uses it as a tool of understanding knowledge. Understanding and knowing is the fine line that shows us what it means to make sense of our own stance and our own bodies in relation to what exists around us.
This first introduction to the testimonios have already forged relevance in what I feel is the purpose of this text. These connections have already allowed me to reflect on shared experiences that define a kind of theory that reflects experience while acknowledging differences in background, context and details. The process itself becomes the continuous study of respective pasts and how they inform the changing present notions of our own identities. I’m still thinking about this idea of theorizing through testimonios in a very broad sense, but I hope to continue breaking down these ideas and concepts.