Personal Testimonia in response to “De lo que es Amor, de lo que es Vida”

As a child, my way of being creative was to draw instead of write. I had so many thoughts running through my head because of ADD that I had to have some sort of outlet to let me express myself. I found love in creating drawings that were inspired by others’ artwork. Think back on this now, I probably could have benefitted from writing down my feelings. Like in “De lo que es Amor, de lo que es Vida”, the author found peace in her poetry. When I was little I thought that my drawings were the only way I could express myself because I wasn’t good enough to write incredible things. But that mindset is unhealthy in a sense because writing for yourself should not be judged. It should be just for you and no one else. When being creative or having an outlet to express yourself, everyone’s form of this is going to be different. And their meaning behind it is going to be different too. We express ourselves for different reasons- some people need to cope with depression or others may just need to pass time. For me, drawing was mostly something to do to pass time or being my Grandma said I was watching to much television. But as I got older, I needed to create for different reasons. Your problems become bigger as you get older and that was the case in my life. But while your problems become bigger, sometimes that distracts you from doing the things you love. I definitely fell off my wagon. There were years I didn’t draw because my mental health wasn’t in the right place. I wasn’t in the right mindset so I didn’t care about my art. I didn’t make my mental health a priority like I should have. When it became clear to my friends and family that I wasn’t well, they felt the need to reiterate to me that I should be doing the things that I love and being around supporting people as well. I eventually got better with the help of family and friends. But as I entered college, I had more of a recognition of the importance of stabilizing mental health.I began to keep a journal and write in it almost every day. It helped me a lot to get all my feelings out and was great to have somewhere to reflect on my life daily. I’ve begun to notice that everyone falls off the wagon sometimes. We go through phases where we forget to take care of ourselves. I forgot to journal for a very long time. And began to pick it up again when I transferred to New Paltz last semester. Journalling was the best decision I made for my mental health last semester. Even though I am on the right path and my mental health was pretty stable, it still gave me a place to vent during that transitioning time. In times where we’re making a big move or switching jobs, it’s important to have a place where we can reflect on how things are going. For me, this was exactly why I needed to start up a new creative outlet like journalling.

Letter to Music

This is just a little story I want to share with you so that you can understand the reasons why today I want to share my feelings about you. So, the other day I felt like I had lost my headphones. I looked everywhere for them, my jacket, my pockets, I even retraced my steps. By my reaction, a friend who was with me thought it was my phone I had lost. I said: No, but this is as important as my phone. And let me tell you why…

First, I would like to take this time to properly thank you. Thank you for always being there for me. You have never let me down. You seem to know my darkest secrets and have never used them against me. You know what makes me sad, happy, uncomfortable, angry, numb… Every feeling that you could ever imagine I go through it with you. Whenever you say something and I can relate to it, I turn the volume up and you speak loud to me. Loud enough that I learn from it every time.

Honestly, I do not know how you actually do it but you have magic. For instance, there is not much I can say that keep me connected to the world, but you do. At times, for sure. Because some other times when I listen to what you have to say I go to an alternative world and it’s just me and the voices. You have given a mission to these voices. Those strong, of sober thoughtfulness, sometimes hype or sad voices that guide me through my darkness and happiness. I also want you to thank the people that dedicate their time to make you better every time because through them you keep me sane. Their purpose have worked in my favor.

Without doubt, you have also put me on some sort of duty. Yes! Because of you I dance. While dancing I reflect on everything being said. I let it sink into my inner self, I feel the rhythm and finally express what the voices want to divulge through my body and energy. My passion for dancing would be nothing without you. Indeed, my passion is to dance; my desire is to listen to you. Music that change me every time from a broken person into a brave and more alive one.

I hope you do not get offended by this but I am proud to refer to as my drug. I cannot go a day without you, I am addicted. My headphones are like the needle that transmit the dangerous poison that is music. This substance always makes its way into my ears as if it was a vein and completely changes my day. All the different flavors and high that you offer… I mean, from the dembow to the reggaeton, bachata, salsa and boleros sometimes I do not know which one to pick “All I know is that I must have [you] to be whole.”

Thank you Music.

Juggling,

When I look at this picture and when you look at this picture I want you all to understand what it is like to juggle life. I have been juggling with a sickness that I cannot control, but the biggest juggle of my life I have been struggling with is losing my mother. I am very attached to her; de qué vale el exilio si no hay amor en la familia. That is the message I want to send to Latinas we are all juggling something but the struggle in our lives is worth it. Death is something that everyone fears, but I have learned that to live does not mean you are alive. I will not allow the bad things to define me, I will not allow the bad to die on me but to make it positive. Hello?

Life? Do you heat my Latina roots radiating through me? I will strive anything, I am my juggle, my struggle.  

Curves

Dear curvy girl, stop.

You are always worried

You are always scared

You are not yourself

Stop

 

Every curve in your body highlight

In the front , in the back

But you are not loving yourself

Stop

There is one that is hidden

The one in your face

The one that is the most important

Stop

 

Please STOP

Your body can be sexualized

Your body can be objectified

But not your soul

 

Be free, be you.

The Burden of a Body

I felt so melancholic while reading Caridad Souza’s “Missing Body.” On the one hand, I was so amazed to find a testimonia that talked about the internalized disdain one can have for the “latina” parts of one’s body (curves, breasts, legs). But on the other hand, I was so disheartened by the fact that this is such a common occurrence for Latinas.

I have struggled with body image issues for my entire life, especially during my adolescence. I lived in a predominantly white New Jersey suburb, and I found that I was often fetishized by my white girl friends. They would comment on my breasts so often, usually leering in jealousy, but making me feel like such a freak. I was ashamed by the womanhood that had presented itself to me and everyone else through my hips; as they widened, so it seemed did the chasm between me and my self-esteem. I wanted to be thin and featureless, a true androgynous entity.

And I tried so tirelessly to achieve that image. I started running every day, I used my phone to count calories, I wouldn’t let myself eat in front of others. I became so ashamed of my body that I tried to whittle it down into nothingness, in the hopes that men would stop leering at my figure, that girls in the locker room would stop commenting on my breasts, so that I could fit in like all of the other white girls in size 2 jeans.

There’s no real moral to that story. I still struggle with food, honestly, and I am certain that a lot of it still carries over to my college experience because I go to school in such a predominantly white college town. I experience the same inability to look at my body in the mirror on most days like Souza. It was only until recently did I realize that my relationship with food was less a study in vanity as much as it was an attempt to suppress the parts of my body that gave away my “otherness”, my latinidad. I still feel an uneasiness about eating on most days. All I can say is that I’m working on it.

A poem for your soul

Dedicated to a very especial person in my life that I prefer to keep anonymous:

As Claridad writes about a missing body
I reacted in regards to missing souls
never thought of it this way
could it be possible that when all we care about is our great body
this is linked to the need of hiding our abused souls ?

Claridad’s testimony led me to think that she does not care about her body no more
because she don’t want no creeps looking at her in the wrong way
she kept working on her mind putting no effort on her body,
what about when all you want is guys’ attention, the wrong kind of attention
because you don’t realize your worth goes further than your body
because all of the emotional abuse you’ve suffered all of your life
you forever focus on your body putting no effort on your brain
because as far as you always known  you don’t have a brain ..

Too white

As I grew up, I listened several times people calling me too white. Too white, for being Ecuadorian, too white for being mestiza and even too white for being related with my family. However, according to the same people I couldn’t be considered Blanca either, because at least in my country this term is only acceptable when you are Blanco Europeo, which means that you dont have any kind of mixture, but nowadays no one is 100% of anything. Its something I have get used to it, nevertheless I am sick of hearing it. I am tired of explaining people that you can be white and be born in a south american country, I am tired of explaining that I am in fact related to my grandparents even though they are not white, but mostly I am tired of this stereotype because at the end of the day, it only helps to increase the racism.

 

Dispelling the Sombras…

K,
I know why you stick around now. It isn’t because you love me, because if you did you would not treat me the way that you do. It isn’t because you just wanted me for my body either, because if that were the case you’d be long gone by now. You stay because I’m so submissive to you. You stay because I’m drawn to every word that comes out of your mouth and because I cling to you so necessarily. You feed off of it. You gain power from my vulnerability. But the more of myself I give to you, the less I have to myself. I am no longer me because of you. Over time I have lost what I love most about myself. Before you, I never took shit from anyone. I was radiant and almighty. But, because I wanted you so bad, I gave you the best of me and now you won’t give it back. Your superiority brings you joy… te has hecho mas hombre y mas fuerte. Y a ti que te importa, if your power means my detriment, so be it.
I hope you realize what you’re doing and you find some other way to protect your fragile masculinity some day.
-Michelle

This is a response to the reading, Dispelling the Sombras, Grito mi nombre con rayos de luz by Ines Hernandez Avila. In this reading, she describes the effects of erasure. She focuses on the roles race/ethnicity and gender in erasure. Her opening quotes that focused on gender got me to thinking about my own life and led me to reflect upon why men behave the way they do.

Response 8

My poetry response to “Temporary Latina” by Ruth Behar

I, too, question my Latina authenticity/

Though it has made me who I am today/

Raised in a middle-class, privileged Puerto Rican family/

Some may criticize me of becoming “whitened”/

A term I will never identify with/

“You have white girl hair,” they say/

But, “Are you Asian? You have small, chinky eyes,” they also say/

So who am I?

I am Latina, puertorriqueña/

Grew up filling my belly with arroz con gandules/

Celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve/

Listening to my abuelos yelling out “Merry Chrima”/

The making and passing along of pasteles and coquito/

I am as authentic as the food I eat, as the people I love/

I am never temporary, always permanent/

This Latinidad settled inside of me for eternity.

Me dicen que estoy loco pero se están cayendo de un coco

Caridad Souza’s story “Esta risa no es de loca” reminded me of a discourse that is very common within Latin American families. And how elder generations do not associate Europeaness with the times of conquest and colonization, but to whiteness or betterment.
For example two daughters of the same family married to two drunks one from Salvadoran descendant and one from German descendant, somehow the believe is that the parents of this daughters would always be more satisfied by the German descendant drunk son in law than by the Salvadoran descendent one.
I am pretty sure this happens in every family, how grandparents are always happier when you bring someone home who is lighter skin than darker skin.
The bright side is that younger generations embrace diversity and want all to be a part of the community.

Happy family