Her first question was about what color painted his skin. Naively, I was confused about why she would ask about something so seemingly random. I answered that he was half white and half Chinese, and she replied he wasn’t the right type for me. He wasn’t Mexicano, didn’t speak any sort of Spanish, or eat tortillas religiously. He was the right gender, just not the right skin color.
But Latinx cultural groups are not just here to serve as a spectacle of food and music. They play an intimately personal role to Latinx students, particularly those who struggle with feeling as if they belong to this institution.
Zoe: When I was little, I would listen to Spanish beautifully and effortlessly flow from my grandparents’ lips. When I would see them, I would do my best to mimic the songs they were singing, trying to roll my r’s and remember to make the “y” sound for “ll.” At the age of five, I hadn’t yet been taught to be embarrassed. I can only remember panicking when my grandma yelled for the escoba and I brought her a pan, only to find out she wanted the broom. I could feel sentences forming in my mind when I saw her, with the holes remaining unfilled by the words I had never been taught.
Last week, I bought a book of poetry by Javier Zamora, a Salvadoran-American poet who crossed the Mexico-U.S. border at nine years old. In the opening poem, Letter to Abuelita Nelli, he writes, “I can’t go back and return. There’s no path to papers. I’ve got nothing left but dreams.” The ability to cross borders is a privilege afforded by the trivial circumstances of my birth.