This piece began from a poem. Written in a crowded Peter Pan bus as I read Gloria Anzaldúa’s “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers.” She motivated me to not hold back on my writing. She pushed me to “write with [my] tongue of fire.” So that is what I am doing.
A boy once told me he wanted to hear more about this “triple minority thing” I have going on. For some reason, I guess he thought I’d be flattered by this statement. He wanted me to tell him more about what it meant to be undocumented, woman, and brown. We had just met and I was caught off guard. It wasn’t because he knew those things about me already. I’ve been open about my immigration status for years now, and my identity as a Latina is more visible. I was caught off guard because these seemed to be my defining characteristics. And I didn’t even know how to properly speak about any of them.
The world I’ve grown up in has demanded too much from me. At every turn, I am asked to share my experiences. I should be willing to take time out of my day to educate others on what it’s like to be me. I should be flattered that people want to hear from me. I am asked and expected to present my story in a clean and easily digestible form. I must cultivate my struggles to fit into small pills so that outsiders may get nutritional value and feel aware without having to understand the actual effects.
I am expected to mold my experiences into something that can easily fit into a newspaper article or 30-second elevator pitch. I’ve been conditioned to do so through my years of activism in the undocumented community, and it’s made me forget I have other identities that can be separated from my immigration status.
While there is no doubt that there is beauty in the community I’ve found through shared immigration statuses, barriers still exist when the woman and brown part of my identity is ignored. I was guilty of ignoring it myself. Being undocumented is a master status that has brought me unity with those who share it, but kept me at a distance from my Latina identity and caused me to neglect her. I have come to realize that she deserves so much more recognition.
It can be very easy to submerge yourself in this undocumented identity, especially when it is what is getting so much attention right now in the media. Being undocumented, I began to define myself by it. I found comfort in it. I’ve found this to be especially true for me as my life has come to revolve around all things immigration. It is what I live, and what I study here at Harvard. It is in my extracurriculars, as I am now one of the co-directors for Act on a Dream.
For a period of time, I was even able to find comfort in my undocumented counterpart, who is neither woman nor brown. I thought that’s all I needed. But when I lost the embrace of our common pain, I found strength again in women of color. My other identities were not fully formed before. The line was drawn at immigration status and no other pain was thought to exist.
This triple minority thing causes triple the pain, triple the discrimination, and triple the emotions bottling up inside me, seeking a way to escape. I found that escape through writing, both that of others and my own. I found enough strength through women of color like Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde, Rupi Kaur, my friends, my sister, my mother, and more. While not all of these women shared my undocumented identity, I felt a closer bond with them through shared experiences I had never acknowledged before.
I am now trying to understand all my intersecting struggles. I am careful not to place all the blame for the difficulties I’ve faced in my life on my immigration status. It is from my difficulties that I draw strength. This status should not get all the credit, because each one of my identities has helped me learn how to fight. Each one has brought me strength learned from hardship. My women of color have helped me find the muse within myself. Through their writing, I am reminded that my writing is not meant to be for others. My experiences are not meant to be for others. They are meant to be for me.
I found that I was limiting myself by focusing solely on this one identity. It was getting overwhelming. While I found a lot of strength from my undocumented community, now I am finding even more in my community of women of color.
I rest my laptop on my suitcase as I wait for another Peter Pan bus. I am heading back to school from spring break, armed with the strength of my fellow women of color and my undocumented community. And if you ask me today to explain what it’s like to be a triple minority, I will have a new response.
I am not a triple minority. I am a triple threat.
Laura S. Veira-Ramirez ’20, a Crimson editorial editor, is a History and Literature concentrator in Leverett House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.
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