I am so excited to share this anthology with the world. Too often individuals from the Latinx diaspora are placed into a box, into stereotypes, that society deems necessary in order to define us. But we are so much more than the myths, than the stereotypes, than what white people and Western ideals, want us to believe. So much gratitude to writers and activists who have come before me, like Gloria Anzaldúa, whose very book, Boderlands/La Frontera, served as inspiration for this one and from which the title was drawn—mil gracias. It was important to me to uplift and share voices from the Latinx diaspora from some of the most powerful writers that I personally admire. Some of these writers might be new to you, and others might seem like old favorites, but each of their essays packs a punch and shoots through the veil of what folks think they know about the Latinx experience. These writers don’t hold back their opinions, their experiences, or their truths—there’s no biting of the tongue or performative niceties here. Instead, we are letting our truths run wild, and pushing against whatever it is you think is the ideal Latinx individual. I hope you read with an open mind, and think critically about the topics discussed. More importantly, to the children of the diaspora, I hope you feel seen, and always know that you matter—no matter what the world tries to tell you.
Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. You are the truthsayer with quill and torch. Write with your tongues of fire.
Eres Un Pocho
Eres un pocho.
You are seven.
They will ask you many questions. Why is your hair like that? Why are your eyes so dark? Are you a demon? How come you are so tan? There are no beaches in Idaho!
You will assure them every time that you are just like them.
You will look in the mirror and know you are not.
Your teacher will point to places on a map, one with borders drawn in black, countries and states filled with bright colors, and she will point below your country to another, and when she asks your class what it is, a young white girl will point at you. You will tell them you are not Mexico.
(You say this out of disbelief. But you will later know that this is the first time you associate shame with this thing you don’t understand.)
They will stare back, eyes wide, foreheads crinkled in confusion, and your teacher will say, “When was the last time you ate a taco?”
You have never had one.
(Not a real one, at least. You know the ones at Taco John’s are bland, without seasoning, without heart.)
You say nothing.
You will disappear into yourself.
* * *
Eres un pocho.
You are eight.
You are outside Adelanto, a town you’ve never been to before, one you will later pass on the highway twenty years later and recall this memory all over again. Your whole life has been uprooted, and what few friends you had will fade away. Years later, you will be unable to recall their names. You have been in the van for hours, your bladder full. Mom has barked at you enough times that you have learned how to ignore the pain down below. You are used to not being believed.
There is snow on the distant mountains. You don’t know if this is the last time you’ll see it. (It’s not.) You’ve been told that where you are headed is hot. Arid. Dry. It is nothing like Boise. You will later learn just how true this is.
The hotel is small and smells of age and antiseptic. You are carted to a restaurant nearby that promises authentic Mexican cuisine. You wonder if it is anything like the bland imitations you have eaten before.
The staring starts almost immediately and you are used to it. You have adapted to what happens when you walk into any space with your family. People will glance from you to your parents and back, then to your blond, green-eyed sister, then back to you and your twin. You have years of experience with the dismay that crosses their faces—you know what it is like to have someone look at you and communicate a simple message:
You do not make sense.
You have known you were adopted for a long time. There was no way to hide it: a white mother and a dark-skinned Japanese father born in Hawaii. You never even got to be curious about it. You were told early, and you made it part of who you were. But you learn not long after that first conversation that knowing you are adopted does not help other people understand you. So you will become used to the odd expressions on the faces of strangers, the way that people will make you feel like an anomaly, like an exhibit in a zoo.
That does not happen this time. As the waitress brings out a hot plate piled with yellow rice, steaming and flavorful, the grains spilling over into the dark brown frijoles, she lingers. Her hair is dark like yours. Her eyes are dark like yours. You have never seen anyone else like this before.
(Only when looking at your twin or in the mirror.)
(This is often not enough.)
She stares at you and your brother. Then at your parents, one pale, the other dark, then glances back at you.
And then when she makes eye contact, she hits you with it, something you won’t understand for years, but when you do, so much of your childhood will make sense.
It’s pity. She wears it on her face as she leaves, and you scoop up some of the frijoles into your mouth, and they taste nothing like you’ve had before. You are savoring this experience when you look up and see the waitress. She points in your general direction.
No, you realize, that isn’t quite right.
She is pointing you out to the cook.
The one who also looks like you.
He shakes his head. You won’t understand this for a while.
You just eat.
It is delicious.
You will be surrounded by people who look like you soon. It will overwhelm you. It will be like a piece of the puzzle that is your sense of self falling into place. Just one piece, though. You still need many others.
You will see it as a blessing.
Your mother will see it as a curse.
* * *
Eres un pocho.
You are nine.
Those words are uttered all the time. You ask what they mean. No one will tell you. The kids who surround you, who speak Spanish rapidly and proudly, will titter and giggle and refuse to answer. “¡Eres un pocho!” they cry. They laugh. They run away from you. No one wants to be your friend.
You don’t know what that word is.
You just know it hurts.
You will turn in a spelling quiz.
You will get it handed back.
She will put it face down on your desk.
“I didn’t expect you to be so smart!”
The corners of her mouth will upturn in what she thinks is a smile.
You know—even back then—that it is a slap in the face.
* * *
Eres un pocho.
You are twelve.
Middle school often feels like a waking nightmare. You are outgrowing your clothes, but your mother will refuse to buy you anything new. She will tell you it is because of money. That is probably true—your family has never had much of it. But it is also because the current style of dress in your school involves baggy, oversized clothing. As your jeans become tighter and tighter, the kids around you will turn on you.
You should ignore them. They are just as messed up, unsure, and afraid as you are.
But you won’t. There is a boy, though. Carlos. You will later realize that he is the first person you will fall for. It is not love—that won’t happen for a long time. Love can’t exist without reciprocity. While you two will strike up a friendship over music, he will later betray you, too, when Kelly breaks up with you after a week. She will tell everyone she had to because you’re gay.
You don’t have the courage (yet) to own that truth. Instead, the truth is only another thing that sets you apart.
Copyright © 2021 by Saraceia J. Fennell