As a kid, being bilingual felt like broken promises.
“Si hablas inglés, todo será más fácil!”
My mami and papi would say,
with fire in their eyes.
In school, it meant broken English,
like nails on the chalkboard.
In public, it meant I would be my parents’ bridge
towards the American Dream – translating,
hoping I wouldn’t get it wrong.
“Enséñales que no eres del cerro!”
They would say, because for them,
being American meant confidence.
Now that I’m older, it’s like I’m fighting my way back.
Someone once said being born here
is being the hyphen in “Mexican-American”:
Entre dos mundos. No eres de aquí ni de allá.
You’re not from here nor there.
I would speak and strangers would tell me,
“You have an accent. Where are you from?”
And with that curious question,
all my struggles were amplified:
I distorted my name, to make it more “American”
(whatever that means)
I was unaware that my last name had an accent
(subtle identity theft)
I repeated to roll my Rs,
In hope that others would try
to share the burden I have faced my entire life.
And if another stranger would to repeat
that condescending question,
well I think I would say:
“Well, I am from here and there –
Somewhere in between. Where are you from?”