by Aracely Mondragon, ’13
My name is Aracely Mondragon and I am…
I am stories
Of arduous walks
Across a cruel and thieving desert
Of being smuggled in a stereobox
Holding your breath
Praying to the virgencita
I am fetters
On my parent’s wrists and necks
That keep them immobile
Their humanity defined
In terms of legality
I am the warm aroma
Of maiz intermingling
With upbeat tunes of unrequited love
On a Sunday morning
I am the stale air
Of thirteen people
Cramped under one roof
A little too much family
For a teenage girl craving privacy
I am the interrupted silence
Traditions of female subservience
Meets the privilege of an education
I am foreign
On their tongue
The blending of two languages
Slurred words and dropped vowels
The stubborn reconciliation of multiple worlds
A Mujer in healing
But I did not always speak this way for I was raised under the tongue of survival. My inheritance was that look of concentration on a 40 year old housekeeper’s face, scrubbing away yesterday’s news of her father’s death or the realization that she will not be able to attend the funeral, never letting her suffering smudge her bosses shiny floor.
When my mother described her journey from Mexico to the US she told me “lo peor ya habia pasado” she had nothing left to lose. She left her dirt house in Balsas, Guerrero at 13, away from those walls that trembled from her father’s fists.
I did not learn my mother’s life story until I was 19 years old, stories of drinking a soda as breakfast so that the carbonated gas would fill her tummy and postpone the hunger
Stories of no importance compared to her still being alive.
If there’s one thing my family knows well is that when you cross a desert you can’t think about that lead feeling in your legs, or the distance between you and your family every step creates. It’s better if you can’t feel that way you can trick yourself to keep walking
My own test of endurance came senior year of high school when I watched my parent’s placed in handcuffs and taken from mine and my sister’s side by immigration officers. Yes there were tears, but after multiple night of crying in frustration over unpaid bills I remembered my training.
Everytime I heard the story of our separation retold I chose not to listen, the last time I whispered goodbye to my mother in Mexico, I couldn’t even find any tears to leave her with.
At Stanford, this numbness turned into a deep resentment. I couldn’t even look in the mirror without wanting to shatter it to pieces with my fist. I spent so much time convincing myself that feelings were a luxury I wasn’t allowed.
But I can only run away from myself for so long, wounds can only fester inside for so long. By the beginning of junior year, my self destruction had reached an ultimate high and I found myself one day on a hospital bed being forced to re-evaluate this language I spoke so well.
I thought I’d break the silence by screaming: look at me!
I’ve been too intoxicated with my own pain
so I’m wearing my scars out now
see my wounds oozing, the stain of scarlet on me
does it cause you discomfort?
well I refuse to hide them,
for the sake of saving your stomach….
there’s no pretending here anymore
now its just me,
me and my raw flesh
Then I realized this wasn’t just about me. I wanted to confront the world for all the women in my family. And it felt so good to finally scream at someone else, even if it was an empty page. I’ll never apologize for my self recognition and expression of pain, but I’ve learned to not let it consume me.
It’s taken time to switch my stoic mask for naked compassion. But I’m really trying to allow myself and my family the chance to do more than just survive. I know I walk with my mother and grandmother deep inside me…
Voy cargando un costal con
Ante lenguas forzadas
Contra paredes viejas
Vamos caminando con piel rajada de memorias
Vamos levantando un costal lleno
de nuestras cositas quebradas
I’ve learned that if I can feel a collective suffering, a collective healing is also possible, And that’s the new language I want us to speak, one where
Healing is the words I speak to any woman with downcast eye:
conozco esa caminada
cargando esos pechos maternos
que en tus ojos puedo ver reflejados
esos morados, verdes azules
estrellados en su piel morena
que en tu boca puedo ver
el temblor de sus gritos callados
ven hacia mi que yo conozco esa caminada
deja el volcán que trais en tu pecho estallar
dime a mi lo que mueres por reclamar
dame a mi tus lagrimas cristalinas
y en mis caderas desahógate
ven hacia mi y ya veras
que juntas nos libramos
mujer entre mujer
is the prayer I say to the sky every night
Help me to keep vulnerable
let myself fall into the sky
not a grounding but a lifting
Help me to love the mirror
and heal with all those reflected there
Healing is standing here before you telling you … I am a queer chicana with parents in Mexico because the US will not have them, that I am from a poor background struggling to reconcile my privilege here with the realities I grew up with. I am often scared, depressed, angry, insecure, but I am finally allowing myself to feel. And as the great Audre Lorde has said “I feel, therefore I can be free.”
Aracely is a Senior from California majoring in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.