This is a poem that I wrote for an Open Mic event I performed at last night. It’s the first poem I’ve ever performed, but I think it managed to say a lot of what I wanted it to. It’s a very personal piece on my identity at my college, so it might not be something that everyone can relate to. It’s also meant to be spoken because it is a very emotional piece for me, but I wanted to share it here despite not having a video of my reading. Just a warning that it brings up issues of race due to my heritage and the way that I am perceived because of it.
Name, Where I’m from, Major.
My name is Marcos, I’m from California, I’m an STS Major.
Oh, its Marcos.
And yea, I’m really from California.
From the fertile Salinas Valley.
Where my parents came to work the bountiful fields,
And plant their hope.
Where they cared and tended their garden,
And there I grew.
Yet even there I get no more
than cold stares from those who consider themselves more native than I.
Who are happy to import my parents sweat,
but want nothing to do with their blood.
Who claim ownership over the fruit of their labor,
but try to deport the fruit of their wombs.
And I hear it even in the way you ask where I’m really from,
that even you view me as a second rate person in one of the only places I’ve ever considered home, but you probably think I’d fit in better in Mexico.
And that’s not much better than people who would have me go back “where I came from”.
You would force on me a culture I’ve never truly belonged to.
A culture that has never truly accepted me.
I’m more of a foreigner in this motherland you want me to return to.
So why am I still the Mexican here?
Why, when I thought that I was finally home, do I have to put up with friends who feel they can talk my language when they say “tacos, burritos, chile!”
And why am I made to feel so uncomfortable in this “accepting” place.
People who can’t even pronounce my name want to decide who I really am.
Here when it suits you I’m just as Mexican as you need me to be.
When I can fill your diversity quota you like to focus on my heritage
When you need me to be, I become the token Mexican
As a tour walks through campus I’m a brown face to break up the crowd of white.
Yet growing up I was always the whitewashed kid who was just about as Mexican as Taco Bell.
And when it suits you, you quickly realize how true that is.
I put on a suit and suddenly I go from Mexican to Spanish, Greek, Italian.
I put on a suit and you take away the very culture that you’ve been trying to force on me.
The struggle that my parents went through to give me a better opportunity in life than they had
A childhood spent in a city so violent that it was featured on Ganglands.
Where white people saw me as just another walking target on a shooting range
A lifetime of trying to decide just how Mexican or American I really am.
Trying to decide just how much culture I have a right to.
Trying to appease people like you who assign me to whichever you like
And my family that wants me to remember my roots.
I might not be Mexican, but I am Latino. I am Chicano.
I try to dress nice, and you take that all of that away from me.
I become white so that I can better fit into the stereotypes in your head.
I cant possibly be Latino and educated.
I can’t possibly be Chicano and dress well.
I can’t be all of me without having you try to decide who I really am.
So let me explain it for you.
I am really from California
I am really Latino
I am really Chicano.
I am really American.
I am really a Vassar student.
I have my strengths and my faults
I have my successes and my struggles
I am my own person
Just like you.