Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
For most of my life, I grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Mostly African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, many who have recently immigrated, live in my neighborhood. South Central Los Angeles is also notorious for its poverty, failed school system, and gang violence to the extent that the city decided to change the name of the area to South Los Angeles. This summer I left the comfort of of bodegas, Spanglish, and Mexican and Central American food to come to Yale, a dream come true.
Although I love Yale, the transition to Yale has been everything but easy. I miss eating pupusas and tacos with my family, speaking Spanglish, listening to my grandfather discuss Latin American politics and Hugo Chavez, listening to the chisme of the neighborhood, and not having to dress in layers. I have also had to come to terms with my identity. This year, I have come to terms with what it means to be a Latina woman from a disadvantaged neighborhood. Being away from home has made me more attune that my reality is alien to others.
Out of ignorance, students have made very hurtful and bigoted comments which make me uncomfortable. My first memory of Yale is of being asked a hurtful question. A fellow Yale admit asked me “Are you actually Hispanic? Or did you just say that to get in?” after seeing my name tag that contained my surname: Cruz . I did not know what to say. Yes, I am actually Hispanic but also I felt hurt that my accomplishments were belittled because of my ethnicity. He later went on to criticize institutions like Yale for educating international students and immigrants. Uncomfortable with my own skin and uncomfortable with my current situation, I am often flabbergasted and speechless. Yet, my own silence disturbs me and makes me feel guilty. While studying for calculus or heading to class, my thoughts begin to consume my mind. I am ashamed of my silence; I am supposed to be a Yale student. Yale students are courageous, eloquent, and the “leaders of tomorrow”. Yet, my silence mocks me and I revert to feeling like an insecure middle school student. My shame and guilt are also combined with anger. Why should I have the obligation to speak up? Why can’t other students be cognizant of the backgrounds of other students?
Recently, this discomfort has become more perverse to the extent that I have turned to friends and mentors here at Yale. I have found solace within talking to other MEChistas but also with friends who do not share my story. A recent dinner with a friend has shifted my paradigm regarding my own discomfort. My friend told me, “Your discomfort is actually a really good thing. It means this institution is changing.” Decades ago, it would have been impossible for me to get a college education nevertheless a Yale education. Yale is changing; it is becoming more inclusive and diverse. It is easier to be a student of color here then it was a couple of years ago.
For this reason, Yale I encourage you to share my own feeling of discomfort. Let us have an open discussion on issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship and identity that can be at times uncomfortable and awkward. I have broken my silence. I am eager to listen; Yale tell me your story because there isn’t such a thing as the average “Yalie”.
Saybrook College Class of 2015
Since coming to Yale, I have been more conscious about my identity. In my home town of South Central Los Angeles, there are so many Latinos that I never paid much attention to my identity. As a child of two immigrants, I live in the borderlands that Gloria Anzaldúa so beautifully describes.
I am neither Guatemalan nor American. My birth certificate says I am a US citizen. I am a citizen of a country that does not want me. I live in a country where individuals want to end birthright citizenship to prevent people like me from being citizens. I also live in a country where school officials do not want Latinos to learn about nuestra historia. I live in a country in which Spanish is considered the language of the ghetto and poverty by a man who wants to be my president. The United States has also executed an imperialist foreign policy in Guatemala which has greatly impoverished Guatemalans. I also have trouble claiming a country that thinks that people like me are disposable enough to infect Guatemalans with syphilis and other venereal diseases.. I am not Guatemalan either. Although visiting Guatemala fills my heart with joy, my Spanish is foreign, my behavior is too “American”, and I am treated as a tourist. I am also not proud of country in which few families control all of the wealth of the county and a country that does not respect the rights of indigenous people.
Race and Ethnicity are separate from citizenship but yet a large part of one’s own identity. My complexion also complicates how others perceive my ethnic identity. My fair skin and reddish hair have caused many awkward misunderstandings. People have said very racist comments about Hispanics/Latinos while I have been present because they did not believe I was Hispanic. Likewise, I have been called a gringa and been spoken poorly about in Spanish. Growing up, I wanted darker skin so I could be acknowledged as being Latina. I did not like being called a gringa. Now that I am older, I am comfortable with my own skin. The color of my skin does not make me any less or any more Latina. I am Latina because I have a connection and love to Guatemala and Latin America.
Saybrook College Class of 2015
Saybrook College Class of 2015
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
For many people, tracing their lineage is as easy as logging onto the Internet and subscribing to a popular ancestor-finding service. For someone like me, whose ancestry is of peasants from Oaxaca, in Southern Mexico, the job is a lot harder. Like many other first-generation Americans, my roots straddle an enormous gap. Centuries of history lie on one side, while only 20 years–the time since my parents’ immigration to the US–lie on the other. While some people can find their entire family histories online, I am left with only the stories of my grandmothers and a vast register of civil documents in Mexico.
Both my maternal and paternal grandfathers died before I was born, leaving only my grandmothers as a source for the past. On trips to Mexico, I am enchanted by their stories of the past, of times before their sons and daughters left for El Norte, of times when only one television in an entire village blared telenovelas, of times when only one party ruled all of Mexico. Characters with names like Febronia and Faustino, long lost aunts and cousins who left for the DF or joined some religión, all play starring roles in these stories. Places with names like Tres Arroyos or La Culebra are the locales for these tales. Death and frivolity both take the stage; times of joy and festivity are followed by the tragic.
But these stories are increasingly harder to remember, and names and dates are increasingly confused. My grandmothers remain one of the few links to the past, but I realize that there is only so little time before more of my family's history disappears along with them. The other source is the store of civil records lying in my parents’ hometown’s municipal palaces and the state capital archives. Here, I know, is where I have to direct my search and investigation in hopes of illuminating my family's history. It seems like a monumental task to tackle such a project. It seems like such a strange or even frivolous thing to spend time on. However, I cannot fathom the thought of my family’s history remaining so cloudy. I want my own progeny to remember their own roots, so they don’t forget that they come from humble, modest origins. That their ancestors grew maize by seasons, spoke indigenous dialects, and lived in the mountains of Oaxaca. The stories of common people with extraordinary lives, that's what I want to explore.
I have challenged myself to make my next trip to Mexico far more enlightening than the usual. My mother tells me that though bureaucratic red tape makes such dives into the past difficult, it is not impossible to search the archives. As a historian, the prospect of finally diving deep into my own history and filling in the gaps and expanding upon my grandmothers’ own histories, a combination of written and the oral, thrills me. Years of history have gone unwritten. It's my own personal history project. And this time, the family tree will be a lot larger than the few branches of my 7th grade history project.
-Juan Díaz, MC 2015