This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.
Two simple stanzas that have resonated with me throughout my entire life. Words that touch me so profoundly, written by someone who could never understand my plights. It was in a sea of goldfish that this pollita inocente learned that those words were not only never meant for her, but they were written in a world that never included her. And yet, it would be almost 10 years before I would fully be able to understand and accept this fact.
High school, while culturally inclusive, was confusing in a way that no other part of my life was. I was a dark skinned Latina, who attended school dances on Fridays and Charreadas on Saturdays. My life was a rotating door of cultures, a blessing from my open minded mother and her modern ideas about what a woman is supposed to be. This cultural awakening started in my stomach. Welcoming the endless amounts of pupuzas, papas rellenas, and rangoons that were such a part of my growing up. It was not confusing to embrace these other cultures. It was not different to see people who looked nothing like me. It was life and living in Chicago.
I was shocked in elementary school to know so many kids who never so much as drove down Lake Shore Dr. I was being raised by a Hippie and food connoisseur, my mother’s free spirited lover and the only father figure I’ve ever known. We had summer mornings in Boystown, and winter nights in Humboldt Park. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the smell of tacos and cigarettes, a calming smell that takes me back to this day. I was only 7 years old the very first time I tried a crab rangoon, I was only 8 years old when I had a gourmet cake for my birthday. I remember mornings before school when we would drop my brother and sister off and then I would get taken out for breakfast at 8am. Arriving at school late but with a stomach full of pancakes.
So grateful I am to have the life that I lived. For my mother who showed me the world in our very own city. Who drove me down Lower Wacker Dr to remind us to always be humble. Who drove us down 26th St at 2am to show us that some men are women and that’s just that. I never experienced judgement, never from my open minded and understanding mother. It was always others judging my mother. Judging her for the man she loved, judging her for the life she lived, judging her for the way she raised her kids. Yet, my mother did an amazing job. A fair skinned Mexican, raising a daughter who from afar looked like somebody elses. She taught me to love my skin, that I was a beautiful Morena.
It was in her showing me the world that she showed me how to truly love myself. She showed me to be fearless, to stand tall in a room where you’re not welcome or wanted. She taught me to love humans, no matter who they are. To do good by others, to face life with a smile. My mom came from Mexico and embraced a life in a city that housed so many. She embraced other cultures, other lifestyles, and made sure we remained open minded. It’s hard to know what confidence is, but confidence is my mother. Confidence is the way she walked into white establishments and expected service like everyone else. Without even knowing the language. Confidence is venturing out into the suburbs for breakfast, even though we would be looked at differently. Confidence is my mom living her best life, even when her family didn’t understand. It was working as a bartender despite the stigmas that surrounded it. It was her loving someone with a questionable career who took care of her and her family despite what her family thought. Confidence was looking to her children and always reminding us that we were enough.
Confidence was hammering inside of our heads that we may be different, but our money is just as green as everyone else’s. And that’s something that has always stuck with me. Thank you mom, for showing me how to love and celebrate my darkness, my culture, and my family.