by Rosario Morales and Aurora Levins Morales
I am what I am.
A child of the Americas.
A light-skinned mestiza of the Caribbean.
A child of many diaspora, born into this continent at a
I am Puerto Rican. I am U.S. American.
I am New York Manhattan and the Bronx.
A mountain-born, country-bred, homegrown jibara child,
up from the shtetl, a California Puerto Rican Jew
A product of the New York ghettos I have never known.
I am an immigrant
and the daughter and granddaughter of many immigrants.
We didn’t know our forbears’ names with a certainty.
They aren’t written anywhere.
First names only or mija, negra, ne, honey, sugar, dear
I come from the dirt where the cane was grown.
My people didn’t go to dinner parties. They weren’t
I am caribeña, island grown.
Spanish is in my flesh, ripples from my tongue, lodges
in my hips,
the language of garlic and mangoes.
Boricua. As Boricuas come from the isle of Manhattan.
I am of latinoamerica, rooted in the history of my
I speak from that body. Just brown and pink and full of
I am not African.
Africa waters the roots of my tree, but I cannot return.
I am not Taìna.
I am a late leaf of that ancient tree,
and my roots reach into the soil of two Americas.
Taìno is in me, but there is no way back.
I am not European, though I have dreamt of those cities.
Each plate is different.
wood, clay, papier machè, metals basketry, a leaf, a
Europe lives in me but I have no home there.
The table has a cloth woven by one, dyed by another,
embroidered by another still.
I am a child of many mothers.
They have kept it all going.
All the civilizations erected on their backs.
All the dinner parties given with their labor.
We are new.
They gave us life, kept us going,
brought us to where we are.
Born at a crossroads.
Come, lay that dishcloth down. Eat, dear, eat.
History made us.
We will not eat ourselves up inside anymore.
And we are whole.
When I'm not in a critical mood, the piece has a nice ring to it. But when I put my thinking cap on, I get mixed feelings about the poem. I can probably blog about it more later on, but the basic question I would want to raise is whether this joyful image of mestizaje allows for or is consistent with Pan-Africanism? Actually, I had this same question when I first read Gloria Anzaldua's book Borderlands/La Frontera. She went on and on about being a mestiza and combining the best elements of different worlds. But then if I replace "mestizo" with "mulatto" it just has an incredibly different ring to it and raises the question of whether Anzaldua (or before her Vasconcelos with his idea of La Raza Cosmica) is saying there is something wrong with being "just" Black?
Just something to think about.