Tuesday, August 16, 2005

ending poem

There is a theme in alot of Latino poetry. There are alot of pieces out there which talk about the experience of being part of a diaspora and being caught in the middle of multiple worlds.

Ending Poem
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
drums inside.

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
coconut shell.
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.


Dark Daughta said...

I had the same difficulty when I read her work relating to being mestiza. I also remembered actually meeting mixed race black folks who had similar sentiments - I have the best of both worlds - and breaking out in hives wondering what, pray tell, were the not so good parts I still possessed. I take her writing as the work of a foremother writing in a gap that hadn't been explored before. I had hoped that other wimmin/feminist/queers defining as mestiza or as non-african descended wimmin of color would come along and write, embodying a fuller critique of the continuum of shade but also generally of race and passing, too. I hoped that newer writers being inspired by her example and ability to write her existence into being would go farther, paving way where she obviously fell short. I hoped that they would not seek to reinvent the wheels other wimmin/feminists of color made to their own specifications, suited to their best purposes, but to create whole new paradigms of self understanding instead.

I am still waiting...

Anonymous said...

Because maybe like me, she's JUST NOT ONLY black. Why negate our entire heritage? My culture is spaniard. My food is criolla (spaniard mixed with africa). My color is white, brown and black. What justice is there for the part of me that is white and brown? If someone wants to be identified entirely with one race which is almost impossible if one's ancestors lived in the northern hemisphere of the Americas, then isn't that a form of racism?

Anonymous said...

it wouldn't necessarily be racism because it is not tied to a major authority figure. think of it more as a majority rules preference to simplify the "where are you from" conversations.