I’m a Latin American woman, born from a Dominican woman and an Ecuadorian man.
My DNA is spread out through an ATLAS of so many cultures, which compels me to reflect on who I am, really?
I thought I was what my grandmother’s told me I was or who they believed they were and where they came from; as a child I believed them.
As a young girl I walked the streets of New York City in the cage I called my body. Looking to be loved for any accomplishment, ignoring all stereotypes established about me. Fair skin, curly hair, artistic girl in a Dominican family… that’s called a ‘pass’. But I was always fat, that, in a Dominican family revoked your ‘pass’. So my rebellious act? Love EVERYONE and identify with EVERYONE and not give a fuck about their thoughts and acceptance.
As a young adult, my struggle with weight was my only focus. It made me blind to every other struggle but never blind to anyone in pain.
Pain was my connection to those around me.
As an adult I began to form my identity based on what I lived and not based on what other’s told me, suggested, believed me to be. The test was to be convinced while practicing compassion for those that didn’t understand nor accepted me.
As a teacher, I became the student. My students taught me so much especially my Black girls.. I won’t include Brown girls because I grew up in a household of them.. I will thank my aunt Esther for filling my space with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and my aunt Carmen for The Supremes and The Commodores and the Jackson 5.. yes we were Brown but we weren’t Black and my students taught me about that, as much as I thought I knew.
‘You don’t understand, Ms.’
‘But I do’
‘No Ms. You don’t understand.’
It is different. I had to accept it and sit in it and understand.
I reflected on all of our field trips to the many locations where I took all of my children. Every store, every museum, every space.. Why were my Black girls approached differently than the rest? Why?
You have to LIVE it to understand. And so when they spoke of their feelings to me, I stopped with the ‘maybe’s’ and listened and accepted their feelings, knowing I could never understand their PAIN.
And their PAIN was another tie that connected us.
I also accept that with all of the LOVE I may demonstrate to them, some will still question my motives and be merciless if I make one mistake. They are young and forming their characters and deciding who they will become, I hope compassion will be in their arsenal and ultimately see people’s hearts and be so much better in their world than this world has been to them.
I am a better teacher, a better person thanks to them and every one of my children.
Every day, every moment, every experience, every friend, every enemy, every family member, every teacher, every adult as a child, every employer, every job, every country visited, every stranger encountered has shaped who I say I am. And the beauty of that, is the unwavering determination I stand on, so strong no one can convince me otherwise.