I am a first-generation, low-income, Christian, Salvadoran-Chicana from South Central Los Angeles.
Tell us about your childhood and values?
My childhood, although rough, was still full of happiness, family and faith which I think is where my values came from. My core values are the following:
Family, to me, is not only those I am bound to by blood, but also friends and community members. How I see love is how the bible does in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Truth, to me, goes beyond just being honest with others, but with yourself as well. My mom always told me that if you can’t be true to yourself, you will be lost in your journey.
Respect is another which is for myself, my community, my family and my friends. I respect the wisdom of those who came before me (community-educated and university-educated) and those who are paving paths today.
All in all, faith. Faith in God. It’s a complicated journey, but I believe in Him and fall back whenever times are rough, but also in times of joy. My mom told me that she doesn’t have anything to pass down to me, like a monetary inheritance, but what she passes down to me is the faith.
What makes you proud of being Salvadoran?
The resistance of my community. We are such a minority in this country and are so easily forgotten. Sometimes it feels like we have to constantly fight and make our space even in Latinx circles. El Salvador has gone through so much since before their independence and it breaks my heart that people don’t know our plight. We still, to this day, struggle to let go of U.S. imperialism. Now we, Salvadorans in El Salvador and in the U.S. fight more than ever, because English is becoming the national language in El Salvador, we lost the original Salvadoran currency, and now we’re fighting to just keep our accent and stop our people from violence. Although this is true, I am proud that we are still here, still fighting, and still representing. My friend says, “País pequeño, orgullo grande” and that basically summarizes my pride from a small country.
Was there ever a specific moment where you felt that it was your responsibility to stand up and speak about racial issues?
Since high school maybe. I mean how could I not? I saw my mom having to defend herself in broken English to her bosses. I saw how many of my friends felt like they couldn’t even go to college, because they had to stay home to get a job and help their parents with bills. I saw how the kids my mom babysat got a better resources than my sister and me just because they lived in a high-income neighborhood. I felt like it was ingrained in me to always speak up and never back down.
I remember it was in my junior of high school when my teacher taught me the vocabulary to speak on my experiences. I felt so empowered and felt like I had tools to fight. I still feel like it’s my responsibility to stand up and speak up along with my community and other oppressed minorities. I don’t see it as a burden, but as something that I do out of gratitude and love. Resistance is in my history and in my blood, thus my responsibility to be a part of the people to stand up and speak up..
What are any future aspirations you have after Brown?
I hope to be a high school U.S. History teacher or Ethnic Studies teacher. I want to do this, because I felt so betrayed about learning my community’s histories and our oppression so late. Like, you mean to tell me that somehow the CIA’s involvement in the civil wars in Central America is not important enough to mention? Somehow the Haitian Revolution was not something worth mentioning—even though it was the first black slave rebellion and victory? You know how betrayed one feels? I hope to give tools, inspiration and hope to my community and other oppressed communities. This is why I want to be a teacher.
Is there any advice or thoughts you would like to express to the rest of the community of people of color?
We do belong here. We do matter. We are smart. Our parents’, community’s, family’s struggles and sacrifices are valid and won’t be in vain. We will be able to make it.
Siempre juntxs en la lucha—forever, together in the struggle.
My veins are not coded in red, white, and green
My eyes do not see Tenochtitlan
My tongue never spoke Nahuatl
My hands cannot make Pozole
But I grew up wishing at least half of me did
Growing up I learned how Pancho Villa fought for Mexico
I learned how Las Adelitas were not hypersexualized viejas en la orilla
I learned how Mexicans were lynched in the South
I was surrounded by Mexican vernacular in school
I was surrounded by Mexican pride and honor
I was called serota and was made fun of for my accent
I saw as my other Salvadoran friends would put their heads down in shame
I was reminded that Salvadorans do not have a place in America
I wonder if this is how Salvadoran refugees during our civil war felt in Los Angeles when creating MS13
Finding refuge and pride in a gang that is now responsible for 22 deaths per day in El Salvador
I remember asking my mom to tell me the story of when she migrated to the U.S.
I remember writing about her in every single assignment in my elementary school
I remember her telling me seeing her dad look away from the bus when she left to the states
But no one else does
No one else knows our pain and history
Schools reinforce the idea that Mexican is a panethnic term like Latinx
Schools have hands over the mouths of the people in El Salvador
America has erased our land that reeks of death
Reeks of sadness
Did I know back then that Salvadoran women voices will never be known or heard, if it is not for us researching it ourselves?
When I see a place that has pupusas
No not the Mexican tortilla with cheese
The Salvadoran pan dulce
I feel connected to my heritage
It warms up my heart and makes the bruises of my people hurt less
When I hear the Salvadoran accent,
It reminds me that we are here
My accent is dormant in school
And exaggerated at home
I try to prove to my family that I still got it
That I still am Salvadoran
That I still speak as if I was born there
Being in the states with papers is a luxury for Salvadorans
Many of us are not able to
And the fear of being deported is greater
Because we’re greeted at El Salvador with rape, gang violence and police brutality
Because we have to cross three borders if we want to come back
But if we don’t
Then we stay in a home that is being
Destroyed by the anger of being invisible
Do you understand that I do not have the right to say I belong here?
To say that the United States stole my lands?
To say that this was my home once?
That the border crossed us?
Is it wrong for me to feel mad that Trump did not say Latinxs instead of Mexicans?
I used to be mad at Salvadorans for not being proud and proclaiming their ethnicity
For not proclaiming their love of Cumbia
For not being proud when finishing a pan con pollo before the pan gets soggy from the salsa
For not being visible
For not acknowledge our survival
We survived a 12-year civil war that killed 75,000 Salvadorans
A war that was fought between a guerrilla group and a U.S.-trained, U.S.-backed military regime
I owe my being here to the guerrilla
To the 35% of women in the guerrilla that fought for me and my family
But no one else knows this
No one else cares
No one else sees my heart break when people do not appreciate at least my food
Fuck at least ask me why I want to cry when people call me Mexican
I’m tired of being generalized
I don’t want to be an “honorary Mexican”
I don’t want to be “basically Mexican” because I have mostly Mexican friends
There was a point in my life when I wanted to
When that’s what I wished for
I wanted assimilate into Mexican culture
To stop being made fun of
To stop the looks of confusion when I said “cipota” or “pajilla” or “bicho”
You don’t see the bruises of my people that continue to scar my body
I do not have the privilege of being surrounded in a community of Salvadorans
And because we are invisible to the world and the U.S.
Most of us when we make it in this country
We don’t want to look back
I refuse to be ashamed of speaking with my accent
I refuse to have my histories ignored
I will continue to write every paper on El Salvador
I will continue to wear my Salvadoran flag earrings
I rather cry every day out of frustration than to ever live with the bruises haunting me for not looking back to the place that let me be here in the first place
Rest in Power Maryori, thank you for your friendship, te extrano amiga.