I know you think you’re like my abuela but in actuality you have no idea what it’s like to be my abuela.
You don’t know what it’s like to leave your family and come to a place that expects you to shed your cultural identity the moment you arrive, except of course for the things they find exotic and wish to appropriate. You don’t know what it’s like to give up your education and sacrifice your own potential so that you can perform hard labor that will break your body and never satisfy you intellectually, all for the sake of a child who hasn’t even been born yet. You don’t know what it’s like to spend sun up to sun down, hunched over, sweating, picking cotton on some white man’s farm so your children can have new clothes for school. You don’t know what it’s like praying that this man is decent and honest and will pay you what you deserve because if he doesn’t you don’t have the language or the resources to fight back. You don’t know what it’s like for your children to never know the hopeful girl you used to be before you grew calloused beneath the harsh Texas sun, your dreams trapped beneath the dirt on your clothes, in your hair, and under your fingernails. You don’t know what it’s like to rob your children of their mother tongue for fear that they’ll grow up with accents and people will make fun of them. You don’t know what it’s like to sacrifice some of the most beautiful and most meaningful parts of your culture because you know that your children must be as Americanized as possible in order to be successful. You don’t know what it’s like to watch those children grow up struggling with identity because of those sacrifices. You don’t know the heart break or the shame of trying to assimilate, of wanting to so badly that you end up raising children who don’t know who they really are or where they come from. You don’t know what it’s like to live in fear that one day someone will notice you, that they’ll get suspicious, and you’ll be separated from your family. You don’t know what it’s like for that fear to be so great that even after decades in this country you still haven’t applied for your green card because despite the fact that this is your home now, despite all that it took to build that home, you know it could be taken away at any moment. You don’t know what it’s like to be an American in every sense of the word but to also know that no one else sees you that way. They never will. Not even if you’re here in this country legally. Not even if you have your citizenship. And despite the fact that your blood, sweat, and tears are in this country’s soil, in the roots of the trees, on factory floors, and all of the other places Americans won’t dare go. You built this home…for all of us. But you don’t know what it’s like to build a home that will never truly be yours. You don’t know what it’s like to be that brave.
And this is just one experience, because despite what you may believe, not all abuelas are the same. Latinos come from different countries and we speak different languages and we have different skin tones and hair and foods and music and customs and beliefs and values.
But maybe you don’t know what that’s like either. To live in a country that only knows a stereotype and prefers to view us as a homogeneous threat rather than as people who are as diverse as they come, whose fears and dreams are too.
So, no, Hillary. You are not like my Abuela. Not even close.