Everything Is Political

Mami was born in San Rafael Obrajuelo, El Salvador

Papi was born in San Miguel, El Salvador

Both left their country in the 80’s during its civil war

Mami and Papi met in East Los Angeles one warm afternoon

They fell in love and I showed up two years later.

Then came my sister Jenny,

Then came my sister Jules.

We moved into a little house in Silverlake

Papi a parking attendant in Beverly Hills

Mami a housekeeper in Pacific Palisades.

They married when I was nine,

Papi would always remind us that it was only get Mami’s residency.

When Papi became a citizen

I sat in the convention center and waved my little American flag.

Years later, when he was sick and leaving us

His Medi-care case worker asked if he was a citizen

I said yes

She sighed in relief

handing me the smaller stack of papers to fill out.

When he died we cremated his body

Mami carried the little box of his ashes on her lap

During the whole flight back to El Salvador.

She handed it over to his mother

Who in turn buried it next to my grandfather.

The government began giving Mami

Papi’s social security money,

We were told we were so lucky he died a citizen.

Fast forward to this year

Mami is old enough now

To take the naturalization exam in her language.

She studies so hard

Every night

With her flash cards

And glasses on.

The day she became a U.S. citizen

My sister

Took a picture of her

Standing proud

In front of the American flag

Holding her certificate

Now,

When the news come on she turns up the volume

She mentions Trump and Hillary

Her voice is serious and stern

Like Papi’s when he would discuss politics with me.

Recently,

My sister was going through

Some of his things

And we found this large newspaper clipping

Announcing Obama winning the presidency.

I don't know why I cried so hard when I saw it.

In that moment I realized

Everything about my family is political.

The fact that they are migrants

And I spent half my life

Afraid that one of them could be deported.

That Mami still gets nervous when she hears

Of ICE raids.

That just last year, my cousin

Tried to crossing the border three times

Before making it through to his wife and child

That before each attempt we tried talking him out of it.

That when I turn on the news

There is this man

That calls my entire blood line

The villains to the story,

Something to exterminate,

A nuisance.

That the woman running for office

Was once asked about the young boys

Fleeing the violence in my country

And she said that it wasn’t our problem.

Send them back, she shrugged.

That my people are now catchphrases

A Selena song during your rally

A Vicente Fernandez Video

A woman shaking her fists yelling “Viva Trump!”

And my neighborhood, my home,

Is so gentrified

I don’t recognize it anymore

I fight so hard to create a space

For brown women to feel safe

And no matter who I vote for

It won’t help at all

That I

Am exactly who they target

When they talk about the Latino vote.

Another thing to check off on a list,

A political statement everyone makes

But only I get to live.

Mami was born

Two countries away

And sometimes

I swear my heart

Lives there too.

I pray

That next week, during elections,

We will make whatever

Uncomfortable choices we need to make.

Like maybe voting for Clinton,

Because Trump

Sounds too much like

What our families fled their countries from

I don’t have any answers

Just stories

Memories

Of everything about my life

As a woman

As a Latina

Always being on a ballot

Everything about me is political

An open question

That an election won’t answer

And I am exhausted.

Yesika’s mami, Adela Palacios Salgado, voting for her first time during the California preliminary elections.
Yesika’s mami, Adela Palacios Salgado, voting for her first time during the California preliminary elections.
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