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
With her flash cards
And glasses on.
The day she became a U.S. citizen
Took a picture of her
In front of the American flag
Holding her certificate
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.
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,
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
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
I swear my heart
Lives there too.
That next week, during elections,
We will make whatever
Uncomfortable choices we need to make.
Like maybe voting for Clinton,
Sounds too much like
What our families fled their countries from
I don’t have any answers
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.