The Blog below is one small piece from my Soy/Somos series that celebrate the multiple identities and perspectives of Latinos in the USA.
Last night I stopped by a car dealership and there was a young woman at the reception desk. Her brown hair was swept up into a small bun at the top of the crown of her head (as many young women do these days). She had a delicate voice and I could detect the underlying Spanish cadences even though she spoke in perfect English. I must have said something in Spanish because she exclaimed, "Usted es de Espańa!" She said she could hear the accent from Spain (though I don't do the z sounds before vowels or used "vale" for "bien," or "vos.") I said, "And you?" I couldn't detect her country of origin. She explained that her parents were born in El Salvador and she was born in the US and studied Italian early in her life and that's why her Spanish "sounds different." I needed to move on but was left wanting to hear more of her story.
And this is what I find in the middle of my life. Though I like jazz and Bob Dylan, Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keefe, and love this country that I chose in my early twenties, I am pulled towards my fellow Latinos and Latinas here in the US who come from countries wildly different from my tiny Panama. How many common things do Mexico and Panama share, for example? So few! Yet, vis a vis the United States, most of us in Latin America had the big and powerful Estados Unidos to contend with. The Mighty Colossus. That is how I saw the US from my little semi-colony of Panama (as my husband used to call it before the Canal Zone was history). The Canal Zone and the American military presence in Panama for one hundred years had us in that bind. Mexico of course has a special relationship with the US, being neighbors along their long boundary. And yet, Mexico, has a rich and complicated history and racial mix--and even it's own almost-dialect of Spanish. These are the people I want to meet. The ones who've arrived from El Salvador, Ecuador, Chile and others. There are huge differences among us, but we also have much in common. And it starts with language and with being "Latino" and all that this means in this American nation.
The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote a poem titled "Muchos Somos," (We Are Many) and it begins like this: "De tantos hombres que soy, que somos, no puedo encontrar a ninguno:" (Of the many men that I am, that we are, I can't find a single one.)
In this blog for Latino Voices I am going to write about Latinos that I meet here in the United States, the ones who clean office buildings, cook, or own and manage companies; seamstresses, social workers, novelists, and singers. I am calling the blog, SOY/SOMOS. This is who I am. This is who we are.
Also, I'd like to tell you about the books that I've loved (or not) that are written by or speak about Latinos or other hybrid Americans. I am drawn to people and things that celebrate the multiple identities and perspectives in this country. I celebrate the words: hybrid, hyphenated, bilingual, multicultural, blend, compound, synthesis.
Be on the lookout for SOY/SOMOS. I'd love to have your company and your thoughts about all of this.