These times force us to think about relationships in a different way—with the land and other humans—and about what it is to be grounded in a place that might not always be easily within reach. Read more →
Where I Come From
As 2018 comes to an end, I’ve been thinking a lot about my life and where I come from. An “I am from…” poem is a simple way to reflect and put together all the important pieces in your life. So today, I would like to share mine in hopes that it inspires your own self-reflective thoughts.
The question comes
in the form of a loaded gun.
Neither answer the right one
Where are you from?
In response, I show them my hands
My scarred skin still softer
Than the calloused hands of my padre.
The journey of my madre still longer than my fingers
Growing up for me
a one-bedroom apartment with my parents and 4 siblings,
Loteria with pinto beans, and Cumbia music for cleaning on
Where I am from
I am too light for brown kids but too dark to fit in
not knowing yet that I was meant to stand out
I didn’t know
I was “different” from
other American children
when my classmates thought
it was weird that I rolled the R in my name
Because their friends Carly and Ralph said their R’s like they were supposed to sound
So I stripped the pain out of my name
and started going by
In first grade,
my favorite subject
Not to brag but
I was good at it.
Knew words my peers couldn’t spell or pronounce
Words like undocumented,
These words fell out of a deportation letter
that I had to translate for my mother when I was too young to understand why
But I am from stubborn ancestors, from fighters
From I am here to stay
so today, I am from Julia Cortez
who became a citizen of the United States so when people told her to go back to her country she could say
“I am already here”
I am every girl before me that never had a stage to tell their story
I am All the missing and murdered indigenous women that go unnoticed
I am my peers who work three jobs just to survive,
who leave their kids alone at night,
so they can come back year after year
I am all the children who put their families dreams first
because of their parents who left their home countries and risk everything,
How could you not?
I am from borders,
Growing up, I was from speak when spoken to
and my madre raised me right
my madre told me to give credit where it’s due
So I want to make it clear that
The Institute of American Indian Arts did not give me my voice
No, I’ve had this outspoken tongue since I was young
but it did give me
teachers and faculty like all of you
who believed that a student’s
ethnicity, race, trauma or personal history
does not inhibit their ability to succeed
I am from borders,
I know they exist because my parents crossed them
And even though they exist,
I surpassed each and every single one of them to be here
And despite borders, I will pursue my dream of becoming an art therapist so I can help other kids from my community figure out what their borders are and how they can also succeed
Right now in this moment
I am from here.
And I can’t wait to see where else I am going.
And I hope you all come with me
Scarlett Cortez is a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts.