Internal Rhythm

Fifteen is the age most of us look back on as our awkward yet endearing freshman year in high school. At the same time, for me, turning fifteen meant it was time for a great celebration– my quinceañera. I was evolving from a girl into a “woman” according to my Hispanic culture. I struggled with the concept of being a child while being seen (and sexualized) as a woman by others.

While the world around me was celebrating,  I was angry. Writing allowed me to process and reflect on navigating my changing identity. Exploring my feelings resulted in the creation of my first piece identifying as a strong Latina “f-word” (feminist) without even knowing it. At fifteen, I declared myself a feminist.

I try to recall the last time I stepped out of an oven

Because I keep hearing the word “caliente” (hot) echo through the street.

I try to recall the last time- cannibalism- was commonly practiced,

Because I keep being told I’m quite “spicy.”

 

But when the strange man hollers, “Muy Sexy”

I gaze in astonishment;

I really must say Congratulations! High cinco (five)!

You can objectify Latinas in two languages,

But when my family speaks in our so-worshipped “exotic” tongue,

We’re told to get with the program:

“You’re in America now, You should know better hun.”

As if America wasn’t built of every pigment,

every language, every loving soul willing to lend a hand-

 

We’re laughed at for the way our accents entangle the words,

But worshipped for the inevitable way our hips move to the beat

of our internal rhythm every time we walk down the street,

 

So, I would like you to know that:

NO, the L in Latina is not equivalent to the L in JLo.

NO, you cannot play me like a bongo

for the pleasure of your own ears.

And for the millionth time…

NO, I will not be your “illegal” activity

because my parents happened to work too damn hard

to get to where we are today.

 

I try to recall a time:

searching, sorting, scattering through decades at a time,

when the objectification of my culture for your sick obsession is appropriate-

But my mind goes blank.

Because there will NEVER be a day where we are just playthings for your twisted world.

Author: Melanie Rodriguez