Reflections on Growing Up Biracial in 2017 // Part 2: At the Dinner Table

poetry

At the Dinner Table

When we sit down at the table

in my home

My mom can make arroz con habichuelas as well as my dad

And crispy tostones to rival his, too.

 

My dad turns on Ismael Rivera’s “Negro Bembon”

Which was a favorite song of mine when I was a little girl.

I feel the rhythm in my head

And I smile,

My hips subconsciously moving to the beat

Although my feet do not know the steps.

 

My dad says I remind him of his mama

Who died when he was 11.

Carmen Gloria:

She was a fighter and fierce.

He says I look like her

And I smile and agree

But in my head I know I am not a fighter.

We talk about how lucky he was to come to Seattle.

This is my home, filled with the music, the aromas, the taste of pegao.

 

 

When we sit down at the table

In my Oma and Opa’s house

My Oma sets dishes of gado-gado, croupouc and Telur Bumbu Bali on the little mismatched trivets

And spicy peanut sauce to accompany the sticky yellow rice.

 

We listen to my Opa talk about growing up in World War II during the Japanese occupation

And how he biked an hour each way from his house to see my Oma

And how Japanese soldiers were quartered in his family’s small home as a boy.

He talks about getting a visa to come to the US and how he was so afraid

With just my Oma and his little children— all 7, 5, and 3 years old—

And giving up everything

(His home, his mother, his three sisters, his job as a doctor)

To come here.

He talks about the first time he had a hot dog

He didn’t know what a credit card was when he went to Sears for the first time either.

I smile

But inside my heart yearns for something out of reach;

I’m not sure what.

 

 

I’ve been to Puerto Rico four times in my life

I’ve never been to Indonesia or China

I don’t speak Spanish

I don’t speak Indonesian or Mandarin

 

Yet all these things don’t count

 

Because when I sit at the table

I am simply Luisa.

 

Copyright Luisa C. Rodriguez September 27th, 2017. All rights reserved.

 

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Reflections on Growing Up Biracial: “Imposter”

poetry

Imposter

Sometimes

I feel far

Far far away

From Puerto Rico

From Latino heritage

From 1/2 of myself.

I don’t “look” Hispanic. I don’t fit

The stereotyped image of what a Latina looks like.

What “looks” Latina? Who has the right to claim that “look”?

The lighter-skinned hispanics, whose ancestors were colonized from Spain?

The indigenous Latinos?

The Afro-Latinos?

All these names swirl in my head

And my label doesn’t fit one.

 

My dad says we’re mostly white because of the colonization of Spain

And his dad came from that lineage.

But my dad’s mom— mi abuela— had a mother of Taíno blood.

What am I?

 

Half is what I am,

It is all I am.

It is all I will ever be.

 

Because the other half is entirely different:

Chinese Indonesian.

In Indonesia, my family wasn’t allowed to be Chinese.

It was dangerous to be Chinese.

That is why they left the island of Java.

They dropped their Chinese names in America.

My mom, aunt, and uncle were so little when they came to America— my mom, being the eldest, was no more than 7 years old.

 

My grandparents don’t speak Chinese,

Though they have Chinese names.

 

They speak what they were taught in school: Indonesian and Dutch.

I call my grandparents Oma and Opa… the Dutch way.

I am not Dutch.

 

My mother doesn’t recall too many memories about her childhood in Indonesia

But when at the dinner table with my Oma and Opa, they tell stories of living in Indonesia during Japanese occupation in World War II

And my heart aches for the gap between their experiences and mine own to be filled. Filled with what?

With Indonesian culture? With its rich language?

Why does it feel like there is a gap?

 

Am I Chinese?

Am I Indonesian?

My grandparents don’t say they’re Chinese, and they weren’t fully accepted by Indonesian culture either.

 

Who am I?

 

I stare quietly into the mirror and a thousand questions and accusations fly off of me…

Back at me.

What is your right to claim you are half Latina? You were born thousands of miles away from Puerto Rico and don’t speak Spanish.

How dare you? 

Remember, you are only half. What does that even mean?

And the other half? Chinese Indonesian?

You don’t speak Chinese or Indonesian, you’ve been to neither country, you certainly don’t look full Chinese or Indonesian.

 

But when someone asks me, “what is your background?”

All I respond with is:

“I am Chinese Indonesian and Puerto Rican… China Latina.”

 

 

 

 

Note: Although the original poem contains names of her family members, the author has omitted their names for sake of privacy.

Copyright Luisa C. Rodriguez September 27th, 2017. All rights reserved.

What is Patriotism?

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Happy fourth! 
During my humanities class this past year, we discussed patriotism and its role in literature. We read articles of various viewpoints on what patriotism means to different people (from 18th century farmers to a Stanford professor). As I reflect on this, I have been led to question: 
What does patriotism mean to me?

To me, patriotism isn’t boasting how great our country is over others. It isn’t a way to say, “America is the greatest, it is the best!” 

America is great in many ways, but we should not use such broad statements. America also has its fair share of flaws, and to me, patriotism means working on these flaws to create a more equitable country for ALL its citizens. To me, patriotism means that we recognize our great power; and we must also show sympathy for countries who are not in our same position.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”** 

I believe that our responsibility as Americans is not to turn a blind eye. Not to be ignorant or apathetic to those who have less than us. With current political leaders who do not represent these sets of beliefs I (and many others) hold, it is our job as the people of this country to clearly redefine the true meaning of patriotism.

This means speaking up for black lives, Muslims, LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups. 

This means not letting America get away with things that leave lasting damage on people in other countries (such as the chemical attacks in Syria). 

This means that healthcare is a RIGHT not a PRIVILEGE. 

To me, patriotism means that we can celebrate this nation while at the same time recognizing its flaws. America is beautiful, and I am proud to be American. However, we have a lot of work to do to create a more equitable, aware country. 

I implore you to think about how you can practice mindful patriotism.

What does patriotism mean to you?

(**note: I looked up various sources to find the author of this quote, but was unable to find this person. Some credit Voltaire, others say it was Spider-Man comics. Please comment below if you know the author. Do not quote me on this, it is not mine.$

Perpetual, Imperfect, Intersectional Feminism: Carrying Feminism in our Daily Lives

Musings

People wearing red, walking out/striking/protesting, changing their Facebook profile picture to the Women’s March rectangle: all of these actions have been taken for today, March 8th, A Day Without Woman (aka International Woman’s Day).

But what does this all mean? 

Today we have come together to celebrate feminism. Specifically, today we voice what feminism means to us and why we need it.

A year ago, however, this day meant something a little different for me: it was a day to be proud of being a woman. While I still believe 100% in the beauty of all women, I also have come to realize that “feminist” is not just a title, but a constant state of being. A movement that has life and breath. 

Feminism is a call to change. It is something we must carry in our lives not just today, but every single day. We have to voice our belief in equal rights. We must practice intersectionality. And we must be willing to make mistakes AND LEARN from them.

I guess a good way to put it is “perpetual, imperfect feminist.”

Perpetual: continuously, not stopping

Imperfect: not perfect, never perfect, yet always striving for improvement. 

Feminist: the belief in equitability, the practice of equitability, and a part of a movement bigger than myself.

Here are some everyday ways that can help us carry the Feminist force beyond today:

Be kind. Celebrate fellow women and their accomplishments. Gossip is poisonous and a cheap way to make conversation. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it. Giving kindness is a small gift that leaves a big impact. 

Eliminate derogatory terms from your vocabulary: Slut. B*tch. Whore. Many people use this word as a “joke” with friends, but is it really funny to call your friend something that has historically been used by men to degrade women? 

Know when to speak up- and when to listen. We are all born under varying circumstances and have different experiences, from race to gender to sexuality to mental/physical disability to economic status (etc.) check your privilege and be active on causes that not only affect you, but others as well (see point #4)

Follow organizations such as ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), change.org, and Women’s March on social media to stay informed about current events. A personal favorite website of mine is called http://everydayfeminism.com, which features so many amazing articles, videos, and comics on social issues. 
Of course, there are so many more things we can do to help one another, but these are just a few ways that helped get me started on my personal journey with feminism- maybe they will help you too! 

I vow to speak up more and be a better listener for issues that don’t directly affect me, but largely impact marginalized groups.

I vow to not apologize/humble myself for my accomplishments, my opinions, and my rights as a woman.

I vow to learn more about my Chinese-Puerto Rican heritage and love being biracial.

We will never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to become a more accepting, empowered, and equitable human race. ❤ 

Thank You Note

Musings

To all the wonderful people in my life- this is for you ❤

Dearest friend:

I am blessed.
I am blessed
By your beauty,
Your strength, 
Love and support.

I am graced with your glowing smiles…
Your laughter, your hugs.
I am fortunate
Because of the richest warmth
I find in your friendship.
For that I am grateful–

For that I know love;
And I am home.

Copyright November 26, 2016 Luisa Rodriguez 

Letting Go of It

Musings


Why is it that we hold on to the things we no longer want?

Is it because we hold sentiment and carry memories with it?

Do we actually really want it? 

I’ll let you interpret what “it” is, maybe something going on in your life.

Maybe we’re afraid we won’t find something better. Maybe we think we’d better hold on because something this great won’t ever come by again.

But the truth is, you can never find what might be better, more suited to you, more rare, if you only search and cling on to what you know.

Never settle for anything that doesn’t bring you joy or excite you about life.

I hope that one day you will find the spectacular, miraculous “it”.

I know you will.

Who Will You Become?

Musings


I believe that it is important to think about who we want to be. How do you wish to speak? How do you wish to look? Who do you admire and why? How do you wish to treat others?  These questions culminate into the bigger, most important picture: how do you wish to live? 

As philosopher and activist Mahatma Ghandi once said, 

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, 

Your thoughts become your words, 

Your words become your actions, 

Your actions become your habits, 

Your habits become your values, 

Your values become your destiny.”

We cannot afford to live a day where we do not consider these questions because a day becomes two days, then three, a week, month, year and so on. We are responsible for the quality of lives we lead. And only YOU can choose how you are going to spend your life. Make your time worth your while 👣💕

A Little Brighter

poetry, Uncategorized


Sometimes I feel very small
And my heart feels weak

And I don’t stand tall.

I don’t know what to do

Sometimes I’m red

Sometimes I’m blue.

And I feel all alone…

Can you hear me?

But I’ll be okay

Because tomorrow is a brand new day.

 I know that God carries my soul

And He loves me.

I stand a little straighter,

I smile a little brighter,

I pick myself up from the fall.

Because I am loved by so many wonderful beings-

So I continue marching 

Strong and tall.

Copyright Luisa C. Rodriguez 2016

Poem For Someone

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You are all that you need.

I am my strength, 

I am my uplifting spirit. 

I am the greatness I seek. 

I am strong,

 I am independent, 

and I stand for what I believe.

 I used to rely on you

To tell me that I was good.

That I worked hard enough.

I wanted that validation.

I don’t know if I will ever make you proud enough
To see all I do

And not have to criticize it after

Or count each measure

To make sure I’m perfect
Because I know I will never be

Perfect enough
But enough is perfect for me.
I know my self-worth

And I know who I am.
I know I don’t owe you anything

And you won’t understand
How much pain it used to cause me

When I was always searching 

For that glimmer of approval

In your eyes 
But I’m stronger now

And I don’t need you now.
I am more powerful than ever before
And Ive accepted that you can’t recognize 
That I am perfect enough

Perfect enough for me. 

Copyright Luisa C. Rodriguez 2016