Abijoles (a response to “Frijochuelas”)


Dear morenita, dominicana,– joven victima. I am sorry
you feel out of place. Join the club. We live in muscle memory
in these parts. We forget our indigenous names, have to reference
Guardian articles to know we are Yaqui, Karankawa, Huichol, Azteca.
I know my Spanish sing song annoys your eardrums. We look simple to you.
I told my brothers when they went to your malecón to watch out
for the waves, but they got drunk off all the work, the mamajuana.
They send money, but no word. It’s just that we haven’t seen you before.
You are new here, and didn’t you know? If you look brown,
even black, you Mexican. They’ll treat you like us. Everyone who isn’t white,
in Tejas, en el Norte, is a Mexican. You are as inmigrante as us – Domincan Mexican,
Central American Mexican, next to a Pakistani Mexican and they want
us all against the outside of this border wall. Its ok, we’ll get bullied for you.
We’ll try to correct the güeritos when they speak on the news “those Mexicans
bring disease, drugs, they bring terrorists.” I’m not as sophisticated as you.
I am from el monte, a rancho, only have a 2nd grade education. You are fierece,
stubborn, like me, you use a machete, you don’t have guardaespaldas,
you have wachimans – your speak is as messed up as mine.
I don’t want to take it away. But I want to know who you are at the root, Taino.
We had the same landlord, an Español with awful humor. He dropped by,
said he needed some things, ransacked the house, infected us all with Smallpox,
Spanish y JesuCristo and here we are. Ignorant neighbors, fighting over shorelines,
dancing to different tempos, eating the same rice and beans, breathing the same air.
Didn’t you know, every cumbia, corrido where a morena, exists, I think of you?
We can teach one another, look on maps, laugh about dirt floors and blackouts,
make up new words – frijoles and abichuelas will be the abijoles we feed ourselves,
hues of flesh, the words from breath, a baby who looks like you and works like me
or looks like me and fights like you. Either way, that baby, every glorious baby
in this world, from now on will be brown.

Lupe Mendez is a Poet/Educator/Activist, CantoMundo, Macondo & Poetry Incubator Fellow ,and co-founder of the Librotraficante Caravan. He works with Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say to promote poetry events, advocate for literacy/literature, and organize creative writing workshops that are open to the public. He is the founder of Tintero Projects, an organization that works with emerging Latinx writers and other writers of color within the Texas Gulf Coast Region, with Houston as its hub. He is a published writer and has worked as an educator in Houston, TX for the last 19 years. His most recent collection of poetry, WHY I AM LIKE TEQUILA is out now from Willow Books.