A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Las Reinas: a poem

 A Las Reinas

They say you’re worthless
They call you chapiadora
Gold digger
They say you’re heartless
They call you by your skin
Sometimes they call you mami

They don’t know how much you’re worth
But I think you do.
They call you gold-digger
But that’s cuz your mami said
Que no le des el culo hasta que te construya una casa

You have love!
That love from that time that boy from el campo
Gave you your first kiss right after he drove you around in his older brother’s motorcycle.
You have love
That love from that time when you wanted to kill your best friend’s dad
When you saw the bruises on her cheek.
You have love
And it is cointained.
You control it so well because you know it won’t put a roof over your head
Or shoes on your feet.

Oh, but it’s more than just survival.

I think you know how much you’re worth
I think you know that you carry the world on your back
You walk with security that shows on your hips
Feeling the rhythm of the breeze
With your dark hair that resists
So you tame it at el salon every week

They call you by your skin
Sometimes they call you mami.

You told me “Men are like children”.
You told me “Give him candy only as a reward”
You told me “Make him feel like he can’t have it and he’ll want more”
You told me “Give him rules and he’ll want to break them all”
You grab patriarchy by the balls
That’s why they’re trying to tame you

My grandma once said
There were no FEMICIDES back in her days
And that’s cuz an enemy can only be killed when it is a threat.

They’ll say you’re worthless
They’ll call you a chapiadora
A puta
A malvada
A gold digger
They’ll say you’re heartless.

Pero tu
You know your worth
You know while you’re alive
Tu eres una reina
And you won’t give him el culo hasta que te construya una casa. 
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Monday, September 8, 2014

I have an American life: reflections on my trip to Dominican Republic

I got back from the Dominican Republic a little over a week ago and have yet to write about my experience. I've begun handwriting some of my thoughts. I wrote a poem to the powerful Dominicanas whom I reconnected with that I'll be posting soon. I've written on my journal. But somehow it's not an experience that I can synthesize into a blog post.

I cannot write about the beauty of my country, but rather of the pain of having to leave. I can write about the feeling of nostalgia as I took in the scenery and realized that these views of my once everyday life were now Instagram pictures; images that I want to share with my American friends: this is me eating a coconut, this is El Monumento, this is a Presidente Light, these are my High School friends, this is the street I grew up in.

I felt nostalgia as I remembered the kind of things that I didn't expect to remember, like the butter brand (Dorina), mom's smoothies, the kids cleaning car windshields, the fact that you have to light the stove yourself, and that moment when you're in the beauty salon and the power goes out so you have to wait for them to turn on "la planta".

I felt loved everywhere I went. I was taken care of everywhere I went. It was like I had never left, and yet obvious that I soon was leaving again. My high school friends did a welcome get-together for me, they took me dancing during the week, then they did a goodbye spaghetti party that consisted of splitting up chores just like when I was in school. The two-week experience was so busy that it could've easily been the activities a Santiago citizen did in the three months of summer: I visited all families and friends during the day and went drinking and dancing at night; I spent an entire weekend at the beach then revisited the beach two more times; I got my hair done at el salon three times and even went to Moca to have "el mejor mofongo de todos" (it was very good). Did I mention that I ate a lot of good food? I think Dominicans do that every single day.

Then there was the romantic kind of love I received: the guys that I met and was too afraid to get-to-know even further because I knew that a heartbreak would ensue. Why must Dominican men be everything and nothing at once? With their incredible sazón and sexy dance moves, with their sun-kissed skin and yet their unwillingness to listen "como asi que tu tatuaje significa feminista?". I know that they're not all that way, but two weeks wasn't enough time to go on a scavenger hunt for my future partner-in-crime.

I left my heart in "La Ciudad Corazón"
Santiago De los Caballeros, República Dominicana

I won't reduce my experience there to an "analytical" blog post about Dominican life because all I have is the life of a visitor, the life of a Dominican York. I have an American life.

While waiting for the plane to board on the night when I was coming back, I began to cry. I hadn't cried in a long time. It felt good to know that I had these feelings still, that that person is who I am. It was good to recognize that part of my anxiety is simply the feeling of not being home. But we all know that once you come to American you can't go back. My struggle now is not of a Dominican woman living in the DR dealing with comparison to women with lighter skin, dealing with sexism and patriarchy. My struggle now is of a Third World woman living in the US dealing with racism and sexism here. My struggle now is to connect with others here, to build here, and to somehow influence American and first-world economic policies which basically lead to immigration into the US in the first place.

I am the diaspora. I am a piece of displaced humanity and I am living with others like me. It is difficult to admit that this is what it actually looks like, but I have an American life.

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