To My Fellow Latinx

There are still a lot of people reacting to this week’s election results. I’m not going to say there’s a simple solution, or that everyone should just focus on solutions, because many people are rightfully afraid. If nothing else, I’d just like to add my voice to the (thankfully) many people who have said “I’ll be there for you.” Also, apologies for the fact that my vocabulary in Spanish is not what it is in English.

Dear Fellow Latinx,

You are beautiful. I know that statement may seem hard to believe after Tuesday’s election, but it’s true. No amount of hatred, bigotry, or votes otherwise can take away your inherent beauty and value.

I’m writing because I’ve seen many of you over the past few days. Whether you’re carrying a briefcase, a backpack, or nothing at all, there’s an uneasiness in your face. I get it; I can’t hide it either. The fundamental belief that people from everywhere are welcome in America has been undermined. There is no need to wait for the first draft of a new draconian law or the first brick in “The Wall” to believe that. If you’ll indulge me, I want to share a story.

Years ago, my sister worked at an ice cream restaurant. An elderly latinx man worked there, washing dishes. He was packed homemade food by his wife, which he would dutifully bring to work, heat up in a tupperware, and eat. In many ways, he reminded me of my grandparents. Also, he understood very little English. One day, some workers, many years his junior, began to make fun of him and laugh at him. Others joined in and laughed as well. The man, not knowing what they were saying but only reacting to their smiles and laughter, joined in to the laughing. The others, encouraged by this, only laughed harder at the mockery they made of this man.

I think about this story because it was one of the first times I thought about myself in a political way. I was heartbroken to think that someone who is trying to make his life better would be picked on like this. I was angry that people could find genuine pleasure out of demeaning another human being. I know situations like this have occurred ever since; but now, years later, this kind of behavior has been validated by the election of a monster.

What’s perhaps most infuriating to me is the nonchalance of people in the days following the election. The repeated claims of “We’ll be okay”, “It won’t be so bad”, or “We’ll see what happens” tend to come from well-off white men, often in the presence of working class people of color. Others ignore the inflammatory statements and focus instead solely on what the election means for them. Working latinx people have gone from being looked down upon before the election to being invisible afterwards. Our experiences, the threats raised (and now increasingly followed through) against us, our fears: none of them raise concern for some people in this country. Perhaps we should not be surprised by this when a mantra like “Black Lives Matter” received such a negative response from White America. We should not accept this as the new reality. We are not here to serve; we are here to live.

It’s okay to be stunned, or scared, or even really angry. The threat is by no means equal to all of us. No one knows for certain what kind of nightmare we’ve empowered for the next four years. That being said, it is also true that no one knows for certain how powerful we can be if we come together and fight back. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we need to realize we are not alone in this struggle. We are a patchwork majority of various backgrounds, passions, beliefs, and ideas. Our diversity, even within the latinx community, is an asset, not a weakness.

I believe in your beauty, your power, and our collective capacity to fight against what is to come. It’s because of this belief that I have something we all need right now: Hope.

Solidaridad,
Armando

Tomorrow

Today marks my last day working with NYPIRG. Tomorrow, I begin the next step of my career as Lead Organizer at La Fuente. I can easily say that working with NYPIRG has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, giving me tremendous opportunities and teaching me countless lessons over my 3 years there. As my first job out of college, NYPIRG will always have a special place in my heart. I am indebted to the staff, interns, and many students for the wonderful memories of inspiring activism. Looking forward, I’m excited for this next chapter of my life. It’s a bittersweet moment, and I hope this poem helps to capture a sense of my sentiments today.
——-

For My Friends at NYPIRG

Tomorrow will come
As sure as the sun
And with it, opportunities new
But before you head on
Racing off for the dawn
Remember the gifts given to you.

Recall every challenge
That came and that went
And the rush to meet them unafraid
Even if it’s demanding
You were always still standing
Friends and allies always coming to aid.

In victory or loss
It mattered very little
For every step you were never alone
Whether fighting for law
Or moving boxes you saw
Through it all you have come out and grown.

It is bitter and sweet
Exciting and sad
To leave for the sunrise ahead
Don’t go and forget
Keep your memory set
Be grateful and loving instead.

Tomorrow will come
As sure as the sun
And with it, opportunities new
But before I head on
Riding off for the dawn
In every step I will always thank you.

Letter Across Time and Space

A letter.

Esteemable recipient
Honored friend
Most grand and respected contact:
I write to you now
As time will allow
To express all the things I have lacked.

For in truth I have taken
After you, my good friend
For some of your traits are now mine.
But while I act with direction
Upon closer inspection
You will see only outside I shine.

For my thoughts they are muddled
And they’re plagued at all times
By fear, hesitation, or doubt.
And so I am asking
While here you are passing
How to build up those things I’m without.

You, I have heard
In your glory days past
Were a force on which others relied.
And in every grand tale
Never a whimper or wail
But instead, history around you replied.

Perhaps we could sit
Talk of our last meeting
On that day by the river, now dry.
We could speak of our trials
Of public speaking styles
Or how success followed your every try.

Did you hide your fears
Or did you throw them away
When you sought out a future that’s bright?
For with steps that I take
I fear being fake
As trepidation is always in sight.

So much to discuss
Many stories to tell
But our time, once again, it grows short.
Doubts and fears put aside
What I wish to confide
Is your grandson has only pride to report.

Verdict

As we wait for the Ferguson verdict:

Guilty
For the act of blood
To kill a boy on summer day
And baking there in scorching sun
The passions boiled over.

Marching
O’er hundred days
And people cry for truth
To change the dialogue at last
Institutions challenged now.

Innocent
May be verdict
Injustice to a whole
And rage, well-earned, into the streets
The death toll just to rise.

Innocent
Will be the next
And the countless ones to come
But when will calls for peace and calm
Fall upon all angry ears?

Time

Getting back into the swing of things. Some more personal poems on the way.
—-

It comes and it goes
Without as much as hello
The minutes, the hours, the years
The more you seek to consider its pace
The more of it you’ll lose to your fears.

Coming and going
The days of our youth
The world masked by family and friend
Uncaring of how the master moves forth
As the world it goes on without end.

Dancing in step
To the songs of the day
For I have not a care in this life
Protected as I am by my caretakers, two
From unknown monsters and beings of strife.

Sliding along
As the world starts to break
Childhood grows small far behind.
The ceaseless play has ended at last
For its time to make use of that mind.

Dragging of feet
As everything’s changed
This body it warps with new age
I do miss my childlike body of yore
But I can not step back from this stage.

Wandering now
The search for meaning
The old world of joys is all gone
The ground is unstable as I seek something out
But it seems there’s no sign of the dawn.

Wondering now
How this all came to be
How could everything end up like this?
The timeless embraces of days long past
And the mother and father I miss.

Time, it seems
Is a master to all
And a master who knows not how to cease
For no matter how hard I beg and I plead
There is no way I can find its release.

Standing at last
As the train rolls on
Destination and time are unclear
But I can not sit by as the world passes by
It’s time to let go of this fear.

Seeing the world
All illusions aside
For I am not a child anymore
And seeking out purpose guided by one’s heart
Leads to one to whom I’ll adore.

Striding in step
With this partner in life
Now the world can be handled in time.
But to not make a haven that is safe for a child
Would be a parent’s most harsh and cruel crime.

Building at last
A sphere all my own
And I wonder with all of my heart
How my parents may see their child, now raised
As my life as adult it does start.

Learning forever
That time will not cease
It will go on for as long as it can.
One can not waste time watching it go
In that time a boy’s reborn a man.

Extremes

Ready, Set, Write:

Too often do I wonder about how life can change
On the drop of a dime.
But once you let those thoughts add up
you’ll find yourself miles from where you began
Wondering what happened.

Are you happy with who you’ve become?
Do you look at that reflection and smile inside and out?
Or do you just play the facade for the watching eyes?
The loneliest souls can be right in the spotlight
The saddest spirits surrounded by smiles
The most dead told they’re alive.

How does one proceed from there?
A lifetime spent to build up barriers
One’s pride in their resolve.
One’s strength in their solitude.
How can you turn around and give that away?
Can you, should I?

These walls I have built shield from harm
But also leave the world outside
In the depths of my castle I’ll wander
Alone, speaking with echoes of madness.
Is there even a way to get them to enter?
Was a gate even built into this perfect fortress?

The answer has always been well-enough known
Ignored perhaps longer than what was truly fair.
Justice is the road to a life best lived;
But friendship is the company you keep on the ride.

It will be a process, that is for sure
I’ll keep speaking, writing, or making some noise
In hopes that perhaps I won’t always be so obscure.