American Dream

#latinaherstory #september #2023

by Talia Rodriguez

Its maybe 100 degrees in the hot sun, your wearing your only garment, toiling on a coffee farm, you have a third grade education, you can’t read well, you have no running water, no car, no electricity, no radio but you’ve got ears to hear stories about America and a heart to tell you to dream of a prosperity they say you were born with a birth right to, you are my grandmother.

Born in 1923 to literate landowning parents’ coffee was out and sugar was in and they couldn’t adjust fast enough. Modern technology brought a hospital for childbirth your mother goes for the first time after six kids, You are standing maybe up to your knees in dirt and hear them she’s gone, you hear the youngest crying in the background, your mother died.

16 years old, body bruised, still can’t read have spent three years ducking the blows and hands of your half-sister’s husband and the depression doesn’t seem like its ever going to end.

You run, no one’s coming looking for a landless, literate, poor, servant girl.

18 years old war is coming, you find a place, not an opportunity a place, alongside your brother watching the girls with opportunity stroll into the university, you cook breakfast and wash their clothes.

Mass migration tells your first husband with a nervous tick, there’s relief from the stress of unemployment in NYC, he doesn’t last in Manhattan.

You hear the baby cry in the background, you know he’s gone, at least you can read now, too bad it’s in Spanish which is the wrong language, you are illiterate again.

You go to church cus siempre caminas con Dios

Church helps you find an apartment; you meet the super, the first time you have your own wings he can smell it.

He clips them, marries you, twenty years your senior. Your body bruised, broken and purple and pregnant lays on the first bed that was ever yours, in Rutgers Houses, and cries.

Your husband, gets sick, he is moved to a nursing home where it costs a day’s pay to travel to. Every visit you see his dignity stripped, every visit he’s weaker, making you feel more and more alone. Cold bus rides and not enough to eat.

On the bus back from one of those trips is when you likely decided to take the bus the over way to DC to march with king.

Looking over at his little hand, school changed “Juan” to “John” and he was the most American thing you ever had, you wanted him to have a shot, even if it was in the dark.

Its maybe 100 degrees in the hot sun, you are on welfare, your wearing your only garment, your only shoes, your carrying some pocket money but not enough to get back to Harlem if your separated you lost your way home, if the dogs bite you, you won’t be able to clean the houses anymore, if the national guard shoot you, you won’t be able to change any diapers again.

You march forward anyways. You close your eyes looking at the long mall and the monument and the great distance of the speaker, you open your eyes.

There I stand, little almonds eyes like yours, handing you a roll of paper.

“Abuela, tell them to call you Dr. Rodriguez now”.

The dream, you had, in a person.

I whisper, “We did it.”

I wheel you out, you can no longer stand.

We bought you so many dresses.

But you never forget to teach me the power of the people who only have one.

Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and organizer. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J… Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors.

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