I have to speak and write Spanish fluently. I have to not only speak the highly enunciated, more acceptable Spanish, but also my broken and street Spanish--to be taken seriously both in academic spaces and in my hood.
I have to speak and write English, perfectly. I have to be fluent in the big-words-nobody-can-really-understand-what-I-am-saying-except-a-select-few-elites English to even make it into any respectable college programs or programs that will pay a full ride so I'm not debt-ridden my entire life. And I have to be able to code switch back to my hood English, where my accent gets to come out and tongue gets to rest a bit--to be relevant.
I have to be soft and kind and approachable, because for brown people to succeed, to play the game, to make it: we need to be soft and non-threatening.
I also have to be hard and have a don’t-fuck-with-me personality because white people will almost always cross the line and break you down with one-liners like you’re taking things too seriously (AKA you’re being too aggressive AKA you’re being too brown AKA your context clashes with mine). You have to be ready for those moments, and not let them disarm you.
You have be athletic, because you cannot have spent your entire adolescent life buried in books, that shit doesn’t sit well with anyone in the hood. You need to be active and funny, and charming, and have those socially acceptable traits that come with human interaction – so you play a sport. You do something that is not strictly books and reading.
You have to know how to dance: pop, hip-hop, and merengue; because you’re neither here nor there, but you’re everywhere. And everything about you says something about someone else in your community and everything that you do represents an entire group of people. You learn to adapt.
You have to be perfect. And you have to be kind. And you have to be just the right amount of angry to be respected. You have to be a lot of things….and still, at some point you begin to realize that they do not want you here anyway.
You have to be extraordinary. I have to be perfect for a lot of people to take me seriously.
I was the first in my family to get funded to go to college.
I was the first in my family to present in an academic conference.
I was the first in my family to graduate with honors from college.
I was the first in my family to move away.
I was the first in my family to get accepted into a graduate program.
I was the first in my family to obtain a graduate degree.
I was the first in my family to attend counseling.
I was the first in my family to be on meds for my anxiety.
I was the first in my family to say, "chinga todas las cosas que me tratan de controlar."
Keep your perfect. Keep your accolades. Keep your trophies and your shitty awards.
I am exhausted.
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez is a chonga Mujerista from Managua, Nicaragua currently living in Miami, FL. She recently graduated with her Masters from Vanderbilt University, and is looking to take some much needed time off to refresh. She is also the founder of Latina Rebels, a blogger for HuffPo Latino Voices, and a columnist/editor at Chica Magazine. Her interests are within biopolitics as it relates to Latina embodiment, specifically concerning models of conquerable flesh around narratives of naturalization for women of color. Thus her work is around reclaiming and upholding embodied resistance, particularly within chonga and chola subcultures. Que viva la mujer!