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Odes From a Daughter - Discrimination

Odes From a Daughter - Discrimination

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In this essay I describe my mother's experience with discrimination.
In this essay I describe my mother's experience with discrimination.

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Published by: Margie Echevarria- Jimenez on Jan 20, 2009
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06/14/2009

 
Odes from aOdes from a DaughterDau
 
ghter
DiscriminationDiscrimination
By Margie Jimenez
 
DiscriminationDiscrimination
She was born in Puerto Rico. La Isla del Encanto or Isle of Enchantment as it’s known. She took after her European ancestors, whiteskinned and fair haired with luminous green eyes.She was an American citizen by right as Puerto Rico is acommonwealth of the United States and so she immigrated to its shoreswhile still a teenager. She spoke only Spanish when she arrived and thatbecame a liability for her, an excuse for others to categorize her as less thanor not equal.She never wanted to leave Puerto Rico but her mother and hergrandparents gave her no choice. They decided for her that this was whereshe would make her life and they hoped she would attain the Americandream.Pursuing her education in America was especially difficult for her. Thelanguage barrier made it impossible and so she never assimilated into thatexperience dropping out of high school at 16.Determined to make the best of it, in spite of her lack of academiccredentials, at the age of 17 she sought to model. She was a beauty then.She could have totally pulled it off but when she opened her mouth to speakit was over before it had begun. Her accent was thick, laborious for others tounderstand and the powers that be could not see her beauty or potentialbeyond her speech. They, white, non-Latinos who had initially expressed
 
interest and slightly opened that door now shut it forcefully. Her “white skin” had opened the door, her thick Spanish accent, difficult to decipher shut thedoor on her dream. She called it “racial discrimination”.Pressing on she burrowed herself in her community – Latinos likeherself. She appreciated these recent immigrants who brought their culturewith them. They brought with them their traditions, their culture, their foodbut she mostly appreciated that they brought and kept their language, thebeautiful language of her ancestors, of her Hispanic culture.She stayed in that community called “Manhattanville”, which was onthe fringes of black Harlem. There she married and had her two children. In1963 she went to Sydenham in Harlem, the closest municipal hospital at thetime to give birth to her second child. She described it as one of the worstexperiences of her life.In Sydenham, the majority of the administrators, doctors and nurseswere African-American at a time when the fight for civil rights was vigorous,in fact the order of the day. Harlem was a refuge for people of color andunfortunately these individuals took one look at her “white skin” and madeawful and regretful decisions that day.She described being regarded with utter disdain as soon as shearrived. They saw her as the enemy and treated her as such. Immediately,she was separated from her family, her mother protesting this action. Placedon a gurney, she was taken to the Maternity floor but instead of placing her

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