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They say it’s impossible to be in two places at once.

I have two counter-arguments:

1. Stand between a borderline

2. To be a child of ni de aquí, ni de allá

This is a collection of writings, poems, and short narratives. It is an attempt of written record of

the matrix of experiences and thoughts as a Chicanx, queer, first generation, lower class, artista,

from Southern California. A story from the youngest sibling. The second to leave la familia, la

cultura, and the familiar, in search of something more. These are accounts from the one who

“thought too much”, “read too much”, and the one “always running in search of home”. Home is

not where the heart is. Home is all the lessons, experiences, and inherited trauma, language and

diasporic movement. Like Gloria E. Anzaldúa expressed, I am a turtle who cannot be separated

from its home, I too, carry home on my back and I carry it wherever I may go. These are intimate

fragmented accounts of love, hate, pride, anger, fear, disappointment and accomplishment.
Jessica Elena Aquino (b.1991), To Tame a Wild Tongue, 2018, Red yarn, Dimensions
Variable, Broad Street Studio, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,
Of pricked fingers

Mi abuelo era un tejedor de chiquihuites. My grandfather was a basket weaver.

Abuelita hablaba en idiomas, ahora Abuelita spoke in tongues, now foreign.

extranjeras. Papá taught mamá how to sew.

Papá le enseñó a mamá cómo coser. I, too, was taught the art of thread and

A mí también me enseñaron el arte del hilo needle, and

y la aguja, of pricked fingers.

y de los dedos pinchados. The calluses we built in our

Los callos que construimos en nuestras hands,

manos, tongues,

lenguas, and spirits.

y espíritus
Jessica Elena Aquino (b.1991), El norte, 2019, serigraph, 6 in x 9in
Sangre de mi Sangre/ but you called me ‘child of the north’

The first time I met you, I failed to speak Spanish.

there was no ‘buenas tardes’, no beso, or a handshake

I swear by la Virgen de Guadalupe,

my jefes taught me better.

It was your stature that left me speechless.

Grandeur than a tree, your indigenous roots were unearthed:

the color of your skin

was like the chocolate milk in my coco puffs,

silky and smooth. Your round face, your

high cheekbones were like mountains of el cerro

your eyes like cacao beans—-there was no mistake:

we are the heirs to Huītzilōpōchtli’s throne.

That afternoon, comales burned hotter than mom’s chiles en vingare:

at the age of 7, I too, was initiated when

my fingertips grew thick hardened layers

de-sensitized by wild flames while

flipping tortillas.

Abue, I, know of el xochitl, el nopal, y la salsa picada—a meal fit for humble queens.
If abue lived here, she would bake cookies like those gringo

grandmothers do on the tele,

but instead of cookies, she’d make pan dulce.

If abuelita lived here, she’d be my alcahueta, my ally, and I

her right hand warrior

Porque ya sabes, abuelitas be loving their nietos more than their actual children.

But I wouldn’t know.

Because the first time I met you, I failed to proclaim myself:

a child of no land.

a daughter in a diasporic dance

caught between “just enough” and “not enough.”

I ran around the Earth eight times

just to finally meet you. However

that night for dinner, I reached for a tortilla

but you gave me a spoon instead and

my mestiza heart sank.

Sangre de mi sangre, but you called me ‘child of the north’,

and thus assumptions bigger than el Rio Grande came between us.

The first time I met you, I could not speak loud enough to tell you:

I loved you and that I heard a lot about you.

Years after this encounter

I continued to hug you in my prepubescent sueños while writing and

singing to our corridos-that-could-have-been.

Ode to Tiger, from Bear

They said I was too good for the wildlife.

They told me all about your primal instincts: that at first sight

you would shred me to pieces. You would

drag me around and ruin my perfect

brown coat. They said,

the pain would be unbearable. That it was un-BEAR-able of me

to love you.

They compare our story to that of a child named

Montague and I think, the other was a Capulet?

Their lives ended in some tragedy,

And they foretold that our fate, like theirs, was already set.

That You are my predator and I, just another game.

Yes, we are going against

all “laws of nature.” We are breaking every rule.

Even now, I can get hurt just by standing so close

to you. With you

I want to bear all the scratches,

I can bear all what they say.

Because, I know what truly lies behind those black stripes.

You have many fans, who tend to stick around like flies

I won’t lie, I am insecure and I can be the jealous type.

Maybe they are right, perhaps this won’t work.

Because we live on polar opposites sides of this round ball we call, world-

And how do you know, they ask.

Well… how do you know when lungs want a taste air or

when to eat and how to blink.

Its natural, I say. I try not to question and only think

that like ball you will bounce back to me

that I am your point A B, C and D

We may be the most “unnatural” of beings, you and I.

But I can assure you

that the most natural thing here is this thing we call love.

And that’s enough for me to know

that this, has a far happier ending than that of little Juliet

and her Romeo.

Jessica Elena Aquino, Nepantla, 2018, Dyed corn husks on resin, yarn, thread, beads,
buttons, textiles, tissue paper, post cards, plastic bottle, postcard, keyboard tiles, paper
combs, chicken wire, fishing line, Dimensions Variable
Anzaldua discusses how she goes against two moral prohibitions as a lesbian of color: sexuality

and homosexuality. “Being lesbian and raised Catholic, indoctrinated as straight…it is an

interesting path, one that continually slips in and out of the white, the Catholic, the Mexican, the

indigenous, the instinct 1 (Anzaldua, 19 ). Gloria eloquently discusses how she navigates how

culture and religion can mold morale when it comes to choosing to have a partnership or

connection. If you choose to be with someone of the same sex, if you perform “indecent” acts,

that’s already a big “f.u” to la raza. If you fall for a gringo (a), you are labeled a Malinche. The

same Malinche who was knighted as a traitor to the Aztec empire. She was the first Eve and the

Judas of Tenotichilan. Malinche committed sin by learning the language of the colonizers. A

puta, slut, a sell-out. But she is also the crucified scapegoat. She is blamed for the rape of an

entire race. However, out of La Malinche, a new generation of mestizo children were born: the

bloodline no longer pure, no longer static. This poem was inspired in response to how love is

never first, it is race, gender, sex, religion, machismo, social class, etc that society depends on to

divide and control the most human organic emotions such as love. It is a response to the

internalization of what la raza should be and performed as. Anything born out of ‘impurity’ is

seen as ambiguous, of not belonging. However, as a mujer raised in these divisive times where

the media’s eyes land on the Mexican-American border, to fall for a gringo, is seen as a form of

betrayal. Friends have asked “don’t you get tired of educating your gringo?” The implication is

that I am a teacher and that I must always correct my partner, who is the epitome of privilege as

a white, heterosexual, male in this country.

Anzaldúa Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: the New Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books, 1987
To my greñas


is what she called me

¡Peinate esas greñas!

is what he ordered me

¡Peluda! ¡Loba!

is what everyone said.

I have pelos everywhere

They may be cut, but they will grow darker and stronger between the creases and crevices

of my stubborn mind.
To all the people who have witnessed my “anger” and perpetuated toxic masculinity by calling

me an angry Latina…

Lesson no. 1:

I am not angry. Don’t refer to me as a fiery morena, spicy mamacita. Let’s rewind and start over.

Let’s change that ‘aggressiveness’ for enthusiasm: as in:

I am an enthusiastic individual.

I am ENTHUSIASTIC to speak so don’t ask me to lower my voice. I will use my natural volume

for your sensitive ears. I hate to be interrupted me. Don’t man-splain, don’t gringo-splain—let

me finish my sentence.

I am not quick tempered, just clever. I am not hot-blooded, just jaded. I am not passionate, but

above-average strong willed.

I am kind

I am patient.

I am love.

I will respect you. But don’t fuck with me. Watch your tone, choose your words carefully when

we converse. Let’s change the playing field, no small talk please. Your turn to be on your tippy

toes. Watch out! ¿Sere chiquita pero picosa? Spicy? As in too much to handle? No, spicy

because only the mero mero petateros, are able to digest what is exchanged, without needing a

water break. Calladita te ves mas bonita, you’re prettier when you keep your mouth shut. But

like Gloria, my tongue goes untamed.

Lesson No.2: Call Me by my Real Name

I am not your homegurl. Don’t call me ‘chica’:

1. Not even my friends back at home call me that.

2. You sound ridiculous. You have no right not baptize me

with your- hope-to-relate-to me-so-let me-call-you-by-what- I- heard-on-white washed-

t.v- nickname.
Baptismal Apodos

It’s very common to have more than one apodo in my household. La flaca, (the skinny girl)

gordis (the fatty), chikis (shortie), pocho (of Mexican descent born in the United States who

assimilates to American culture and values). It may sound like a form of teasing, and it is,

however, behind every apodo, there is a memory associated with it. Sometimes an apodo

originates due to a physical characteristic or something humiliating, brave, or stupid thing

someone did. For instance, my younger

cousin, Adam, was socially baptized

with the name Pelón.

When Adam, was a young toddler he

had no hair; he was bald. No follicle of

hair made its presence which really gave

a roundness to my cousin’s head; and oh

boy, did the comadres tease my poor


Growing up, my brother, Adam, and I

were experiencing puberty around the

same time. Deeper voices, more hair,

and the color of our skin changed as

well. Adam became the darkest of our

family. I can’t remember who first

started the nickname, but at one point he was no longer Adam or Pelón, but Poopie, and after 15

years, he’s still upholds his apodo. I was knighted with Zorilla, Macha, mecha-corte, Chance,

Payasa, y La Morena. I have no control of who will call me what, but you can’t resist. If you do,

another nickname is added. As you can see I resisted constantly.


La salsa is a staple in our house. Yes, tortillas, arroz and frijoles are part of the cuisine, but a

good ass spicy salsa is what makes the meal whole. When I say salsa, I don’t mean those bottles

of hot sauce, like Valentina or El Tapatio, I mean the real legit homemade salsa. The one where

you actually roast the chiles de arbol and guajillo by hand and have them all over your fingers,

but no amount of water can wash away their heat. In my immediate family if you can handle

spicy food, you’re a chingona, a tough nut. Being a chingona has power, and with power comes

respect. I became a chingona at the age of 6. My chaparrita, our endearing nickname for my

mother, is known to make two batches of salsa, one mild the other extremely spicy. As a child

you become trained to its palette. The lighter the sauce, the spicier it tends to be. If you add the

pepper’s seeds to the salsa, be cautious. So at the age of six, I took it upon myself to be a

chigona. One taco, con cebolla, rabanos, and mom’s homemade salsa and bam! I was in!

“No pues, mija eres Macha. Eso, you are an Aquino.”

The validation! The praise! It felt surreal. My father, a macho, was validating my bravery! I will

be honest, my first time digesting salsa I hated it; I forced my six year old body to swallow. It

took away all the flavor from the rest of my food. There was no turning back, no “I was just
kiddin”. I swallowed my disgust and counted to slowly to seven before I dared to drink water.

Ever since then, my father has called me Macha, the feminine form of macho, or can also be

referred to as being butch. I was caught up in the validation games, I had no choice but to keep

upholding my apodo. Overtime, I became a salsa fiend, and only my mother and I were able to

handle the spiciest of the spiciest.

At the age of 18, I left Santa Ana for the rest of Gringolandia, USA, to pursue four years of

college debt. I tried to access my salsa in upstate New York, but the homemade salsa restaurant

claimed was costing $12 as an appetizer. Chale. I tried making it like mom, but she has that

abuelita touch that is one of a kind. I am 27 now, and I go back home once a year so my

exposure to high spicy foods dwindled faster than the market crash of 2008. However, when I go

home, my chaparrita, still makes two batches of salsa, and without fail she says,

“¡Mi Macha, hice chile de arbol, tu favorito!”

I manage to say,

“¡Ay! ¡Gracias chaparrita!” as I silently pray for my intestines.

I use to resist my apodos, some had silent consequences of internalization for example La

morena, brown skinned girl. Out of all my brothers and sister, I was the darkest and hairiest. I

used to hate being called out on the basis of my skin color. There was always an undertone of

negative criticism. However, I now take pride. I am morena, brown like the earth, roasted by the

golden sun. “People pay to be my color, but I get it for free!” is what I would tell those who

comment how dark my skin is. This may be humorous but there is an underlying tone of truth.

Sun tanning has become a popular extracurricular activity among the light skinned individuals.

People sun tan by the beach to get that golden glow to avoid looking like some pale ghosts. For a
long time, I considered apodos as reminders of how my family and friends saw and labeled me

negatively. However, I don’t consider them insults anymore, because every apodo given goes

against the norms of Western beauty, how a decent Mexican woman should act, be, say, react.

My apodos, are my titles of combat against the societal pressure and standards.

Jessica Elena Aquino (b.1991), Gringolandia, 2019, Serigraph, 6 in x 9in.