Lucia Trujillo

I Look, I Speak

It is curious how little I remember from childhood, yet I remember one day in my third-grade art class. I remember the boy, whose name was Cade, who had the specific shade of tan that only belongs to rich white boys whose parents go to Florida each year, and picked at his scabs during reading time. 

My friend approached me during art class to tell me. Cade wrote a song for you. He was laughing in the way children laugh, testing the taste of cruelty on their tongues, swishing it around their mouths like a new sweet. 

Cade was more than happy to sing for me. He stood up before everyone and began, a dark stain of snot at the collar of his shirt.

It was to the tune of Guns & Ships, from Hamilton. Actually, Cade had written a whole sheet of lyrics, but I can only remember two parts of the song.

“An illegal immigrant you know and hate, everyone’s least favorite Mexican, Lucia Trujillo!” 

Illegal Immigrant and America’s least favorite Mexican.

Tied to my name. My name, which means light. My name, which has always been my betrayal. (Looshuh Troojeejo? Lukeeya? Trujiloh? One time, a cafeteria lady saying, “Lucia Trujillo? Hmm. From that name I thought you’d be darker.” My friend’s father saying he expected me to look more “Chicana.” “Sorry,” I want to respond, “I left my chihuahua and huge ass and sombrero at home.”)

All my friends laughed at Cade’s song. Anger was the response in my little activist body, and still is today. To keep your head up, as they try to distill your ethnicity, your sexuality, your body, into something they can understand enough to criticize but not enough to learn from.

I want to tell Cade that my great-grandfather five times over was a slave who escaped and built one of the first settlements in California. That the immigration in my blood comes from not a brown father but a white mother. That my family is supposed to be safe. Schools sent home notes to all the brown kids saying, don’t teach your children Spanish, an accent is dangerous and sounds uneducated, as if Spanish isn’t the most beautiful, sad, and alive language to speak. And even then, after Spanish was forced out of our systems, my little cousins were not allowed to touch food at the dinner table of their mother in law, and instead had to sit and watch the white people eat plenty in silence. 

I have been told many times I am not Mexican enough. Yet I am always Mexican enough for a little joke about drug-dealing or gangsters or illegal immigration. I am always Mexican enough to be fetishized, to need huge curves and an attitude and a voracious sexual appetite alongside a godsent talent for cooking. (Juniors at lunch, loud enough for me to hear: “Look at her hoops. Honestly I think it’s stupid when white girls wear hoops. You know what they say, ‘the bigger the hoop the bigger the h—’ *turns to me* ‘Hey! I like your hoops!’” *turns back to his friends and shakes with laughter*.) 

Cade has forgotten the song by now. He doesn’t remember my name (perhaps the only thing that gives me away. Not Lucy or Looshuh. Lucia, Lucía, if you will). Where does a second grade boy learn to hate someone, knowing nothing but that half of her heritage comes in shades of red, green, and white? Did he hear his parents whispering? Did he see a face on a screen tell him that immigrants are rapists and drug-dealers?

I no longer try to explain to people the differences between ethnicity and race. I no longer try to explain that Latinos come in all shades, and that there is no “too dark” or “too light.” 

“You can easily assimilate,” my father told me, “that’s what Mexicans do. We assimilate.” The truth is I can assimilate. I do. And because of this I have never come close to experiencing what true, everyday racism is like. Pocha privilege that many of my relatives and friends do not have. 

Honor, I am told, lies in fulfilling the ways of silence, the demure curve of an arm, always being looked at, never looking back. I prefer my company with things that speak in colors. My sun, Aztec and blue. The pochita array, that speaks volumes of bellies curved soft, of colorful women, through the sweet crack of jicama. And my land kaleidoscoping with my family’s sangre and lágrimas, where sunlight can mean sadness, because sunlight means forever.

When faced with applications, there is no box to check for this experience. I cannot write on a survey about days in the kitchen, my grandmother and I making enchiladas, dough and Tapatio staining our fingernails. I cannot write about the smell of mole and Abuelita chocolate on cold days. I certainly cannot write about nights staring at the Bible verses that have followed me like hungry dogs. I have become an object of mal ojo. I am looked at, by Cade, by men in the street, by preachers and parasites, each painting their own portrait of me. 

I am just beginning to look back. 

It is an interesting experience, to sit quietly among people as they debate to which category I belong. Gay or straight, white or person of color, woman or girl, or sometimes, slut

I volunteer no answers. 

Instead I sit there in silence and hope that someday I will accept the conglomeration of my being as something beautiful.

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Lucia Trujillo  (she/her) is a seventeen-year-old artist and writer from Indiana. Her work has previously appeared in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, as well as the American Library of Poetry.