Tuesday, February 8, 2011

East L.A.

 Her salary went for mortgage, a four room house in the hills of Suburbia, away from the thugs and the drug dealers, away from the neighborhood where she earned the mortgage that got her family in a safe place.

She was in a state of constant alert.  At night, she fell asleep  with swollen ankles and a guilty feeling about not having enough time to oversee her own children's homework, to call her mother, to brush her teeth properly, as the dentist insisted. She hugged herself,  clenched her teeth and prayed in her own way.
Her  body grew extra layers to blanket itself against the ill wills of broken lives she tried to mend daily in her  job.

"Are you Latina?
"Why do you ask these questions? What difference would it make?"
"Because it makes a difference. If you're not Latina, you can't understand our problems. You can't teach here!"
"I see kids in need, with real problems. Ask me if I'm prepared!" 

Adults were pre-aligned to evaluate your racial sensibilities. 

She struggled to stay calm, to stay composed, this petite young mother, and none of this made her a good or a bad teacher East of Main. Her last name might have helped if it had been Marquez, Rodriques.  She could have given them a lesson about integration from her childhood, from a school that had just integrated, where children feared sitting next to each other. People did not forget history in the South where she was educated. She could have told them stories that would put segregation in its proper perspective.

She told them what mattered to them.
"I'm Mrs. Castro," she said, "se puede hablar espanol aqui?"




  1. Rosaria: Thanks for asking me to join your new blog!

    This piece is full of tense undertones, prelude to issues that have relevance especially in East L.A. I don't know this area, but a friend of mine, whom I'm currently writing a book with, does; she was a clinical social worker in East L.A.

    Life has overcome blogging this past weekend; and even today I'm having trouble getting to it. But I'll be back later to read through your other pieces!!

  2. Oh it is a great post! I really like it! ^_^

  3. She told them what mattered to them. Wrong, that we have to do these things to get one foot in. Why is it so? Why don't good intentions open doors as they should? Why are we so reserved to learn from one another? So many questions I come away with after this one.


    (The tooth brushing - I had to laugh. I remember when my children were so young and I barely had time. My dentist didn't believe me but I was a walking zombie. I was lucky to not wear socks for earrings.)

  4. I like this, it's a rythmic prose.