With the crises faced by many refugees and the hardships endured by immigrants and their families, I went into my community to offer aide and help to uplift and ease their journeys. From the streets of downtown Dallas to shelters and supply stores to high schools in my neighborhood, I discussed with immigrants and dreamers, and joined and mobilized teenagers in Frisco and Plano to help in providing donations, resources and services, and hot meals.
Beyond directly affecting these families, I wanted to share their stories in the hopes that they affect and inspire others. Storytelling is an important art that deserves to be celebrated. But beyond words, we need change-makers and I aim to give greater purpose to my art by using my voice and my platform as a vehicle to help build empathy across borders and invoke action.
The following piece is inspired by the conversations I had and the incredible people I was privileged to meet.
she would leave strips of sugar-coated mangos to dry in the heat and bring inside sun-ripened tomatoes.
hands made rough by the day’s work with calluses like wood grain kneading dough and sprinkling flour over the sticky countertop. chocolatey swells of her body rising and falling and hips swinging to corrido music crackling out of the tinny radio in waves of static and poetry.
tension easing from her form as she sips on cheap white wine and inhales sweet mouthfuls of the cool night.
bake bread infused with the richness of our poor home — a belly of warm wheat, a crust like well-worn leather, and a sweetness like my mom’s brown-eyed, caramelized essence.
when hot tears are forming in her eyes, threatening to spill down her face, i rush to her and she holds my face to hers. and she smells like crushed almonds and vanilla extract. baking mexican wedding cookies shaped into crescents and I’m licking the lacquered glaze of butter and confectioner’s sugar from my fingers to soothe the coarse lump in my throat put there by harsh words and jeers like mulatto and animal and negra and things better left unsaid towards my mom but that make her hands tremble in rage that she hammers into the little balls of dough.
she smiles when scrubbing stranger’s floors and stirring their coffee or shining shoes and ironing their suits, but only I see her fall apart.
so when she’s gone through the dark side of the night and I’m left alone, to hang a diploma besides a feather duster and clear out her cleaning supplies, to leave a final layer of lemony polish on the hardwood of her vanity, spritz her perfume over the bed and strip away the sheets, I finally end up standing in the pantry. holding a steaming mug of chocolate and a plate of churros and apple empanadas dusted in golden brown sugar. sculpted by my wobbly hands, now that her quick, elegant movements have been snuffed out by time.
It’s bittersweet as I drape strands of marigolds over her portrait frame on the back doorstep and set down the plate in front of her as a silent offering to be swallowed and consumed by the cold, enveloping sky.
there’s the sound of sniffling and then I’m inside where it should be warm, clutching my mug filled with difficult realities and a lone marshmallow turned to liquid sugar left at the bottom.
classes come the next day, and I call for a crematory at 6 a.m.
another dreamer swallowed up by the night, but she told me to set fireworks to the sky, and taught me a recipe I’d never forget.
two tablespoons of sugar in a mixing bowl, half a cup of flour, three drops of vanilla extract, and nerve matched only by relentless hard work and verve. dip your head and let tears flow into the bowl for salt and mix well. bake in convection oven. lifetime serving size.
viva la soñadora anoche. por favor sueña sobre de ella.
goodnight, and let morning awaken the change within us for a good world.