Spanglish

by Fernando Rojas

There are giants that walk across the desert
Prickly pear gods.
Names spelt in grains of sand
Like water, they’ve returned to the place
They always belonged.
These giants had babies
Bigass babies tattooed with anchors and compasses.
One part kept grounded
One part moving North.

These babies knew better than most
Chanclas flying across hallways
This is childhood.
Misa a las seis, Tampico with pancakes for breakfast
We’re full.
We eat Jachiros and paletas de payaso,
Nurtured with enchiladas and chocolate de abuelita.
We’re joy.
We’re the pan dulce left out too long:
Pretty to look at but hard to bite.
Noches alumbradas con velas de tristeza y piedad.
Somos Spanglish.

We can juggle las dos cosas, two worlds constantly fighting.
Ay pero mira now.
This terrain was meant for us
A linguistic process of natural selection—
Gonzalez Market, trocas playing Selena’s Bidi bidi bidi bom bom
Queen of Spanglish
No I don’t feel bad
6 years of ESL classes were the shit
A space we implicitly knew was for nobody but all of us.
Mira que toda la escuela was there
Cotorreos lined the walls,
Commentaries on novelas our moms watched
Comparative analysis on La Madrastra and Spongebob
We translated the word
We translated ourselves
We invented
We fell between the cracks of both languages and froze.
Expanded.
A fluid turned structure
A lost group turned culture
A culture turned raza
Tearing space for ourselves
And loving each other
Never finding where we belonged but in the jokes we wrote in Spanglish
Veladoras and alabanzas before quizzes.
Praying, “Iluminame Dios!” before every spelling test.

Grew up fearing la migra and police
Barbed wire tangled with childhood make believe games
There was a reason you didn’t answer the door
There was a reason you made sure to buckle your seat belt, to keep your head down, to play it safe.
There was a reason.
We grew up talking shit in Spanish
And chismeando in English.
We were transient
Migrants moving back and forth between languages
A place our parents could never step foot in again.
Novelas and rezos were our bedtime stories.

Jugabamos escondiditas and tag
We don’t play your games
We’re the raza of giants
We’re the tough pan dulce that doesn’t let itself be eaten
The prickly pear heirs of a land that’s always been ours.
We’re the McDonalds next to the panaderia on the corner of Euclid and Valencia.
The paletero man waiting for us outside of school.
From San Diego to San Francisco and all the Spanglish in between
The bastard mestizaje
The cosmic race
We’re la rosa and the air in your face.
El oceano y’l desierto
La aguila y la culebra.
Somos Spanglish