Family Owned and Operated by Betsy Perez
“I promised I would never tell…”
At age nine, I was too much body for my age. I don’t know if it was the platanos or the queso frito, but this girl was busting out of everything. And then I got my period. I swear I thought my mother was going to rush me to the emergency room but all she said was, “Mira muchacha, relax girl. You’re a woman now.” My mother and I hadn’t had “the talk.” The one about becoming a woman. About how to safeguard “my popolita.” Not let anyone touch that part of me. It was so confusing. Especially since everyone was touching my popolita but me.
At five, I opened up shop without even realizing. It was a family owned business. Cousins and a very involved Uncle Freddy took pride in my shop. Polished me up, every week… it happened so often and for so many years that it became normal. I thought this was how I was supposed to act, how I was supposed to show love. I thought that everyone’s first sexual experiences are supposed to be like this. Los primos se priman is what we call it in Latino culture. It’s a saying we have for incest. I don’t know how true that is for you, but it was for me.
Every weekend, my family would get together religiously for dominoes, bingo and cards. Uncle Freddy would catch me in the cuts. Those dark spaces in the house where no one sees a thing. He would ever so subtly trace the straps of my tank top Rub me down quickly, our “quickies” he called it.
Then he started to ask my mother every weekend to let me come over to play…allegedly with cousin Lucy but she was rarely there. He was my mentor. I learned the art of luring and manipulation. I learned to say “It’s ok, no one is looking.” To reassure Lorena and Cynthia when they got hooked. Uncle Freddy taught us well. I promised I would never tell. I would never tell anyone.
Chatty Belly by Allysia Onder
I sometimes trace the stretch marks on my hips with dark black ink,
and pretend that they are quotation marks,
and fill in what my belly thinks.
“Man, I’m starving, can you throw something my way?
Feed me, Jesus Christ! I’ve had nothing all day.
I know you can hear me, and you feel me quite frank.
You’ll get yourself nowhere on a big empty tank”.
Hah, oh yeah, my belly cannot lie.
Believe me, I know her. She’s never far from my thighs.
You see, I know what my belly thinks, and I can handle her okay.
The real horror, however,
is what other people say.
“Fat girl, cow, waste of space,
blimp, beached whale, beep-beep, pick up the pace.
Miss piggy, lard bucket , thunder thighs, and fat.
I’ve even had people ask me, “would you like fries with that?”
Men my age are too small, plastic furniture scares me,
I know all the weight limits, and bunk beds are the enemy.
I’m a size 16, and I eat less than you.
I exercise daily, and there’s nothing I can’t do.
But at the end of the day, no matter what I cook,
most people can’t get over
that this is just the way I look.
Undocumented by Hazel Bonilla
My family came to the US in 2000 when I was 6 years old. We came on a tourist visa yet I knew we were not going back. We escaped the violence that occurs in El Salvador due to gang violence and mass poverty as many do still today. Growing up, my mom taught me to be ashamed of myself because of my undocumented status, she said we would get deported if I ever spoke about it. Growing up, the fear of deportation always stuck with me thinking of how my family could be separated. Along with that l had the fear that I would never go to college, since undocumented people are not eligible for financial aid. I am grateful that I got involved with advocacy groups with other youth like me and I was able to drop the fear and become empowered. All immigrant families and children deserve to be in a home and in the classrooms, not in detention centers and deported. These stories remind me why I continue to advocate for education and for the rights for all immigrants.