I have to walk across the street when I see a female at night walking during the evening; “No I’m not a rapist, I’m just traveling home from a late night at work.”
I have stayed away and not stared at a white couple parking their car; “No, I’m not planning to break into your car. I need to print my photos at this Fred Meyer.”
With this face… too many episodes to tell.
With this face I have expressed fear; I have a Bible and a small folder where I’m prepared to show my license and registration; “No officer, for the 13th time, I’m not drunk and, yes, you can search my trunk again. “ El que nada debe nada teme.
If one day after a long day of work I want to have a beer and contemplate the beautiful city of roses from the balcony of the departure, I have to be prepared to say to some tourist, “Sorry, I do not sell drugs.”
Since I was 10, I have earned every single penny alongside my family/community with our bare hands, and I have seen my family members die close to the fields where they planted, sowed, nurtured and gave life to beautiful roses, trees and flowers.
I was born with this face that has been repeatedly demonized by the media and has been injected with charges against humanity; with this face I have held the hands of my mother when she fell ill. With this face I have said “I love you.” I have kissed good-bye to my love, I have smiled to distant strangers.
With this face I have said I’m sorry, I have expressed the shame of my sorrows and apologies. With this face, I have presented a sincere and kind smile to you.
With this face I have smiled, cried, laughed… and yes sometimes I have expressed signs of anger and irritation; when I get stuck in traffic for 3 hours on the 26 for example. Or when the Seahawks lost the championship in the last 30 seconds.
Los feos tambien tiene derecho a enojarse.
Please, next time you see me walking in the public domain; say hi! Hola!
I have too many stories to share; I’m sure you do too. I really need to finish my PhD for example. What’s yours?
I’m not a beautiful beast, or a distant immigrant; or the unknown predator. I’m the reflection of your neighbor; I’m the tender song of kindness and reciprocal respect… humanity.
You see… we were raised to take care of our own before ourselves, that’s why we sacrifice everything to have a face that can be restful, happy and peaceful when we see the little ones thriving. Our brown skin is marked with scars of poverty, violence, pain, agony, torture and exile.
In this face you have will find a pair of eyes closed; praying in English, Spanish or Mixtec for health, safety and inner peace for my family, for my neighbors, for you… for me.
Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas is a science and technology educator and poet. He lives near Portland, Oregon.