Tricia Lopez: “To the couple at the Target in Pasadena”

When I was little I learned I was most powerful in the kitchen
I learned that if my rice was not too overcooked and my beans weren’t dry
I would have a happy husband
And a happy life  

As I grew up
I learned that being Latina meant more to people than just speaking Spanish and making tortillas
Over the comal at 5 in the morning  

It meant I was sexy
I had a body
That the internet now glorifies me
I am now a piece of meat being dangled to the entire world
I am now empowered by how many likes my selfie got on Instagram
How many retweets I got on Twitter
The world is now waiting for me to be another internet model  

I walk down the street and hear the cat calls in Spanish
And I respond in English to remind them I’m human 

Being Latina means you get that stare
The “what is she” stare
The “does she know English” stare
The “do you think she’s illegal” stare 

Nowadays being Latina means being called exotic
“Wow you’re exotic, what are you?”
Number 1, I am not a rare bird flying through the sky and making people squint to see
Number 2, I am a person, I am breathing, what am I is a dumb question 

It’s not a compliment
Being called exotic is telling me “Hello, I am so uncomfortable at the fact that I can not identify what race you are please tell me I am right with my guess.” 

Being called exotic is telling me, “I have no clue where Nicaragua or El Salvador is, and I am now embarrassed at what I guessed but you’re an interesting creature glad you cleared that up for me.” 

And so to the couple at the Target in Pasadena
That felt every right to tell me I was illegal
To laugh at my father for drinking a coconut antioxidant drink
To scold my mother for having a red Target visa card
And told tell me to go back to the country I came from  

Please come up with a better remark
Because I have already heard that one before
It rings through my ear everyday
It picks at my skin little by little everyday until it leaves me scars on my knees
I’ve had to hide from people like you ever since I was little  

To the couple at the Target in Pasadena
Who told me to go back to my country
I am already here
I am breathing the same air as you
I am making your eyes bloodshot with anger
I am making your skin itch and crawl off your body until you are left with open flesh and embarrassment
I am making you uncomfortable
Because I am Latina, and that’s something I guess we do

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