My high school English teacher once said,
Go home and write to me
About how your story
Has impacted you as a writer.
Is it easy enough to put it into words?
I am eighteen, Hispanic, born in Miami Beach.
I went to school in South Miami, then Coconut Grove, then here
to this Institute on the West side called Georgia Tech.
I was not the only “second-generation” Cuban-American in my high school class.
Unlike here at Tech, I was the majority.
The steps from Freshman Hill above the center of campus lead down into Tech Green,
through the Student Center, then I pass Ferst,
Boggs, Love, Burger Bowl, and I come to Armstrong,
the HeftyStrong of Georgia Tech, where I take the stairs
up to my dorm, sit down, and write this paper again:
Who am I? It is not easy to know for you or me
at my age, at eighteen.
Am I Cuban? Am I American? What does it mean to be Cuban-American?
How is my story different from others?
How is it the same? But I guess I’m what
I feel, see, touch, smell, taste, and hear, Atlanta, I hear you.
Hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this paper.
(I hear Miami, too.)
Atlanta and Miami: where a minority is the majority.
The two cities still differ completely
and I am completely different in them.
As a college student in Atlanta,
can I even claim to know Atlanta yet?
It is a mystery to be unraveled my next four years.
A new place to learn, think, and discover
myself in a new context,
away from what I know
and those who knew me,
where I am a minority.
Miami is filled with second-generation Cuban-Americans.
Just because my story is similar to others
does not make it “invalid.” Does it make it worth less? Me—who?
Well, I like to laugh, talk, eat, and have crushes on boys.
I like to experiment, read, learn, and reflect on my life.
I like a BIRD for a Christmas present,
or a streaming service account—Netflix, Hulu, or Disney +.
I guess being Hispanic doesn’t make me not like
the same things my classmates like who are of other ethnicities.
But I also like Cuban Cafecito, croquetas, arroz con pollo,
dancing salsa, listening to reggaeton.
So will my page be a different color from my father’s?
Being him, it will be white.
Being me, I don’t know what to label myself.
In the U.S. it will be white. Hispanic is not a race.
But in Cuba or Spain, I am not white.
How do I define myself so I don’t betray my mother or father?
How do I define myself so I don’t betray my “true” identity?
What do I identify myself as?
How do others identify me?
All I know is my story will be a part of you, teacher.
You are Filipina, from a family of immigrants too,
a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s what both our grandparents fought to come here for.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me,
nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are. That’s the truth.
As I learn from you and respect your creative voice,
I guess you learn from me and respect mine—
although you’re older—and wise—
and know what is considered “good” writing,
a “unique” story.
And you somewhat know yourself better than me. Do you?
This is my page for English A.