If I tell You

Written by: Vickie Ortiz Vazquez

If I Tell You, 2011
Vickie M. Ortiz Vazquez

If I tell you, Puerto Rican I am
What comes to mind?
Morena of “el barrio” or Blonde woman of “el barrio”
Better yet, pale skin-blonde from up north
That one, the straight English-speaking wanna-be
“Con su pelo lacio”

If I tell you, Puerto Rican I am
Could you describe who I am?
Woman controlled, subjected by Welfare
Carrying on the poor women cycle
You know, the one imposed by the few rich white men
Shackled
Would you think of me in a bright light; dim light?

If I tell you, Puerto Rican I am
Do you envision an immigrant, alien?
A woman once taken and brought at age 15
Beginning of her womanhood
Tormented by loneliness, isolation, ignorance
Frustrated by the never ending question, “Are you mixed?”
Misunderstood by her citizenship
Seen as unfair by many
Slaved island, unrealized
Are you able to narrate which Puerto Rican woman am I?
If I tell you, Puerto Rican I am

Puerto Rican I am
“Café con leche,” Afro-hair, big lips, small nose
Distance between what I was and inspire to be
Clinching to her African heritage
Searching

If I tell you, Puerto Rican I am
Can you explain the injustice my hair endured?
Constant search for assimilation
Assimilation
To break free
Impacted by those with similar skin color, Afro hair, big lips
Different

If I tell you, Puerto Rican I am
Do you paint two contrasting siblings?
Light, dark complexions
Tall dark father with short light mother by his side

If I tell you, Puerto Rican I am
Do your pages bleed from inspiration?
Disgust?
Stereotypes?
Would I read between the lines, a woman becoming her own?
Struggling between many worlds
Or, do you spell the notion of loud, submissive, sex symbol
You know, the one portrayed in the media

If I tell you, Puerto Rican I am
Can you decipher, WEEEEPA