lamentations for the english speaking latina

by daniella de jesús

Reading the passage, I trip on syllables,
The Spanish language sticks to the roof of my mouth like peanut butter, Letters get caught in my teeth:
"Ningún jo­ro­ba­do ve su jo­ro­ba"

They laugh.
"She can't even speak Spanish."

"I never said I was fluent"

Miranda calls me a "phony and a gringa,"
Which is the very worst way to be alone,
Like the door to your home being shut in your face.

And I wondered then if I really was Latina...

My father's broken English and my mother's broken Spanish The store clerk that eyes me and asks if I "need any help"
And the man grabbing a handful of me, who "likes them exotic" My working class­mice­and­cockroaches­existence

The teachers implying that english is my "segunda idioma" The fourteen years of catholic school
And all the empanadas ingested,

Did it ever really happen?

Was my Latina card revoked? Did I lose it somewhere? Could I have left it behind?

All the times I didn't clean the house,
Perhaps my heritage was eroded by the rust and dust and mold.
Maybe I burnt it in that pot when I overcooked the rice.
Could I regain my lengua, if i sprinkled adobo in my mouth, or if I drank the juice of one million mangos? No, all the adobo and mangos in the world couldn't save me from my gringa­hood,
If I don't dance salsa and never developed a taste for pernil,
Because one time Stephanie said that if I didn't like pernil I wasn't really dominican so...
But since her name is Stephanie, is she really who she says she is?
Can she be "Latina"?
And me?
The Nuyorican, Dominican­York,
Me, a native of Brooklyn,
The Hyper­Americanized Puerto Rican,
The Hyper­Pigmented American,
Me, who can't talk in her "native tongue,"
Who wears her skin brown and her hair en rizos,
La Gringa.
La Americana.

La girl who can't even speak Spanglish correctly. Me.
Could I be "Latina" too? 



Daniella De Jesús is an actor, poet, playwright and native of Bushwick. Recent playwriting credits include "ASSORTED CRACKERS: A Reverse Minstrel Show" at NYU and "The Thief Cometh" (a one-woman show about the gentrification of Bushwick) at the 2014 United Solo Festival. Her poetry has been published in Chiflad@ Magazine and Vagabond City. Interests include: disco and pizza.


She can be reached at:

@DaniellaOfJesus on Twitter and @DaniellaOfJesus on Instagram