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Raza



Raza
By Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro



When I was eight years old
I was already astute
a smart worm
a perceptive cactus
who knew at that point
that during school recess
in order to prevent
my classmates jokes about my hair
my skin color
mis bembas grandes
big lips
big hips
I must get into the bathroom
to hide
or to picnic there
to write novels
to talk to my imaginary friends
there were many
legion
to laugh
to recite poems
to practice what I was taught in class
to review the math test
to fancy the teacher
and imagined she was my girlfriend
to conclude my science project
to inhale the albuterol medicine
for my asthma attacks
to cough
to perform an invisible kiss
waiting for it to happen
I learned to see my world
stuck in that bathroom
of Colegio San Vicente Ferrer
spent many years making this place my den
my cave
my hideaway



I also knew
that once sat in class
if Mrs. Guzmán mentioned the word "Africa"
while teaching Social Studies
I was supposed to wear a stoic mask
pretend it did not happen
assume an I do not care attitude
thereby obviate the long awaited reaction
of José Manuel or Eliseo
or anyone else who joined in the harassment
there was always the cry proclaiming funny
Yolanda, you are African!
you are so black
so ugly black
so bembetrueno
big lips thunder
big hip hurricane
while the teacher tried to scold the commotion
(silent children
show respect for others
remember that God punishes without rod and no whip)
while she tried to implement bullying policies
that have not yet been invented
by 1978
I learned during those hard years
to stand up for my roots

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