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Raza

July 16, 2011

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
legions
to laugh
to recite poems
to practice what I was taught in class
to review the math test
to fancy the teacher
and imagine she was my girlfriend
to conclude my science project
to inhale the albuterol medicine
for my asthma attacks
to cough
to practice 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)
to implement bullying policies
that have not yet been invented
in 1978

Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro (1970, Puerto Rico) is the author of Caparazones (2010), the first lesbian fiction novel written in Puerto Rico, published by Editorial Egales in Spain.  She won the National Institute of Puerto Rican Literature Prize in 2008, the Woman Latino Writer Award Residency from The National Hispanic Culture Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2011 and the PEN Club Prize on 2010 and 2006. Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro is the Director of Puerto Rican writers participating in the Second Puerto Rican Word Festival in Old San Juan and New York on 2011.

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