New York State Youth Leadership Council

What’s the real problem?


Aug 11


Part of Latina Week of Action (August 1-5) National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health asked members of the community to answer the question “What’s the real problem?”  when it comes to how immigrant women are treated.

“What’s the real problem?”
As an undocumented Latina, the real problem for a long time was the silencing of people’s voices whose story did not fit the norm (for example my story, my mom’s story and your story) . The framework around immigration or the dialogue around immigration did not consist of people that were actually undocumented or were actually immigrants. Politicians and “allies” saw it as their job to speak on our behalf. That is problematic because it assumes we want to be spoken for, it assumes we are not knowledgeable about the situation we are in; to us it is not a situation it is our lives.

Communities that have been marginalized from the dialogue have a voice and want their voice to be heard. The real problem is that this continues to occur in many spaces; continues to be the case when we speak about immigration and it continues to be the case when we speak about health care and access to it. The dialogue around affordable health care access seems to leave out Latinas, specifically undocumented Latinas. So when we ask “What’s the real problem?” The problem is that my story, my mom’s story, Tia’s story, your story is not acknowledged in many spaces, and furthermore our voices are preferred to be in silence. Immigrant women continue to be marginalized out of conversations.

Below is a poetry piece I wrote as I reflected on the silencing of our stories and voices.

Beautiful Silences

Beautiful silences.
Is that what you want to hear?
We have been trained to
Silence our identity
Muting off the creating of our ourselves
Wombs hushed
Ovaries disciplined into shhhh’s

Beautiful Silences.
Dehumanizing our awareness
Beautifully stilled in silence
Tongue biting on plastic security cards
Lips sewn by the same factories my mother worked in
With sun rising and sun setting, Mami was sewing her cuentos
Mi mami linda y fuerte but her story was shunned

Silencio en nuestra comunidad
Es una eternidad
Sin identidad

The reality of never having to hear
My own voice
In my own community
In my own home
My story never allowed to vibrate truths inside my eardrums

Beautiful silences.
Our stories
Noise to our oppressors
Opening my mouth is revolution enough
Salvation to my survival
Let me taste liberation’s first breath
Let me open my mouth wide enough to tell you:
Who I am!

Let there be traces of my story in your mouth when you wake up
Just enough for your tongue to swirl around the truths of myself
Just enough for you to remember this brown child stitching off her shame
Freeing her lips
Lips birthing out power
My mouth wide open
Your mouth wide open
Eardrums no longer incarcerated
It now hears my mom’s cuentos, your cuentos, tias’s cuentos
A rebirth of voice and who we are

I want to hear needles running away from the tormenting sweat shops
The laughing grim reaper shooting out from cop’s guns and hugging on to brown bodies
Let me hear the river grasping on to bodies desperate with hope to reach opposite shores
La migra’s hungry foot steps
The cries of children painfully echoing across borders following their deported parents
I want to hear the reality of our lives
No more beautiful silences!

I want to hear my mom’s foots steps bringing in the dawn
I want to hear her bendiciones and prayers
Let me hear the oceans of pain my mother hides in her purse
Mom teach me how to swim, let me dive with you
Let your story float on top and be the horizon

I want to hear all of it
I want to hear the sweat dripping off abuela’s forehead
The unsung birthday songs waiting impatiently next to pay phones
Let me hear the training wheels falling off
My trembling knees peddling into distances mom and dad could not reach
My parents care being interrupted by phone cords pulling them back to reality
The Sound of razors kissing my skin with betrayal
The frantic voice of a partner insisting care for his lover’s life
I want to hear the screams of children realizing nightmares are realities embodied on Bills
There is nothing scary in the closet
What frightens me is what’s waiting for me at the front door
And I want to hear the door open

I want to hear ME!
So today
Let me come out
No more speaking on my behalf
Let my mouth sing to you the melody of being undocumented
Let it sing off key
Let it be joined by a choir of community stories
Our cuentos
No more beautiful silences.

-Sonia Guinansaca