Sep 30, 2009


I was thinking a few days ago of the umbilical cord that my mom kept after my birth (don’t ask me why) and proceeded to show to me when I was 6 years old. I remember it so clearly! (Believe me I wish I didn’t) It was a small shriveled piece of brown meat that looked like cat poop and had me running to the bathroom to throw up my corn flakes.

I know I just complained about my mother who smacked me in the head and made me go to work with a welt on my forehead after I sassed her (her own words) and the fact that dear the husband and I have a lack of spontaneous sex because of the parental unit in the house but now that my move is getting closer and closer (only four more days) I am suddenly filled with anxiety for myself, my husband (who I am sure will grieve the lack of empanadas) and my mom.

I have never, ever, EVER lived alone. I have never been the sole responsible person for a household. I have never gone grocery shopping without my mom or without shopping just for a few things that we ran out of. I don’t know how to buy meat. I don’t know if $5.00 a pound is too expensive or if the meat will be hard or soft (which my mom can figure out by just looking at it) I am not possessed of those meat foretelling powers. I have never purchased cheese and ham that is not pre-packed. I have never been in charge of paying electricity bills, water bills etc. They were always in my mom’s name and when I married they were to my husband’s name and he was in charge of remembering to pay them.

I am suddenly overwhelmed by the many things that will soon become my responsibility: cleaning the house (my husband doesn’t even know where we keep the duster and we lived in this house for a whole year) grocery shopping (he’ll end up buying all the cheap generic stuff that taste like crap), doing laundry (he shrunk all my dresses) cooking… (Okay so he’s a pretty good cook) and just being in charge of a house on my own.

As I packed yesterday I felt horrible knowing that my mom would probably go to sleep Saturday night and cry in her bed because her youngest child has finally left the nest, and even though I rationally know that my leaving is way overdue I still feel completely and utterly horrible knowing she’ll feel sad and just a little bit lonely.

My mom is a super mom, you know the one that works full time and comes home to make dinner for their grown ass children. My brother, who lives a block away, comes almost every day for a dinner she cooks after 8 to 10 hours of cleaning other people’s houses. She cleans, she does laundry, she sneaks in my room and makes my bed (some days I have felt tempted to leave a dildo and some handcuffs hanging from the headboard just so she would stay out of my room) and worries and worries and worries. My mom is a nurturer. Is something she cannot turn off even though her oldest child is 33 and her youngest 26. She can’t help it, she makes me ginger tea (ick & nast) when I get sick and checks my temperature when I have a cold, she checks on me and makes me chicken noodle soup even though I am married and old enough to vote, drive, get drunk, etc.

I feel like once I leave she will be drowned by this need she has to take care of people and nobody to take care of! So what am I going to do when there is no mom to cook me dinner? What am I going to eat for breakfast Saturday morning when I wake up at 10 and there is no delicious smell of empanadas? When am I EVER going to go through the process of making dinner?

By the time my mom was my age she had three children and a cheating husband. She was a teacher, mother, wife, maid, cook, doctor, nurse and everything in between, all done efficiently without complaint while nursing a broken heart.

I am starting this stage of my life so late I am afraid I am going to suck at it! I know how to cook and clean and everything but I am so used to sharing the responsibility that will become solely mine and I am afraid I am going to either kill my dear husband or run back to mom.

I know is lame, I know is cowardly, I know that I should have done this already and that I should be looking forward to this step with nothing but excitement and eagerness. But for the first time in my life I am going to fully be an adult and while the thought is thrilling some part of me is afraid. I wish my mom had someone, a boyfriend, a lover, a friend with benefits even a husband with whom she can share the pain of losing her baby daughter to adulthood. I wish I just didn’t give a damn.

But I do and I miss my mommy already.

Sep 29, 2009


There are few things that piss me off more than celebrities that feel the need to tell the world of their political views….Okay I am lying, the fact is usually celebrities and I are of one mind when it comes to politics since I am a flaming liberal (as my dear husband calls me) and they are too. But one thing about celebrities that does piss me off is when they go off to talk about another country’s problems, and their politics, their people and get their fucking noses in when they didn’t even know where the fuck that country was until some sort of drama occurred and now all of the sudden is marketable to get involved.

Take for example Courtney Love and Chavez who met a few weeks ago at the Venice Film Festival where Mr. Oliver Stone presented a movie called "South of the Border" which main’s subject is Hugo Chavez and his presidency.

I would have appreciated an impartial view of the way Venezuela is at the moment and what it was prior to Hurricane Hugo, but the fact that the movie depicts Chavez as a savior of the Venezuelan people just pisses me off. Not only is he getting his fucking nose in business that does not concern him since he is neither an ambassador of a country or a UN representative or anything like that but he also tried to meet with the FARCs (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and said:

"I do think that by the standards of Western civilization they go too far; they kidnap innocent people. On the other hand, they're fighting a desperate battle against highly financed, American-supported forces that have been terrorizing the countryside for years and kill most of the people. FARC is fighting back as best it can and grabbing hostages is the fashion in which they can finance themselves and try to achieve their goals, which are difficult. They're a peasant army; I see them as a Zapata-like army. I think they are heroic to fight for what they believe in and die for it, as was Castro in the hills of Cuba”

I think Mr. Stone should start minding his own business and stop spouting nonsense and treating it as if his bullshit is fact. He based that comment on the knowledge compiled in a few days of filming in Colombia! Days, I am sure; he spent in a five star hotel somewhere in the capital. Why don’t you just shut up?! The insensitivity of his words knows no end, how do you think the families of the endless and nameless victims of the FARCS feel when this ignorant entitled arrogant jackass goes and stand on his huge platform and uses his power and his popularity as a director to indirectly defend terrorists who have wreaked havoc in a country for half a century?! Because not condemning is the same as defending when it comes to terrorism. There is no gray area, no middle point, no negotiation, no let’s-hear-their-side-of-the-story.

So not only have I had to witness Sean Penn defending Mr. Chavez and calling him a “great” man but now we also have Courtney Love wanting to fuck him (ew), Oliver Stone doing movies in his honor, and Naomi Campbell meeting with him (God knows for what disturbing purpose) I also have to sit here, away from the country I have been practically exiled from while these people with no true knowledge of how things really are go on and on about it.

I would fucking love to see how any of them would survive a year in Venezuela with the sudden shortage of milk, beans, meat, etc. since the Monkey that sits in the president's chair came to power.

If any of them lived in the country and were against the president they might find themselves without a TV to act, or produce, or model, or direct or…whatever the hell Courtney does. The irony is amazing since they all belong to the media in some way and Mr. Chavez has closed down TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines arbitrarily since he became president! Well not arbitrarily of course, the media that opposes him, the media that speaks against him, the media that tells the truth, the media that won’t shut up and let him run this toy that Venezuela has turned into.

So, please PLEASE Mr. Stone, do what you do best, direct movies, entertain the rabid mindless masses and shut the fuck up.

Courtney, go snort another line.

Naomi, go abuse some spic lady that cleans your house. That always seems to cheer you up!

And Sean…just go back to your thing, fucking everything that moves behind your wife’s back, have some vodka for breakfast and go back to playing mentally handicapped. You have so much practice at it and do it so well…

Sep 25, 2009


I always thought it was weird in the movies when the teenage son or daughter left home when they are eighteen to embark on their collegiate adventures of underage drinking, getting laid, partying until five in the morning to run to class hangover and for the first time being the sole maker of the your own decisions.

It seemed amazing to me that the parents actually LET their children go to school miles away from them in another state and proudly watched them take their first steps towards adulthood and independence.

I went to the university (we don’t really have colleges) for two years and never ONCE thought about leaving home and living on my own just because I was a university student. I partied; I got drunk, (I didn’t get laid because I was a prude) and did it all with my daddy’s money and having breakfast lunch and dinner cooked at home by my mommy.

I never tried to survive on Ramen Noodles and Chef Boyardee dinners (Thank the Lord and hallelujah), never had a crazy roommate that I had to put up with because I was living in the dorms, and never had to go home to do my laundry because the coin laundries were too full. I also never felt like I was missing anything. I had fun, I crammed for tests until I cried (law school is tough ok?) I made new friends, partied for Halloween in slutty outfits, made out with inappropriate men and did everything one sees people doing in College in the movies and all while living at home. I didn’t feel like I was living my college experience any less just because I was at home with my mom by the time I was ready to go to bed.

Oh but I was mistaken, birds need to leave the nest, is an irrefutable fact of life that I am painfully aware of.

I am (for those of you who don't know) a twenty six year old married woman that is living with her mother. The circumstances of my coming to the U.S. made it necessary for us to stay together, leaving my mom to manage on her own with her little english and cluelessness typycal of an ex-rich housewife made it it impossible for me to leave the nest and on her own guilt-free. Before I had no reason good enough to abandon her but now I am married and even though my mom and husband get along is still kinda weird. My husband has been easily bribed into compliance by his addiction of my mom’s delicious empanadas (that’s food to you dirty minded people!) and to be honest aside from the lack of spontaneous kitchen sex because of our motherly roommate I think he’s generally okay with the arrangement.

I on the other hand am not okay about it anymore. I love my mother, she’s easy going, uncomplicated, always in a good mood, good and always helpful... Oh but mornings like this morning are the ones that serve to remind me how smart American teenagers are by seeking their independence and freedom at such an early age. I wouldn’t have been able to survive outside of home when I was eighteen, I am being honest I didn’t even know how to do laundry! and I didn't even wash my own panties. But now that I am twenty-six I feel the strains of sharing a household with a woman who is used to running the household and is unwilling to relinquish the power!

A perfect example was, as I said, this morning when my cleaning the kitchen became a topic of discussion with my mother looking over my shoulder and criticizing my distribution of dishes in the dishwasher (what a pretty alliteration!) Every cup I put in she would move to another spot and before that dance had lasted 30-second I had to speak up.

-“What are you doing?” I looked at her with my I-am-trying-to-be-patient-but-I-am-this-close-to-hurting-you look that I give my husband all the time. -“I’m fixing it, you are doing it wrong” She said disgustingly cheery for so early in the morning. I ignored her and put two more cups which she proceeded to change again. -“What the hell?” I said all patience gone. -“They need to be symmetrical” She said pointing at the cups she had arranged by size and had aligned into an OCD sufferer’s dream. -“What the fuck do they need to be symmetrical for? They are all going to be cleaned regardless of how pretty they look!” I hadn’t finished the sentence before she had hit me with the kitchen rag over the head and making my scalp sting. -“What the…!?” Thou shalt honor thy father and mother Said the voice of my school nun who pops in and out of my head from time to time to remind me of my forgotten and hated Catholic teachings at THE MOST inappropriate times. -“Don’t you talk back to me!” She said and continued to rearrange the cups to her liking. -“Why don’t you just go crazy and finish them yourself then” I said turning around and going to my room to finish getting ready.

I walked to the door to leave for work and she handed me the keys, my cell phone and my to-go cup of coffee.

“Have a nice day, dear” She said forgetting completely I had cursed at her, that she had smacked me in the head like I was a five year old having a temper tantrum and that I had contemplated matricide for a split second. I grumbled my goodbyes and walked to the car, amazed that I had managed to go from cussing, to mad, pissed off and then guilt ridden in a matter of 60 seconds.

Like I said, people here have it right, it just not natural to live with your parents for so long! So flee little children, flee to your independence, to your sanity, to your life. Because believe me, you don’t want to start your Fridays with a raging headache before 9 am and having to explain to your co-workers why you have a red welt in your forehead where your mother smacked you with a wet rag for talking back to her.

Twenty-six year old married woman getting smacked by her mother… sigh. The many joys of being Latin.

Sep 24, 2009


I have for the first time since my arrival found something in common with the average American woman. My experience with American women is very limited, I admit. I am (I truly am I swear) allergic to drama, I hate scenes, and crying, jealous ranting and catty gossip (regular gossip I like just fine) and women in general (regardless of their nationality) are a dramatic and watery bunch, so my life has been usually filled with male buddies who are carefree and reckless, fun and usually 100% drama free.

As much as I have enjoyed the few American young women of my acquaintance (I have been blessed with all of them being generally easy going) I've noticed that we are completely and utterly different from each other. We are so different that I couldn't help but assume that our differences were cultarally based. Our reactions to situations have always been so opposite and the way they confront people so dissimilar to mine that I always thought our differences were inescapable and that we had nothing in common with aside from a love of shopping, Nora Roberts, Harry Potter and Friends.

So it came as a true shock when this morning talking to my brother about his love life I discovered that I do have something in common with American women! It was so nice to find something after years of complete and utter bafflement with my fellow women in the U.S.

My dear brother (whose body has been partially returned by the alien who took over) was telling me about the woman he is currently seeing, against his own will. His date, a sweet 20 something was told at the beginning of the budding relationship that he was not interested in having a girlfriend at the moment and he has found himself, regardless of this categorical statement, with live-in girlfriend. The woman has practically moved in with him since Monday and he is too much of a pussy gentleman to tell her to take her dog (yes, she moved in with Fido) and vacate the premises.

As I listened to him asking me for advice I was struck by the similarities of her attitude and mine because my now dear husband (whom I met the day he broke up with his girlfriend) gave me the same speech, he had just ended a relationship, and he wasn’t ready to get a serious girlfriend, yadda, yadda, yadda. All I heard while he told me this was blah, blah, blah. I am ashamed to admit that when he delivered this heartfelt speech to me I thought to myself that if I was ready for a relationship then his feelings of not being ready were not an issue (horribly selfish I know) and that once he got to know me there is no way he would not want to be my boyfriend (what can I say? I am a cocky bitch, we all have our flaws). I was lucky that my confidence paid off and after calling his bluff (as he called it) we ended up seriously dating.

This girl's apparently using the same strategy of look-at-what-fun-we-have by being with him all the time and showing him how much fun and easy going she can be, but she is campaigning too strongly by staying at his place for so long. I would stay at my dear husband’s place and even though I wanted to stay I would insist on leaving until he had asked me to stay at least three times. It’s a game we all play and I needed to make sure he really wanted me there because I am not the sort of woman who sleeps with a man who is also sleeping with someone else and can be cool about it. I am the kind of woman men are exclusive with and if they can’t then I simply remove myself from the picture because I don’t do drama, I don’t like scenes but I would deliver a fucking Broadway show if I have to share my man (I feel like snapping my fingers and saying ‘that’s right’ while bobbing my head).

I felt horrible for the girl who apparently wants my brother enough to camp in his house without an invitation but I gave him the trick on how to get rid of her and to stop being so nice to her. And to her I would recommend to read the book that is in the picture above. The movie sucked but the book is so true is almost brutal.

As I wished him luck (believe me he’s going to need it) I was selfishly concentrating on the fact that his awkward situation was like a little gift to me. Because while he is struggling to remove this tick girl from his household I was given a glimpse of what I hope is more common ground between me and my womenfolk in this awesome country I live in.

Apparently overconfidence is something some women are stricken with, regardless of their color, religion or nationality. I gotta say, that common ground makes me happy.

I’ll tell you later how happy is making my brother.

Sep 23, 2009


There are, I firmly believe, three types of Hispanic immigrants in this country: The ones that come to the U.S. and turned out to behave more like gringos than the ones descendants of the Mayflower. They surround themselves exclusively of American friends or any other foreigner as long as is not Hispanic. They forget how to dance merengue and they all dance like Justin Timberlake, listen only to music in English conveniently forgetting the many times they swayed, sang out loud, and closed their eyes to a well played salsa. They mispronounce words in Spanish like any other gringo would while learning the language and pretty much make the rest of us feel like smacking them in the head with a blunt object. Kinda like my brother.

Then there are the ones that become militantly patriotic about the land they left behind. They put flags on their bumper stickers, wear their country’s football (soccer) jersey to a wedding, tattoo their flag on their ass and wont date, befriend, talk to or associate in any way, shape or form (aside from work) to anybody that doesn’t speak their language and knows how to dance a mean merengue. They spout to anyone who will listen about the shortcomings of this country and the many wonders of their own. The food here sucks, the women are sluts, the music is a shame, the parties are lame, the people are racist, life is too hard, the cops too stiff and won’t accept a bribe for the DUI. Conveniently forgetting the reasons why they are here, the fact that they drive a 2010 car that back home they couldn’t dream to afford and that they have a home here that they would have had to sell their souls for if they were in their awesome home country.
Then there is category I fall under. The ones that love home with a feverish passion but are as fervently determined to make the best of this. To make this home. To HAVE a home, you know? With four walls and a roof? It is so much easier to own a home here; I couldn’t help but want that for me too.

I want this place to be home. Sometimes I feel I’ve made it, sometimes I feel like this is home. I feel defensive when someone speaks ill of the country and feel compelled to defend it. Sometimes I say “us” instead of “them”, I say “we” instead of “you” putting myself in the place of an American when I so clearly am not.

When I’m feeling so patriotic I am about to burst into a rendition of “America the Beautiful” someone something inevitably happens to remind me that I am not from here. I am not home. This is not my land, there’s no “we”, no “us”, I am an illegal, sometimes unwanted resident (encroacher) of this country, I am robbing (according to some) the opportunities and benefits from honest Americans who deserve that chance more than I do because this is their land, not mine.

And they won’t let me forget it.

For every person who has called me a spic there is also someone else who would sat me down and asked me about my stories about home and is truly interested about my background. I remembered clearly the first time someone said “spic” in front of me, everyone around me bristled like a porcupine in my behalf (kind of like Ron did when Draco called Hermione a mud-blood) and I had no idea what it meant or even less of a clue that they were talking about me. I have discovered that every mean spirited person who has called me a wetback or a spic and asked me to go milk a cow (I haven’t even seen a cow in my life!) is usually someone who has some teeth missing, is fairly familiar with buying gin from the 7-11 from the corner and bumping kin.

I wish I could say I haven’t felt like crying when someone thinks me less for coming from where I come from but for that every someone there is someone else who asks me to teach them how to dance salsa, and calls me for a recipe for empanadas. I have been so incredibly lucky in my experience coming here. I have been accepted by my husband’s family and my family loves my husband with such fierceness it makes my mean heart beat a little faster.

It all could’ve gone so incredibly wrong. I could’ve been like one of those unlucky immigrants who stand in the Walmart parking lot and get picked up with a promise of a day-work and get the shit kicked out of them by some dickheaded hick who doesn’t like them because they are Mexican, or Guatemalan, or Honduran. I could have been one of them, beat up and nursing my bruises in a small apartment that I share with other 12 people. I could’ve struggled with the language I could’ve been one of those poor souls who came here alone to brave the loneliness, and the isolation and that horrible feeling of not belonging. It could’ve been me, so easily.

I try not to forget because every time I watch TV in my flat screen and every time I sleep in my comfortable bed, every time I kiss my lily-white husband and every time I see him clumsily and shamelessly dance salsa in front of my family I am reminded of how damn lucky I am and that every damn struggle was worth it.


I am convinced I came to the U.S. at the worst possible time in someone’s life. As a young adult who is leaving the teens and who had no time whatsoever to misbehave before that. I found myself at twenty-four with a complete lack of knowledge on anything worth knowing and with no experiences whatsoever under my belt. I had come to the U.S. and had been thrown into the hectic day to day life and struggle for rent money and grocery money and before I had time to blink I was an adult with tons and tons of things I missed and didn’t get to do.

While my peers were living a normal life back home I was here struggling with my Spanish because I was starting to forget some words and having to turn words in English into Spanish like “Isolated” which I turned into “Isolada” until my mom threw a Spanish dictionary to my head and told me not to embarrass myself anymore. I was too busy being responsible which is the only thing I have been since I came to the U.S. I had been such a frivolous silly girl when I was at home that I guess I felt the need to be the complete opposite, I had to change because that girl I was wouldn’t have survived a month here, I needed to step up to the plate, so I did, but I left behind any chance at silliness or irresponsibility, any chance of careless fun and selfish enjoyment. All of the sudden I was an adult and I left no room for the young person I was and some part of me regrets it.

I never got to have a one night stand, something that the media, books and life makes me believe is a thing every woman has done at least once, I actually learned how to do a dress from a pillow case (thanks to Cosmo) in case I had to do the walk of shame the morning after and all for nothing!

I am not saying that I wish I had done it but is more experience that I will not have (now because I am married and there is the tiny problem of my vows) and before because I was being boring and responsible. Blah.

So here I am a 26 year old woman with no sizzling tales to tell her grandchildren. I always wanted to be that kind of grandma, you know? The one that her kids are afraid to leave the children with in case she does something crazy like offer them pot or take them to get a tattoo. I want to be the grandma or aunt they come to ask for contraceptives, alcohol candy, or advice on sex homework and stuff like that.

I have all this theoretical knowledge from books on how to do a shot glass from paper, make dresses from pillowcases and put your hair up using your thong yet my crazy years passed me by before I had time to do it.

Even the simplest of things like driving I was a late bloomer for. My CR taught me, (among other things) *wink-wink* how to drive. He refused to haul my ass around any longer and nicely told me to get behind the wheel and stop being such a pussy scaredy cat. Here I am twenty-six years old and I just failed my driving test.

There was a sixteen year old emo kid with skater pants so tight he probably had to Pam himself into them, who passed his damned test. I am living the same experiences a sixteen year old kid is living right now... well actually not even because the kid actually got his license and I didn’t.

I am a twenty-six year old walk of shame virgin without a license. That thought it’s just too depressing for words.

Sep 18, 2009


Oh how I would like to say that all it took was to see a grown man reduced to tears over a football game for me to give up, but I was feeling more magnanimous than I thought because I saw a lot more of Frodo than I care to admit.

There was something about his blatant adoration and the fact that I felt like I could unleash my inner bitch on him without repercussions that made him attractive to me. I had a new-found power over men I didn’t have before back at home, the “hot latina” thing . Back at home I am just another short brunette with more curves than the ones needed, but apparently Hispanic guys were right, the fact that I could dance like Shakira (I really can’t but they don’t need to know that) and that I have naturally brown skin and have an accent when I speak makes me a hot commodity.

The same thing that made me think of myself more desirable than mere mortals though, was the same thing that was driving me up the wall every time Frodo talked about it. It was like he didn’t want to date me, just the idea of me.

He actually asked me to dance for him not with him when we were at a club. Expecting me to kind of perform for him while he sat around just looking at me. Creepy asshole. He was actually disappointed that my name was a regular name instead of Magdalena, or Maria del Valle, or Soledad or some other stereotypical Hispanic name (which amazingly is also a problem to my now husband). He was even more disappointed when I told him I didn’t ever want to have children!

“What do you mean you don’t want children?” He asked me once when we were having dinner. “I don’t like children” I answered, wondering if this was appropriate third date conversation. “But you are Hispanic” He wailed at me. Giving me a wild look. “I know I am, you don’t let me forget it” I complained. “But you are supposed to want plenty of children, you are supposed to be warm, and nice and accommodating and to like to bake and cook, and to get married in white and pray to the virgin and all that”

I guess the fact that I wouldn’t dance like Shakira, the fact that I wouldn’t dye my hair blond like Shakira, the fact that I didn’t have a name he liked, the fact that I didn’t have a stronger accent and the fact that I was not willing to sleep with him and bear his children on our third date was a little too much for him to stand.

He got up, threw his napkin on the table, gave me a withering look and left me, right there, on the bar, on the table. Just stormed off and left. Like literally left me there, alone, with the bill, with two plates and two drinks and the entire restaurant looking at me like I had suddenly developed a case of leprosy!!

I sighed and called my roommate Erin. “I need you to come rescue me” “What happened?” She asked nervously thinking probably that I was in some dark ditch after being attacked. "Did something happened?"

“Apparently I am a disgrace to my race” I explained before hanging up.


There are, in this beautiful language I love, so many expression that confuse me and remind me I have ways to go and so much to learn and there are also many cultural differences between us that after eight years living here still keep popping up. Here are a few examples:

  1. “How about them apples?” Always a sure way to make me feel out of place. What about the apples? What is going on with the apples that we need to ask about them? And shouldn’t it be “these apples?” or “those apples?” What is going on with the apples? Fuck it! I don’t even like apples anyway!
  2. “Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing” Need I say more?
  3. Every New Year’s Eve and the “watching the ball drop” deal. What the Fuck? Who sits at home to see a ball drop? I mean there are no words to explain how bewildered I am by this! What is in that precious ball that everyone wants to watch it fall? Is that really how you want to welcome the New Year? In your sweats and watching a bunch of drunk people in New York waiting for the imminent drop of the ball? You people celebrate the Super Bowl with more earnest and it’s just football! I rest my case with the conclusion that America has a ball obsession.
  4. Why do all commercials have jingles? Is there really a need to sing about hemorrhoid’s cream?
  5. Why is it called a “world” series if is only American’s states playing?
  6. Is it just to be difficult that the metric system is not applied here? Why pounds? Why miles? Why Fahrenheit? Only Burma, Liberia and the U.S. are the ones in the world not using the metric system.
  7. Why soccer? Is football! And everywhere else is American Football and yet you make the distinction between rugby and Australian Rugby?
  8. Why is the drinking age 21 but you can marry at 16 in some states?
  9. If there is a separation between church and state why is gay marriage illegal?
  10. Why was an unfaithful president impeached but an incompetent one allowed a second term?
  11. Why do people say they are Irish, or Scottish, or a third Polish and 1/16th Native American? If you are born in America doesn’t that make you simply American?
  12. Where did the whole black person and watermelon-fried chicken come from?
  13. PB&Js and Mac&Cheese? Really? How about some real food?
  14. And why in the Lord’s name would you put ketchup on your eggs? Eeeeek!

Yes. The U.S. is a puzzle, is intriguing and contrary and confusing. But I have been here for eight years as a McDonald’s worker, a glorified secretary and an H.R. Assistant and I was still making more money than all my relatives back home that had a profession. More money than all the lawyers, teachers, doctors that were my friends and family. So yeah it is hard being here, away from everything familiar, away from family and friends. But, I have money in my bank account; money that I didn’t have to ask my father for. Money I can spend at my discretion. Money I earned, imagine that! Me earning money! Ha-ha! I am independent. I am free.

So what if my dad comes visit and see how hard we work and goes shopping for expensive stuff for his other family and doesn’t buy me a birthday present? What if?! I have money and is mine, all mine, mine, mine, mine! (Insert evil Machiavellian laughter here).

The few bucks I am making are better than any money I had been handed before. I am still far away from my American Dream. But each earned dollar, every step toward maturity, every right move, every time I woke up in the middle of the night at 4:00 am to go to work, every turn has taken me farther and farther away from that spoiled girl I was and brought me closer to the woman I want to be.

I am every day so much closer to my American dream, so how about them apples?!

Sep 15, 2009


I don’t think I will ever run out of things to talk about regarding my exile in America. I have, as anthropologists say “gone native”, I believe my accent is almost gone (unless you ask me to say the word focus, or rural and then I’m screwed). One of the new things I had to experience as I got used to living in this country was dating.

I, like any good Latina girl was used to having boyfriends. Friends that you like and then they ask you to go steady and in a heady moment of wet kisses and teenage hormones you say yes and are now allowed to bring him home, hold hands in the streets and celebrate week "anniversaries" and give each other presents because you have been together for two months, aw those were the days.

The concept of dating was as foreign to me as ketchup on eggs (excuse me while I vomit), the only knowledge I had from dating was from watching the character from “Friends” go through it. It never occurred to me that I would have to go through it too!

American men are so incredibly different from Hispanic ones. The boldest American man I have met has nothing on a Hispanic guy. Hispanic men act like they are a gift to women-kind (you know you do, don’t hate) they act as if THEY are doing YOU a favor by approaching you with sex in their eyes and a dirty “Hey, mami” and a cheesy line like “I appreciate your physique” (true story) or actually pointing at your ass and giving you a thumps up (I couldn’t make this shit up!) or simply standing behind you in a club and thrusting their crotch at your ass expecting you to find their semi-erection sexy.

American men, bless their heart, are constant teenagers (like all men regardless of their nationality), in a never ending quest for the next pussy but they are so much more afraid aware of the possibility of rejection. If a Hispanic guy approaches a woman and gets rejected he immediately thinks her a lesbian, ugly, a bitch and scoffs at his friend the ever popular “why did I approach her in the first place, I must be drunk” line. American men, I’ve found, would take it more to heart, so their approach, as bold as it is, it's always so much more… humble. Which I definitely appreciate.

In my own pursue for a relationship I discovered that Hispanic men here are different from the ones I left behind. At home they are just men, here they are “foreign men” and the distinction makes them (in their deluded heads) extra special. Kind of like the Big Mac's secret sauce is just plain 1000 island dressing but to them, oh no! it's the secret sauce!. Therefore, they think their accent, the color of their skin, the fact that they can dance, makes them a commodity and they don't shy away from telling all and sundry that they are a better lay because their hips know how to move (you know who you are).

So, prepared and forewarned with the knowledge of the the shortcomings of the men in my culture I decided to try to date American guys. Say what you may! But there is something about the endless cultural differences that make a date so much more interesting.

After a failed relationship with a guy (who to this day lives with his mother), I went on a date with a guy I met on MySpace. He was a sports writer guy who sent me a flirty message saying he thought I was beautiful (giggle) and I was instantly drawn because he was the only guy who ever emailed me to tell me he thought I was hot without being demeaning, disgusting and spelled the words correctly. After months of emailing back and forth we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet in his house for a Super bowl party (another American mystery). I took Erin, my partner in crime, and our friend Becca to the date (I figured if the guy ended up being some ax murderer he would go for Becca who was definitely the prettiest one of us).

We drove to his house in the middle of the rain and with shaky hands I knocked on the door. He stood at the door smiling at my goofily and said "I am so glad you are here!" The girls and I looked at each other and Erin leaned over my shoulder to whisper “Is Frodo Baggins!” Oh Okay, so he wasn’t that short, but I swear he looked just like him! He had huge blue eyes and a bristly-rough mop on his head that looked like pubic hair. He had a cute smile and I am not enough of a bitch to bail on a guy simply because he looks like he escaped the set of The Two Towers.

That moment of weakness noble gesture made me go through hours of Chinese Torture football, of getting insulted by his girl friends (apparently Frodo had fans) and insulted by one of his guy friends who was affronted by my liking of country music.

There I was living the joys of the dating world at its fullest, the awkwardness, the uncomfortable silences, the judgmental friends, when a blood curling wail broke my train of thought and I turned around to see my Mr. Baggins date curled on the floor crying over the loss of the Bears to the Colts.

That was my cue to the get the fuck out of there.

Sep 14, 2009


I'm missing home so much it has turned into this physical pain that takes my breath away. I feel like a part of me is missing, there is a void in me that nothing but home will fill. I feel it in my chest growing like a living thing, feeding of my memories, taking over, and at times getting numbed by the other feelings in me, but always, always, coming back to haunt me.

I get my "home fix" from Google earth. I sit at the office, (not at lunch time, shame on me), looking at the pictures and remembering the smells, and how it felt to walk through those streets, next to the mountains, by those trees and under than sun. It manages to look even more beautiful from here... So I sit at my desk, feeling this hole in my chest that scares me, because I know no amount of love, tears and pain from my part is going to make home, Home again.

I’m afraid... terrified of returning some lucky day and finding that no matter what I do, home is lost to me, now a mere moment in time that came and went, that was and isn't anymore; sweet, short and perishable and that I stubbornly held onto for no reason. I know why I’m here, home as loved and missed as it is, is a futureless place with no reachable goal, a no-end street, a... beautiful, familiar, green, 75-degrees-all year-round, no-end street.

I’m aware of the nature of our relationship, akin to that of a battered wife to her fist-ready husband, who clings to the memories of the good times when she was touched with love and care and not anger. Almost like that of a mother to her bad son, who steals from her, uses, forget and doesn't care, and the mother's love, come hail or high water, will be there, growing no matter what.

I know this, all of this, and still I miss it, the familiarity, the corners full of memories, the places I know how to get to, the stores I bought things from, the buildings I lived in, the subway that took me places, the parks in whose green springy grass I laid on, looking up at the sun through the tree branches. I miss the mountains with their uneven surface and the crisp clean air it breaths out into the valley, I miss the noisy buses and the family owned grocery stores in the ground floor of the buildings.

I miss the place I was born in, which isn't and has never been "home" but pulls at me nonetheless. The string that ties us together unbreakable. I miss the Carnival celebration in February, and the dancing, the smells, the warm rain that never drizzles and always pours, sweet to the tongue. I miss the big black ladies with their wide hips and trays full of homemade candy balanced on top of their heads, walking the streets, yelling: "Alegrias, cocadas!" Letting people know they are coming. I miss the cheap taxis, the chocolate and coffee that taste so different from the ones here, the fishes that I've never seen here, flat and fried, tasting even better when eaten by the beach, eating with your fingers, lemon juice running down your arms to your elbows, the sun mercilessly shining on you, the chilly swig of almost frozen coconut milk drunk right from it, sweet and refreshing in your tongue, down your throat.

I miss the dusty paved roads, broken in some places by old trees with huge roots that will stay there because it wouldn't occurred to anyone to cut them down, and sometime they will get around to re-paving. I miss the people, my people, the ones I shared Christmas, graduations and birthdays with. I miss the differences between us, the common ground that unite us, I miss the eyes so much like mine, the features I inherited from them, I miss the people that share my blood and also those who belong to me, and whom I belong to by choice.

Sometimes I think I detect a whiff of scent from home in the air, it always drifts away before I catch it... and it breaks my heart.


It’s amazing how time flies when you have to go to work each day. Before I knew it I had a routine, friends, people I recognized and recognized me when I went to the supermarket. I had a life. I was someone once again. Some part of me felt like a traitor. I was supposed to grieve forever the theft of my country! I was supposed to feel forever the burning pain of being ripped apart from my only home...

And I did, I do. Sometimes the pain of missing home is crippling. Some days all it takes it was a memorable song and two bloody marys to send me into a spiral of woe is me and I get teary eyed talking about the good ol’ days. Some days all it takes is to stumble upon an old picture while cleaning the closet to have my chest pounding, my throat closing and my eyes burning with tears. And everything, everything I have built so far means nothing and the “What-am-I-doing-here?” question resurfaces.

The fact is that no matter how much I tried to fit in, how much I tell myself over and over that this is home now, it just never fully feels like it. No matter how easier the language flows through my lips, no matter that I have stopped thinking in Spanish and then translating to English before I speak; it doesn’t matter that now I dream in English, here still doesn’t fully feels like Home.

Maybe that had to do with how broken our family felt with my sister in Spain, us here, and my brother possessed by the body snatcher that had taken over his body while he was in New York. It never got easier to be apart from family. I don’t think it will ever get easier. I don’t want it to get easier. I don’t want to stop missing them.

My sister’s absence was like a thorn in our heart that dampened any small success, any accomplishment. Every happy occasion, every birthday, every Christmas and New Year’s celebration was a bittersweet (heavy on the bitter) party that left my mom and me raw and hurting. I wished back in those days that I had such an ease to cry like my mom did. My sister and my mom have been blessed with the ability to shamelessly cry in public. I would see my mom cry every New Year’s Eve party in front of all our friends when the clock struck twelve. She would hug me fiercely and sob her motherly heart out because it had been years since she had done the same to her other daughter. Touch her, kiss her, and smack her, anything! I would hug her back and swallow the tears (we were in public!) And get a headache that would make my forehead throb. It got to be a joke each year, when it was 11:55 pm my mom’s friends would start teasing her and say: “Ok, here goes Elena, any minute now she will start crying” And sure enough she would. I would wait to hug her and wish happy-new-years to everybody to run away to a club to drink and dance and drown the barreling of emotions with some dancing and blue long islands.

To be honest I am thankful clubbing was the only thing I needed to escape my mother and her feelings because I would’ve done anything to escape her and her overwhelming emotions that felt like a pillow to my face, suffocating and painful. It was hard enough to deal with me missing the sister I hadn’t seen in years, but dealing with that and my mom crying over my sister and my brother’s abducted-by-aliens body was at times too much.

So I would drink and dance and have fun (nothing like projectile vomiting in a public bathroom to forget one’s problems) and would momentarily forget how fun it was back at home during the month of December. I would just swim in Blue Curacao and try to forget the hugs, the grapes we eat for each month’s wishes, the yellow underwear, the laughter and the food, the inner family gossip and the lame presents, the baseball season, the whole month of vacation to do nothing, and more than anything I would try to forget that with my aunt, uncle and cousins now living in another city it was only my mom, my cat and me. I would try to forget the crushing loneliness that an empty Christmas tree can make one feel, I would try to ignore my mom’s tears and scold her and tell her it was nothing, there was no reason to cry, no reason to be depressed. We had our health a roof over our head, money in the bank and loneliness was something petty not worth to cry about.

I would lie to her and leave her alone to deal with her pain while I dealt with mine kissing boys (chillax it was ONLY kissing) and dancing on bars (fully clothed you dirty minded people!), drinking and drinking and drinking until five in the morning, waiting for the next year when my sister would go to the embassy and ask once more for her tourist visa to come visit us, and then maybe just maybe the embassy agent will feel magnanimous and let her come, and then maybe we would finally we would be all together, and maybe just maybe recapture that feeling on Christmas and not feel lonely anymore.


My break finally came when I was at the end of my rope. I had been at McDonald’s for a year and half and gone from crew member to trainer to manager because I figured more responsibilities would make the job more interesting (what the fuck was I thinking?). I remember the moment I walked toward my job interview, driven by my then boyfriend (who was also a manager at McDonald’s) and in I walked to the office where my future boss worked smelling of fries and tracking bits of nuggets that stuck to the indents in my non-slip shoes.

FUN FACT: Those “non-slip” shoes, are as slippery as eel poop.

I think he (my future boss) took pity on me and my desperation and hired me on the spot even though I had no clue how to use the basic programs in the computer that I was required to use. He hired me anyway. He took pity on me or as I like to see it I was fated to be rescued by him. MM took one look at me and saw a lot more than met the eye (a la Optimus Prime). He saw in me something I didn’t even know about myself. And for that I will be forever thankful.

I walked toward those double glass doors and like the geek I am actually gave two weeks’ notice. I left one Saturday afternoon after a ten hour shift of standing on my feet and listening to bitchy costumers complain about their biscuits and the runny eggs. I said NO (it might have been “fuck no”) without a shred of guilt when they asked me to work Saturdays until they could find someone who could cover my shift. I left that damned place without a second thought or a backward glance and feeling as if I had been freed from imprisonment.

I took another tiny and shaky baby step toward independence… And it felt gooooood.


Behind all the pain and sweat and fly-swallowing and the almost terroristic hatred I developed for that place; I, (despite all odds) fell in love. Fell for the people that I met there. With the Hispanic crew that worked harder than me and complained less. With the many people I met there that were always there for me and so willing to help. I befriended the crazy gringa who told me her life story and the boy headed for anger-management classes that ended up in need of medication by the time he quit.

I felt like crying pretty much every day of that long first year in the work-force. I felt like crying because I was a whiner. Still am, and couldn’t come to term that a few months before I was hurrying to go to school in the metro with heavy books in my backpack. Months before I was vacationing in an island. Months before I was closer to the double instead of triple digits weight wise. Months before I had a beautiful apartment on a hill overlooking the entire city and the mountains and a cute car I got for graduation and almost never drove. Months before I was spoiled rotten and happy and now there I was, elbow deep in French fry grease, arms burnt, ass fat, legs ruined, feet callused. Oh the disgrace! I tried, really tried to take pride in the fact that my mom and I were making on our own, without any help of my dad, whose money was a far away bittersweet memory.

And I did, I was proud! I was proud that were making rent, of making money to buy food for my pothead brother and his pothead friends to eat when they got the munchies. I was happy to make money to pay for my own stuff, happy for the roof over our head with its cheap furniture and its smell of stale cigars; because it was ours, ours and no one else’s. If I wanted to burn the damn thing down I could. Well not really but you get the sentiment. It came from my sweat, from my work and my skill with a spatula and cheeseburger wrapping. Things started getting better. We moved to a better place, away from the smell and my brother’s criminal friends. We got a cat. We made a home. Blessings came. I learned to see them as such and learned not to be so damn selfish. I stopped expecting to get things and learned to go get them on my own.

I learned the honest satisfaction of saving for something you really want and to walk in those fabulous yet expensive pumps with a sprint on my steps because I worked damn hard to get them. And they looked fucking awesome.


By the time my first week was over I hated the U.S., I hated McD’s, I hated their customers who wanted to be treated as if they were in a five star restaurant instead of a fast food joint. I got accused of being racist at countless times when I told customers I couldn’t give them 10 packs of sweet and sour sauce when all they bought was one bag of French fries. I was called racist when I let an obviously-about-to-pop pregnant woman get first in the line to order by a guy in a hurry. I was called a racist by a Hispanic guy once. He said to me “If I was white you would do it!” And he got as far as calling the corporation with his lawyer to complain about it. I got yelled at by the soccer mom because I didn’t make her drink of half ice, half water, half strawberry soda, just like she liked it. I saw plenty of boobs as co-worker showed their breast to everybody. Nothing like spending hours watching videos about sexual harassment as per management instruction and then seeing my co-workers run around the kitchen showing their boobs and hearing about the manager who got a blow-job from a girl in the freezer (how did he even get it up in the cold?!).

The fact is I have a hard time putting a funny twist to this entry because that year and a half in McD’s was the bleakest, darkest and longest of my existence so far; all for $6.50 an hour. I hated my life, I hated my job, I hated the management, the teenage customers and the teenage co-workers who took nothing serious and joked their way around while you tried to earn your keep. I hated the veins that popped in my legs for being on my feet for 10 hours straight. I was a 19 year old with varicose veins. I hated the 20 pounds I gained and the fact I couldn’t fit on my size 3 jeans any longer because I had to eat two of my meals at work. I hated my toothless, morals-deprived boss who stole his brother’s wife and whose nephews, he joked at work, called him “uncle daddy”. I hated opening the store at 4:30 am because I couldn’t understand why in the world someone would spend $1.06 on cheap coffee and a disgusting muffin. I hated the ex-con boyfriend of the trashy lady in the back drive-through that always sat in his beat up car in the parking lot at 5 am to spy on her. I hated handing him the coffee and food he ordered because it was hard to avoid his lingering hand and roving eyes while he licked his dirty chapped lips and used his other hand to busily and obviously touch himself in front of all of us.

I did luuuuuuuv seeing his ass get dragged out of the car by the cops once when one of the few decent male managers finally called the cops, because none of the women would do it (?!). I hated the rotten smell of the fake eggs that seemed to cling to my clothes and follow me home and the dead frozen mice we would find as a surprise in the freezer, crushed under the boxes of seedless buns. I hated the monotony of it all, and the necessity to take the job seriously because it was paying the bills. I hated the pain that shot from the soles of my feet to my calf each morning when I got up. I hated some customers with a passionate fury and loved others so much it made me want to hug them. I hated that I laughed at times to keep from crying. I had reached new lows in my quest for the American dream that I didn’t know myself capable of reaching.

In the words of a Bulgarian co-worker of mine “This country breaks you down and you have to rearrange the pieces before you are allowed the climb up”. I couldn’t have put it better myself, and when she said those words I remembered clearly the moment this country broke me. It was while working the grill and a fly flew into my mouth and I threw up in the back sink in front of everybody. Lovely


I woke up the first morning of my new job terrified of taking that first baby step toward economic independence. The jitters were smoothed away by my mom’s obvious pride, her insistence of taking a picture in that horribly unflattering uniform and my uncle’s unconditional support and wisdom who told me: “Just spit in their hamburger if they get racist”. Bless his heart.

I walked into Mickey D’s at 6:30 am, right on time for my first shift. My first day of my first job, yay!. They greeted me nicely and bombarded me with restaurants clichés about teamwork, leading by example and the one I’ll never forget “If you can lean, clean” (fuckheads).

They put me in front counter and let me by myself to figure out the mysteries of the breakfast menu. What the hell is a sausage McMuffin? What exactly are hashbrowns? Why in the world are they eating fried shredded potatoes with ketchup at 7 in the morning? (Ew). The thought of that and nerves had my stomach doing 360s.

It was all a blur, a confusing whirl of orders and beeping, made much more so by the people who refused to speak English properly. I was soon sorry, they don’t teach English slang in my high school. “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you are saying” I said to the sulky teenager with the bad attitude. “Don’t you speak English girl?” He asked me. “I know I do, do you?” I said to him. The kid called the manager and told her to put me in the back with “the others” because I spoke no English, (and on my first day!).

I wanted so badly to tell the little prick off. But I had to be quiet, had to stay out of trouble. Putting a filter in my mouth was a first. Screw that! I looked at him as if he was the dirt under my shoe and said: “I speak English, I don’t know what language you are speaking in, maybe you should hurry up to school and learn something” The manager looked at me mouth gaping and turned around to give the kid a free muffin and a soda. I shook with anger and swallowed the diarrhea of insults that I was sure was coming. The nerve of that stupid little brat! Who the hell did he think he was? As if I was working for him… Oh… wait! The kid went away with his disgusting breakfast while I wished all sort of unchristian and anatomically impossible things on him.

By 7:30 the “school rush” was over and the manager called me to her “office” a glorified whole in the wall with a chair and a computer. She looked at me, smiled and said: “Hon, you are so quiet I didn’t know you had it in you!” and high fived me. She was Mexican, she had walked to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 14 and cried the whole way here, she cried until dehydration left her with no liquid to spare, so she silently and dryly sobbed for the family and the life she left behind.

She was barely five feet tall, had fiery red hair and startling blue eyes. She was sweet, beautiful, married to a husband that slept with her sister who was 14 years old (I am not sick enough to make this shit up) regardless of their three kids. Even though her life was full of tragedy and Jerry Springer-like drama she was the sweetest, nicest and most helpful person I met there. She walked me through my trainning process and refused to give up on me.

In short she took me under her wing and saved me.

Sep 11, 2009


We became the ultimate Hispanic cliché and started cleaning houses. When the opportunity knocked I thought nothing of it. I was already planning and wistfully thinking of the hair products I would buy for the brillo pad currently residing atop my head. I giggled when thinking of makeup I would not get from Publix or CVS, I could smell the strawberries and champagne lotion I would get from Victoria’s Secret.

I didn’t stop to consider or think about how I was going to get the money, my mom could’ve said we were going to start a baby-smuggling ring and if it was going to get me closer to my expensive moisturizer I was game. Cleaning was merely means to an end. Off we went to clean for our first client. Our first task was a triplex property that was at the moment vacant and dirty from the tenants that didn’t bother to clean before they left. I attacked the kitchen after my mom’s face broke in rashes when she touched it after she found a drawer-full of dried red chili peppers the Mexican family had left behind. So I cleaned the fridge, thankful to have something else to do aside from reading (which had been my only solace since I found myself without a social life), and singing out loud while I scrubbed the working song from Snow White.

We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig
in a mine the whole day through,
We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig
It's what we like to do...

I was amused at myself for actually enjoying the task and went looking for my mom to ask her something. I walked into the bathroom and found her there, kneeling in front of the toilet scrubbing away someone else’s filth. All trace of amusement fled and outrage filled me faster than words can explain. I sputtered there not getting any words out while she scrubbed and scrubbed and asked me what I needed without stopping.

I need you to stop cleaning! I need you to get up and stop doing this! I need you to turn back time to when we were not ruining our hands and nails over someone else’s mess and instead getting them done once a week at the salon. I need you to be outraged right along with me, I need you to stop acting like this is all normal, stop acting like this is okay! I need you to call my dad and demand our money! I want you to stop sweating and hurting your back for some money. “I need to pee” It’s all I said. “Use the other bathroom” she said to me with a “duh” expression in her red and sweaty face. I ran to the other bathroom and sat on the blissfully cold tile (that my mom had already cleaned while I “Heigh-Hoed” to the Snow White song) and wept.

I wept for all the things I used to have and took for granted, for the past that was so close it was almost not past yet but already so far anyway, for the bitter anger that was burning inside of me like poison. I cried for the image of my mom scrubbing on her knees, that first time I saw her, the first of many, that remains imprinted in my memory, for the circumstances that had brought me here, for my father who had suddenly financially abandoned us without a backward glance. I cried for my pretty things left behind and the pretty things I now craved and could no longer buy. I cried annoyed at myself for turning into such a weak person that had cried more since here in America than in the last 18 year back home.

I cried because good Catholic guilt was choking me, knowing that my mom had come here because of me, because of my future and my aspirations (whatever they were then). I cried because I knew she probably had, since she came, cried in a hidden place for me not to notice. I cried because I had such promise, so much potential, such a brilliant future, such smarts (hey! I am not bragging that’s what people used to tell me) and here I was, stripped of my pride, forced to be humble, and someone else’s maid. I washed my face and came out and attacked the kitchen once again, this time ferociously, all pleasure forgotten.

I know now that before I had enjoyed the cleaning because I was playing the maid. Not realizing I was really one. My mom came out, done with her part and sat down rubbing her lower back while I silently wiped, and scrubbed, rinsed and polished every corner of that ugly kitchen until the Formica gleamed. We closed the door and walked back to the house toting out buckets full of cleaning supplies. My silly superficial and shallow self quivering in shame when people drove by as if they cared that I was someone else before and now I was cleaning houses. I was feeling such shame from walking the street with my bucket, you’d think I had come back from prostituting.
 “I am so proud of you” my mom said before we reached the house. She hugged me and I would’ve burst in tears again if I wouldn’t have found funny that she said the words NOW, after I cleaned a kitchen, but did not say the same when I had been accepted into law school. “Thanks” I said suddenly lost for words.

We got inside of the house and the chattering and laughing, the screaming and running around of my uncle, my aunt and cousins pushed away any thought of wallowing, the house too full of life to entertain any petty thoughts. It always came back to that. Family saved me. No matter how bad I felt, how humiliated by my change in circumstances (how very Austen-y), how traumatic my stupid experiences felt, how much I miss the money and the liberties that it offered, no matter how much my heart broke when I saw my mom struggle with the language when it seem too seamless and easy a transition for me, no matter how many times I wanted to beg to go back, having someone with you that revels in your tiny victories, someone that praises the time you spent cooking the chicken, having someone to sit down and watch the soap operas with, that is a balm that cures all maladies.

Those tiny moments with family saved me and my sanity. I could feel myself changing. I wanted to hold on to me, onto the person I knew. The one I was back at home. I felt that if I let her go it would be one more tie irreversibly severed. I liked me, spoiled brat that I was. I wanted to remain me, a little selfish and self-centered, spoiled and used to having everything handed out. I didn’t want to be tough and resilient I wanted to remain soft and pampered. Oh but being soft hurts, and my hands alone showed the signs all blistery, cracked and dry from the aggressive cleaning product I had used to kill the green radioactive-looking thing that had been growing in the fridge of the place we cleaned.

So I sighed when I walked toward the double glass doors. I sighed and muttered and cussed under my breath yet walked towards it anyway. My hair was finally under control after buying some extra-strength anti-frizz. I walked and said goodbye to myself, my old self and tried to feel some comfort in the fact that I was finally doing the right thing. When I was back at home and asking, demanding and expecting my dad to pay for my every whim I felt no qualm, no regret or second thought. But to take money from my mom when I knew where it came from, when I knew her body ached everywhere… I just couldn’t.

So I walked toward the doors that held my new job on the other side. I walked sweaty-hand and shaky to my first job interview. I was 19 years old. I opened the door and was cheerily saluted by a cacophony of voices and beeping. I said hi to the man in the long sleeve shirt and tie that was waiting for me and shook his hand with my sweaty one, and sat down when he pointed to a chair behind me. He smiled an encouraging smile and I responded with a shaky one. “So, let me start by asking you… why us?” He asked pleasantly, either feigning interest in my answer or actually curious. “Ummmm (shit!) I’ve always liked your products better” I answered, not knowing enough English to bullshit my way through that one and trying to sound as sincere as possible. His chest swelled with pride and he laughed a good-ol’-boy chuckle and shaking my hand said: “Well, that is good enough for me! Welcome to McDonald’s!”
Suddenly cleaning toilets doesn't sound so bad.


That first year of my new life, as corny as it sounds, was a journey to self-discovery. I found out more about myself in those strenuous 12 months than I had in my whole previous life. I found out I could cook and quite well! I learned it all from watching my mom all my life, because it was a household chore she never gave up even when we had a maid.

I became the designated chef for the family and felt less of a burden with something to do while everybody else was at work and school. I learned that “er” and “est” (as in better and best) can only be used with two syllable words and that applying them to any word longer than that makes you sound like the stupidest person on earth.

I discovered how great my cousins were and how much fun it was to talk to them all night long. And that I could actually laugh and enjoy life with them without feeling I was betraying my past by enjoying my present. I learned to be afraid of the Florida rain after one my cousin’s school mates died after being hit by lightning while walking to school in the rain. I learned (even though I tried not to) all the jingles from the commercials (“You bet your sweet asspercream” was my favorite).

I learned that Miami was owned by its Cuban community and nepotism ran rampant. I learned while driving north when we moved away from it, that driving a few hours away from Miami, feels like traveling to another country and convenience stores called “Donde Pancho” and repair garages with signs that read “reparaciones baratas” completely disappear north of Fort Lauderdale. I learned to read in English and that I was being too ambitious when I chose “Timeline” to be my first book because not even in Spanish I can understand quantum physics. I learned that there’s a chance to spend money each time you so much take a steps out of the house and that “2-4-1” is a gimmick that capitalism has perfected.

I learned how to ride a bicycle by myself. Hopped on a brad new one that my mom got me for that first Christmas here and bent the front tire with all the tree crashing I did. But proudly learned how to do it. I learned that my dad was the sterling example of “out of sight out of mind” and that our only source of income dried up, alimony checks stopped and learned not to be embarrassed about living of my aunt and uncle’s charity (neither one of which was related by blood to my mom).

I learned to my eternal embarrassment that I was a complete and utter snob. When my mom found herself without money she told me it was bad enough to be living rent free but we were not to become a burden to anybody. Having to work turned into a reality that I know I should’ve considered before. I know now that I should’ve started working as soon as I got over my month-long depression. But I didn’t. My life thus far had not prepared me for this. I had not been equipped to think that way; I was hurled into a world where money was the means for our survival instead of something I had no interest in earning and all the interest in spending. I was spoiled rotten and life had finally come to slap me around and teach me a lesson and I was not ready.

When my mom said we were going to start working I wanted to say “ew” or be exasperated. But my mom’s despair was too keen for me to complain about it. I stuck my chin out and fancied myself a heroin to the rescue and tackled the new challenge. Riiiiiiight.


After the epiphany I had in my aunt’s van I located my month-lost backbone and bitch-slapped myself with it. “Put yourself together!” I said to myself. Shame on you for wallowing for an entire month, so selfish, so self indulgent! I pushed away the annoyance I felt at my aunt and uncle for having moved to Miami of all places, how selfish of them! If they had moved to Italy or Spain, England, I don’t know! Anywhere, I wouldn’t be stuck here.

“What would Scarlett do?” I asked myself. Scarlett O’Hara has been my heroine ever since I read the book when I was 12 and realized that she was a Class-A bitch that she got shit done, never broke down and always looked fabulous.

With Scarlett in my mind and a new purpose I laid there in the dark listening to my sweet cousin snore like a tractor and oddly found some comfort in the sound. It reassured me of something I had missed. I wasn’t alone in this. I had my aunt, my uncle and my two cousins both of whom shared their room with me without making me feel like I was in the way, even though I was. Both of whom dressed in the dark to go to school so not to wake me up. Both of whom had gone through the same ordeal as me and at a younger age. Both had gone from living a charmed life of Europe trips and chauffeurs and money, to living in an apartment condo in Kendall, going to public school and working for their money.

Tears of shame burned my overworked eyes. I had a family here that was opening their home to me and with my attitude I was telling them “thanks, but no thanks, the life you live is not good enough for me”. I cried some more and told myself it would be the last time I would cry for coming here (muahahahaa I was such a dumb-ass) and resolutely turned the page. More tears did come, once I decided this was it agony pierced me like a stab wound, while I was grieving and refusing to live in this new reality I was safe from taking the final step away from home. I had been swimming in denial and the water was just perfect. But that fumbling first step toward my new life forever closed the door to the home I had always known. I woke up Sunday refreshed after all the crying.

The next day my chest felt lighter and I cringed at all the stress pimples I saw in the mirror. I went to breakfast for the first time since my arrival and I saw my aunt, uncle and cousins looking at me dubiously as if waiting for the bomb to go off. They probably heard a tick-tock while I approached. “Why is everybody so dressed up?” I asked “We are going to church” My cousin said. I chocked on the coffee and pretended not to be surprised. Church? Really? How odd. My family isn’t the most religious one. As good Spanish-Catholics we only go to church when someone is getting married or doing the first communion and only because we would be embarrassed to show up at the party but not for the ceremony.

“Wanna come?” My other cousin asked. I stared at my coffee searching for the answer. Was I ready to have a one-on-one with J.C? Until a month ago J.C was my man, he was my pal, my homeboy, I told him my petty trial and tribulations and he delivered results. Now…not so much. He had lost credibility with me. The time of reckoning had come. Jesus and I were going to have a serious conversation. Shit was going down. “Sure, I’ll go” I got beaming smiles from all of them. I came downstairs in jeans and they all looked at me funny.

“You have to wear a skirt” My cousin said. “Is it a special day today” I asked confused, my uncle was wearing after all a suit and tie in the 95 degree weather when he’s the Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts kind of guy and my cousin the artist was wearing a skirt when she was back then, bless her, the Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts kind of gal herself. “No, we just have to go like this, they have a dress code. “Oh, ok, I didn’t know mass here was so formal” I said turning around to change. “Oh honey, is not mass” My aunt said. “Then what is it?” “We are not Catholic anymore, we converted” “To what?! I asked suddenly horrified and strangely defensive of a belief I really didn’t follow, go figure! “We are now members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” “The who?! “We are Mormons now” They said beatifically smiling.

Oh… holy shit.


A month had gone by since my arrival to Miami, every day of which I spent in bed, sleeping or staring at the wall, ignoring my family, showering only when my head itched and eating only when I couldn’t put it off any longer. Food tasted so different it was hard to swallow. The only thing that tasted the same was bread and butter so it became the staple of my diet.

I gained 8 pounds that month and my forehead looked like a cheese grater. Good times. Looking back now my grieving strikes me as dramatic, but when I dwell on it, when I really pay attention and remember I realize my pain was real, so real that I can still feel it. Some part of me will always be that girl that came here unwillingly. After weeks and weeks of almost catatonic indifference, I snapped and broke down at Sears (where else, right?)

My mom had just left to go back home and take care of all the last minute details of her coming here. My sister in the meantime was taking care of her preparations to go to Spain. And there I was trapped in Miami, my mom left me here, alone! To say goodbye properly to my sister, why couldn’t I? If I had to say goodbye to her then why do you get to say goodbye now? Two days after my arrival to North America the law that made my dad rushed me here fell apart because the US couldn’t afford to survive without the tourism industry. I called my dad delirious with joy. I could go back home and then we could discuss maybe, maybe coming to the U.S instead of Spain. My dad said no. I was already here, my mom had been thoroughly brainwashed and my dad refused to spend another thousand dollars for a ticket for me to come back. I was here to stay. Traitor, traitor! My eyes said to my mom while we were in the airport dropping her off. I wouldn’t even hug her goodbye, she cupped my face while I remained still, and broken hearted she left me there in the loving care of my aunt and uncle.

I wanted to yell at her to come back. I wanted to tell her I was sorry I was mad. I wanted to stop her from leaving me here all alone. I wanted to yell at her for not having any money and letting our lives, our future and our destiny depend so much on dad’s money. I wanted to yell at her for ever marrying him. I wanted to yell at her for being a housewife. I wanted to hug her goodbye and tell her I’ll miss her. I did nothing and said nothing when for a last time she turned around and waved.

After dropping her off at the airport my aunt and I went shopping to Sears for a new blender. Welcome to America, Lesson # 1: Things broken cannot be fixed in the land of the free and home of the brave, they are always replaced. You can come here escaping religious, political or sexual persecution. You can come to the land where dreams come true. Give me your hungry, your tired and all that, but if your blender’s blades are broken you are fucked, get a new one! Welcome to capitalism. Off we went to Sears to get a new blender.

I zombie-d into the store, not seeing anything and not recognizing the girl in the mirror as myself, I made a derisive comment in my head about her fashion sense when I noticed it was me… wearing jean shorts and white sneakers with no socks. Eeeeek!!!, “How the mighty have fallen”, I thought. I shrugged mentally. I couldn’t muster enough energy to care and kept walking. My aunt kept talking, trying to bring me back to the land of the living by sheer volume of words. I missed my mom terribly, I regretted my stupid pride that now felt cold in my chest when before had kept me from crumbling. She was my only link left from home, and with her gone I felt like a castaway, adrift and drowning.

I felt like Punky Brewster must have felt when her mom abandoned her in the supermarket, motherless and alone, future uncertain and no one who cared. I walked to the music department trying to distract myself from the abject loneliness I was feeling and being as I was in Miami, a merengue song came through the speakers of the store. An old-school merengue that had been popular in my pre-teen years and was the first song I ever danced with a boy. No girl forgets that. Everything suddenly hit me like a tidal wave. The pain of leaving, the sense of betrayal at my mom’s caving to my dad’s wishes, the sudden terror at the thought that I wasn’t going anywhere and this, the land of the gas-station-at-every-corner was my new home, I was stuck here in Cuba... I mean Miami.

I was hit suddenly with the resentment, anger and almost hatred at my dad’s selfishness; I was choked by the sense of helplessness I felt to be subject to his whim of sending me here just because he could, I was hit with the shame of being such a burden to my sweet aunt and uncle, ashamed of not having even tried to make conversation with my cousins even though we were sharing a room. I was filled with dread at having to learn a new language. I was swallowed by my agony of not saying goodbye to my sister and not knowing when I would see her again.

Most of all I was horrified at finding myself in a public place wearing jean cut-offs and sneakers. That dam broke and there was no stopping it. Tears came like the flood. I was literally weeping right there between “Rap” and “Sounds of Nature”. People looked at me funny and finally my aunt found me there, sobbing my bratty heart out. She there-there me and walked me to her car where she asked me to wait after giving me the keys, sweet trusting soul she is. I sat inside the roasting heat of the van, burning the naked back of my thighs with the scorching leather.

"Serves you right for wearing this atrocity!" I thought to myself. I refused to turn the A/C on. A penitence for being so weak, for letting myself be brought to this slow-cooking hell. I would immolate myself with the blistering heat, a victim of my pain, a supreme example nay! A symbol! To people all around the world suffering the anguish of expatriation, I would be their beacon! Their… Ok, Fuck this! It’s too hot. I turned the A/C on and felt life returning to my shriveling limbs, the cool air traveling between the tresses of my hair that now looked like a Brillo pad.

I cried silently some more.


I didn’t utter a word during the four hours of travel. I waved goodbye to my home from the plane, the city shrinking before my eyes, thinking stubbornly that I was going to be back, that I would walk those streets again a month from now.

We finally landed in Miami Airport (which in and on itself deserves a chapter in my story) not very welcoming with its thousand people walking around, bumping each other and the custom agents treating people as if they were criminals (a little late for that don’t ya think?). I felt myself be hugged and kissed by my aunt and uncle whom I hadn’t seen in four years since they moved to the USA running away from the Colombia guerrillas and the many deaths they had brought to their family. My cousins smiled at me and I tried to smile back. We got to the car after getting lost in the gigantic parking lot, the size of it overwhelming my already overloaded emotions and giving me a peek of USA’s excesses.

Nausea was rolling in and out of me like waves, my face losing and gaining color with it. My uncle only driving at 45 miles per hour but I could see only blurs of light. I looked around the window, trying to find something familiar even though I hadn’t been there before, searching for the familiar shadow of the looming mountains, not knowing, not expecting Miami to be as flat as a pancake, I could find nothing. All I could see was the bottomless distance, nothing to get in the way of my searching eyes and the light of the houses miles and miles away.

My body had a tingling sensation; I could feel my skin prickling with the rush of blood and my heart pumping so hard I could hear the roar in my ears. I was getting dizzy and found myself gulping for air, realizing I had been holding my breath. My misery knew no depths; I could hear my uncle and my aunt talking animatedly with my mom and my cousin laughing while the other sketched in a pad. I got distracted by her pictures and the characters that came to life before my eyes. The slam on the brakes brought me back to reality and all of the sudden the knowledge of being here was too much to bear.

"I need to go to the bathroom" I croaked. The van was silent. Everybody listening to the first words I had spoken since jumping in the stupid plane that brought me here. God I could’ve argued harder, I could’ve fought dirtier, I could’ve told my dad he was a bad father, which always worked before! I could've ran away, I could've stayed at my friend’s house. Anything, anything was better than this foreign smell, and the noises and the freaky flatness. Everything was better than this horrible humidity that was making my hair do things I didn’t know it was capable of doing. "We are close to home now" My uncle said with his raspy smoker voice even though he doesn’t smoke. "I reaaaaally need to go" I said. 'Is not home, is not home!!!!!' I screeched in my head while my face remained impassive. I was having trouble breathing and feeling anxious, my mom’s and my aunt’s laughter felt like nails on a chalkboard. The silence of my sketching cousin felt like a wall I could lean on. My stomach rolled and salty saliva pooled in my mouth. I knew swallowing would mean throwing up in the car, so I sat there with my mouth full and my head pounding so hard I could feel it in my sinuses. A tear clung to my eyelash and in the blissful darkness of the car I rubbed my eyes. My uncle finally stopped at a gas station taking his sweet time to park. I had the door open before he had fully stopped.
 I jumped out and ran into someone. The dirty guy looked at my boobs and said something dirty and walked away. My uncle jumped out of the car to - I assume defend my honor- and I swallowed.

My stomach rejected everything, the salty saliva, the dirty man and his roving eyes, the salty smell of Miami and its sticky humid air. I projectile vomited on the sidewalk and felt my ears ringing. I kneeled on the floor without feeling the gravel denting my hands. I thought and felt nothing while retch after retch wracked my stomach. Empty of food and feeling I sat back on the floor, the cool feeling of the metal door of the car a balm against my hot cheek. I didn’t notice until later my cousin holding my hair. "Airplane food" Someone said.

I blinked the tears away, refusing, as if my life depended on it, to let them fall. I felt miserable but better. I avoided the pity looks in my family’s faces and took the bottle water someone offered. I avoided their glares and sat there as if picnicking next to my throw-up. I stared at the lit sign of Chevron until it blurred away.
Welcome to America.


What to do? What to do?! God, to say I panicked is a giant understatement. I ranted, I pleaded, I was rational, then hysterical, I tried talking, I tried yelling, but the fact was that with or without my cooperation my then tiny ass was going to be on that plane come April the 28. I guess I could’ve said no, I could’ve done whatever I wanted! I was 18 years old and by law old enough to make my own decisions. In reality I was an 18 year old college dropout that had never done a day of honest working in her entire life, didn’t even know how to operate the washer machine, let alone find a way to live on my own in a unstable country with no money.

So I plotted (my favorite hobby that I guess I inherited from my dad) and figured that even if I came here, I wouldn’t stay for long, my sister would never allow my dad to send her to the US and my mom wouldn’t want to go without my sister so I was safe. This was just a trip, a short vacation.

Little did I know that my father for the first time in his life would put his foot down and say he would not finance a trip to Spain, and left my mom with the option of staying home with things as they were, or come to North America.
The day before the trip I was still treating it as a vacation and excited about the shopping and beaching. My mom came to my room and sat down and told me this was IT. This was me leaving; this was me saying goodbye to home, to my friends, to my two Weiner dogs, to my mountains, this was it. I sputtered. What? I wasn’t going to get my way? (Welcome to grown up life Mel, as it happens that would be the first of many, many times in the next six years that nothing would go as I wanted it) I was pissed!, all those times when I got what I wanted and what I wanted hadn’t been that important and this time, when it meant everything I was going to fail?. What about Karol? I asked wondering about my sister. "Don't worry. She’ll come". My mom said.

How wrong she was. Oh how little we knew my sister and her stubborn nature and how little we know of her convictions and how committed she was to her plans to go to Spain. She wouldn’t go. I didn’t know that when I had said goodbye to her 2 months before when she went to school to Colombia it would be the last time I would hug her and touch her and hold her hand for five more years.
So there I sat, on my way to Miami, Florida. Capital city of the world’s immigrants. Leaving everything I knew and loved behind, friends, and family, first love, pets, corners, my Avila, my valley, my mountains, my streets and malls. Leaving myself behind. No one would know me; I would be another immigrant, another wet back, even if I didn’t cross the Rio Grande. Anonymity promised to swallow me whole like I was nothing. I would not go out to places and run into people I knew anymore. One of my first lessons here was that, I learned I would painfully miss that small pleasure of seeing a familiar face in a random place in the streets. I learned that I would be no one, no one. The knot in my throat was chocking me. Being as proud as you can only be when you are 18, I refused to cry, the lack of breath making me dizzy. If I breathe I’ll cry, if I cry I won’t leave.
I thought of making a scene. My dad wouldn’t drag me by the hair. I looked at my mom from the corner of my eye, she totally would. I discarded that idea, raking my brain for a plan. I had to do something! I couldn’t go; I didn’t want to go, not to the US. Not here, not with gringos (no offense). This is not what I wanted. Oh God, please help me! Please, please help me!

I think the only reason that I finally walked into that plane was the many times I repeated in my head the conversations I had with my friends when I said goodbye to them, how happy they were for me and how much they wished it was them.
This is good (right?). This will be good, we’ll be good. I tried foolishly to convince myself. U.S.A is good. U-S-A! U-S-A! I chanted to myself.