‘A Pure Medley’: A Poem for the Children of Immigrants

by Adeline Nieto 

The following prose piece is in collaboration with #ImmigrantHeritageMonth. 

This is not about the debated clash of civilizations
But about the vibrant, continuous bleeding of cultures

This is for the Americanized, assimilated immigrants’ children
The evolving, eclectic generation
Who never purposely left behind an identity
Who never purposely decided to plow forward and
Who never purposely stopped reflecting back

This is for those who inhale the desire to recount histories
And exhale the desire to discount them

This is not for my grandparents, or even for my mother or for my father, Jorge
This is for my sister and for my brother, George

Who eat lumpia and kare-kare, and pollo saltado and arepa in the same week
Who say Ay naku po and Ay ay ay, and Tita and Tía
Who tan and freckle, drawing constellations on exposed flesh
Attempting to connect fleeting shooting stars
Who sit side by side and are mistaken for
Not brother and sister, or even cousins
But friends

This is for those of us who are the artifacts of a marriage
Of two humans that originated on opposite sides of the world
Who choose to remember roots for the sake of diversity
And to forget them for the joyous sake of simplicity

This is for those of us who long for strong family reunions
That flower from our branch on the cactus
Delicately settled atop spines

For those who have never witnessed their mother’s relatives and their father’s relatives
And who consequently forfeited world peace at a young age

This is for the ones who pump tangoing mixed blood
Of entities not quite white and not quite black
Not quite indigenous and not quite invasive
For the dancers who mirror twisting kaleidoscopes
Morphing into beautiful, seemingly graceful patterns of colorful beads
For the chameleons in this world occupying myriad bodies of land
Inquisitive to live beyond, and therefore leave, the familiar

This is for my journeys to a motherland and to my imperialist forefather
That only resulted in more exclusion and confusion
This is for fighting against being commodified and exotified
For overcoming triple the stereotypes
Triple the ignorant remarks
And triple the caricatures

This is for educating schoolmates that Filipino is spelled with an F
And café owners that Colombia is spelled with an O

This is for the understanding that a half or a quarter of an ethnicity
More often eliminates me from the group rather than adding me in
This is for the ability to choose which facet to identify with
Only after I analyze which would be most convenient
For calculating a witty response to “Where are you from?”
And for becoming so damn confused when
Offering a literal response to the philosophical question “What are you?”

This is for those of us who have inevitably become accepting of all walks of life
After our own walk in life
For those whose half-life, and even quarter-life, crisis
Never quite leaves shore because the identity crisis is still out at bay
Running the length of the marathon

This is for those of us who have the knowledge of nomads
Thumb-tacking trails of tears and visited validations

Learning to hate
The borders and unforgiving definitions
Society stresses to create and uphold
To construct contrasts to outshine the shadowed
And the ethnocentricism and xenophobia
That scares and scars

Learning to love
The transcendence and ambiguity
That comes with linked journeys and linked fates
With shared middles and shared tenses
And the self-discovery and self-acceptance
Initiating genuine engagement

Yet this is primarily for those of us who
While we may have sacrificed world peace
Still find the energy to nurture inner peace

Because we know that with deep-rooted discoveries
We may extrapolate our findings and our amends
From a sample of self to a population of plenty

[Read Related: ‘Coolie-Canadian Girls’: Prose About the Indo-Caribbean Experience]

Adeline Nieto is based out of New York City and is currently studying at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is both an aspiring teacher and an aspiring author. She believes in leaning into ambiguity to find authenticity. She has been published in Rethinking Schools Magazine and in Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice.

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