Ni de aquí; ni de allá. Not from here; not from there.

Deuteronomy 10:18

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.

Being the only one in my immediate family born in the United States of America, the label, ‘Ecuadorian’, was complex. It felt like I was not 100% anything and 100% everything. Growing up, I was in limbo when it came to cultural identity.

People attempted to tell me who I was, but I wasn’t able to identify with the labels imposed. In Ecuador, I am American; in the States, I am Ecuadorian. There was always a distance between “us” and “them”, on either side of the map. As I dig deeper into my roots, I grab hold of the traditions and ideas that were assumed to be lost. I am a mixture of races. So I search and dig into the Indigenous, African, European, Lebanese ancestry I hold enriched by Ecuadorian soil. Then I add the elements from my Brooklyn neighborhood and my Bostonian and Western Massachusetts experience to make up the whole of me that continues to be assembled.

‘Adobo, sazón, ajo molido: savores ricos, tradiciones dulces, America mixta, belleza enriquecida. Esa soy yo; yo soy Latina!’ –

I’ve learned to embrace being Latina. It is a shame I had to learn to embrace my skin, my tongue, my music, and my foods because I was first taught to be embarrassed by them.

I remember eating rice and beans for lunch while a white kid ate McDonald’s. His response was “eww”. To say I was embarrassed was an understatement. I went as far as throwing out my lunch and going through the day hungry. I remember translating for my grown mother and listening to white women spit racist remarks in front of her because she did not understand. I remember neighbors called police because our music was too loud. Cops consistently targeted my brothers. I grew up embarrassed to speak Spanish anytime I was outside my home. I was embarrassed that my mom didn’t know English. I was angry the cops were always coming  to my house. My family never seemed to be able to do anything right!

In the bible, during Jeremiah’s time, there was a lot of oppression in Jerusalem. The marginalized and oppressed, such as the widows, orphans and foreigners paid extremely high taxes. God had given rules for the foreigners living in the land to be treated fairly and with kindness.

In Leviticus 19: 33,34, the bible says,

“‘when a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

I am not an undeserving foreigner and neither are my brothers and sisters from other countries. We need to rid phrases like “Mejora la raza”, “better the race” from our vocabulary that imply whiter skin and European features makes us better. I have been treated like a foreigner in the same country I was born and raised in. When does anyone stop being a foreigner? Can we comfortably be both foreigner and citizen? My parents and older siblings were foreigners, and a blue passport did not get them equal treatment.

I’m so glad God is compassionate for those who have been rejected, disowned and mistreated. I also know there’s no shame in striving for the tangible and intangible riches this country has. Isn’t that the reason our families came? Future generations from Latin American countries will be completely immersed into the “American culture” and it would be a shame if the plague of mediocrity or the feeling of “less-than” accompanied our generations to come.

It’s great that there is a growth of Latinos in the media and within emerging writers. However, those success stories are not a reflection of the low-income neighborhoods, prisons and sex slaves in this country. It does not reflect the abuse of labor millions of immigrants endure. It does not make up for the poverty level in which Latinos live in. It should concern us to be viewed as minority, and that a ‘majority’ population views us as separate from American, at the most, a subculture of the American culture.

What’s wrong with that? It takes away from the fact that Latinos in America are not separate from the American culture, but we are American and without Latinos in this country, American culture would not be what it is. Spanish is the second language in The United States of America with more Latinos living in this country than any other country in the world except Mexico. We are not one ‘kind’ of people; we are many colors, personalities, and customs.

The lord is deeply concerned about justice for all, the equality, and treatment towards foreigners. He is able to unite where there is brokenness. My prayer is that we, as a community are able to rise up our flags and raise our voices. There is no “us” and “them” in the body, but there is a “we”. My prayer is that we will not distance ourselves from our brothers and sisters whose parents and ancestors hail from different countries and lands as ours but that we become one, striving for peace through the one who is peace himself, embracing our differences and seeing ourselves as part of this countries puzzle.

Ephesians 2:14

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, dividing wall of hostility,

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