Feb 24th, 2018
By: Divina Carrillo
The following essay details my life in San Antonio’s Westside and reveals some of the memories and people who impacted my decision to pursue Higher Education. As a graduating senior I hope to attend law school, pursue a job in local government, and give back to my Westside community by rallying for educational equity and working to combat many of the social injustices that I’ve been exposed to for the past seventeen years of my life while living in District 5. I’m hopeful for my barrio’s future and I hope my journey through Higher Education, and the journey of all the young men and women living in District 5 can be of inspiration to future generations of San Antonio’s Westside.
¡Échale ganas! – give it your all!
The wailing sound of sirens draw me toward the expansive glass window in the living room of my childhood home. I peer out the window, my sleep-filled eyes darting across the street to the abandoned black asphalt parking lot that lies across from my house. My eyes quickly dart like blades between my sobbing vecina and the Anglo police officer ripping her son out of his mother’s arms and tossing him into the backseat of his patrol car, as if his skin is too hot, or maybe, too brown for him to touch.
My four-year-old self wondered, what happened, why can’t he stay? Where will he live?
As the months flew by with no signs of the barrio’s missing little boy, my vecina grew into herself, and in doing so her roots became tangled within herself, until one day, she was nowhere to be found.
Growing up my abuela tried desperately to nurture cocoon trapped R’s that were supposed to roll off my tongue as words and take flight into the world as butterflies. My abuela, whispered, and my mother instilled in me “que necesitas recordar que naciste de la tierra y creces como los arboles,” that I must remember that I was born of the earth and grow like the trees. My abuela preached, and my mother seconded “que mis creencias son mis raíces,” that my beliefs are my roots, “y que esas creencias te mantenien firme sobre la tierra,” and that those beliefs keep me grounded.
My entire life has been a blur of Mexican-American culture, thus my culture has become my identity. I live a life shaped by English and Spanish slurs. I live in a neighborhood that often chooses violence over peace. Yet amidst this unharmonious community I dub my barrio⎯ I have never experienced a more majestic sense of community.
Among the old, weathered women, exhausted old men, and brown-skinned children, I find a sense of tranquility. These people have established our barrio, but more importantly, they have raised me up from the moment I set foot into their world. Minutes, days, weeks, months, and now seventeen years have passed⎯ years in which I have been taught to nurture my soul by feeding it words, sentiments, and declarations of unrelenting passion.
Although my neighborhood bursts with the occasional gunshot, it overflows with past, present, and future hope. The hope I carry is the hope I have learned from the run-down neighborhood I call my home. The passion I have set worth into this world has been delicately crafted from the hands of Latino immigrants who set down their flesh upon stolen soil in hopes of earning opportunities. The force of power I reckon others with has been set in motion por los sueños robados de mi gente.
In many ways my neighborhood and the people in it are broken, however, these broken pieces fit together to create one beating heart. I owe my heart, the necessity to fight for social justice, and many fibers of my being to the neighborhood I have coexisted in for my entire life. I have seen the way in which words break communities like mine apart, but I have also seen the way in which the fight for what is right and what is just, bring communities as disadvantaged as mine, together.
I am the young woman birthed by my barrio who has been caressed by the wind and nurtured by each golden ray of the sun. I am Latina, y soy poderosa, y soy brillante y soy una revolucionaria. I am more than a few hundred words, more than a test score, and more than my transcript. I am the veins of my abuela’s aching body— the very veins which trace me to my raíces and lead me to where my culture lies sprawled across the plains of Aztlán.