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The air is frozen, my fingertips are purple, the rays of the sun are hot to the touch. I came to this country with an illusion sold to me as the “American Dream.” Actually, I did not come here because I wanted to but because my parents believed it was a better country, in which I could study and be my own person without being reproached as an educated woman. 

America, what happened? Where have your dreams gone? Why do you prosecute the children of hope? Because that is what we are made of: hope. We hope to be better citizens of the country and better human beings in the world. We hope to have a better life financially, materially, and spiritually. We hope to stroll the sidewalks without fear of being deported. We hope we won’t be killed by a stray bullet or the anger of a police officer. We hope to own a house and a car and have a job and go to school. We hope not to regret the decision to leave a country where being a woman means to be a servant and we know better than to speak up against the corruption of the government. We hope that we won’t be kidnapped or raped for wearing a short dress. We hope that we will not be persecuted for who we are. 

Where are you going, America? Have you forgotten your promises? Do “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” mean nothing anymore? That is why I am here, to pursue happiness, and yes, happiness is complicated but so is life. America, I have learned your ways more than the ways of my ancestors. I know more about the Fourth of July than Mexican Independence Day, more about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln than Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, more about Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson than Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz and Octavio Paz, more about cheeseburgers and pizza than mole or pozole.

America, America, America, what else do you want from me? I have given up a life to have this dream. I have given up a family I have not seen in sixteen years, friends I do not know any longer, even my language because I speak more English now than Spanish. I left my other self behind when I got here. What else do you want me to give?

Tell me, America, I am asking if today will be the day I am taken to a country I do not know. America, I am fearful, frightened in this country where I learned to drive and got my first car, where I took my first ID photo and did not like it because I was wearing glasses, where I had my first kiss and made love for the first time in all its awkwardness and glory.

I give you my fear, America. Take it from me. Take the mornings I feel every cop is out to catch me, the afternoons when I am driving, worried that an Immigration truck is following, the evenings when I run from the store because the clerk needs only to pick up the phone. Take the nights when I awaken sweating, thinking I should have taken melatonin so as not to dream.

Take the days I ask if this is when my hope dies. Is today the day a knock will fall upon my door? Will I be awakened tonight with flashing lights and screams? Is this the moment my eagerness to be a better student, scholar, citizen, dies in the grip of ICE? Take them all from me, America. I do not want my fears anymore. 

Tell me, America, is my soul not enough? My tears? I am a divided individual. I want to belong here because your arms have held me and I have tasted the fruits of hard work. And yet, I carry my ancestors on my skin. I may not know their history but I know where I come from; I know they gave me the spirit to fight.

America, let me give you my divisiveness. Let me give you my doubts. Let me give you my hopelessness. Let me give you my all because you have had it already for more than half my life. You have taught me to take risks, to have compassion, to be kind and see all human beings as equal. America, I am rooted in Mexico, but I have grown up in California. I am a woman of two worlds. 

I am a dreamer because I dream of a better tomorrow. I want to be a voice for those who do not have a voice. I want to be remembered as kind, as caring. And you, America, how do you want to be remembered?

Thank you, America, for giving me an opportunity to walk on the sidewalk freely. For encouraging me to believe that as a woman, I have the right to an opinion, a vote, and a voice concerning my body and my community.

I am a writer, America. I am Latina and an immigrant. I am dependable, able, short, and so, so brown. I speak English and Spanish. I am a lover of animals but also carnivorous. I am a hard worker and also a party animal. I am a coffee lover and a cheese-addicted, pizza-eating monster. Am I still a foreigner, then, when I have grown up in your backyard?

I am writing to you, America, so you can hear me, so you can see that we are all immigrants together. America, you were the first dreamer I knew.

Maria Duarte received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside – Palm Desert. She has published poems in Verdad Magazine and The Good Grief Journal: A Journey Toward Healing. She is poetry editor for Kelp Journal.

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More from Issue 1: Fall 2020


“Manhood,” “Terminus,” and “Fragrance”

by Chris Abani

worn concrete statue with metal wings on the back

An Essay about Roger

by Lynn Melnick

two cars in front of spray paint mural