A MANIFESTO FOR THE NEW AMERICAN
The New American smiles when you mispronounce her name. She just sweeps it under the rug. It happens all the time. No big deal!
The New American loves Boy George and Culture Club’s music videos almost as much as she loves a little Celia Cruz in the morning.
The New American likes to dance, a lot.
The New American was born in a Miami trailer park, but shh–that’s a secret.
The New American’s father stops mowing lawns for a living, and decides to change their lives by signing up for ITT Tech when he learns his wife is expecting their first child.
The New American begs to be enrolled in piano lessons.
The New American is enrolled in piano, swimming, tennis, and jazz dancing lessons. The New American likes to chasse, but hates the shimmy. She tries to quit jazz, but her mother tells her she is not a quitter.
The New American sifts through bags of her mother’s boss’s daughter’s hand-me-downs, and looks for things in light pink and baby blue (her colors of choice then), and perhaps something from the GAP too. Most clothes are too big, but decides to save them for the day she grows into them.
The New American is born in the United States of America, but starts kindergarten in ESL.
The New American’s Argentine father and Mexican mother debate the pronunciation of “yellow,” (amarisho or amarillo?) and just about half of the Spanish dictionary, and decide to leave their child with an orphan, accent-less Spanish instead.
The New American makes birthday cards for her loved ones, in English or Spanish depending on the recipient. One of these is for Grandma Wewe, and the New American asks her first-grade class to sign a birthday card in Spanish for a grandmother they’ve never met. Grandma Wewe could only, barely, read in Spanish.
The New American wants to defend America at age six and makes “WANTED” posters for Osama Bin Laden with cheap, waxy crayons, in case he was hiding in the burrows of the trailer park—you never know.
The New American reads and loves books. She loves books so much, she checks them out of the library, wraps them in holiday wrapping paper, and gives them to her baby brother as (loaned) gifts. It could also be said she loves surprises.
The New American keeps a diary, ages 10-16. Every line begins with “Dear Dumb Diary” in an attempt to appear modest for her imaginary reader which she used to hope was god.
The New American says her name means, “Mayan goddess of the moon.”
The New American later learns, through a scholarly journal, that this is untrue (a lie deeply rooted in hundreds of years of “archeological myth”).
The New American writes a story about a half-cat, half-human and figures her character might be more popular if she names her Cassandra. Although this is an allegory to her own middle school coming of age, and about her crush on a boy named Jose, she understands that Itzels do not exist in literature.
The New American eventually stops reading in Spanish.
The New American asks her father why he still says “Sensgiving” and not “Thanksgiving”?
The New American’s father does not reply.
The New American volunteers on election day 2008. She exhausts all the minutes on her hot pink Motorola RAZR urging strangers to make it to the polls. She would’ve considered this catastrophic any other day, but she’s cool with it this time because she believes it is worth it. She is thirteen.
The New American cries the morning after election day 2016.
The New American does not stop writing, but no longer begins her journal entries with “Dear Dumb Diary.”
The New American is not admitted into Stanford and assumes her life is over. Her mother reminds her she should’ve studied harder for those SATs.
The New American tells her parents she is going to study art, thus becoming the tragedy of their American Dream.
The New American learns of a 2012 phenomenon where young girls posted videos on YouTube asking whether they were pretty or not. She uses this material to make a video installation involving glitter, lots of glitter, and a portable DVD player.
The New American is still writing and has a hard time believing her stories, like that of her grandfather, a man set in machismo who once crossed the border, shoeless, with feet bloody from a cactus, are any worth telling. She writes them anyway because it is all she knows.
The New American sends her work to literary magazines, is rejected a few times, but does not quit because the New American is not a quitter.
The New American’s mother cries, tears of joy this time, when she sees her daughter’s degree hanging on the wall.
The New American raises her hand and says, “You mispronounced my name.”
The New American is told she has a “Latin accent,” and is asked if she has “any difficulty writing in English?” She replies, “I was born here,” and clarifies: “I am American.”
The New American wonders what it’s like to feel American.
The New American wants to make art that makes people laugh, much like the word chusmeria and boberia make her laugh.
She is tired of being serious.