The difference between a flick of the tongue…

I am often met with “hola guera” as I walk down streets

Usually I respond in some way, but not always

“Guera” means a woman with light skin

and maybe light hair as well

I fit this category, obviously

my family being from Estonia, Ukraine, and England

And while I do not fault individuals for using this term for me

It’s implications



trouble me.

One more flick of the tongue, and less pronunciation of the “u”,

and they’d be saying “war.”

Magdelena has a “guero” cousin and son.

While visiting her family members she joked that

two-year old Juan was actually my child.

In the moment I laughed it off, as everyone else was doing

but it hasn’t sat well with me.

Magdelena is beautiful.

And has five kids.

All of them missing their father who sits behind bars.

Meeting Magdelena and being introduced as her friends and

family throughout the pueblito of

Comachuen was a precious experience to me.

Verbal reminders of the color of my skin were constant….

It’s not that I deny my whiteness.

It’s not that I don’t think people should notice.

But the internalized racism that compelled people to comment

extensively on my beauty,

on my fair hair,

on my light skin

made me so uncomfortable. I was walking around with

beautiful, strong women who were occasionally speaking

a consonant filled language indigenous to Michoacan.

I did not have the vocabulary to engage people in a meaningful

conversation about racism.

And I am really not sure how I would have gone about it

besides what I did say…

which was…

you are so beautiful”

But that was as far as I went.

It was after visiting Comachuen with Magdelena that I remembered something more troubling.

The word for “war” is one little “r” away from the term people use to refer to me.

Such a small difference it startled me.

But it’s kind of insightful

in that

racism is war.

And wars feed racism.

And my ease of passage between these two countries of the North American continent

is really the ability to fly over a war zone.


One thought on “guera and guerra

  1. hey I just found this off of your facebook and have been catching up. wonderful things here! Looking forward to being there too!

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