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
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…
“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
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.