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Poem-A-Week

México, A Mystery
by Laurie Gómez Martínez

México, mi tierra, a land unknown to me 

A land rich with culture and heritage 

Left behind by my ancestors 

My native tongue buried with their memories 

Our history, like old photographs fade away with each passing year

They came to this country, America, to build a better life

For a brighter future for their children 

One where opportunity and prosperity would be theirs

What they found in the land of dreams 

Was more like a nightmare 

Racism abounded 

“Do not speak Spanish,” they were told 

Ridicule and punishment came with speaking Spanish publicly

Their hopes dashed; their new life was to build wealth for the gringos

White men gave them hard work for little pay 

Treated like criminals and less than human was the norm

“Teach English to your children, forget your beloved native tongue

Teach them to speak, act, dress and think like white people

Raise them in the ways of the white man to succeed in a white world

Forget your homeland and all the beautiful traditions you were raised with

You are in a new land now; you will work for the white man” 

He took their ideas and grew his business 

He said, “you will never be anything more than a migrant worker, a maid, a janitor,       a cook”

They picked his green beans, strawberries, cotton and beets 

They used the back doors of businesses and sat in the balcony at movie theaters

They drank out of the colored water fountains 

They were uneducated and poor 

All this they endured, and more, for the hope of a brighter future  

Through the dark night of challenges and adversity, they grew their families

They prayed daily and thanked God for His blessings  

They sang songs about their homeland and played their instruments 

Their homes were filled with treasures money cannot buy 

Mamá made delicious, fresh tortillas on the comal 

Aromas of arroz y frijoles danced through la cocina y la casita 

Sounds of laughter and the pitter patter of little feet chasing their hermanos y       

     hermanas

Photos of ancestors graced the ofrenda where stories were sometimes shared

The time came when they stood up for themselves and demanded fair wages

The time came when they rebelled against the racism and inequality 

Farmers, Zoot Suiters, Dancers, Singers, Women and Students alike stood for their

     convictions

They said, “We will be more than migrant workers, maids, janitors and cooks” Segregation ended

They walked in the front doors of businesses and sat where they wanted at the

     theater

The next generation did go to college, even the women  

The next generation became an educated people and held positions in business and  government that their parents could only dream of  

Their hopes realized; the next generation became el dueños and built their own

     wealth

Opportunity and prosperity belonged to their descendants 

America was, indeed, the land where their dreams came true 

However, a high price was paid for this “progress” 

We are the next generation 

Deprived of the beauty of our native tongue 

A great majority of Mexican Americans have had to learn Spanish at school or

     college

We grew up speaking, acting, thinking and dressing like white people

We have succeeded in the white world, or have we? 

We know little of our homeland or the meaningful traditions of our fathers

To our own people we are “pochos or oreos,” brown on the outside, white on the

     inside

To white people, we are just another Mexican 

We are not brown enough for our gente; we are not white enough for the gringos

Even though we don’t fit in 

In us, there is an inherent culture that has survived and is thriving 

Gathering, Celebrating, Eating, Dancing and Singing come naturally to us

Fiestas, Cascarones, Día De Los Muertos and Posadas scratch the surface of

     who we are 

Our history is buried with our elders

The answers to who we are from whence we came

Not important enough to be taught in schools

We were there and we are still here  

Our stories are part of history that need to be told

We are a people that need to know, that want to know

Who we are and from whence we came 

My homeland, so rich in culture and heritage, a mystery

México, mi tierra, a land unknown to me

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Laurie Gómez Martínez is a third-generation Mexican American woman who loves God and loves people. Wife ~ Mom ~ MiMi Dreaming of being a published writer inspired her return to college. During a Mexican American Fine Arts Appreciation course, she discovered the heritage, culture, and traditions of her ancestors. Laurie is pursuing Mexican American Studies as she aspires to teach the next generations who we are and from whence we came.