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Veinticuatro
~ by Giovanna Rubio Salgado

Tengo miedo de cumplir veinticuatro años. I’ve been dreading that day since I was twelve. That day marks a halfway point in my life, doce años vividos en México and twelve years lived in the United States. That day, I will be half Mexican and half American, but it feels wrong to say that out loud because I never thought of myself as American. Soy mexicana, eso dice mi acta de nacimiento. Eso dice mi apellido. Eso me dice mi familia y eso me digo a mí misma. But, would I still be Mexican if I live most of my life in a foreign country? Am I still Mexican if I speak more English than Spanish throughout my days? Am I still Mexican if I forget how to say certain words in Spanish because I’m so used to saying them in English? Maybe I’m not Mexican enough anymore. That’s why I have to beat the clock and go back to México before I turn twenty-four. I refuse to live most of my life in the United States. I refuse to become American. No soy estadounidense, estoy aquí de turista, eso dice mi visa. Todavía tengo que regresar a mi hogar. At only twelve years old I decided that my mission in life was to find my way back home. From the moment I stepped foot in American soil I put up a resistance and decided that I would not give into the American ways until my return. If my sister spoke to me in English, yo le contestaba en español. If people at school asked me where I lived, I would tell them that my home was waiting for me back in México. I promised myself to keep up with Mexican politics, trends and most importantly to never forget el himno nacional mexicano o el juramento a la bandera. Me prometí siempre celebrar el Día de la Independencia y el Día de los Muertos. Me juré a mi misma que no descansaría hasta regresar a mi hogar lo más pronto posible para continuar con mi vida como si nada hubiera pasado, como si nunca me hubiera ido. But the years went by and the longer I took to get back, the more of a stranger I felt to what I thought was my home. If México wasn’t my home anymore, then what was? I was ashamed to call myself Mexican because I had forgotten the juramento a la bandera, I didn’t put up an ofrenda every Día de los Muertos, no celebraba la Independencia de México cada año, ni siempre hablaba en español con mi hermana, sometimes we talked in English. This new language, the one I blamed for losing myself, was now part of my identity. It wasn’t until I had to recognize myself in this other language that I realized que mi hogar es mi lenguaje. Mi hogar yace en el español as much as it does in English. He sido criada por el lenguaje que mis padres me enseñaron desde que era niña, el lenguaje que tiernamente me amamantó cuando empecé a explorar el mundo. But I’ve also been raised by a second language. A language that nurtured my mind and to which I owe one of my biggest discoveries: that no one can fully understand themselves without understanding the languages that have raised them. Today, I listen to music in English y en español. When I study biology, I think of the concepts in English pero cuando hago matemáticas cuento los números en español. Mi mente ha sido cultivada por libros como El país bajo mi piel y Comenzar de cero as much as it has been influenced by To Kill a Mockingbird and Animal Farm. Estudio español en una universidad americana. Es esta la dulce ironía de mi vida, soy exactamente lo que tanto rechazaba ser. Back when I was twelve, I was too naive to realize that I didn’t need to reject the foreign to stay true to myself. I can be me y también puedo ser yo. I don’t know where I will be when I turn twenty-four, but I do know, that it doesn’t matter where I’m going, nunca voy a olvidar de donde vengo.

© 2023. Giovanna Rubio Salgado for Palabras con Alas. All rights reserved.

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