Shot-Reverse-Shot: Latina? American?
As I walked across the empty lot, the heat of the Phoenix sun beat down on my blonde head and crisped my pale white skin. Around the lot were strewn empty bottles, discarded wrappers, and even a forgotten mattress. There was nothing here. “What am I doing here?” I asked myself. “I should be exploring South Phoenix, not a pile of trash!” My curiosity peaked when I saw a paved road and a group of houses beyond the lot. Who lived behind this trash covered space? Was this a neighborhood?
I stepped out of the lot and onto a paved road with no sidewalks. I walked further down the road as a lively neighborhood sprang up in front of me. Kids were riding bikes, people talked on the phone on their porches, some just stood outside enjoying the warmth. One young man stood with one hand on his hip and the other watering the lawn. As I approached him his face was turned down as if trying to avoid me. He turned his back and looked across the street, pretending to be busy in his own little world.
I noticed his garden looked much like my Grandmother’s in Guatemala, and she too would spend the afternoon watering it. My cautious apprehension lifted as I realized this man was probably shared many of the traditions I shared with my Grandmother. I felt more comfortable now and my Latin friendliness rose above the caution and apprehension I had learned from years living in Scottsdale. I approached the man and began to ask him questions to which he gave short yes or no answers to. When I learned the man’s family from Mexico, I began to speak Spanish to him. He stumbled with his Spanish answers, explaining that he had forgotten much of the language. I felt embarrassed at my assumption and quickly thanked him for his time and was on my way, further into the neighborhood I had just discovered.
It was a gorgeous day in my little neighborhood in South Phoenix. I stood outside watering my lawn as my Mother had done before she passed away. I was worried about my sister as she was late returning from school. This neighborhood was no place for children to be walking around alone.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a white woman walking towards me. Great, another lost tourist looking for the quickest way back to the safety of the city. What in the world was she doing in this part of town. She must be the first white girl I’ve seen in this neighborhood in years. As she approached, I noticed she was carrying a notebook and bag. Oh, she must be running for some local office and wants my vote. Sure, she’ll come down this one day and pretend to care about the crime in our neighborhood, ask for my vote, then retreat back to her white neighborhood once she’s been assured a place in government.
I readied myself for the pitch that was sure to come about how she could change our lives if I just promised her my vote. All she probably wants is to sell my land to some big developer, level our houses and turn this into another highway or mall.
Once we started talking, I noticed that the questions she was asking felt harmless and were mostly about my personal views. She explained she was a student at the University and was doing some research. I was immediately put off by the fact that she though of me as “research” and decided to give her as little information as possible. Who did this girl think she as being all friendly with me. I didn’t get the chance to study in a university because Mom died and I had to take care of my sister. Where is she anyway? She should be back by now.
Suddenly, this white girl starts to speak to me in Spanish. Who the hell does she think I am? I try to explain that I don’t speak Spanish… I’m American, not some Mexican immigrant. She looked embarrassed at our inability to communicate and said her goodbyes and was on her way. Man, I’m so sick of people assuming they can relate to me just because they’ve been to Acapulco and think I must be Mexican because of the way I look. And when they speak Spanish to me I feel like saying “Hey! I’m American too man.” And now this neighborhood is turning into some research lab.