As a child, I loved speaking Spanish with my South American mother. It was our own magical unguarded language in the suburbs of New York City.
I never exactly considered myself “Latina” though, since I had so many other cultural influences and imperatives.
But when I recently learned of a film festival celebrating independent Latina voices just 12 minutes away from where I live, I knew I had to go.
So Sunday I showed up to an inspiring panel on creating webisodes, of all things. I related to the storied backgrounds of many of the women presenting, and I laughed heartily at their jokes and references (maybe too loud). But I didn’t talk to anybody when it was done. I don’t know if I was self-conscious about my still damp hair, or was secretly afraid I wasn’t Latina “enough” (whatever that means), or if I was just feeling tired at the end of a long week. I didn’t try to force anything, though, and I left soon after the session with maybe the faintest hint of melancholy.
A few hours later, I was at a local Starbucks grading papers for a class I teach at the community college. To my right, a raven-haired young woman sat down at the table beside me and placed before her at least three eye-catching volumes of Chicano dramatic literature.
My heart skipped a beat.
I had to say something.
What followed was a lively and soulful conversation about the festival (in which her friend had a film), teaching (she was writing an exam), living in Los Angeles, and the energetic vortex at that particular Starbucks which somehow enabled us to get good work done.
I drove home that evening with a swell in my corazon. The Latina connection I had envisioned happening that day occurred in a completely surprising way–always a sign to me that my feet are where they are meant to be: Mi camino es seguro.
I don’t know where this identity piece is headed, but I trust that it has its own trajectory and spirit, blue/green eyes and all. And if I listen closely, I can hear the Spanish lullaby my mother would sing to me when I was little, and I can feel the tender sway of her thickly-accented love.