by guest editor Tori Falcon
Today, I’m teaming up with Spiderweb Salon to showcase a piece from the The Dentonite’s new collection of Poetry & Prose from the 940, honoring Hispanic Heritage Month (observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15): Pertenezco by Amelia McBride Echenique.
Pertenezco means “I belong to” in English and this piece is beautiful ownership of identity and the confusion of it as well. Echenique said the piece stems from her most recent visit with her mother who now lives in Oregon. After not seeing her for several months, just being around her reminded her of what it was like growing up with a Cuban mother as she alludes to some signature scents, foods and feelings in the poem. I chose this poem because it not only presents a homage to the homeland and community, but also the struggles that come with it, some being more internal than others. Echenique said she does not look like her mother; she has lighter hair and eyes like her father. This was something she grappled with in her childhood when trying to claim her heritage.
“I think before I wrote this poem I was going back through my adolescence and just growing up I didn’t really understand what it meant to be Cuban,” Echenique said. “[And now] just that change of thought process that you have to look a certain way to claim your ethnicity, now I don’t feel that way.”
While Echenique’s mother grew up in Florida, Echenique said the lack of community to her Cuban roots in Texas really assisted in her and her brother’s identity crisis. This gave both of them self-image issues as her brother was picked on for how he looked, and although she looked more like them, she still had some qualities of otherness leaving her with body dysmorphia. She said it has been a journey to claiming her identity, but there has been good to come from it.
“Definitely meeting fellow Latinas, it makes me feel like I do belong, there are women that understand where I may be coming from and also the internet is an amazing place because I found certain groups online that there’s a lot of struggles with identity when it comes to being biracial, or Hispanic and white, so hearing those experiences validates my own,” she said. “And just learning about my family’s history makes me feel like okay this is in my blood, I am Cuban.”
Although this poem is beautiful, Echenique wants to make it clear that it is but one story in a sea of many.“It’s less about what I want people to know about me and more about what I want people to know about themselves, that your celebration of your culture is valid and going into Hispanic Heritage month, whatever that means for you, don’t be afraid to proclaim your culture,” she said.
In my dreams I float,
Showered in Florida Water,
Riding a wave to a neighborhood in Coral Gables where geckos and snails litter the sidewalks.
In my mother’s home,
Plantain chip crumbs lay on the kitchen floor
And musky perfume fills the rooms
And sparkling quartz beads dangle on my mother’s wrists
And a pendant of La Virgen de la Caridad lays on her chest
And a tile with the Cuban flag painted on one side sits proudly in the kitchen.
Warm and vibrant and loving and sacred,
And yet I feel like a guest.
“Okay Google, can you be white and Hispanic at the same time?”
I do not have her eyes,
No soy morena ni corta y yo no hablo Español con fluidez.
A man misspoke and asked me “So what’s your authenticity?”
The intent of the question wasn’t lost but somehow the remark took on a whole new meaning.
Echenique is studying journalism at the University of North Texas, but it was taking a creative writing class at NCTC that helped her discover writing could be an incredible catalyst for her growth. Her professor, Jacob Arnold (also a friend of the ‘web!), fostered an “anything and everything is poetry” atmosphere and because of this, her love for writing has become therapeutic. Regardless, her passion lies in investigative and long-form writing. She also works in mediums of narrative writing, documentary film work, and is currently dabbling in improv.
As editor at The Dentonite, being Latina myself, getting to read through and publish a body of work from other Latinx individuals was an incredibly validating experience. Be sure to check out more work on The Dentonite’s new Poetry & Prose from the 940 collection! As I said in The Dentonite’s post with all the pieces, I thank all the writers who shared their hearts with us. Our ethnicity is but one box, but our experiences are innumerable.
Amelia McBride Echenique is a writer and journalism student at UNT. Her passions lie in investigative, long-form writing and storytelling to convey difficult topics in thought-provoking ways. She also has interests in documentary work and participates in improv classes at Stomping Grounds in Dallas as a separate and fun creative endeavor.
Be sure to check out Spiderweb’s other featured artists here! Interested in sharing your work with the Spiderweb Salon editors? We want to read what you’ve got! Send your good stuff to our submissions page here.