The Drive


I was driving home during evening rush hour after picking Carmen up from school on a seemingly uneventful weekday. She was in 10th grade. We were listening to music, moving at a fairly moderate speed and chatting away about blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…It became quiet, but I didn’t really notice until she sheepishly said, “Mom, I have to tell you something…” and nothing prepared her for the hysteria that would take over me. I mean it wasn’t that She couldn’t date or have a boyfriend; it was more about having to confront that she wasn’t my chiquita anymore. Even though I kinda knew this as she had been in full blown puberty for some time. Needless to say, I lost my marbles and let go of the steering wheel, put my hands over my face and screamed, “Oh My God!” More times than God could tolerate. Somewhere in there I could hear Carmen’s drowned out screams, “Mom, grab the wheel! Mom, please, you need to drive! Mom…!” All while trying to steer the car. I imagine this was a very traumatic incident because Carmen didn’t attempt to get her driver’s licence ’til years later when she was 21.

The Alchemy of Your Presence

In my heart I carry
the memory of
when I first me you.

I asked if you were mine;
Tita pressed you closer
to my chest, assuring me.

But as I saw you grow,
I knew you were so
much bigger than my arms;
you were for the world.

The only place you could
fit would be in my heart.

I meet you there
in the silence and
whisper blessings
carried out to you by

I touch the silhouette of
your essence –
search for peace and solace
as you confront the chaos
of a world parched for

You are here to be
greater than the imagination of man,
to stave off the conformity
that binds us to fear.

Your purpose was carved into
the consciousness of the trees
when Mother Earth
envisioned you as her daughter
and me as the guardian
who would reverently usher you
into this world.

The alchemy of your presence
is a daily awakening of love,
a prayer answered
for the restoration of the
melody of our humanity.

To contain you is to try to
hold water in the grip of my hand,
embrace eternity in a second,
or confine the sky.

The most harrowing and liberating
lesson I’ve had to learn is,
you were never mine.
You are a gift through which
I glimpse freedom.

Dance in boundless spaces,
let your hair whirl in eddies of wind.
Grow roots from your bare feet,
let them go so deep, they go to
creation; let them be so strong
they break chains. Sing your song,
serenade the goodness in you
and fall in love the way the blossom
has fallen in love with her nectar.

Happy Birthday mi chiquita. . .

Her Hair


Spongy little


like bouncy springs

colliding in

mid air.

Fast moving


untamably bold

without a care.


Ven pa’ca Colocha!

Le llaman a la muchacha

del pelo chinito.

Esa Negrita que

tiene tumbao’

con la boquita

de corazóncito.


Seen as a subversive

resistance to

colonized ideas of beauty;

patriarchal ideas

of sedated femininity

as a duty.


It is simply an

extension of her.


Like the Hazel tree,

the branches of

her hair

grow defiant.


the oppression of

hot combs, hot irons,

and nappy-shaming,

it is not compliant.


In the summer

the ends bloom to

tiny sunflower



out toward the sun’s

golden shimmer.


In the winter

the ends withdraw

into tight twists

like spiral grass

embracing an

inward shift.


It laughs in

the breeze,

lingering notes of

honeysuckle, vanilla,

and coconut are

memory’s ease


She was born with

coily hair

stubborn and free

like hummingbirds

in the vault of the sky

fluttering with glee.

Letter on Her 21st Birthday

The following is a letter I wrote to my daughter on her 21st birthday. In essence it was a reflection of the journey we embarked on together May 13, 1992.

Tita Carmen told me when you were born, as soon as you were placed in my arms, I looked at her and asked, “Es mía, es mi niña?”   You were so pure, so perfect.  I couldn’t believe I deserved something so beautiful.  What magic existed inside of me, that I could create such beauty?

That first night at home, you woke in the middle of the night, and through the glare of the moonlight, I could see your delicate face.  Your eyes were a pair of elliptically round onyx and you gazed at me in such surrender and vulnerability, I knew taking care of you and shaping your life would be the greatest mission of my life.  I don’t perceive myself as a visionary, but I know that from the moment I felt you, from the moment I met you, I had a vision for the kind of human being I wanted you to become.  You have surpassed any vision I had.  I am in awe of who you have become.

You opened up my heart to dimensions I didn’t think were possible.  I was filled with so much anger and resentment, but you came along and I began to heal.  In your presence, there was only love.  I wanted to be so deliberate and purposeful in every choice I made in and for your life.  I didn’t want to mess up the perfection you were (still are).

I wanted you to be educated – to know so much more about the world than I ever had, and I knew that the only means for that was through reading.  So I read to you with love, and hoped that you would become so much more than I dreamed for myself.  I tried to keep you away from artificial and sugary foods, so that you would learn to honor and care for your body.  I spent hours hanging out with you and talking to you, so your spirit was also nurtured.  I watched movies like To Wong Fu and The Color of Friendship with you, so you would understand the importance of inclusive love.  Later we watched movies on Lifetime and had long discussions about domestic violence, bullying, drug abuse, self-esteem, and anything else I thought at the time you needed to learn.  I wanted you to be aware of the world, but not fear it.  I wanted to give you the world, and I did, literally.  I wanted you to know that you weren’t the brand name clothes and make-up that this country wanted you to believe you were; but that you were wrapped in the humanity of every other person on this earth.  We scraped our money together, your Tita, David and I, so that you could travel to different places around the world and experience what it means to be part of a whole.

I wanted you to become a confident woman and feel beautiful in your existence.  To understand that where you came from began long before you existed in my womb. I wanted you to be proud of your heritage.  Aside from Tita Carmen, who better to introduce you to than Frida Kahlo, a woman who was not afraid to live life on her own terms, exploring her sexuality, and flaunting her Mexicanismo during a time when it was a source of disdain.  To my horror, the opening scene of the movie, Frida,which I took you to watch when you were nine, is a passionate sexual encounter between Frida and Diego.  David and I were mortified into stillness, and figured covering your eyes would draw too much attention to us. LOL!  I can’t say I always got it right, but my intention always came from a deep sense of love for you.

My vision for you was that you become a woman who would follow her heart and never compromise her happiness.  That you would learn to live on your own terms regardless of what the world insisted it wanted for you, including me.  That you measure your success, not by your status or accomplishments, but by your ability to be in touch with your spirit and listen to your inner voice.  Most of all, my vision for you was that you see in yourself the beauty and perfection I see in you.  When I see you now, I see the manifestation of the woman, the human-being, I envisioned the first time I saw into your onyx eyes.

You are now on your journey.  You have your own vision to fulfill.  My vision for you now is that you never stop transforming, that your heart continues to open so that you can continue to experience life whole-heartedly, that you embrace your vulnerability so that it becomes your strength, and that you continue to evolve into the highest existence of yourself.  Te quiero chiquita linda.  Que Dios siempre te bendiga.  Feliz Cumpleanos!

Tú Mámi.