Who I Am (Nuyorican)

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Who I Am (Nuyorican)

I walk down Lex with the stride
of a native Nuyorican
(like I got somewhere to go).
 
And I know who I am / as I turn the corner
swing past the multi-colored row
of double parked cars / in front of the Kingdom Hall Church
past the Arab owned bodega / turn the corner onto Third
weave around / young mothers / pushing strollers
street venders on the sidewalk / piragua stand with painted palmas
Korean market alive with tropical fruits
Spanish Harlem sun / beating down like a pulsating drum
to the rhythm of international tongues
 
I cross East A-Hun 11th
look down the block
see the brick red walls of The People’s Church
on Young Lord’s Way
against the backdrop of a clear blue New York City sky
 
Stories of yesterdays
Nuyorican history breathing all around me
floating with the sound of children laughing
splashing in the pump / as I walk to the beat of
Hector Lavoe salsa classics / from open windows
Big Pun from passing cars / tumbao guanguanco rhythms
Bomba y plena / stick ball memories
Bounce a jump and a skip from the Bronx
against the steel of chain link fences
 
Sunny summer Harlem Sundays
are the best days
the most peaceful days to walk in El Barrio
my mother’s barrio / now my barrio / my serenity
my connection to the past / my bridge to the future
my footsteps leading me to
my own mark in the world
 
in the footsteps of my ancestors
mis abuelos  / los pioneros
who came here and pioneered the way
courageously
leaving us a legacy
a treasure chest
of pride and dreams
a heritage I love with all my heart
all my soul
all that is
who I am.

© Maria Teresa Fernandez. Published by permission in Centro Voices on 10 April 2015.

Centro Voices (ISSN: 2379-3864).
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies or Hunter College, CUNY.