Lincoln made that Biblical phrase famous, and it rings true because a conflicted corazón beats out of sync. Whenever I’m asked to identify myself, I have usually felt at a loss for why I have to do so because I balance between borders all the time. I want to gnash my teeth and ask why does it matter what I am, is it not enough that I am human? The labels we throw upon ourselves are useful only insofar as they establish the frame of mind with those we are interacting with, but problems arise when we begin using them to enforce arbitrary divisions. People are curious, and I know it’s inevitable that the question of what my specific genetic make-up is will come up, but what matters to me in figuring out how to answer is why the person in question is asking me at the time they decide it’s opportune to ask. Ideally, I want to educate the person asking, so it’s always vitally important to me that I am able to adivinar (guessing in a way that is more divining, but without the religious baggage in Spanish) with precision which takes practice to perfect because enlightenment or something approaching it ought to be the goal of any conversation.
With that preface, let me begin:
On my father’s side, I am a first generation American, but on my mother’s side, I am second generation. My grasp of the Spanish language is instinctive, I grew up surrounded by it because it is the tongue I must slip into to speak to my father as well as my grandparents and many of the elders in my family. It is the language my mind defaults to when I am thinking of being amorous, religious, or respectful. Spanish does not feel like a second language because it’s the language to my heart. It means a lot to me, and it’s loss would be devastating. I tend to hesitate to spring into speaking Spanish, because it is a fluid language that flows rapidly off my tongue and before I am aware of it any thread of comprehension I had hoped to have comes undone when inevitably I must make the switch to English.
The dilemma is felt most succinctly with how my name is pronounced in both languages. In Spanish, Liz is Lys, Elizabeth is Ilysabet. It is subtle how the shock of the z is softened and feminized, and the loss of the h in my full name is reminiscent of the finality of the t in cat, a feline embodies the potential present in who I could be at any given moment. In English, it’s easy for me to say that my name’s “Liz, short for lizard” and I can be cold-hearted as a crocodile in how I chomp down on the truth, and I avoid the antiquated allure bestowed upon Elizabeth because regality is just one more way that people use to elevate themselves at the inevitable subjugation of others.
What I am is human. What you are is human, too. Any confusion about that is due to the inability to see that the labels we use to define ourselves can be in turn used to arbitrarily divide what should be whole. The border between you and me is as pointless as the border foisted upon the land in the picture to the left, it won’t prevent the wind from blowing the sands across it as nature sees fit. The sooner humanity as a whole sees that, the sooner we can get to a place where we’ll realize that those borders do us more harm than good, and maybe then we’ll be able to appreciate the unmarred beauty of the land.