Barefooted Bliss

Open ended personal statement.

At Brown, the Carrie Tower chimes, class beckons, and I walk in barefoot. Barefoot like my abuela, who at the age of seventeen chased down the thief who snatched her purse. Armed with only indignation and pride, her feet pounded the soft earth of Mexico City as she thundered down the grassy calzada in murderous pursuit. She caught the thief, punished him, and recovered her purse.¡Cuídate! Mexico City is a dangerous place, especially for a woman and her purse. Don’t wear it too proudly, people tell me all the time. I listen. Don’t let them know what you’re worth. I obey. Through time and space, over the border and across generations, I weave through the spill of faces at Santa Monica High School and I take heed of the warnings. I remember my abuela and I leave my purse at home. At school I forfeit my identity. Samohi is home to statistical diversity: 42% Hispanic, 26% African-American, 20% White. It is also home to race riots. Our campus is racially segregated – at lunch the White kids, the Hispanics, the African Americans all keep to themselves. At my school, diversity is only a façade – pseudo-diversity – merely numbers on paper. Here, the dress code is enforced and I must wear shoes. I belong to two worlds – the Anglo world and the Mexican world – each as distinct as fingerprints. They remain separate, and each day I cross their borders. I take two English classes: Chicano and Latin American Literature, and Advanced Placement English Literature. In AP Lit, I am the only Latina student in my class. I stand out, but not because of my brown skin, but because my hand is always first to pierce the air. I speak with conviction, my voice loud and unwavering. I challenge, assert, argue and refute, and I am praised and respected for my mind, for my fight. I am accepted into the Anglo world. Doors of opportunity fly open but I pause at the threshold. I think of my abuela, and my feet ache for freedom. I traverse the cement paved campus between my English classes, the journey endless as I immigrate between two worlds in shoes that do not fit. As I approach the end of high school, my feet are weary, my skin blistering. Then, I enter my Chicano Lit class and I am reminded of from where I come. I say anaphora and the glares say traitor, sellout. I am ridiculed. I want to take challenging courses, I want to learn, I want to succeed and therefore, I must assimilate into the Anglo world. I must forget. But I ache to remember. I loosen my laces. I read Camus in AP lit and I analyze, sharpening my mind. But give me Jimmy Santiago Baca, and I feel. I connect. I remember. I think of my abuela, of her story, of our story and I refuse to let Samohi steal my identity…at least not without a fight.The shoes come off.I take off running.

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