Blood Ties

September 2, 2008
By , Medellin, Colombia
“Hey, look, it’s the gringa!”
“Yeah, hey, say something in English!”
I smile as the little kids crowd around me eagerly, though I sigh a little, too. “What do you want me to say?” They giggle at the strange words and demand more. They’re sweet and innocent, just curious. I don’t mind their pestering. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could be one of them. I wish that, in Colombia, I could be Colombian. Because I am Colombian, anyway. My father’s Colombian. I’ve grown up here. My name, Juliana Marín, is Colombian. I am Colombian.
But not to the Colombians.

“Hey, look, it’s the Mexican girl!”
There’s no friendly curiosity in the people crowding around me this time. The smiles on their faces are anything but sweet.
“I’m not Mexican. I’m from Colombia,” I say quietly.
“It’s the same thing.”
“Yeah, except that Colombia has more drugs!”
They laugh, but it’s not the innocent giggles from the children in my home neighborhood.
“I beg your pardon,” I say politely but firmly, “but Colombia is not the same as Mexico.” I don’t add that I can’t tell the difference between heroine and cocaine, and wouldn’t recognize a drug if somebody waved it under my nose. I’ve never seen any in Colombia.
“Well, but you’re certainly not American.”
I say nothing. Colombia is America too, you dolt. That means I’m twice as American as you are.
I feel like telling them that I was born in Tennessee, and that my mother is “American” (United States American, that is) for probably more generations than their family is. But I don’t want them to think that I’m trying to disown Colombia, or win points with them so that they’ll think of me as one of them.
Though I am one of them. I am one of both.

I’m a child of two nations. But instead of being from both, I end up belonging nowhere. I’ve always kind of floated around, outside looking in, never having a home.

I dread the question, “Where are you from?”
I never know what to say.

What kind of person is it that belongs nowhere? Is she even real?
I started drifting away from the friends I always hung out with when I realized that they didn’t like me for who I was but for what they could get out of me. Actually, they were the ones that dumped me, but it hurts less to pretend I was the one who left. When my family went through an economical crises and I didn’t have a way to treat them to ice cream like always, they let me know I didn’t belong with them.
Another group I didn’t belong to.
Then, as I learned, I realized I didn’t belong to the religioun I’d grown up in either. And gradually, I stopped belonging to my family. They began to belong to me, as I began to carry their lives on mine, strained to keep them together, struggled to pull them through. Emptiness began to fill with pain. I kept it quiet. I had to be strong. I couldn’t afford the luxury of a tear.
Eventually, I forgot how to cry. It reached the point where I simply... couldn’t. I got caught up in the middle of a strike at a public university once, and the police threw tear gas at us. All around me, students were crying and cursing and wiping their reddened eyes. But though my throat and face burned, not a tear fell. My eyes didn’t even water.
And the pain grew, and had no way to escape.

I began to want to cry. The pain was getting too big; it was going to drive me crazy if I couldn’t let it go. I began to hurt myself, to try to draw a tear, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t feel anything. But I had to cry. I had to cry from somewhere.

I have to cry from somewhere.



I tear my shirt off with feverish haste. Fingers tremble. Hatred courses through me; poison instead of blood. I fumble for my back-pocket, flipping out my switchblade, the one I always carry... just in case.

Slash. This one’s deep. Slash. That one’s long. Slash. This one’s jagged. The pain has been smoldering, growing inside me for years, building up, just waiting for this moment. If it won’t come out in tears, then let it come out in blood.

And it does. The pain, the death, the hatred and worthlessness flow out in rivulets of dark blue against a backdrop of stark white skin in the moonlight. I watch the streams of blood form puddles at my palm. It’s beautiful; it’s art.

Blood. My blood. Pouring from six open slashes in my upper arm in irregular crisscrossed paths all the way down to my fingertips, and dripping onto the ground. A kind of joy wells up in me. That’s my flesh, my blood; I’m alive, I’m really alive; that’s blood running through my veins, not poison. I dip the shining blade into the river, fascinated. It is so lovely. I want to show it to someone, take a picture of it.

The blood slips through my fingers in a healing river of red. It’s red blood, just like a Colombian’s or a North American’s. My heart begins to soar as the most beautiful truth begins to come clear to me. I am real! And how do I know I am real? Because I cut myself and I bled. Me corté y me salió sangre. When my skin breaks, blood gushes from the open place, just plain, ordinary red blood like anyone else. I’m not a robot; I’m not just a mind, I’m alive!
I’m alive im alive im alive im alive...

My blood (real blood!) soaks into the damp ground. I realize then just how different and out of place I’ve always felt, how foreign and homeless. But not anymore.

But my blood seeping into the earth has tied me to it. I belong to this planet—I’m an earthling. This is my homeland. I belong to the earth because she received my blood. She caught my life and drew it into her. In silence she accepted me. I belong to the earth and therefore to humanity. I am no longer an outsider. I am one of them. And it surprises me to be so moved by the words I just wrote.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

notebookgirl said...
Feb. 13, 2010 at 4:28 pm
wow, you're words are powerful and you can express yourself well. i loved your article very good job
.:al3na:. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 11, 2009 at 5:06 pm
this was an amazing and well writen piece. I share both the experience of cutting, and the issue of my roots.<br /> Thank you for putting it out there that half-bloods, gueras, meztizas, or those of mixed race have a right to their roots! i feel, at sometimes that i am too white to be latina but other times to brown to be american. but then what is america you know? I often get comments on my complexion. However, I come from two different, backgrounds, lifestyles, and continents, yet i kno... (more »)
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