Juan Diego Chaparro
Students, staff and faculty of color were invited to an open mic session centered on their experiences for a program called “The Black and Brown Monologues” organized by Luz Allen, counselor in the Wellness Center, on April 6. Below is Juan Diego Chaparro’s monologue from that day.
I was woken up by the sound of tears from my mother. It was March of 2016, and my dad had just returned from a 2-month work trip. A Saturday morning when the sun was behind my curtains and the sound of birds chirping at the window filled my room with magic.
“For how long?” she asked as she fell to the ground when my dad responded. I knew it was going to happen; my friends had gone away, my teachers had gone away, and I was practically alone already.
One July morning he took off, leaving nothing but hopeful dreams of a better future behind. I was used to him leaving me, but never this far, never for this long. I waited next to the landline phone every night for a call that probably cost him too much money so I could get a glimpse of him and his sweet voice.
And then it was my turn.
I crossed a river, wore my flag, took many planes… y guapee, guapee hasta mas no poder.
La Avenida Rotaria turned into Bergenline Avenue. El Supermercado Garzon turned into Walmart Supercenter. I no longer had windows greeted by the sun, the birds didn’t chirp any more, and the only constant presence was the insufferable sounds of the ambulance outside.
My father, a stoic. My mother, a warrior. What God put in front of us was the only thing we had.
I was segregated in high school for not knowing the language, so I learned it in a year and proved them wrong. I was told I couldn’t do honor classes because I wasn’t proficient enough, so I did AP and showed them how it’s done. I was told that people from West New York didn’t go to college and now look at me in front of you.
"What a wonderful pleasure it is to be in university, and what an awful trial of strength it is."
I continuously live at the mercy of others: I had to make a GoFundMe because I couldn’t register for classes. I had to be extremely vulnerable and open myself up to people who didn’t care enough, act like a beggar and further push stereotypes on my people.
I am constantly asked to excel and to keep doing more, and on the way, I may have forgotten how to say no. The pressure that looms over me feels heavier than the eyes of God watching me go. I don’t want to listen to other people tell me how stressed they have been or how busy they are so it’s okay to be stressed. I miss the days when I got out of class at 2, and I had time to do homework the rest of the day.
Now I hold two jobs and classes and clubs, and I most certainly wish the day had just one hour more.
I live in a constant struggle to prove my worth to people who don’t know me. In Venezuela, everyone knew my worth, my good sides and not so good, I could live in my own skin knowing that I was Juan Diego when I went to sleep. In the U.S. I’m not Juan Diego, I’m Juan Chaparro or Juan D. Chaparro.
My personal and cultural identity is constantly shrunk into the idea of what a Hispanic is in the U.S. I live in the lie of cheap merengue and spicy chips.
I’m not like you, I will never be like you. I don’t live blinded by the idea that my identity lies in this country. It doesn’t.
I lie waiting in the beautiful cordillera (mountains), being greeted by the Condors and the high altitudes that would make many here crumble. I come from the root of Earth’s spinal cord, my heart beats to the sound of the wind passing blissfully through the mountains. My life waits for me on the bed of grass behind my building and in the arroyito (little stream) that I was always too scared to visit.
So no, Dr. M, I didn’t do my homework today. My mother called me again in tears saying she was in the gutter again.
I took two extra shifts today because the people who paid for my college said I had to sacrifice myself. I got back at 9:00 p.m., and all I could do was scroll away.
I think the greatness people saw in me left con Juan Diego en San Cristobal. I think everything I’ve built with my hands I’ve destroyed with my feet.
No, I am not an international student, professor. Sorry to break it to you, but they get here with a plan of studies.
I got here con una maleta (with a suitcase) full of my favorite plushies.
I keep thinking of the times when my friend Juandi would throw pebbles at my window so we could go play FIFA or GTA. I miss playing futbol en el edificio con dos piedras como porteria. Extraño las comidas que me preparaba mami despues de entrenar beisbol.
I miss you Abuelita, I miss you tias, I miss you Miranda.
I’ll be back soon, maybe.