Ni de Aquí, Ni de Allá by Martin Rios Banuelos (1st Place Winner)

It was a Sunday afternoon, and my parents were determined
They packed their belongings and got my siblings ready
Today was the day, their lives would change forever, knock, knock, knock
The Coyote¹ was here “Is everyone ready”?

Along the way they were encountered by The Cartel.
“What Possessions”? My parents asked “We are going to America”
My sisters of 3 and 4, my brother of 1, and myself in the womb
A tortilla was split for the 3 of them to stop the crying
My madre² knew what she had to do.
A mother’s love is one of the strongest bonds on this earth.
She gave up her diamond ring that her parents had gifted her.

America! The land of the free and home of the brave
Free? “Were we really”? Brave? “Yes”!

October 9th, 1996, was when I was born
I became a U.S born Citizen and was the first amongst my family
I became the promise child and my family’s American hope
“He will turn 18 one day” and he will help us become integrated into the system.
I grew up loved like any fortunate child. Innocent, playful, and creative as can be
I never saw Race growing up I only saw people
I was born into the Social Class of a Low-income family
Hard working, yet not working enough.
It’s interesting, I was considered poor by the world.
But I had riches beyond compare.

Mis padres³ provided everything my siblings and I needed
Food on the table, clothes on our backs, and a warm bed to sleep in
But, at the same time…
We ate at the table alone, we dressed ourselves, and we slept in the home alone…
I cry as I write this part, for I remember those times…
I remember going to school
Hearing the kids talk about their spaghetti dinners and movie nights
I would lie to be accepted
My favorite food at school became spaghetti and I became a movie trailer expert.

Fast forward, to my teenage days
A young Latino making his way through the world
Courageous, yet afraid
Strong, yet weak
Alone… that never!

The perks of being the youngest of 4 siblings
I had my idols who I looked up to
We navigated our world together
By the time we were each 12 years old
We became experts in translating for our parents.

You see my parents were loving parents and still are
They managed and loved us the best that they could
They provided and spent time with us on the weekends
Anything we wanted to do we crammed into 2 days
How awesome they were! Truly my heroes.

My father a Roofer and my mother a Housekeeper
I grew up Catholic but deep down inside I was neutral
I’ve always been an open-minded fella
Open to the world and open to my heart
Besides growing up a minority in the U.S system
I was also a queer kid
MAN… how I felt I had the world against me.

It wasn’t until I turned 20 years old that I truly accepted myself
I came out as gay to my brother, to my sisters and mother,
and lastly to my father.
You know, even though I had the odds stacked against me
I still managed to become a well-rounded person I would say
But, with still so much to learn.

There are memories I still have of being that child
But as I write this piece, I can feel that I’ve already made peace
So, I don’t hurt but instead I cherish.
An Identity is not just one thing you are categorized in.
But instead, it’s a melting pot of experiences, choices, and beginnings.
I am not from here or there.
I am not white or brown.
I am not queer or straight.
I just am.

I am,
A brother
A friend
A son
An uncle
A fighter
A conqueror
A creator
A believer

I am,
A shoulder to cry on
An ear to talk to
An avocado toast lover
The world’s best uncle
A scenic photographer
A foodie
A mushroom scavenger
A RuPaul’s Drag Race Fanatic
A member of the LGBTQ+ community
A College Student
A future Digital Design Major.
And a lover

I am,

– Martin Rios Banuelos

¹Coyote: A person who smuggles immigrants across the Mexico-American border

²Madre: Mother

³Mis Padres: My parents

The Aims Read program is an initiative of the Council for Equity and Inclusion. Each year a book is selected as a common read we can all learn from and grow our understanding of our world’s human diversity. A Writing Contest closed out our 2022-23 year working with the title Tell Me Who You Are: A Road Map for Cultivating Racial Literacy by Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi. We asked our campus community to submit written works reflecting on personal intersectionality (interconnected social identities) or “othering” experiences to fit with the main themes from the book. Entries were blind-judged by 3 faculty and staff members. The Aims Read is proud to highlight the winners of the contest here in the Aims Review! Their voices are important insights into some of the many diverse perspectives within our college.