The last few days have been full of mixed emotions. I randomly met a fellow Salvadoreña who was traveling Europe and we spoke extensively about the situation in our Mother Land. On Tuesday, the USA lost to Belgium. Tim Howard, however, came out as the real MVP. Yesterday was the 4th of July, independence day for the USofA. And today Argentina came out triumphant against Belgium, moving forward to the semi-final! A week ago, a good friend of mine from back home sent me a care-package, which included two flags; Argentina and El Salvador (I had left my flags back in NY). I was excited to hang em’ up, but a thought came to mind as I did. One flag was missing.
I have always had the flags of Argentina and El Salvador hanging in my room. A few years ago I painted a mural on one of my walls featuring both flags. But I have never owned an American flag. It isn’t part of the mural in my room, and I never really had any impulse to buy one. I wondered, why had I never owned an American flag?
Similar to many people of color in the US, I have a complicated relationship with the United States. When I was only a kid, I identified with Argentina and El Salvador, mostly because of my frequent trips abroad, the food we ate at home, the futbol players I admired (Gabriel Batistuta!) the spanish we spoke, the community I was part of. It didn’t really register in my young mind that I was American even though I would say the pledge of allegiance every morning in school. As I entered adolescence, and discovered Che Guevara and his writings, I suddenly opened my eyes. The US was (and still is) a country that has done irreparable harm to the world. Its history was wrought with racism, sexism, slavery, genocide, war, imperialism, and so much more. But I changed as I grew up and went to college. I came to love America. I evolved. You can read about that evolution here.
Fast forward to my coming to England. Oddly enough, it was here that I felt, for the first time in my life, truly American. When asked where I was from, my answer wasn’t followed by the typical “But where are you REALLY from?” In England, I was American. I wasn’t Latino. I wasn’t Argentine. I wasn’t Salvadorian. For the first time in my life, I embraced being American.
But living across the pond did not insulate me from what was happening in the States. From the continued mass shootings, the mass deportations under Obama of migrants (many of them refugees and children), and the recent Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision. I loved myself and embraced being an American, but I still struggled to love the country I called my own and would return to.
But my change manifested itself in unexpected ways. For the first time, I was rooting for the US team in their World Cup games the same way I was rooting for Argentina. I continue to miss New York and by extension the rest of the country. I celebrated independence day, but did so acknowledging the very dark history the US fails to recognize, primarily how the declaration excluded women, the poor, slaves, and the indigenous people of the Americas. I called my Padre to wish him a happy birthday, spoke Spanish, and I yearned for El Salvador. All these things, small as they may be, represented something.
Shits complicated. I am from Argentina. I am from El Salvador. I am from the USA. I speak Spanish. I speak English. Theres an Eagle on my passport. I drink Maté and my favorite food is a Pupusa, w/ (NY) Pizza coming a close second. Within the American Psyche, I am also a brown skinned Latino from the working class. I love the American people, and most of the American people love me. The US State may violate my rights, those of my mother, sister, and so many others, but it has also afforded us opportunities, as small as they may be. But I am still more likely to fail, to be incarcerated, to get shot, than in other parts of the world or my white counterparts. I embody some forms of privilege (being a cis-male, heterosexual) but that doesn’t negate the oppression I experience. Like I said, shits complicated.
I hung up my new flags in my room. In town, there was a stand w/ a man selling flags. I went over and bought one. Came back to the flat, and in between Argentina and El Salvador, I placed a star spangled banner. This is a process, and buying this flag is a small part of it.
I’m not American. Soy Americano. And yes, I spelled it how I intended to. Because shit is complicated, and thats why from now on, I will rock three flags instead of two.