Monday, July 13, 2015

Childhood Reflections of the 4th

Today I welcome author, poet and friend, Eva Santiago. I had asked her to post here after I read something she wrote on Facebook for July 4th. Hope you enjoy her story, her poem and her work.  

I am Eva Santiago, an author/poet from Colombia. I immigrated to the US after the death of my parents when I was a small child. I am proud to call myself an American and am happy to share part of my life story here with you. 

I came to the US in 1976, that summer I learned about July 4th when something I had never seen before happened right before my eyes. After the family went to church, we were driving down palm tree covered McGregor Ave, Fort Meyer's main street back then.I was seated next to my uncle who was driving his '75 avocado green Chevy station wagon. The whole family came along; my grandma, Isabel, next to her my aunt Blanca, my sister, Mireya, cousins Frank and Mike and my uncle's wife, Graciela. Suddenly, in the middle of that humid, balmy, South Florida summer day, all the church bells were ringing, all the cars had their lights on and everyone was honking their car horns. I asked my uncle what that was all about. He paused and tossed me a smile saying," Today is the Bicentennial birthday of this great country and people are celebrating! This is her 200th birthday!!" 
The rest of the family nodded their heads in agreement as they smiled back at me. They had come here  as immigrants a few years before so they knew the answer to my curious inquiry.

At just 6 years old, I was fascinated with the mere fact that a country had a birthday. From then on the 4th of July became one of my favorite holidays and it still is. I even shed a tear or 2 every time we go see fire works. Yes, this country has huge struggles, but nonetheless, I received a way better life than if  I had stayed in my birth country of Colombia. Because of the U.S., I have had more opportunities to make my dreams come true and I always explain this to my 4 children who had the privilege of being born in the US. When I became a US citizen in 1991, it was one of the proudest moments in my life and I will be forever grateful!!

Recently, our country has been facing some tremendous hurdles. You conquer a people by dividing them up and pitting them one against the other. The racial war is escalating and today as we celebrate the country's birthday please let us never forget that we are ALL Americans. 
At the end of the day we all go to sleep under the same sky where the same red, white and blue banner flies. I want to share this poem to remind us all that in God's eyes, we are all the SAME and that the last bastion of freedom is our minds. 
Let us unite in one mind, one purpose and one accord from this day onward and bury any hatchet of hate by promoting UNITY through LOVE!  

The race card, the race card,
everyone likes to play the race card.
You are white,
and that’s all right by me.
You think you alone have the light,
and no one else compares,
‘cause you’re the one who’s always right
so you go on putting on airs.
The race card, the race card,
everybody likes to play the race card, the race card.
You are black;
you come in all hues and shades.
In the past, you’ve been held back;
in the past, you were the slaves.
In the past, you were the maids,
sabotaged in midnight raids.
And nothing’s changed for you…
So you think.
The race card, the race card,
everybody likes to play the race card, the race card.
Your skin is red; you discovered America.
Didn’t come over on a ship;
you walked over the great land bridge.
Never beaten with a whip,
you owned and farmed your land
with you own hands
and not labor from Africa.
Then Europe came and said, “Move over!”
“We want what you have, so move on!”
From the Rockies to the Great Lakes all the way to Dover,
north, south, east and west, you were tread upon.
The race card, the race card,
everybody likes to play the race card, the race card.
Everyone’s a slave
in one form or another.
After Pearl Harbor’s worst attack,
they called out all the Asians.
History repeats itself, never holds anything back,
Rounded them up; today it’s called profiling.
Your yellow skin and slanted eyes
would be the cause of your confinement.
The masses believed all the lies
Uncle Sam told as he dealt you the race card.
The race card, the race card,
everybody tries to play the race card, the race card.
Then there was Hitler and his great hate,
for of all the worst of evils,
his bone chilling hatred of his own people.
The darkness in his soul so sinister;
I’ve stood inside one of his incinerators.
One by one, the Jews faced slaughter;
no songs were sung under the church steeple,
no sermon preached by the minister…
Mother, father, husband, wife, son, and daughter;
they all went up in smoke.
The race card, the race card,
Everybody tries to play the race card, the race card.
Please don’t tell me I’m too young,
please don’t tell me I don’t know;
I’ve been on the bottom of the ladder,
hanging on to the last rung.
The race card, they dealt me with it too,
been too many places where nasty words flew.
My parents crossed racial lines and broke with taboo;
their love so strong, it grew and grew,
and one by one they had us,
oh we are quite the crew!
Then we get the biggest slap,
yeah, it still stings my face—
the family said to us, “You aren’t wanted, get away!”
They too played the race card,
with their own flesh and blood.
Racism sucks no matter its source.
When it flows from within,
a torrent a flood,
it comes with a terrible, destructive force.
You can get away from mean-spirited strangers;
you go home and shout, “Shut the front door!”
When racism bit
from the family who bore me ,
when they told me “You’re lower than a dirt worm,”
implying I haven’t many rights,
that’s when I packed up my bags;
I threw out the board game
and burned all of their cards.
I learned to travel light,
and I love all people, and treat ‘em the same.
I learned to pray, and that’s how I fight.
When I hear of racism,
One group smearing another
In endless battles of bitter words,
I appeal to the Captain of the Host
to bring out His angelic forces with all of their swords…
And that, my friend,
is how the battle is won.

I have published 2 books: 
As Clear as Claire Gets: A Conversation with the Past--my life story and how my faith brought me through terrible obstacles, and made me who I am today. 
Salsa! The Taste of Life--a collection of short stories and some poetry from the 3 continents I grew up on. 


Unknown said...

Love your post, Ava. And your poem touches me. I'm a Caucasian American who cries when the race card is used. I can't understand the hatred. The color white is a blend of all the colors! Everytime someone is hurt or put aside as being less because of their skin color, I feel a part of me hurt, a part of me shunned, too. And you know the vast majority of people feel like I do. Somehow is the haters that get the "air time".

It is wonderful that you believe in yourself and with your writing show that belief.

Anonymous said...

How lovely your mind works, Ava. It is not everyone who has come through adversity who can express such love and acceptance. Your beautiful poem reminded me of something my father used to always say to me when I was growing up in the Midwest, a place not very tolerate of diversity. He said, "everyone's heart and soul is the same color." His words inspired me to look for that inner quality in a person, not the color of their skin. Your beautiful words will inspire many to look at those they come in contact with in a different way. Thank you.