Brain Waves: What I really hear when you call me ‘Spicy’

I throw a funeral for myself on four days of the year.

Four days of the year that have been edged onto the insides of my eyelids, so even when I close my eyes I cannot forget. I cannot unsee.

It has been 465 days since the first time I was raped, 406 since the second time, 176 since the third. And three since the fourth.

What’s strange is that the memories themselves are not what burn the most. Though the post-traumatic stress of reliving each time is an ongoing nightmare, there is something about them that pale in comparison to the collective trauma I feel.

Transgenerational trauma, as I have come to understand it, is the passing down of pain and collective struggle from generation to generation. Groups who have been systematically marginalized throughout history are most likely to be the carriers of this hurt.

In my case, my ancestors endured the pain of colonization, of Spanish extermination, of systemic genocide and enslavement. To be Latinx is to be the product of mestizaje, a system of racial mixing to oppress the masses through dehumanization, rather than having to wipe out entire indigenous populations in South America. In other words, to be a mestizo Latinx person is to be the direct product of systematic rape.

The legacy of this forced blending, this assault on indigeneity, lives on in subtle ways that Tulane’s predominantly white campus could never understand. The trope of the sexy Latinx femme person or the hot “Latin lover” are remnants of the way indigenous and mestizo Latinx people were viewed by Spanish conquistadors: sexual objects of conquest. Inhuman.

I feel a stab in my chest every time someone says “you’re so exotic” or “you’re so spicy.”

They will never understand.

Every time I hear it, I am reminded as to why I was seen as an object to be conquered.

This trauma of mestizaje is something I carry in my blood, and as though triggered by the violence my brown body has undergone, these memories that are not mine and this pain I cannot directly claim all came flooding to the forefront of my mind.

They mix with my own narrative until they are indiscernible and hang over my head like specters, following me 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And it feels like my soul is burning in agony every time I remember.

Mi alma duele.*

In typical Tulane fashion, I drink to cope with the pain and the memories. But the funny thing about the subconscious is the that even if you guzzle tequila, take shots of undistilled Mezcal like you’re immune to alcohol and blackout for six hours, your subconscious remembers.

And when I blackout, I’ve been known to scream. Scream an angry llanto** from the depths of my being, as though summoning the strength of my colonized ancestors will protect me from the pain.

I am screaming because I remember. I am screaming because racialized sexual assault and a legacy of colonialism built upon systematic rape cannot be erased by small shots of brown liquor or covered by Mardi Gras beads.

Dehumanized in more ways than one, my personhood stripped over centuries of colonization, my humanity stripped over a series of four nights, it feels as though I was born to be ripped apart.

Baptized in what feels like one hundred years of agony, I hold these tiny funerals in the hopes that I will be reborn from the ashes.

*My soul hurts


The writer of this article wishes to remain anonymous. They are a rising junior in the School of Liberal Arts and a member of The Hullabaloo. 

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