Aurora Levins Morales, the author of the poem Child of the Americas, was born of Puerto Rican mother and a Jewish father in Indiera, Puerto Rico. She later relocated to the United States: New Hampshire and Chicago.
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Currently, she hails from San Francisco alongside her family. In Child of Americas, she draws tremendously from her diverse cultural identities to address the need for an integrated culture among the Americans by advocating that all Americans, including herself, come from different and mixed-up cultural identities, which while assimilated together, make up a single culture.
This single culture is identifiable as American culture. She, therefore, considers herself as a child of the Americans rather than just Puerto Rican. Based on a detailed interpretation of her works, the inference that the majority of her writings including the Poem Child of the Americas borrow significantly from her childhood memoirs and racial identities holds.
Interpretation of the Poem
People possessing mixed identities always struggle to establish their real cultural identity. The struggle is even worse in the world, which does not create equal acceptance of millions of people belonging to a myriad of races, nations or varying cultural backgrounds. Aurora is perhaps one of such people. In the poem Child of the Americas, Aurora uses “child of America’ as a sign to explain her exposure to the American culture.
She ends up being part of it. She voices out how others tag them the name ‘US Puerto Rican Jews’: Something that makes them whole. History immensely contributes to what she is. She learned to speak Spanglish as her first language. Although it was not their choice to be what they are, other people have stereotyped them as not part of the American culture by their race. However, they are, in the real sense.
The author emphasizes the problem of ethnicity that has persisted amongst some of the American people, even to date. She claims in the poem that she is “Caribena Island grown. Spanish in my flesh ripples from my tongue, lodges in my hip” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, p.1108).
Ripples and lodges act as symbols that emphasize on her physical bodily appearance. Racial differentiation bases itself on physical features such as the shape of the face, skin color, and eye color amongst others. Some of these features happen to encompass the reason as to why the author comments, “I speak from that body” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, p.1108).
This means that she has no absolute ability to control her physical appearance. All she can do is to appreciate the way she looks, as “…rooted in the history of my continent” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, p.1108). It is not by coincidence that the author mentions the problem of ethnicity. This problem has existed in America for a long time to the level of according lesser rights to some races, for instance, the blacks, to the whites.
To the whites, the blacks are more of slaves subjected to follow the authority from their masters: whites. She bears some stereotypical associations of her race to ghettos or instead areas of living standards by saying that “I am a US Puerto Rican Jew, a product of the ghettos of New York I have never known” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, pp.1107).
The phrase, “am not an African Africa is in me” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, pp.1108) recognizes the fact that, although the Africans went to America as slaves, with the immense struggles and contributions of envisioned people, the Native Americans appreciated their rights. As a result, the legally African emigrants qualified as Americans. Although they have since then changed the better part of their culture, Africa remains at the bottom of their hearts since they always have something in common to associate with Africa.
In her poem, Child of the Americas, Aurora says that she is a crossroad of many Diasporas. The word Diaspora refers to a wide range scattering, typically applied to mean displacement of Jews from Israel to Babylon in 16th-century B.CE. In this context, she uses the word Diaspora to say that she comes from people who have widely spread out.
She further adds that she is neither an African nor Latino. She is thus a child of mixed identities: a fact used in the definition of her poem: Child of Americas. To her and her mother, cultural diversity does not amount to anything about which one should worry so much. This source of power makes her universal, as a home can exist in any place.
Aurora says in her poem that she is “an immigrant…the daughter, and granddaughter of immigrants” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, p.1108). She has also learned to speak English unconsciously. She uses it to express herself on daily routines. Since language is part of people’s culture, she attempts to argue based on how she has all rights for consideration, as part of an American culture irrespective of her decedent’s cultural background and or race.
She sees the fact that she is an immigrant or a decedent of immigrants as an identity that makes her an American. This premise tends to hold for all Americans, apart from the natives. America is what it is today due to the presence of immigrants since it is from these immigrants that the founding fathers of America came. America is a hot pot of cultural diversities. Therefore, Aurora seeks to highlight the cultural and racial diversities in her poem.
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The metaphor, “I am not African, Africa is in me….Spanish is my flesh, am not European; Europe lives in me” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, p.1108) gives indirect evidence that the American culture is a product of many cultures. Europeans formed the first wave to arrive in
America in search of freedom for worship, oppression, economic and other critical opportunities that they perceived as difficult when it came to securing ample access back in Europe. The phrase, “Spanish is my flesh” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, p.1108), acknowledges the fact that American and Spanish people intermingled sharing essential elements of their cultures including food, traditions, and religion. Therefore, even the Latin’s who are immensely proud of their roots are also equally included among the American community.
She further asserts in the poem that “I was born in the crossroads and I am whole” (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2008, p.1108). This emphasis that she is a child of crossroads further amplifies her belief that there exists no typical or rather a standard American figure, as every American is a byproduct of a melting pot of cultural diversities. American culture is, therefore, a mixture of diverse cultural heritages and influences.
Upon selecting a person coupled randomly with tracking down of his or her history, it becomes evident that his or her first association with America does not exist. The bottom line is that every person in America today was born at a crossroad. This fact is what makes America whole and united the way it is today. The awareness of the existence of cultural diversities among Americans makes American people Americans.
Scrutiny of the poem calls upon the reader to deploy imagination, as a stylistic device for interpreting it in his/her endeavor to unveil its meaning. As discussed in the paper, the author presents her message in the form of symbols. Otherwise, poetry fanatic can declare Aurora’s poem an informative piece of masterwork.
Barnet, S., Burto, W., Cain, W. (2008). Literature for Composition: Essays, Fiction, Poetry, And Drama, (9th Ed): Aurora Levins Morales: Child of the Americas. Harlow: Longman Publishers.