East Fork:

A Journal of the Arts​​

Ellie De la Cruz

To be Spanish

To be Spanish, and in secret, thank destiny
That you have light skin, green eyes at a job interview.
To be Spanish is to stride confidently into the room
As you’ve practiced numerous times the night before
Hiding your accent, slowing down your tongue
You’ve got this

To be Spanish is to say You’ve got this
But not really believe it.
To be Spanish is to explain to your future
Employer how to say your first name, your middle,
And your two-last names, which don’t fit in the little space
They gave you on the application. You only use
Your first name and first-last name, for simplicity, you
Tell yourself.

To be Spanish is to get the job (you knew you would)
Because you’ve practiced, you’ve practiced.
But you don’t really want the job now.

We’re glad to have you
Your boss tells you, and you smile to look
To be Spanish is to thank people, constantly,
You’re always in debt.
You must say: excuse me or pardon me or no,
that’s not how you say my name.

To be Spanish is to tell them
What you’re going to tell them
Again and again because they didn’t follow.

A voice in your head
Tells you You need to practice,
You need to listen more, be like them,
Speak like them. Practice.

To be Spanish is to wonder.
Wonder why you have practice.
Wonder why you’re listening.
Wonder why you’re following
Wonder why you won’t lead.
Wonder why you won’t speak.
Wonder why, and why again.
Why so little?
Why so quiet?

Why so Spanish?


Remember the whole recipe
I say to myself as I inspect
My name.
Cutting ends, slicing thin, and discarding
The extra pieces.
Ok, Ellie De la Cruz sounds fine.
But not online while
Filling out job applications.

You have to take the spaces out,
The website tells me,
No, we don’t care if your name’s not right,
You have to take the spaces out,
We won’t accept it otherwise.

I type in Ellie DelaCruz and now
The butchering begins.
The websites says:
Yes, yes, we like that best.
I hit submit, and hope they call me later.

I’ve gone home many times,
Grabbed the cutting board and sharpest knife.
First to scrub, then scrape, slice, and chop
This name that holds me back from
Call backs from jobs
I know I’m qualified for.

I’ve readjusted myself before
Anyone else could,
I’ve hid, scraped out my name
And with it, too, my accent.
I’ve hid behind my green eyes,
And colored my hair lighter,
In order to look American.
Because it matters. It matters.

My friends and I,
We share the same four-name problem,
I often think: Which one should I pick?
We’re called on this by questioning eyes,
Insecure eyes,
Annoyed eyes.

Where are you from?
Oh, where is that?
I’ve never heard of it.

But that’s not what they meant to say.
Instead, their eyes whisper:
Irrelevant. Yes, you.
You are irrelevant.
We’ve been dismissed, my friends and I.
We hold no place here or anywhere.

My name never fits on the little boxes
On the screen, or spaces for the job application.
It doesn’t even rhyme.
Isaidy Elizbeth De la Cruz Paulino
What kind of name is that?

I’ve adopted Ellie,
Abuela always called me Eli,
But if I type or write Eli, which sounds more
Like e-Lie, a voice inside mocks the
Desperate attempts I make for
This country to open its’ arms,
Reach out with a smile,
And give me a little bit of room inside.