How I Felt When I First Heard "Build the Wall"

Small. I felt small. And, for a moment, powerless. 

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, I was taught to never feel that way. Hearing these words everything I had been taught since I was pequeña (small). I felt as if all eyes were on me and my friend, who is also Hispanic and stood by me while we took in what was happening in front of our eyes.

I am not Mexican, but I am Puerto Rican, and all my life I’ve known that all Latinos are homogenized into one group: Mexicans, as sad as it is. I felt targeted the moment two or three people started chanting and then hundreds of others followed. I had always read the phrase “Build the Wall” in posts on social media, but my ears hadn’t heard it before then. I’m not here to talk politics; I am here to publicly expose my feelings.

Hearing “Build the Wall” made me feel like I did not belong. I am an American resident who is striving for a better education in the U.S., much like other residents and nonresidents. Opportunities are all we look for; it is human nature. It is what the chanting group's ancestors were looking for when they arrived in the U.S., whenever they did. The U.S. is historically the land of immigrants since its beginning; ever since the Mayflower. Why must opportunity be neglected because of someone's background, color or ethnicity? 

The other day, I had a friend tell me one of her family members put an ad online that targeted Mexicans because he wanted to employ someone that was willing to do the hard work. Ads are being put up to this day where the exclusive work of Mexicans (Reminder: this might mean any Hispanic Spanish-speaking person, not just someone of Mexican descent) is solicited. The ad was reported and a new one was made in Spanish rather than English like the original one. 

If our work ethic is widely known to be spotless, as most of us have had to work harder than others to thrive, why is there a need to build a wall and bar us from a society that we only want to do good in? Why is our accent or color more noticed than our credentials and talents? These questions ran through my head as I tried to comprehend how hearing such a spiteful phrase could repress my thick skin. I guess we’ll see.

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