Raul Sanchez

Growing Up in America



the classroom full of kids

with different colored skins

learning the difference 

between a noun and a pronoun?

Remember how innocently

everybody used to play—

together:: in the schoolyard?




how you shared your lunch 

and others shared theirs with you?

Different flavors, different tongues.

Now you are in high school—

in a different classroom 

different faces

same colored skins




how it didn’t matter 

where you came from? 

the sound of your voice—

and your indigenous features 

were not

a subject of repugnant 

scrutiny and criticism?




from others the “differences” 

between races 

why one ethnic group 

doesn’t get along with others. 

Notice that same color kids::

hang together—

like worms in compost… 




ostracized due to your skin color

your name, your features 

your other language.

How does that feel?

You—get pushed—

to the end of the line 

your hair pulled by others


They say:


“you are a greaserand a wet back

your dad washes dishes 

at a Mezkin restaurant 

and your mother

cleans toilets at juvie hall”

they mock you—

playing your violin


They tell you,


“go back!

where you came from  

don’t speak your 


speak English!” 

There is no class

in the classroom. 




class divisions 

ignorance, prejudice 

based on racial differences.

Red man, Yellow man 

Black, Brown, White ones too—

what happened to the innocence 

of the early years?




learns the poisoned language 

of snakes.

They use nouns

pronouns and verbs to hurt others 

with their serpent tongues 

bifurcated contaminated

diseased approach to the culture of hate


Growing up in America  


 Clave’s rhytm takes me inward in unison 

con la sangre Taino blood.

I feel the hot sun kissing my skin 

while Atlantic ocean waves kiss Borinquen’sfeet


“La Isla del Encato” La Pachangabegins up on 

CañaboncitoHills el ritmo de plena me sigue con Cuatro, 

Pandero, Conga y Guiro pa’ Ponce, Mayaguez y Bayamón, 

a Caguas, Vega Alta y Vega Baja también voy.


Palm trees sway with Salsa rhythm Tito Puente’s

timbales beat echo from San Juan to Nueva York. 

Tonight I’m gonna’ play Conga y Quinto like Ray Barretto

‘Mano Dura’did back in the hey days of Ritmo y Sabor!


I will read Victor Hernández Cruz while

sipping café en pocillo in Old San Juan.  

Cobblestone streets playing dominos

while I think of Martín Espada pregonando 


en La Calle San Sebastián:

Alabanza! para ellos

Alabanza! para Puerto Rico

Alabanza! para Borinquen 


A ritmo de Bomba me voy pa’ Carolina

where Roberto Clemente was born. 

Desde el Yunque mi Coquí canta happy midnight songs 

serenade my tropical dreams.


Look who’s coming down Calle Luna Calle Sol

El Cantante de los Cantantes; Hector La Voe 

and Willie Colón playing his trombone!

Mi chinawaits for me at the Colmado con la fruta


guindandonear Parada veintidós where we had lunch para dos

Ropa Viejay Mofongo de Concha

con un palito de Ron Barrilito 

pol favol, Señol Ay Bendito!


Up in the Morro’s tallest tower my flag waving, 

blessing mi tierra santa, tierra pura 

que con toda su hermosura 

has given me infinite pleasure—


En Bellas Artes El Jíbaro Andrés Jiménez

cantando a Los Boricuas Ausentes:

“Viva mi Bandera, Viva mi Nación

Vivan los Boricuas que son Boricuas de Corazón”