I find myself in Central America once again with my husband visiting family and friends. Right now we are in Nicaragua and I love this place more and more each time I come. When we walk down the street to his grandmother’s house and see familiar spots, it feels like home. I remember the first time that he brought me home to his family. I’m certain everyone was shocked that he brought home a gringuita. They were all (mostly) on their best behavior. They gave me pan and offered me gaseosa. They like to pretend I am the same, but we all know that I am not.
I almost forgot what it’s like to be different. I almost forgot what it’s like to try to do your business with a cockroach (or five) staring at you. I almost forgot what it’s like to be the only one who uses toilet paper instead of regular paper from a notebook. I almost forgot what it’s like to be the gringuita. My mind romanticized it the more time that I spent away from this beautiful place.
They forget that I have lived like they do. They forget that I eat what they eat. They forget that I love like they love.
Sometimes it’s hard being the gringuita. For those of you that don’t know, “gringa” is not a negative term in the countries in Central America where I have lived. It means someone from the United States of America. It’s not derogatory in any way, but it’s hard to hear, because I grew up thinking it was, or rather knowing it was in some places. It’s a term I have embraced, especially with the “ita” on the end, because that’s who I am here. I’m defined as that. I’ve had no choice but to embrace it.
I find people staring at me everywhere I go. I dress according to the customs. I speak Spanish and even use the local terms. You can still spot me a mile away because my skin is white. It seems to glow. Especially when I’m in a small town like this one, everyone wonders what the gringuita could possibly be doing here. This is not a tourist lugar. It’s a community ofhard-working families striving to make it through another day.
I almost forgot that my husband suffers for it too. I’m sure in some ways he’s forgotten what it’s like to be married to the gringuita in a country like this. His union with me automatically sets him apart. People assume he’s different, but I assure you he’s not. He knows where he came from and could easily go back if he needed to.
Most of the things that I almost forgot were feelings. I didn’t forget the way of life. I didn’t forget the facts. I didn’t forget Nicaragua.