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Open letter to the white tourist who asked me for cocaine

This is an open letter to the white tourist who asked me for cocaine:

I have to walk across the street when I see a female at night walking during the evening: “No, I’m not a rapist, I’m just traveling home from a late night at work.”

I have stayed away and not stared at a white couple parking their car: “No, I’m not planning to break into your car — I need to print my photos at this Fred Meyer.”

With this face ... too many episodes to tell. Too many.

With this face, I have expressed fear; I have a Bible and a small folder waiting as I’m prepared to show my license and registration: “No, officer. For the 13th time, I’m not drunk, and yes you can search my trunk again.”

“El que nada debe nada teme”: He who owes nothing, fears nothing.

If one day after a long day of work I want to have a beer and contemplate the beautiful City of Roses from a balcony, I have to be prepared to say to some tourist: “Sorry, I do not sell drugs.”

Since I was 10, I have earned every single penny working alongside my family/community with our bare hands, and I have seen my family members die close to the fields where they planted, sowed, nurtured and gave life to beautiful roses, trees and flowers.

I was born with this face that has been repeatedly demonized by the media and charged with crimes against humanity. With this face, I have held the hands of my relatives when they fell ill. With this face, I have said “I love you.” I have kissed my love goodbye, I have smiled at strangers and I have mourned the death of time as a stranger in my own city.

Yet this is home for me, too.

With this face I have said I’m sorry and I have expressed the shame of my sorrows in apologies. With this face, I have presented a sincere and kind gesture of friendship.

With this face I have smiled, cried, laughed ... and yes, sometimes I have expressed signs of anger and irritation — when I get stuck in traffic for three hours on Highway 26, for example. Or when the Seahawks lost the championship in the last 30 seconds.

Please, next time you see me walking in the public domain, say “Hi! Hola!”

I have too many stories to share; I’m sure you do too. I yearn for a day when I can finish my Ph.D., for example.

What’s your story? How’s the weather? What’s your favorite team?

I’m not a beautiful beast, or a distant immigrant, or the unknown predator. I’m the reflection of your neighbor. I’m the tender sign of kindness and reciprocal respect.

I’m humanity.

You see, I was raised with the lesson that we should take care of others before ourselves. That’s why we sacrifice everything to feel restful, happy and peaceful when we see the little ones thriving. Our brown skin is marked with scars of poverty, violence, pain, agony, torture and exile. We know harmony is better because it’s stronger than division.

In this face, you will find a pair of eyes closed, praying in English, Spanish or Mixtec for health, safety and inner peace for my family, for my neighbors, for you, for me.

Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas lives in Beaverton, works in Hillsboro as a STEAM educator/researcher for the Oregon State University Extension Service and “prays and plays” in Cornelius and Forest Grove.