Later, when we live in Fairfield County, Connecticut (audience laughter) one of my sixth-grade classmates: My dad says there’s a civil
war in Guatemala. No there’s not! Just cuz there’s curfews and the occasional car bomb, it’s not–
there’s no war on! Yeah there is! My dad says there is, and if you don’t know about it, you’re probably on the wrong side! At home I tell my mom. You didn’t tell him there’s no war on…you–
you didn’t. Turns out there’s a war on and it’s one of the reasons we left Guatemala,
but nobody tells me until the sixth grade! My parents never say
anything about it! Maybe they’re shielding me? And the war is in the
highlands and my family’s in the capital. My dad tells me: Yes. Before I worked for
Xerox, I worked in your grandfather’s thermos factory, where every day the army truck would drive by to “recruit” — kidnap — new soldiers. Your mother would tell me and I’d tell the glassblowers “¡Agachense!” And every time the truck rounded the corner and
out of sight, the men would take off in ones and twos across the cornfields and
disappear to make the four-hour walk home. Yes, Lisa. There is a war on. And genocide. Oh. How can I say I’m Guatemalan when I
haven’t even known about this? And who– who am I to complain when people misidentify me ethnically and nationally, which they do all the time, when I’ve
been identifying as something I don’t know the most important stuff about?
I wish my parents had told me sooner because it makes me feel like I’ve been
playing make-believe without knowing I was playing it. And I know from experience that coming back to the States is hard.