Isla del Continental USA by Darinelle Merced-Calderon



Darinelle Merced-Calderon is a third year undergraduate student at Columbia University studying Economics-Political Science with a concentration in Hispanic Studies. She grew up in Florida, but her family is from Puerto Rico. She works in the Latin American and Iberian Cultures department at her university, is an editor for Hoot Magazine, Columbia’s only fashion magazine, and a member of Delta Gamma.  

Soy Boricua pa’ que tú lo sepa’––pero soy de afuera and I grew up so christian that I don’t even
know how to salsa. Bailar bachata se me hace más fácil.

1, 2, 3, 4.

1, 2, 3, 4.

1, 2, 3, 4.

1, 2, 3, 4.

¿Ay Dio’, pol qué nací en la Florida?

Ayel lo único que quería era un mofongo de yuca. Pero eso aquí e’ difícil de encontrar. Lo único
que se encuentran son unos tostones má’ seco’––obviamente son aquello’ que vienen
congelao malca Goya.

Oh! Are you from Miamiiii?”

No! I lived down a dirt road in north *hyphen* central Florida. Ningún Ubel could get you there.  

Am I Puerto Rican enough?

Soy gringa?  

Would a gringa know THIS:

Preciosa te llaman las olas
del mar que te baña
Preciosa por ser un encanto
por ser un edén
Y tienes la noble hidalguía
de la madre españa
Y el fiero cantio del indio bravío
lo tienes también

Ever since I came to college in New York, I


                                                                                                                              wear a lot of black.
Como si mi espíritu estuviera en duelo. Quiza’ polque se me ha ido yendo el acento pueltorro.

Antes cuando decía scroll lo decía como squirrel. Scroll, squirrel, scroll, squirrel, scroll, squirrel

(say it quickly, until out of breath; heave in a breath that seems to be trying to escape you with
every attempt at pronouncing things *right*)

(catch your breath)

Se me enrredaban las palabras.

Now I can say: 

(in a didactic manner, hold your hands in the center of your chest and stand tall, rigid)

the scroll was brought home by the squirrel and it never left again.


In college, I learned about the isms, the post-esto y lo otro, the beep bop bap, social faux pas, the word problematic, and problematized every problem the isms, and the foe and the paw


brought up. Class discussions sometimes made me want to say: ¡fo pause!


And the buzz words people in class learned to use became annoying––as I saw them on t-shirts
and signs that read things like: “smash the patriarchy!”

Do they think their shirts do anything?

Díselo a mi madre a ver si ella te dice que la camisa que te pones para tu Instagram

(take a selfie where 80% of the photo is your face and 20% is the shirt) 

la ha ayudado.

Los otros días ella me comentó que quizás regrese a Puerto Rico permanentemente después de
que mi hermana se gradúe.

Ella me lo dijo con un taco en la garganta.

She’s been here for over 22 years.

Wonder what all those people who said to
“go back” to her “country” are thinking now.

First of all, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth so I
don’t know what they mean by “go back.”

My mom can’t speak English well, but her broken English is home to me, to my sisters.

The way she says fuckes and not fooo-cus.

The lack of harshness in her Rs. Her “through,” pronounced thr-u, with a rolling “R” that
cascades con gracia sobre el pequeño monte que forma su pronunciación de la “ough” anglo
sajona con la “U” de U-V. 

The way she can’t say the letter “V” without it sounding like the “B” of buzzing bees.

Her mistakes, their offense used for division.

Her Ms. Stakes, her shame.

Her Mizz. Steaks, my refuge.

People think her English indicates stupidity or laziness.

Well…I didn’t know languages
could determine your IQ. 

Pero, dime, por qué la gente usa el francés para sentirse más bourgeoise (boo-shoh-oh-ah)…intel-
llll-eck-shoo-ahl y usan el español para añadir spice, fiery atti-toood.

I’m a sagittarius, but what does the fire of my zodiac have to do with my language?

For many years I equated the fire of my
Spanish with the fire of cat callers’ desires.

¿oye mami, cómo tú ‘ta?

(shudder and walk away quickly)

[The feeling of wanting to unzip the skin you wear because it has been tainted by
unwelcome words and a taunting lustful look is inexpressible]

But…I also equated it with the fire in my family’s te amos––te amos that I felt even with a sea in
between us.

A pesar de la poca señal, especialmente después de Maria, sus te amos corrían por las olas del
Caribe y no paraban hasta llegar a mis oidos––o por un mensaje en WhatsApp.

These te amos gave me the courage to talk about my family in class: “En Puerto Rico, mi familia…”

Later, a classmate told me they hadn’t been able to tell I was Puerto Rican by the way I spoke

And another told me they couldn’t tell I was Puerto Rican by the way I looked, by the way I
spoke English.

O say does that star spangled
banner yet wave.        

Is the Caribbean in Latin America?

¿Y cómo sería yo si hablara Taíno?

A noble savage––an even bigger
token for the Office of Diversity.


I am the site of their performance.
A stage for their white guilt to dance.
A blank wall for them to project their images.
My mouth speaks their language.
I am a cave filled with their echoes;
in English
y en español. 

What do I talk like?
What do I look like?


Isla del Continental USA. Borinquen.
Preciosa te llaman the home of the brave.

(catch your breath)

(no dejes que el taco en tu garganta se te escape)

The Acentos Review 2019