Olha para sua tia – by Nia Hampton
Her baby was very white.
Her skin; a toasted caramel.
Nose and lips; wide.
Ears and knuckles; brown.
There was no question she was negra.
Mas seu filho era outra coisa
His hair was straight and blonde.
And aside from his inability to let his mother go,
he looked like the white child of an Argentinean.
“Olhar a sua tia.” She said.
The sunlight bounced off the river
and caused his eyes to squint as he blinked at me.
I waded in the water
for this white baby
to acknowledge me as something familiar.
Look at your aunt is what she told him to do.
I guess he didn’t see family in me.
His mother, just a few minutes before, upon discovering that I was from the States was surprised. You look Brazilian she said, orColombian. I agreed. My mother has hair like yours she told me in her Colombian Portuguese. I glanced at the tattoo on her left bicep. It was an outline of Africa. The sun was moving closer to the horizon and the river reached out gently. The water was cold and my body had no intention of getting used to it. We stood there staring at each other for a while. In the midst of a river full of naked white bodies, we were the darkest things there. Like two drops of ash in the pool of wax at the top of a candle. We were there together, yet from very different places, two black women of the Americas. One from the States, and seeking an escape from a dystopian reality. The other nomadic and Colombian. We stood there staring at each other for a while. Her white son grew tired of this exchange he screamed and splashed his feet. Smiling and jumping his mother’s attention was his again finally. “Do you live here?” I asked. “For now,” she said, her gaze back on her son as she began to breastfeed him. I didn’t understand. I wanted to be invited into her home, to be treated as the family that I looked like. This was only my first day in Capao, a small town in the mountainous region of Bahia, Brazil. And already I was tired of being the blackest person in sight. My host a Turkish woman and badass musician was sweet and accommodating, and so were all the European and Argentinean hippy friends she introduced me to. But I was growing tired of being “Mama Africa” to every dreadlocked pale skinned rasta I encountered. “We move a lot,” she explained. “Somos mochileiros.” Meaning they live out of their backpacks. They don’t own much, and they don’t owe either. They sell jewelry and maybe weed on the side of the road and go where they feel when they feel it. I looked at the crow’s’ feet around her almond shaped eyes. Her white son drank ravishingly from her brown breast. “How is Colombia?” I asked, my earnestness embarrassingly obvious. It had been a dream of mine to visit Colombia since learning of their large Afro Latino population years ago. “Colombia is like here…” she said. Her arms pointed off in the distance, implying Colombia was like Capao; Mountainous and cut off from modern society. I fixed my lips to ask another question but she screamed and pushed her son of her lap. He bit her again. “Nao mais nao!” she stood up and climbed out the river, her small white son crying and chasing after her. My eyes followed them all the way to the other side of the river. I watched them get dressed and prepare to leave. The sun was finishing it job for the day and leaving for it’s next shift on the other side of the world.
But me and her, we made eye contact.
We stood there staring at each other for a while.
She was holding her son again.
And then she pointed at me. “Olha para sua tia,”
I could read her lips saying.
Her white son with blonde hair looked at me and
finally, he waved.
Nia Hampton is a writer, filmmaker and West Baltimore Native. Her EBook, “Cicatrizes” is available for sale at niahampton.com where this submission was first published.
Photo Credit: Nia Hampton and Roadtobrazilsummer2016.wordpress.com