Brown Girl Missing

by Jessica Martinez

I was eleven when Elida Hernandez, from two blocks down,
disappeared. The only trace of her was a dropped bag
of tangerines from the Fiesta Mart.
Her mother clung to her fourth-grade picture
in front of the news camera—her toothy smile wide,
eyes shaped like almonds, the same as mine.
The reporter said there was an increase of crime
in our neighborhood, but didn’t mention
what Elida was wearing. She was forgotten in a week—replaced
with high school football playoffs.

In Juarez, Mexico, there is a row of pink crosses—one for every woman
who has been raped, tortured, then murdered.
Locals say Ciudad Juarez is the worst place
to be a woman. Once, I saw a mother being interviewed
on Univision whose daughter was found floating in a canal,
a large rock tied around her ankle to keep her submerged.
She wept and said her hija was a good girl who never
wore makeup or stayed out past sunset—but someone took her anyway.

Every man I’ve ever been with has called me an Aztec goddess,
spicy Latina, or Selena Quintanilla. I have heard Hey mami,
call me papi
ever since my curves came in—those curves that have been touched by eager hands, like colonizers raiding for gold.

It’s funny, one lover said, you’re brown but I’ve never heard
you speak Spanish.
He doesn’t mean funny like a cat playing
the piano, but funny like how twelve years later, the mayor tore
down the projects Elida grew up in and replaced them with luxury lofts,
and now the white people that moved in laugh whenever they try to order
tacos de barbacoa from the Fiesta Mart.


Jessica Martinez is a Retention Specialist and writing tutor at San Jacinto College, a freelance writer for the Houston Chronicle, and co-founder of the women’s online literary journal, CEO. Her work has appeared in Stephen F. Austin State University’s undergraduate journal, HUMID, and online at Digital Papercut and Sediments Literary-Arts Journal.

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