The Women in Color series highlights creative work done by women of color in the arts through interviews as well as personal and craft essays.
On definitions: In this series, the phrase ‘women of color’ is used to define any one person who 1. identifies as female and 2. considers themselves of Asian/Pacific Islander, Arab/Middle-Eastern, Black/African American/Caribbean/West Indies, Native/Indigenous, and Hispanic/Latin descent.
I think I love the word “screenwriter”. The actual word — flat and full of consonants.
It doesn’t roll off the tongue, sure, but “screenwriter”, is exactly what it says it is: a writer, for screens. And in this confused, postmodern world, riddled with outdated and misappropriated yet unquestioned descriptors, I am thankful for the stupid easy accuracy of my vocational identifier: “screenwriter”.
Compare “screenwriter” to its other elegant writer cousins like “novelist”, for example, which identifies an array of professionals who writes novels, named as such because at some point novels were novel, but so was was everything when it first began. The word “novel” has little to no business describing the rich and varied professional life of the modern novelists. But, ah, the romance! There is a collective soul in each vocation that trickles down from the greats who fall under that umbrella to all those whose business cards and Twitter bios label them as such today, hundreds of years later.
Sadly, you don’t get that kind of romance as a screenwriter. I am not “a writer”. I am a screenwriter. Screenwriting is maybe eighty years old and, let’s be real, a screenplay is mostly an instruction manual for some white guy with deep pockets to “pick up” and have his way with. (Someone once told me “prostitute” was the oldest profession in the world. That’s a lie by the way in case you heard it, too.) Yes, while stage plays are “interpreted”, screenplays get “remakes”, and “sequels”. Even still, I am a screenwriter! A screenplay writer! A writer for screens! Even if you accessed that screen from your iPhone and on the toilet. Who needs vocational legacy when you have accessibility. Am I right?
Sometimes people introduce me like this: “Have you met Ximena? She’s a writer!” Which is fine at a film festival or similar industry event, but if I’m at the Irish pub or Taco Tuesday you’ll surely hear me interject, “Well, um, actually, I’m a screenwriter.” You know, for clarity. Someone recently called me a “content creator”. I still don’t know what that is. I lost their business card, and that’s okay.
I think I hate the word “Spanish”. The actual word Spanish — with it’s sexy “ish” at the end, reserved for only the most exotic of peoples: the Polish, the Swedish, the Danish.
And it rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? But I’m not sure it is what it says it is: A person who is from Spain? A language spoken by people who are from or were colonized by Spain? A person who speaks Spanish? I’m confused. In this postmodern world, riddled with outdated and misappropriated yet unquestioned descriptors, I am fairly certain of the rampant difficulty that stems from broadly using one of my ethnic, cultural, and linguistic identifiers: “Spanish”.
Compare “Spanish” to some of its more elegant European cousins, like “English”, for example, which identifies an array of people from the island of England, some of whom don’t even speak English. The adjective “English” is in the business of describing where a person is from and the rich and varied traditions of those English women and men. Yet, Americans, who are not English, but who speak the English language, are not identified as being English simply because they speak it. Ah, the logic! There is no collective English soul flowing through them like tea in the Boston Harbor, and so they don’t label themselves as such either, hundreds of years later.
Sadly, you don’t get that logic as a non-Spanish, Spanish speaker. I am not “Spanish”. I am Latina. The Spanish language is many centuries old, and let’s be real, was pretty much just a way for old white guys to have their way. (Someone once told me Spain is full of old white guys. That’s true by the way if you heard it, too.) Yes, while Americans get to build an identity separate from the British, Latinos get grouped in with the Europeans who colonized them. Even still, I am Latina! Latin American! Latin-American! (Can a hyphen make a sound?) Even if I hold citizenship from Spain because my father was born there. Am I right? Sometimes people introduce me like this: “Have you met Ximena? She’s Spanish!” Which is fine if I’m in France, or Portugal, or nearby European country, since technically I am a Spanish citizen. But when I’m at a Brooklyn microbrewery or a Miami bakery you will surely hear me interject, “Well, um, my father is from Spain, but I was born in Peru, and raised in the states.” You know, for clarity. Someone recently asked me if I was Spanish. Asked. I gave them my last business card, and that’s totally okay.
XIMENA ALIAGUILLA talks and writes about and for narrative visual mediums. She was born in Peru and raised in Miami where she graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in Motion Pictures (BA, ’09). She also received her Masters from the Cinema and Media Studies department at CUNY College of Staten Island (MA, ’14). Most recently she wrote, directed, produced and starred in the comedy web series “Miami XL”, produces and hosts a retrospective television podcast called “The Best Show You Never Saw”, and is on the third draft of a feature-length screenplay that’s probably finished, but she refuses to believe it.