Cambodian

Are you Cambodian.

********Yes… I mean I think so… It’s complicated…

So, were you born in Cambodia then?

********No. I was born in Montreal, Quebec.

Have you ever even been to Cambodia?

********No.

Then how can you consider yourself Cambodian?

********I didn’t always… But it is part of my heritage. My Mom was born in Spain. My
********Dad, in Portugal. They immigrated to Canada in the 60s. I’m Spanish and
********Portuguese. I have a Portuguese passport even. That is my heritage.

********I was born in Canada. I’m Canadian. That is my heritage.

********But I consider myself Cambodian now, too. Yes, that is my heritage.

How do you mean?

********My ancestors were Cambodian. I mean, I physically look Asian. My blood. It’s
********Khmer. Cambodian.

********I didn’t know until recently that there’s a word for this kind of thing.

********It’s called transracial adoption.

********According to Wikipedia, it refers to the act of placing a child of one racial or
********ethnic group with adoptive parents of another racial or ethnic group.

Most folks think you’re Filipino. Remember when someone put you on a Twitter-thread for Filipino writers?

********Yes, I guess I was honoured to be put on a list. Of course, I had to step in and tell
********everyone I’m not Filipino.

It’s the last name. Santos throws them off. SANTOS. It’s Portuguese, right?

********In my case it is. It comes from my father’s side. It is a common name in Portugal,
********Spain, Italy, and the Philippines.

Do you pronounce it SANTOSH?

********I prefer it pronounced like this: SAN-TOS. You pronounce the last part TOAST but
******** without the T at the end. SAN-TOAS(T).

********That’s how we’ve always pronounced it at home.

Honestly, this is confusing…

********One of my friend’s girlfriend is of Cambodian descent and when we first met,
********she told me I look like her father.

How did that make you feel.

********Good, actually! Being told I looked Cambodian was validating.

It’s like you are some kind of cultural mosaic or something…

 

***

Greg Santos is the author of Blackbirds (Eyewear, 2018), Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014) and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He regularly works with at-risk communities and teaches at Montreal’s Thomas More Institute. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche.

 

 

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