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Erika L. Sánchez Headshot

The Value of Anger

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When I was a teenager, I was in a constant state of rage. Bad grammar, Republicans, poverty, the Catholic Church, my family, spandex pants, creeps, racism, my hometown, sexism, and rat tails were some of the triggers of my ire. But a lot of the time, I didn't even know why I was angry. If anyone even looked at me weird (and why wouldn't they with the kind of haircuts I had), I would turn into a miniature Mexican she-Hulk. I even developed a "bitch face" to ward off any perverts, which were plentiful in the lovely town of Cicero, Ill. The face translated to don't even think of looking in my direction, you creepy motherf*cker. (Unfortunately, this is now my default face when I'm around a bunch of men I don't know. Sorry, fellas.)

Many others fell victim to my teenage wrath -- an ex boyfriend got slapped and several other people got verbally accosted. When I was sixteen I got into a screaming match with an alderman handing out Republican propaganda outside of a polling location during a local election. When my parents came back outside, they had to break it up and pull me away. One time I yelled at a couple of police officers who were harassing a Mexican paletero until they took me away in handcuffs. I also took my rage out on myself -- drinking, drugs, and other typical teenage self-destruction. I was not an easy person to be around. I could hardly even stand myself.

The problem was not the anger itself, since I had the right to be angry about many things. The problem was that it wasn't focused. It just spewed out in all directions like puke from The Exorcist. Fifteen years later and I'm still pissed about a lot of the same things. (I'm looking at you, Republicans.) I've even added tomes and tomes to my previous list (i.e. trans fats, grown women who speak like babies, xenophobia, privileged white feminism, men who are not Mexican dads who wear mustaches, Steve Harvey, the Chicago Transit Authority, etc).

The difference is that I now know exactly what I'm pissed about and exactly I'm going to do about it. I no longer take my anger out on myself or undeserving people, or at least I try my best not to. And though sometimes I get so mad I want to flip a table over (I've fantasized about this for years -- the table would be covered with expensive drinks and rich and elaborate foods for the full effect), I'm actually happy with how my life is turning out. Now when I see or hear something racist, for example, my face gets hot and the fury bubbles up in my stomach, but instead of screaming or drop-kicking someone, I throw intellectual punches. When old white men tell us all what rape is and that pregnancies that result from rape are gifts from God, I become awash with rage. (My uterus has never been so offended.) Then after calming myself down, I wonder how I'm going to channel my anger into writing. I find nothing more satisfying than symbolically karate0chopping the fuck out of misogyny.

I'm a responsible adult with several jobs (I'm Mexican!) and can no longer be actin' a fool (I'm old!). I'm mature enough to take my feelings and cultivate them into something useful. (Thank you, psychotherapy!) I also find it incredibly rewarding to be able to connect with other people who have similar qualms. I've gotten so many messages from other Latinas who are grateful for my rants. (Some of my tirades even pay my bills!)

I feel a moral responsibility to be this way, especially now that I have a public platform. Call it foolishness. Call it recklessness. I don't even know. But I'm glad I'm pissed. I consider my anger a gift, because if I weren't angry, I would be complacent. I probably would have continued working at my soul-sucking corporate job and become the kind of person who spends her evenings watching The Real Housewives of Wherever-the-F*ck. I would lead a comfortable and innocuous life. Instead I spend all my time hunched over my computer like Quasimodo because I'm bonkers enough to think my words will make a difference.