A Tale of Two Jennifers
by Jennifer Hernandez

We were born months & worlds apart
in the late sixties, J. Lo in the Bronx
of Puerto Rican parentage, and me
in Fargo, North Dakota, child of
Scandinavian Lutherans.

Because I was living in Mexico
at the time her star exploded
with the release of Selena,
we have an inextricable connection.

I couldn’t give my name
without a smile and a query,
Jennifer Lopez? My reply became,
¡Claro que sí! Never mind
my blue eyes and pale pink skin.
Hey — if they wanted me to be
J. Lu, then J. Lu I would be.

It’s true my alma Latina
is buried deep under
una exterior gringa.
But in those days
I could sing in Spanish
and shake my hips
hasta la mañana.

IMAGE: Poster from Selena starring Jennifer Lopez (1997).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was four years old, I told my parents that I wanted to be Mexican. I liked the sound of Spanish, and I really wanted long, dark hair. One of my proudest moments as an ESL teacher was the day one of my student’s mothers — who I had only talked to on the phone — met me in person for the first time and was surprised to discover that I was a gringa. I have no illusions. I am well aware that I am not Latina. But I do love raising my children in a bicultural family and working with students with many different language backgrounds, including Spanish.


Jennifer (Lundstrom) Hernandez
lives in the Minneapolis area, where she teaches middle school, wrangles three sons, and writes for her sanity. Her work has appeared recently in Mothers Always Write, Silver Birch Press, Talking Stick, and Visual Verse. She has performed her poetry at a non-profit garage, a bike shop filled with taxidermy, and in the kitchen for her children, who are probably her toughest audience.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me at the beach in Mazatlán during my J. Lu. days