Paul Rodriguez once said, “Racism is stupid, nobody chooses what color they’re going to be… some of us just get lucky.” While I can’t completely agree with this statement – by default, my race is human first – I must say that color brings a blank canvas to life… see Monet. Do you recall ever using the white crayon? Didn’t think so. I’m not sure if Paul was talking about simply being Mexican or Mexican on the northern side of the Rio Grande. Truth be told, Califas
is my home, therefore my cultural doctrine is of a northern blend… firme.
Up until about the age of twelve, I never thought about race. I never imagined a spot on the globe without Mexicanos
on it… I used to watch Univision
with my parents and ask, “Is Cuba in Mexico?” I thought all latinos were Mexican – just different shades from different regions… the dark ones from Oaxaca, the light ones from Guadalajara, and so on. In some form or another, we’re all from the same place – comparable barrios in Harlem and East of downtown L.A. are proof to that. I never thought a city could be completely white or black, actually completely one thing. I imagined every American city having a sweet concoction of pinto and black beans – with a side of rice, baklava for dessert and Bob Marley jambalaya representing the rest of my peoples – one love gumbo…
“I’m coming straight out Monte! Crazy mother fucker named Lucio, from the gang called…”
I moved to El Monte at the age of 13, while at the gates of adolescence and with a mentality jaded by a devastating divorce. What-me-worry? Negro please… Zapata
blood ain’t nuttin’ to fuck with. Mind you, my grandfather’s uncle fought with Pancho Villa
in northern Mexico during the early 1920’s – protecting campesinos
, raiding haciendas
, killing gabachos
and such…you know, the good ol’ days. While in grade school and living in the semi-burban city of Baldwin Park I used to visit El Monte almost every weekend – a large percentage of my family had migrated here - I never liked it though. I used to think, I’d hate to live here, everybody curses like a mug and has a bit of a gangster wit about them. Tupac was right, “…cuz everybody in L.A. got a little bit of thug in em.” I had enough sense to feel ill about shit like that – at the time my reality consisted of weekend baseball games, secret crushes, long bike rides on my BMX, wrestling moves on my little sisters and Nintendo. Life changes and this discomfort soon became my reality… all for the better – I can take that notion to the grave.
I mention the five mile transition because it was significant in the scope of establishing my identity as a Mexican baby/toddler/mocoso
/teen/so-called adult/hecho mendigo
living on the northern side of an imaginary border that millions cross in the hopes of a humane life for themselves and their offspring, only to end up in homeless shelters, battered tents in strawberry fields, prisons, and barrios amongst other places. El Monte’s as much of a centerpiece to the Mexican immigrant struggle as is East Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and Norcal agricultural towns… that’s why I feel lucky to be from such a place, to lay my head on a pillow in the 91732 zip code. Of course, there are the exceptions we call tio
tacos and coconuts (you know white on the inside, brown on the outside), that tread to other worlds known as Orange County, Brentwood, the Godforsaken Valley… anywhere North of the 210, West of the 5 freeway and South of the 91…but like I said they’re the exception. Que gacho.
One must think, but why have this perspective? We’re capitalists’ damnit, we’re supposed to progress. It’s simple… In Vanilla Sky like fashion, “Without the bitter, the sweet ain’t that sweet.” The social infrastructure of this state and country for that matter is not supported by the governmental/corporate ideology and is even more damaging through policy… those in power are the scariest, since dogs are only dangerous on your side of the fence. It’s not easy to accept the reality in which we live in when folks of color are marginalized, oppressed and neglected. Katrina anyone? Hence, “making it” is even harder when the odds are stacked against one since birth. Don’t believe me? Ask the son of a slave, ask Native American kin... Seriously, wouldn’t YOU like a head start at the beginning of every race? Colonization and capitalism have caused consciousness to regress from a human perspective… all European traits. “We didn’t land on Plymouth rock…,” and so on.
I wouldn’t trade the struggle of my peoples for a comfortable home in Suburbia USA, I wouldn’t trade the city view from Boyle Heights for a swimming pool, King Taco for Outback Steakhouse (white folks actually love this shit!), Don Francisco
for Johnny Carson, Legg Lake for a golf course, I wouldn’t trade the cultural richness of my Humbert Avenue apartment for the wealth of a shareholder, tamales
for meatloaf (good grief, meatloaf), tequila
for scotch, Chicanas named Fabiola for white girls named Kelly (oh my gosh!), brown skin for (insert anything here), rancheras
for country, J-Lo for Madonna… oh wait, um, I take that last one back.
If I had the conscious choice to shop around pre-birth at the mall-o-cultures, I’d do it over again… I’d drop in the same store and ask for the same suit, like a Batman re-run. Porque no ay nada mas rico y bello que ser Mexicano y de Califas; ser yo.
If you could only taste it...
I live in a world where cholos
are the new age bandits of the Mexican Revolution, where Frida Kahlos
hide in stucco homes near freeway off-ramps, donde
Saturday morning serenatas
are those of a cumbia
hymn, where laughter, love and a cold beer facilitate a well deserved pachanga
, where love escapes our breath by way of Chente
songs, where children find happiness within the walls of a pinata
. Where a Chicano strolls though the streets of his barrio and becomes overwhelmed in the deepest of appreciation by the beauty of his people, his culture, his reality… where inspiration takes flight through mental notes and a blog named after my stomping grounds.