Posts Tagged ‘Chicano’

Alberto Gonzalofishe, former Attorney General (appointed by George W. Bush) depicted as a fish on a plaque, doodle © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

-Inspired by PRACTICE: Fish Out Of Water – 15mins

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Alberto Gonzales, I see his round face, some vato I might see at El Camino Restaurant on Fourth Street, eating huevos rancheros. There he might be happy, light, maybe even Democrat, but up on stage, the television reporters talking over each other to ask him questions, poor señor Gonzales was like the proverbial deer. I saw his fear.

I don’t like Alberto, was happy when he resigned, but I do recognize one thing. A fish out of water.

Now that he’s gone I can wonder what it was like working with the Bushes and Cheneys. The privileged white people who know names like “Alberto” and “José” and “Juan” from their gardening help. I can imagine how Bush might have pronounced Alberto’s name. The long Al, the Bear, and the Toe. Al-Bear-Toe.

Or maybe Bush was used to his share of Albertos from the ranch in Crawford. Maybe his best laborers were brothers named Jesús and Miguel, and their cousin Alberto, and maybe Bush could get by with broken Spanish. Hell, his brother married a brown girl, for God’s sake, we love ‘em like family.

But this isn’t Alberto or Dubya or Jeb. Although I do like saying “Jeb.” This is me, I’m a fish, flopping around on the ground. Do I grow feet, do I flounder, what are my experiences?

I married a white guy, we call them “Anglos,” and his politics are good. Strong democratic family, a good family. Kind and compassionate. My husband says when he grew up he wanted to be American Indian. He catches fish with his hands. He’s a fish out of water, too, my husband, and one of the ornaments we have for our Christmas tree is a black sheep his mother knitted for him.

I went to the Albuquerque Country Club for lunch last week. It was an event my mother-in-law invited me to, something she wanted me to do. It’s complicated. I love her, really love this woman. I wanted to be there, to put on my best face. I’m beyond high school resentments, those Cleff brothers who called it Vato High. I’m grown up, a grown woman with children, for God’s sake. Nothing is as glib as when seen through the broken heart of an 18-year-old.

There, in the white linen tablecloth world of brown people taking care of white people, the club members with names like Baca and Gonzales, they’re mainstreamed now. Do they look in the eye of the thin brown vato walking past on his way to pull weeds so the sidewalk is free of debris?

Fish out of water, I grow lungs and legs and my scales get light. I attended a Hispanic Leadership Conference hosted by my company. I told a VP that I appreciated his embracing his “chicanismo,” and the guy looked at me and said he embraces his “puertoricanismo.” Take that, brown chica grown up in a white world, at least I have my own people, we eat our eses and reject all of it, especially your stale Reyes Tijerina revolution.

So adaptable. Like Alberto. We conform. Speak with zero accent. Use big words. Go to banquets, my God, I can straighten my hair in the name of a banquet. Too bad he is a Republican, and a nasty one at that. I might have felt sorrier than I did the morning I heard the news, the fish finally died.


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Chicano Por Vida    Chicano Por Vida

I saw a home-made sticker on the back windshield of a car today. It said, Chicano Por Vida. Chicano For Life.

Well, yah, I thought, unless you use skin bleach or dye your hair blond and use blue contact lenses, you pretty much stay the way you were born for your entire life, qué no?

Pues, no. Not always. There are ways to lose your chicanismo. You could end up somewhere in Colorado where people pronounce the names of the towns like Buena Vista as Booney Vista, or Salida as Sa-LYE-da (Spanish pronunciation has the i sounding like a long e).

My sister who lives in Denver once told me she met a guy who introduced himself as So-and-so Mon-DRAgon — first syllable Rasta-style and the last part pronounced ala the fire-breathing variety. (In Spanish, emphasis is on the GON.)

I bet the Chicano Por Vida guy would never mispronounce his name. He probably doesn’t try to erase his accent so he sounds more like a news anchor than a vato from the barrio. I like that he’s made this proclamation. Chicano Por Vida, hombre. Embrace it. Love it.

I used to be ashamed of it. My parents moved us to a mostly white middle-class suburb/enclave inside a mostly working-class Chicano part of town. The kids in my neighborhood called our school Vato High — its real name was Valley High — and they called the Chicanos spics. I told my friends I was Italian. It took me until college before I reclaimed my brown self.

I can already tell my girls are trying to figure out what to think about their ethnicity. When Dee was five she came home from school wondering why her skin wasn’t pink. And this year when Em made a doll representing her heritage, she picked Jim’s Swedish roots instead of mine.

I just keep andando. We don’t speak Spanish at home, although I do make sure we roll the r’s in our burritos. And Em is in an afterschool Spanish class and picking up the language pretty well. I feed them the food I grew up on, and mostly I remind them that brown is beautiful.

Ya veremos. I figure if I live as Chicana Por Vida, they might choose to do the same.

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