AND SO BEGINS “HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH.” As I said to an amiga on Twitter esta mañana, I better post on it or they will come and take my name away. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to feel for a month. I celebrate Latino Heritage Month every month. I celebrate mi Mexicanidad every day, tu sabes? Hell yeah! So what of this month? This month that includes “Columbus Day” of all things? This 15th to 15th “month” that derives its name from the Nixon Administration’s labeling of “Hispanic”? No se.
Mi abuelo was a campesino who worked the fields and died doing so, felled by diabetes (which runs in the bloodline of many Mexicans). He and mi abuelita (fist up for Lucha Quintana!) worked the fields and my bloodline runs all across the borders, like a river of time and a nature-bestowed rite of passage. Mi familia’s sweat and blood runs through the crisp veins of your lettuce, through the meat of your tomatoes, shines bright in the gem-heart of your grapes; our music and tears and laughter are in the hot wind, and our quiet and joyful connection with el mundo, con la tierra, pools in the cool waters for thousands of years here.
Today, mi familia is in politics, has made art that stands in Califas to New York, has written books in your library and book store, teach in schools some of your children attend, has made history, and are passionate bloguer@s to be found online. Mi familia sees our name on signs and rivers and stone and buildings and it is in a language that was spoken here ever since the King and Queen’s minions acted on dreams of felling Indians.
Soy Indio y Euro, soy mestizo, soy Latino. I am the conqueror and the conquered, I am the field and the worker and the hungry consumer; I am all these things, but my heritage is and will always be la lucha. And that is why I am here many days. For mi gente are still in the fields. It is not a thing of the past. I do not work the fields, though I spent over a decade working labor, on roofs, in the soil, in factories, and with a hammer. I have since gone to pricey schools (that are crushing me with debt) and am grateful that I live a pretty comfortable life in that I make art for a living. Not comfortable financially. But I owe this comfort to mi familia and their sweat and their sueños, all of them. It is on their shoulders I stand. The border hoppers, the ship stowaways, the dreamers, the do-ers. We came here looking for autonomy, looking for sustenance, wanting to live free and have pride in who we are.
And I do. And we do.
Understand: my heritage includes those who are still not free, who are still being exploited, still sweating from dawn to dusk, invisible to many and under the yoke of the conqueror who makes the laws still, makes the rules still, sucks up the labor and sweat and monies of weakened and long-exploited populations to build her empire higher.
And I now live in the empire.
But don’t you think for un momento that I do not, también, live in the fields, in the slaughterhouse, in the factories, in the desert. This is my heritage, and there is no looking away. La lucha continua. Until there is justice for all.