Search This Blog

Monday, May 31, 2010


I was pretty upset about the whole anti-immigrant sentiment going around these days. Until I talked to my father about it. He reminded me that things like this happen all the time; that once in a while, history repeats itself, and immigrants are the first targets of hate and discrimination because they are non-citizents, which means, he said, they are “como perros”—like dogs. But, I said angrily, dogs in the US have rights; immigrants don’t. But, he insisted, maybe this is a good thing. Hate has a tendency to wake people up. Maybe something will come of this. My father’s a Hegelian.
I don’t know if I agree with my father-the-immigrant. But maybe he has a point. Maybe racists and xenophobes give us an opportunity to grow. In one of his earliest pieces, Karl Marx, speaking of the complacency of his own people, says:

“The point is not to allow the Germans a moment of self-deceit or resignation. We must make the actual oppression even more oppressive by making them conscious of it, and the insult even more insulting by publicizing it…So as to give them courage, we must teach the people to be shocked by themselves.”
Maybe it was time, again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dignity and Other Requirements

My father’s life as a mojado was negated by the persistent migra who kept on sending him back. Once in Nuevo Leon, Guanajuato, he was just another Michoacano who had gotten caught. He wasn’t a mojado when he drove into town at 3 a.m., drunk and full of life, singing and yelling for my grandmother from the other end town. He was just her son, who’d come home. The migra’s negations had their limits. It would’ve been another matter completely had they kept him here, in prison, without a phone call, a Sunday visit, or his dignity.

He was caught for the last time in Greenfield, CA., in the fall of 1971. He was stuffed in a green van, with other luckless mojados who couldn’t outrun the dogs, and bused to Oakland. There, he was searched and stripped of all his belonging, except the $100 that they all carried in their wallet for just this occasion. The $100 was their ticket home—the migra allowed it, out of human kindness. He was thrown into a cargo plane with the rest, and they were flown to Nuevo Leon. They were escorted out of the airport and told to go home…wherever that was. He had to make the money go a long way, so he only bought what was necessary: a new pair of boots, a sombrero, a new shirt, a belt, a bottle of tequila, and a ride back to Acuitzeramo, some hours away. If he’d been beaten by the gringos, he wasn’t going to show it—and besides, he wasn’t beaten at all. He still got to make his elegant entrance back into town like a returning World Cup champion. Sure, there would be no parades and no banners, but his mother would know he was back and if anyone would be awakened by his singing at 3 in the morning, they would be impressed by his shiny new boots and the proud and elegant catrin wearing them. The next day, he'd start thinking about the trip back up North…in 6 to 8 months.

My Favorites