MADRID, New Mexico, June 29 - Guardian columnist Baltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr., has penned a poem titled "I am the Mexican."
Here it is:
I am the Mexican
I am the intellectual native who could predict solar eclipses, knew the concept of zero and yet, made sacrifice of other Indios to appease the gods of the Sun and Thunder.
Here, in the New World, I waited for the prophesies of the coming of new gods. They came to conquer, to convert, to pillage and destroy and change my history's course.
My bloodline precedes the arrival of the Spaniard, los padres Catolicos, the treasure hungry conquistadores, the slave traders, the purveyors of epidemics and the Gabachos who crossed the Sabine Rive to fulfill their Manifest Destiny.
I am the Mexican whose memories of Nuevo Santander, Arizona, Tejas, Nuevo Mexico, Colorado, California and Nevada are burrowed deep into the earth along with the blood and bones of my ancestors/ancianos in the sand of the Sonoran and the Chihuahua desert. Some parts of me still wander through the Sangre de Cristo, Sandia and Rocky Mountains calling out the name of Joaquin.
I am the Mexican whose dried bones and DNA lies in unmarked graves and scattered throughout the Sonoran and Chihuahua Desert and the brush land of the countless miles of south Texas. I guess that I will meet San Pedro without a name or memory to identify me. Such was my life and now my death, forever more.
I am the Mexican who was left behind in 1848 when the Gringos purchased the southwest from Mexico at a bargain price of $15 million and a promise of enfranchisement and citizenship for my ancestors who never knew that were now strangers in their own land. I am still waiting for a return on that investment.
I am the Mexican who was deprived of the land that was deeded by the Viceroys that had conquered my Indio half and created me, a half-breed, a Mestizo.
I am the Mexican who was lost in transition after the Battle of San Jacinto as I now occupy the Third Space between Mexico and the USA. Yes, I am the same Mejicano that was chased by Los Pinche Rinches and lynched to appease the wanton needs of the Gringos for my land along the south Texas Borderlands.
Oye Cisco pasa la botalla, por favor.
I speak the language of both Mexico and the United States yet is not fully accepted by either. My accent has been the fodder of stand up comics such as Jose Jimenez.
In Mexico I am a pocho and in Norte America I have been a Greaser, a Beaner, the Frito Bandito, Cisco, Nacho y Pancho or sometimes "Oye Muchacho" when the Gringo wants my attention, "More tortilla chips and salsa and another cerveza."
I am the Mexican whose food has been marginalized and given strange names by the likes of Taco Bell and Jack in the Box. Whatever is a Wrap?
I am the Mexican who works daily doing the heavy lifting and hard work that the racist, paranoid and bigoted anti-immigration proponents claim that I take away from "Real Americans." Some of these advocates for "secure borders" are the newly minted Latino Gringos who are the lap dogs at the beck and call of the Tea Party and who sleep in the houses that I built.
I dare you to join me in the Texas summer sun and spread the hot asphalt to construct the road for your driving comfort. Climb the ladder and lay the tar shingles on the roofs of the new houses that none of us can afford. Come and take back your jobs. Oh please do come back and take your jobs. Come and join me in July and August or wave as you pass me on a construction site along the freeways.
Without my labor you would have no food to consume at the fancy restaurants where I cook the Asian, Italian, French and Southern food. I even pick the grapes for the over priced wines with the fancy labels that you drink with a self-anointed sense of distinction.
Jump in the back of my truck and sweat with me as I migrate to pick the lettuce and tomatoes for your fancy salads. Come join me as I leave my home in the isolated colonias of the Rio Grande Valley and travel with my meager belongings to Michigan, Ohio, California, las Carolinas and as far north as Vermont to use my sinew, tendons and strong back and calloused hands to fill the aisles of the fancy fruit bins in the organic grocery stores.
I work hard for less than minimum wages and I am so tired that I do not even have the time to review my retirement portfolio or insurance benefits. Yes, I am the dirty Mexican whose hands are dry and cracked and who perspires profusely at any job that requires being in the sun from early morning to dusk. I am the Mexican who will never have to go to a tanning salon, as my skin tone is natural and earned in the day's hottest moments.
I am the Mexican that the Tea Party, the Minutemen and the racist sheriffs of Arizona fear, chase, berate, and yet realize that I will again Occupy America. Why do they hate me so? All I want is a piece of the American Dream whatever that may be.
I am the Mexican that many among us are ashamed of acknowledging and prefer to label ourselves "Latinos" since it may offer a certain sense of distance from our Mexican roots in an America that may tolerate you if you are not like the others. Latinos are happy placing themselves in a cultural vacuum with no compass or historical roots since they are given a seat at the table where they eagerly participate in the disenfranchisement of those bothersome Mexicans; los otros.
I am the Mexican Bracero who came as a laborer when America was at war and again in the 1950's to supplant those laborers who did not wish to do the dirty work in the breadbasket of America. There are still some "Latino" politicians who see a need for my return as if I am always at America's beck and call.
I am the Mexican who is the ultimate patriot and warrior as my blood runs in the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam. Now I again serve and die in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. I am also the Mexican whose courage in battle has resulted in the most Congressional Medals of Honor of any ethnic group.
I am the Mexican whose demographic number frightens the Gringos who now are trying every trick in their bag to deny me my voting rights. I already paid the poll tax once and this time I will again fight you for my rights as I did under the flag of La Virgen de Guadalupe with the UFWOC in the 1960's.
I am the Mexican who makes up a consumer base of billions of dollars for cheap Chinese made products and food that destroys my health.
I am the Mexican who can not afford to eat organic products and barely has enough dinero or a balance in my Lone Star card or food stamps to buy the bare necessities: rice, beans, lard, maize and flour. Tengo hambre.
I am the Mexican who struggled through substandard schools when my taxes were diverted to those who needed to further expand their affluence.
I am the Mexican who barely made it through points of geography third-rate colleges and yet I also made it through some first tier universities. Of course many Gringos claim that it was done through the guise of Affirmative Action. To me that is the same Affirmative Action that the Mexicans gave Austin, Houston, Bowie, Crockett and Travis so they could come to Mexico to steal and take away Tejas from our Nation.
I am the Mexican who walks the halls of academia at UT Austin, Stanford, Michigan and Harvard. And yes, I am also the Mexican who takes on submissive roles to appease the White policy brokers who subjugate my own people but at least I get to rub elbows with the big shots.
Now I am great in number and presumptive in "power" since Demography will not be my destiny if I do become more literate and register to vote.
Yes, I am that Mexican; a part of this nation's constructive future or a part of its demise.
I am the Mexican who is as American as anyone who can claim lineage to the Mayflower.
I am the Mexican who believes in America in spite of its continuous efforts to marginalize and disenfranchise me.
I am not moving over for no one, no how, no way.
Aqui Estoy y no me Voy.
Baltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr., Ph.D., is a free agent consultant, community volunteer, researcher and writer. His research is directed at exploring quality of life issues that impact the Mexican American community, principally in Texas and the southwest. He writes regularly for the Guardian. Acevedo can be reached at email@example.com.