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4 de Septiembre, 2006

Mi Familia [3] - Juanita, Beto, Chente

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Continuing the Mi Familia series, I bring you today's Lunes de Respeto from El Paso Texas, near the border crossing, circa 1925. Our honored remembrance this day is in tribute to mi bisabuela Juanita Quintana, and her two sons Roberto Quintana and Vicente Quintana.

For those new to The Unapologetic Mexican, I serve these up for myself as much as any other reader, and those who have been reading from the first Mi Familia entry probably understand by now, my purposes, of which there are a couple. If you find yourself completely unconcerned with such recollections and reverences, then I beg of you not to read on. I would save even the memory of mi antepasados the indignity of disinterest. There will, as always, be more for of the usual fare before long.

One of the reasons I make these Mi Famila posts is to help put a human face on the ignorance that fuels so many people's fury and reaction to this "Mexican Immigrant" meme. These people want to say it is only illegal Mexicans they spit and recoil from. But a quick examination of their own words, or letting them go on long enough, proves this to be untrue. The haters may begin with what sounds deceptively like reasoned arguments, but this is a graham cracker crust they smesh into the worm-ridden round of their special, stinking pocket of meat; it is to keep the rancid treat of hate that they return to so often somewhat palatable. In enough time, or given that their guard slips, it won't be too long before these "reasonable" people are coming right out and yelling FUCK MEXICO, okay? FUCK MEXICO!!! So in my hopes that these people have a heart, I offer these glimpses into another person's heart and family so that they can better understand another's journey and viewpoint.

But of course, if that were my only purpose in doing this, I would not be too well-served by the effort. I think that mostly I engage this exercise for my own journey; to move closer toward a place of truth, and of knowing myself. It is a journey that has nothing to do with anyone else, in that way.

For myself, America seems a lonely and disconnected land. It's true that those who watch sitcoms on a regular basis feel better about their social lives, but do they know they are laughing in a room full of ghosts?

The crux of what is behind the fury of Lou Dobbs is that some of us come here and dare to retain a grasp on our roots, some allegiance to our homeland, and (shhhh) sometimes even dare to hold on to a flag that does not symbolize America! A few brown blogs I've read go to pains to assert that see, yes, we do want to assimilate, please see that? But you are not now on that page, friend, and this is how we do at The Unapologetic Mexican. Our slant here is that assimilation, like every word, may mean many things to many people. And I am not interested in proving my desire to lose touch with my past, with the people and nations in my past, all in the name for homogeneity and an American identity that leaves you cold, empty, self-loathing, and hypocritical. The Unapologetic Mexican is not interested in showing you how polite and well-groomed, and buttoned down, and mild-to-medium he is. I am not interested in proving how seamless I can make my way into the White Power Structure that spits on my own people. I am not (in the slighest) interested in proving that to you, and I am not interested in doing it. I am sure many of today's discussed immigrants who come here do want to assimilate, and very badly. So save your anger for me, if you need to, Lou. I know the lie. I suckled it for years, and it's made my bones ache.

Lonely, disconnected, confused, and with nothing to be part of. Too many Americans that I've seen. It's odd, how some of my beliefs and the Fundies' beliefs overlap. We see some of the same illnesses in America: lack of morality, lack of belief system, lost due to no larger Thing to be part of, lack of care, lack of respect for elders, lack of humility, lack of depth, lack of spirituality, lack of purpose. We do, of course, differ in our prescription for these ills. While these people I refer to want us all to bow to a God who can, in his loving severity and omniscience, dictate the Path to our Happiness, I do not. I do not need some other man's God or some other man's tenets. I am finding my own. But I am not here to talk about Religion. I am here to talk about family.

I see many of today's ills caused by the fracture and lack of a strong family base. For it is the family that is the first archetype of society. Just as the mother and the father are the archetypes for Woman, Man, Self, Lover, and Family. This is where we make our templates. But I am not here to dally too long with psychological ideas. Let's assume this writer feels that way. And this writer feels that with no larger whole within which we can lose our personal importance and gain immortality and a broader, deeper sense of identity, and thus connectedness, we will self-destruct.

It is true that a nation might offer this Larger Organism. But it would not be safe to lose your personal identity and self in a harmful Whole; in a Whole that would eat away your good parts, or that would lie to you and harm you, or one that stood for things that are in direct contradiction with your own sense of Right. That is not belonging, or expanding your Self. That is disease and madness and entropy.

We are told that if come to America, we are now Americans. That that is more than enough, and that is all the identity we need. Pay taxes, vote, work all day, all week, consider the President your King, the Police your protectors, the American history books your gospel, and the TV your God. This is enough. Send Hallmark® on non-heathen holidays, tithe on Sundays, swallow Ambien® to sleep, caffeine to wake, Viagra® to get hard, alcohol to celebrate, Xanax® to relax, Zyrtec® when you can't breathe, Zantac® when all the shit you've buried begins to erupt into your esophagus, and Zoloft® when you cant make sense of your empty life anymore or the holes in the Great Ideal for another minute. And by the way: don't take drugs to have fun. Only to live. Life is not for fun, or ecstatic revelation. It is pain, and it is a long, hard slog of a career you probably don't like, and a scurrying propped-up nonshape of a self that scares you with its purposelessness—and that's just The Way It Is.

But there is so much missing. And anyone who isn't running screaming from their heart knows this in their bones. What is missing is the truth.

What we are losing, on the whole, is a connection with the world, which is the largest and most undeniable archetype for the Self. In the name of American Unity, we align ourselves more with Corporate health than with familial health. We align ourselves more with Corporate profits and short lines at fast food restaurants than we do with the lives and feelings and health of animals. We align ourselves more with helping the top 1% moneyholders than we do with our own great-grandparents. We align ourselves with Lou Dobbs and CNN more than we do with the colors of the flag that our antepasados lived, breathed, sweat, cried, fucked, fought and died under. We don't know where our people come from more than a generation or two back. We don't know how they lived, what they faced, who they fought, how they found their food. We don't know what people called them, what faces they made when ecstatic or furious, and we don't know what burdens they carried. We forswear allegiance to any other nation (except the Jews who, for the most part, are aligned with Israel by an unshakeable loyalty but that particular allegiance Lou Dobbs is fine with) in order to better support this nations wars, aggressions, and despicable unfairness to any other part of the world. And all the better to submerge ourselves into this Borg, into this combine, into this notion of commercialism and materialism and a benumbed, hypnotized citizen-self.

In these chasms; in these ravines that shred the substance of our self-knowledge falls our hope, and our health, and our safety and our self-confidence. Into this abyss of ignorance and loneliness falls our history and identity. And the result is that we drift. Lost, and with nothing to grasp onto but Disney® once a year when we can afford it, and the hopes of sending our young to an overpriced university, and hoping one of our kin (and if we DARE to dream, ourselves) can climb up into that glorious and vaunted 1% who are Free, who cannot be touched by the Taxman, nor the policeman, nor the Doldrums, nor the Boogieman. And even for that dream, even for that possibility we run. We crane our neck, awash in a bubbly scent of carrot, and feeling that we are almost there. And for those that have managed to grab the carrot between their well-fluoridated teeth, there is no more worry and no more regret. Their success validates the entire idea, and there is no need to think further about any of it.

But that was not my life.

My life, after beginning, became one of ultimate fracture, wherein my family broke up while I was a young child, and the new family was one that fought, fell down, and fled; one that did not nurture, one that mostly taught a young boy how to avoid a quick hand or how to smile when he felt like screaming. How to deny tears to those who would beat you down, and how to find solace, when the peer groups made you feel your name and self and manner were alien. I was not bonded to anything except my own ability to adapt, learn, and nurture myself. And were I around gangs during my younger years, I have no doubt I would have also found a substitute family there, as so many disaffected and lost youth do.

So far, I have survived my own pain, and my own loneliness, and my own lack of identity and belonging, and have come to let the land and el sol and my own path teach me things. I have been open to this learning. And I feel I am on the right track.

One of the things that must be done to heal the world's heart is to reorganize allegiance. The first allegiance must be to the heart of the world. Not to those structures or ideas that profit one or a few men at the expense of so many. That is allegiance to insanity, non-sense, and entropy. That is self-loathing. The allegiance must be to the sun, and to the earth, and to the wind, and to the water, and to the truth. The heart of the world can be found in the eyes of your child, or your parents, or your friend, or even your dog. But it is very important that we not wall ourselves off in layers of perfume, alum, corsets, lifts, silicone, television, SSRIs, tranquilizers, alcohol, technology, and/or government propaganda.

Primarily, our ancestors and the lessons they embody are not to be forgotten; not to be stacked underneath bills, mortgages, report cards, magazines, cancelled checks, and newspapers. They are to be known, to be approached with humility, to be revered, to be our teachers, our history, our selves.

These Mi Familia entries are my attempt to heal some of the harm done, to reconnect with my history and my self and my people and what has made me who I am, and who came before me. It is a loving and humble eye cast upon those who I have not, for a long time, bothered even to look at. This is one small physical manifestation of the journey I began so long ago, my journey back home.

As you may recall, I wrote in the first Mi Familia entry that my nanita and her sister Aurelia were photographed by their older brother Roberto.

In the picture below are Roberto Quintana, Juanita Quintana, and Vicente "Chente" Quintana. As you can see, like good Mexicano boys, they honor and respect their mamá. Juanita is mi bisabuela, my great-grandmother, and my nanita's mother.

To the right is "Chente" Quintana, the man that mi Papá tells me I remind him of. And that's muy interesante because I've been told by others who've seen this photo that they can see me in his eyes, and the set of his brow.

But I'm not surprised. More reasons why when we lose knowlege of our past and our families, we lose parts of ourselves.

Not long ago I figured out who you take after -- One of my uncles, Vicente Quintana. He was the rebel, a painter, who refused to work for anybody and who had dreams of joining the artists in europe in the 20's. Dirt poor, handed out to an aunt as a boy. He didn't make it to europe, he make it to nyc. As a matter of fact I have that foto. As an older man, he ended up traveling in his beat up panel truck full of easels, silk screens and paint, living in tiny apartments. He taught his kids sculpture and when were living in San Diego, they were the ones that restored all the religious figures on the façades of the buildings in Balboa park....Many stories about my uncle Chente..what a character."

—Juan Felipe Herrera, mi Papá, in a letter to me
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Comentarios (7)

Yolanda dijo:


Who are you? You know, there are much better words than "dirt poor" to describe my father."Barely able to survive in a dog eat dog world", a "starving Artist", "dirt poor" tells me, you need to do some research so that you don't insult "sus hijos", if you care.
Otherwise, do include an apology.
You need to write as a humble observer,not as a "know it all"!

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


Hola Yolanda. That quote is from a letter my father wrote me, Juan Felipe Herrera. Your father's nephew? So you and I are family, as JFH is my father! On that count, I hope we don't need to fight. If you want to, you can talk to my father about his knowledge of his own familia, or his language. But I do not think mi papá writes to me disrespecting his Uncle Chente, as he compares him to me, and you can hear the love in his voice as he does so. Can you not read this from it? I have been "dirt poor," and I don't mind saying so. It is not an admission of moral weakness, as some see poverty. Either way, your disagreement with my father's take on Vicente's life stands here, and I would love to hear your own memories, if you want to share them with me.

I hope you are no longer angry.

Yolanda Munoz dijo:


I do enjoy reading your writings. It saddens me that we have never met. My husband and I moved to San Jose in 1976. I must have phoned 100 Quintanas, but couldn't find anyone. My brother Mike finally found our cousin Robert two years later. I did meet your Mom in her apartment in the Mission District I think it was 1979. I met both Aunties. I recall that I was told that Uncle Robert had passed away two years prior. This was not a good feeling! I thought he was a terrific person. I met him in El Paso, Texas in 1970 or 71. He was visiting and my Dad came to my apartment with Uncle Robert and his daughter Judith. I think she wanted to attend an Art Institute in San Francisco. At that time he told her she couldn't attend. She would wrap her arms around him and say Papa quiero ir al colegio'. I just loved it. She could talk to her father!!! How lucky! I felt those Quintanas had a kind man for a father (as ours was almost always angry).No one could touch him. Poor Dad! He did work like a dog. He would wake up at 5:00 in the morning and read the paper. Then he would complain about all the propaganda. All the mentiras, and so forth. Shortly after breakfast (he always ate breakfast) he would leave to his shop. He always left at 7:00 and returned at 7:00. He always had a business. Sometimes it "rained" alot of money and sometimes we suffered thru a dry spell...our lives were filled with a lot hurt and a little love. So you see, we understand each other. I would like to send you some photos, but I don't have an e-mail address for you.

I would like to write to you privately ,as I don't feel I can make any annoucements on a blog! I do have some sad news and I would like my cousin Robert's phone number. I don't think he wants it on this blog.
Thank you,
Tu Prima,

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


Thank you Yolanda, I am emailing you now.

Cariño, Nez
aka —

Vicente Quintana dijo:


Wow!! I don't know you, any of you, but I knew my Tio Vicente, what a kind and funny man. He tried to teach me to appreciate art, but alas, I was 10 and was more interested in chi-chis. My Primo/Hermano Juanito and I had some great times as boys in the Mission District. Much time has passed, nevertheless we try to remain in contact to some degree. My Dad, Roberto Quintana said there is nothing more important than tu familia, pide le ha Dios que te cuide to familia y que siempre se acuerdan que no estamo solos...? I am interested in knowing you, we have rich and beautiful history, can we sew a tapestry?

Vicente (Boy) Quintana

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


Vicente! It's great to read your comment here! I'm going to have to write a post about all the family members I've spoken to since starting this blog. I don't know if Yolanda will be back to this post to see it, but I have written back and forth to her, if you want to shoot me over an email I can give you her email addy, and I'd love to hear some of your memories and see how you are. Thanks for commenting, and when you write me I'll tell you my full name if you don't know it already but JFH is mi padre I just don't use it for blogging.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez dijo:


well i realized i have your address, so i wrote you. but you know that by now!