Tia Juana’s was a whorehouse that became famous outside of the Mission of San Diego.
Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California gave away his ranch to the United States Army who later turned his tract of land into the marine base Camp Pendleton.
The Mission San Luis Rey still holds mass every Sunday at noon and at 10 in the morning. The occasional quinceañera goes down there.
The piece of land my mom farmed with my grandparents is now a series of tract homes running along Buena Creek Road.
The other plot of land they farmed and made a living with is now Major General Raymond Murray High School.
I owned nothing of this land. I own nothing at this time. I’ve rented apartments, lived in homes that were denied to us because of our ethnic background; I’ve seen my family fall into foreclosure of all sorts.
I work everyday. I’ve worked since birth, avoiding death from tuberculosis, inept, distracted truck drivers, and starvation. I learned to count money by selling used golf balls with my dad at Meadow Lake Country Club.
I graduated with average grades, but I graduated nonetheless. I proved that at least one Mexican can make it through high school.
I attended a community college where it was common for my in-class neighbors to never make it out, alive and with degrees. Some made it out, breathing heavily for free air, un-doctored air, intellectual-free air. They seem happier these days. Occasionally bragging about their kids and soccer games.
I sat in the quads of California State University, San Marcos where white students gave me the dirty eye next to the Cesar Chavez statue.
I sit in a room everyday now where I feel the same.
I’m working to make a degree work for me. It’s never going to happen. That’s not what it was meant for, and that is my mistake.
It was my destiny since birth to be a writer, a cartoonist, an artist. I believe it will make me happy one day.
I don’t get as angry anymore with people that are unhappy. They create that for themselves.
I pity them most of the time, and they mistake that for disrespect.
I remember what Mami Lucy told me one day: “Mijo, no te desesperes con tu mamá. Ella te quiere mucho y trabaja muy duro.”
I think real feminists sacrifice for their kids. Real feminists know what God’s love is.
I know what my mom’s is, what my Mami Lucy’s was, what even my dad’s is. Love is asking me to come back and rebuild my life in their home without considering what I might want with my life.
Am I angry at white people? Sometimes. Occasionally, but only when they forget that we are the same. And my people’s suffering is a consequence of that forgetfulness.
I want to reflect on the moonlight and show how the barrio is my home. I love it; I nurture it. I cherish it.
Gentrification is a funny way of telling us that meat markets smell better when populated by second-hand grocery clerks and meats. No white person ever shops at the Sunrise Market, unless they’re living with their grandkids and they happen to be the children of construction workers. They too are immune to the unique smell of slightly refrigerated meats.
I don’t know if I can answer your question of what I write for. But I sure as hell can try.
I’ll try to like it. Act like I know what I’m doing. And you won’t really know the difference.
You might see my laugh and stare at my tears. You’ll think that my name could’ve been Joaquín, or Martín. That I may have been written about in the ‘80s. Maybe ‘70s.
I could’ve been like those writers from yesterday, you know, the ones who write about tortillas and abuelitas. I could’ve been them.
I could’ve been another son of an immigrant spick, a beaner, a wetback. I could’ve been that for you. But decided not to be. I decided not to follow in those footsteps.
Instead, I write for me. I write for the honkey calling putos on the corners who might never know anything beyond Daddy Yankee, Lil Rob and Mr. Shadow.
I write for the Baby Bash loving girls wearing flats and tank tops waiting for the 320 to take them to Oceanside, by the harbor.
I write for the Chris Brown wannabe kids who beat up on their Rhianna girlfriends mentally, but never really come around to doing it because they’re afraid of what their mom will say.
I write to give the world a taste of me. That taste of dirt in your mouth that smells of sweat, sand, manure, phosphates, and nitrogen.
I want you to taste my blood between your canines. I want you to taste you, brown eyes.
Taste your lovely chocolate that vanilla wants to see in their skin through tanning beds and burned out days at the beaches.
Do you remember the gutters and the way they fill up with palm fronds after those late October rains? Taste that. Taste the 7-Eleven Big Gulp cups that gather and applaud in front of Royal Liquor.
Taste the dirt under the La Costa Canyon backfields and their well-irrigated grassy knolls. You might get a hint of the diesel Pop burned chopping mountains in his Bobcat and Caterpillar.
Visit Car Country Carlsbad, and suckle on the poppies that bloom behind the Infiniti dealer or the strawberries that litter the land by the outlets. They smell equally of commercial gains.
There isn’t much left of the smells in the kitchen where the flash of a calf led to the growth of the Alcocer family. Pop loved my Mami Lucy’s legs, and that was that.
Grab a fistful of grass from the hills in Rainbow and see if you can make a licuado of the Pichardo sweat that streamed as la migra chased people from the figurative snake den into the literal one. Fallbrook nurseries weren’t much the same, but still led to bailes and house parties.
Pa’ el norte is still much the same, and that’s where I find myself. El norte. Not much more norte, but norte nonetheless, and away from my family.
Daddy says I’m at least closer than he is to his parents. I tend to agree, but the distance feels the same.
It’s okay. I’m at least an Amtrak ride away. A two-hour drive away. A text away.
Where does this art go?
Who knows but the air. Who knows but the clouds.
Who knows but my love who sits on my couch and reads. She knows where it comes from. But can she answer me as to where it ends?