A 2021 Immigrant Story, for the New Year, for this Nation, for the World…

In Solidarity with the Frontline Warriors Immigrants that Never Rest

 

 

By Armando Vazquez      

Millions of us immigrants flee from countries from all over the world because tyrannical leaders routinely and viciously abused democratic principles, it seemed, at every turn. Many of the world’s immigrants attempt to come to this country seeking refuge, asylum and protection. If you are poor, a female, indigenous, of color, homeless and landless, a member of a minority religion, or of an outcast sexual orientation, you are a target of constant persecution in your own countries. My family left Mexico for another reason, which is just as prevalent and deadly as the persecution, we did not want to starve to death. My parents had the blind faith that despite what seemed like insurmountable odds they would get to their “promised” land and provide a better life for their family.

With an absolute piety, a reverence, the resignation, and the ‘algun dia le vamos a pegarle al gordo’ faith, action, and prayer that both my jejitos sent to their always on hold wayward god, was it all in vain? Nothing but hopeless babble coming from the last of the indigenas of Aztlan? Or perhaps their incessant sacred petitions were heard and acted on in some distant black hole of our universe. Or is all of this God stuff pure and simply dumb luck, a celestial crap shoot? Before we immigrated into the United States we spent two hellish years in the slums of Tijuana. It appeared that my parent’s God had had abandoned us.

I must have been about seven years old. I’m sure I was no older, yet even at that tender age I could sense when I was being conned by the religious order of our home and all my parents blathering about God’s infinite grace and mercy. Growing up in Tijuana for a couple of years teaches a kid every kind of con that can be committed in the world, and then some, usually with a horrific ass whipping to accentuate and memorialize the scam and beat down.

“Shine my shoes extra good mocoso, and I’ll give you a big tip” the stranger would promise. As quickly as I was done and eagerly extended out my filthy tiny hand the stranger would spit on my hand, bust out in laughter and advising me, “No seas pendejo mocoso get your money up front”. The stranger laughed and walked away leaving me empty handed and angry. But I had learned the lesson, real quick. Soon I was listening to only the sweet sound of dollars bills being placed in my hand before the shoeshine began. No money up front, no shine, sorry gringo. The other dangers that lurked everywhere, were the bigger kids wanting to take care of my hard earned money, the cops would chase and try to hit us with their cars just for fun, the merchant would throw buckets of dirty water at us to get rid of the riff-raff.

“I don’t need your protection, I have my old brother down the block”, I would tell an older kid that wanted to muscle me for some protection money.

“You mean that pendejo that I just beat up?” the kid would laugh kicking my shoe shine box with all my equipment to the oncoming traffic.

What my brother and I learned on those mean streets of Tijuana was that you had to think, way beyond your tender chronological age, to survive, in the dog eat dog steet game, being played out each and every day on the rough and tumble Avenida Revolucion, where all the gringo dollars did all the talking, and where one mistake might be fatal. Think like an adult that has been kicked in the head one too many times, and never wants to be abused again. And, of course, be ready to fight to survive, no matter how badly you got your ass kicked you never, ever, backed down. At all cost you had to hold down your corner of the street, no matter what. It was a tough way to make a couple of dollars but we did what we had to do simple to survive and eat. The feria that my brother and I brought in daily helped out the jefita and my extended family that was now jammed 12 humans deep into a tiny one room paracaidas shack on the outskirts of downtown Tijuana. My father, away for months, sometimes years, toiling for the gringos and faithfully sending dollars to my jefita so that she could keep, the immigration process going and us alive until their fickle God would grant them the miracle of immigration for all of us to El Norte.

The detour in Tijuana was always toughest on by older brother, he took many of the ass kicking intended for me, because I could never keep my mouth shut and just hand over a few dollars in exchange for exhorted peace or protection. And if that wasn’t enough, my brother came down with a mysterious illness that left him on death’s doorstep. Again it was the wailing incessant petitions of my mother, my grandmother to La Virgen de Guadalupe, their God, and anyone else that was listening to them in that faraway place they call heaven for a miracle cure for my brother. Their prayers were answered, he lived.

So yeah even as kid I could smell a rat, a con job, or some pedo coming to harm us. Every immigrant that has traversed foreign soil has experienced the lie, the scam, el golpe. It is these betrayals that are what make us strong. It is the love and miraculous prayers of our jefitas that keep us alive.

The biggest cons I found out about very early in my childhood were the pious bible thumpers, church going hypocrites, corner street pimps that were selling dope, girls or religion. They never paid for a shine; God they promised would take care of me.

“Que dios te lo pague”, they would laugh at us. I hated those fools, strutting around like rooster in heat, talking their shit to anyone dumb enough to stop and engage them.

At home, however, God, was a very serious matter, nothing was more mysterious and yet so damned important. That silly old picture of this skinny gavacho looking dude wrapped in a loins cloth, scraggly beard, and a faraway look in his eyes that seem to follow us everywhere in the tiny shack that we called home, still haunts me.

“Madre get rid of that picture, it bugs me”, I would joke with my jefita, we kids did not get it.

“Don’t say such silly things Chato, that is God and in this house we respect God”. My mother was one of the wisest women that I have ever known, but when it came to God, it was always, “a mystery, you ask too many questions, it is a matter of faith now cross yourself and stop asking such silly things”

My jefito was even stranger when it can to the God thing, he left the praying to my mom and abuelita, but his relationship with his God was ironclad solid. He would not tolerate sacrilege in his home.

One night the family packed like sardines in a tin together watching some dull and boring black and white foreign news clip that was highlighting a trip by the Pope in Latin America somewhere. He looked like a silly gaudy old misplaced clown, much like the fire breathers and drunken clowns on La Avenida Revolucion. That is what I thought and I voiced it.

From outside of the shanty my father heard me and he walked quietly up to me; he looked directly into my eyes and quietly stated, “In this house we do not disrespect God. Do you understand mijo?”

“Si padre” Feeling oddly embarrassed for my sacrilege. I meekly replied that I understood, but in reality I did not.

I never again uttered sacrilege in my father’s home. I kept my thought about the church, the bearded gringo on the wall, the old men that dress like clowns and their religious madness all in my head. Even today whenever I catch a glimpse of the Pope and his vaudevillian religion worldwide traveling show I shuddered and shake my head; these were still the clowns that were continuing to rendering the Mexican masses impotent and ignorant! Like I said early on I could smell rat, the stench only grew more acutely as I grew older.

Miraculously, my mother and father made religion plausible. They were real. God bless them even in the wretched existence that was their world in Mexico, God was real to them. They believed in their faith, they had nothing else! That was the blind and miraculous faith of my jejitos. A faith so strong and unwavering call to action and to do whatever it took to feed and raise the family. It was a faith so strong and true that I knew it was a blessing played forward from our ancestors, not the modern slave like resignations of modern day Catholicism that had afflicted most of Mexico today. It was faith plain and simple my mother would remind that is was faith that got all us safely to El Norte. One day in late December of 1957 my father came home to announce our Christmas miracle, the entire Vazquez family, had been issued our permanent resident “Green Cards” and in the new year we all will be in the United States.

My earliest memories of Gringolandia are the dark recollections of our next door neighbor in our first American home in the town of El Monte, California, in early 1958. The monster next door was known by all of us kids in the neighborhood as John Baloney. He was grotesquely obese, a racist and a pedophile. From his front porch he stalked and preyed on us Mexican and Native American children; he was nuttier, sicker, than a shit house rat and he had a full run of our street.

“Pancho, Panchista, can’t you hear you idiots!” he would yell at us kids when we ignored him as we played out in the street or walked by his house.

“Go tell that Iittle Indian girl I want her here pronto. I need her to go the store for me. Fetch me some cigarettes. Run quickly I tell you!” he would command me.

“Tootsie, John balony is calling for you!” frightened I run to tell my one and only best friend Tootsie that the pig wants her.

“For what?” she replied frozen in fear.

“What else, to go buy him some cigarettes”

“Chato I don’t want to go, tell him I am doing something, anything, for me please. I can’t go” she was almost in tears.

“Please Tootsie please go, maybe he will leave us alone for the rest of the afternoon” I convinced her to go.

“Come here sit on old John’s lap. He ain’t going to hurt you” the pig would start rubbing Tootsie’s legs and arms.

“Give her the money “I would yell at the pervert.

“What’s your hurry, Old John is not going to hurt you” he smiled like the pig that he was.

“Give her the money or we’ll leave” I continue to insist.

“Stick your hand in my pocket girl I won’t hurt you” Tootsie would look horrified at me

“Give the money to Tootsie in her hand”

“Here then, hurry and don’t get short changed, you know how those Japs are at the liquor store” the pig would instruct us.

He was the white man on our block, in a time in America where people of color had to do anything a white man commanded or wanted. He knew it and we knew it. That is why he had an absolute run of our street. He screamed, berated, and otherwise terrorized the little girls and boys that he ordered on to his filthy lap. No one stood up to him; he screamed obscenities to all of the Mexicans and Native Americans that populated our Orchard Street. No one ever called the cops on him, in those days we immigrants, both the Mexicans and the Native American from Oklahoma, knew nothing about help and justice from cops. That absolute terror and impotence that Tootsie and I experienced as helpless children strikes me now as pathetically tragic, but I don’t ever remembering seeing cops in America around the late 1950’s. Where were they when we needed them? The mere presence of white folks terrorized all the minorities into mindless subjugation and servitude, at least that’s the way I saw my world.

One day racist, pedophile, very American John Baloney just stopped screaming, keeled over in front us kids and collapsed in a heap on his massive lookout couch situated strategically on his front porch. I remember we all prayed that he would die! The fat pig had suffered a massive stroke and in a matter of weeks he was dead, taking all of his sins and transgressions with him to hell.

The hatred and abuse that we suffered as kids of color in the America of the late 1950’s made us perpetual outsiders. Fear drove and commanded our decisions. We live in shadows and in constant fear of everything and everyone. This was the America that I grew up in the precursor to the Apocalypse. We all knew that the diablo was coming. He has arrived.


Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.  is Executive Director of  Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition

 


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.


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Joe
Joe
3 months ago

We all are tired of the illegal immigrant agenda that the media is pushing on us. They are not fooling anyone! The just come here for the benefits and I would like to see other articles besides the typical “poor illegal, needs help, needs money, we should feel sorry for them…. etc…” I can’t read another article like this!

C. Collier
C. Collier
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe

Did you expect any less from that sniveling whiner Vazquez? I’ve learned not to read the drivel he presents in his columns, just the comments on them:)
It’s really hard to believe that with an alleged Masters in Education, he has such a poor command of the language.

Last edited 3 months ago by C. Collier
Joe
Joe
3 months ago
Reply to  C. Collier

Agreed.

Scarecrow
Scarecrow
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe

They are illegal invaders and should be treated as such..

Michael A.
Michael A.
3 months ago

The last person an immigrant from Mexico should listen to this guy. All he wants are masses of victims bellyaching for handouts and special treatment. A much better message would be to realize you escaped the prison of a corrupt country like Mexico and now you can thrive in America, but NOT if you takes this guys advice. BTW, what a racial hit piece.

Scarecrow
Scarecrow
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael A.

No more Deversity for White people..