Emilio is a childhood friend of mine whom we appropriately call Malo (mean).
Usually, Malo and I converse about old times: friends we have lost and experiences we shared growing up. So it surprised me the other day when he asked me, “Poule, why does Donald Trump want to build a pinche (damn) wall?”
I gave him a short-shrift answer that it was Trump’s solution to end unlawful border crossing.
Malo replied indignantly, either to my casual and shallow observation, or to Trump’s callousness, “I don’t have any fancy letters after my last name, Poule, but chale (no), that’s not the real reason he is trying to separate us from Mexico. Trump knows this country is changing in color, culture and influence, and he wants to stop it.”
Malo began to paint in a colorful manner the current social, cultural and political landscape that featured many Latino hues. He mentioned the proliferation and popularity of taco trucks that deliver personal service and provide a community ambiance.
He gave persuasive statistics citing 30 percent of Major League Baseball players are Latino, 27 million Latinos are currently eligible to vote, and U.S. Latinos represent over $1 trillion in buying power. Malo argued that most landscapers, house cleaners and restaurant staff are Latino. In fact, he said, the local Italian restaurant down the street has a Latino chef.
He offered, “If I ever meet Mr. Trump, I would tell that vato (dude), you know it’s not the wall, stupid. It’s that the barrio is no longer situated in only one section of American towns and cities. The barrio is now in your neighborhood, schools, colleges and private sector. There is a growing social-economic barrio-fication, ese (guy).”
Malo explained that Latinos are claiming their rightful role in the workplace with fancy offices and high-level positions. His discourse became heated when observing the sacrifices others made to create this change.
“The revolution for equality and justice is not in the streets and popular resistance is not just in marches and protests, anymore. Chale, change is happening in boardrooms, government offices and at the ballot box. We may soon have a Latina U.S. senator. We already have a Latino poet laureate, a Latino on the California Supreme Court and a Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court. We may soon elect a Spanish-speaking vice president.
“The wall is just a symbol for those who would re-establish a form of repression and domination, ese. Trump wants to make America great again, back to when we had no restrooms in the fields or bilingual classrooms in the school.
“When we were forced to attend segregated schools and had no representation on city councils or in Congress. When U.S. citizens were repatriated back to Mexico because of their last name.”
I often wondered why Malo never went to college, although he served in the Vietnam War. When I inquired about how he knew so much, Malo told me that during his time overseas, he was politicized. It was then he realized the gross imbalances in power and social relations in the U.S.
Besides, he said, “What professor would ever listen to my ideas and theories on politics and race relations? Chale ese, college is for schoolboys. I got my education from my carnales (brothers) in the streets. Besides, I have too many camaradas (friends) in the pinta (prison) who are as wise as college students.
“The last bastion of institutional repression is the prison system that the man uses to cage our voices. We want a piece of the American pie, but there are too many people who say we should be happy with our taco trucks.”
I inquired, “Malo, you mean most Latinos want to be active citizens and contribute to American society?”
He replied, “Orale (all right then), Poule. Ya basta (enough) with those who only want to eat our food, use our labor, savor our tequila and celebrate our culture only on Mexican Independence Day! The next president will need to start tearing down the walls that create economic, social and educational injustices.
“Like my homeboy, John B. King, U.S. secretary of education, recently said, ‘Diversity is delightful, but equity is a necessity.’ ”
Paul A. Garcia of Fresno is a retired educator. Emilio Q. was shot and killed in 1991at the age of 40 under suspicious circumstances.