February 18th, 2009

Another Personal Post / Bonding @ El Rio Bravo

though i am a Latina, a woman of color, i've grown up with a lot of privilege. so i'm using it to tell the story of someone i met who grew up differently.

So this is Lalo's* story:

His parents were illegal he grew up in a small town near Wichita Falls, TX speaking Spanish as his first language. He told me "i had 3 friends in elementary school, it was me, and my friend who was Mexican too but he was more whitewashed than me, and my other friend who was half white half mexican and my friend chris who was white. We used to have one principal mrs. martinez. but she she left then we got another principal who was also named mrs. martinez and she hated mexicans. whenever me and my friends got in trouble i would get the most paddles, my other friend would get less, my half mexican friend would get two and chris wouldn't get any paddles just a slap on the hand. And i'd say hey all of us were doing bad! but it didnt matter."

In 5th grade he told his teacher he liked cars and wanted to grow up and do something with design. The teacher told him "oh you'll be a mechanic or you'll clean cars."

His father gave him a truck and he lowered it and fixed it up in high school. one of his teachers told him he'd go nowhere with his love of cars. & he asked her "how is your car? its leaking right because you wrecked it two times" and she did and he told her "my dad gave me a truck and he worked hard for it because that's what he's got to show for coming to this country. so i take good care of it and i take pride in it. i take pride in what i have. and you don't" and she said "well it's just a piece of crap jetta".

Lalo is studying art in college. His drawing concepts teacher dismissed a drawing he spent 6 hours on and turned in because it was of him and his car. She told him "my son races cars and that's dangerous so you have to turn in a different drawing". His drawing professor was a white lady.

I didn't grow up speaking Spanish in small racist town but i did grow up with art guilt & this is what me & Lalo bonded over. His parents sacrificed a lot to send him to school, because they wanted him to do better than they did. my parents did the same. My mom came to the U.S. from Mexico and was the first in her family to go to college, against her parents wishes. And she did this all in the hopes that the next generation of her family wouldn't grow up in poverty. & so that's me. I don't know how to explain the guilt of knowing how much your parents & your grandparents have sacrificed for you to have a better chance at life & at the same time knowing that all you want to do is paint. Its like saying "fuck you mom & dad, I'm getting an art degree! In today's economy! Despite what generations before me have given up in order to give me this option!" for the longest time i wouldn't even let myself consider studying art because of this, because it seemed like a slap in the face to my parents. and so i didn't. and i hated it. and it took me forever to realize that i would never be happy doing anything else. & this is what me and lalo bonded over, a shared guilt in having illegal moms & studying art.

*Lalo isnt his real name
*Lalo's skin is as super-pale as mine