Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Note: The above photo was taken by a Tiny Loca whose work made up the bulk of the show "Two-Four Homegirls Circa 1980" at San Francisco's Mission Cultural Center last month. Vero Majano and two other folks curated the show. I don't remember their names, and I looked on the MCC website. I will find all the names and update later.
I’m reading all the interviews, reviews, and readers’ responses to reviews I can find on the internet. In one interview, Peter Bratt talks about how Spike Lee’s films are set in—and I’ll add: feature African Americans—and show his New York world. That's what it sounds like the Bratts are doing with LA MISSION. That's what I want to do with HOMEGROWN: A CULTURAL HISTORY OF THE MISSION.
The Bratts are continuing important cultural work on a larger scale that began more than 40 years ago when Latinos started to replace the Irish and Italian residents who left the neighborhood for the suburbs. Numerous Latino artists have come from and come to the Mission and filmed, photographed, painted, written, performed, and sung about its people and history. The Bratts recognize that the Mission and its people are as creative, dynamic, and complex as any other people and place.
From the responses I’ve read, many mainstream critics are dismissing the film, but their readers are feeling LA MISSION’s heart. The film is making an impact and will make one even if theater owners, distributors, and studio heads don’t see the dollars they want. I know here in Burque folks are hungry for it. In some circles, Albuquerque is called the new Hollywood or Tamalewood. The town may have changed, but something in the film industry hasn’t: people of color’s stories aren’t being told.
My college friend and New Mexican Irene Nexica has seen LA MISSION, and I'm including a link to her smart and insightful review (http://oaklandlocal.com/blogs/2010/04/La_Mission). Irene has been writing and critiquing culture longer than I had any idea what cultural criticism was. I'm still figuring it out. We go back more than twenty years and there's too much to say so I'm going to leave it at that for now. Here are the first few lines:
Local director Peter Bratt’s second film La Mission is an allegorical cruise through San Francisco’s Mission District that features complex issues and characters. An ode to the healing power of history and community, the film wears its humanistic heart on its sleeve without being cloying or disengaging. It’s likely to please Bay Area film fans on several different levels...
Nuevoméxicana poet Andrea Serrano shares my excitement at seeing this film. That might sound strange cuz author of A LOVE LETTER TO BURQUE chapbook and poem is a proud homegirl from right here, a thousands miles from there. But one of the reasons I'm attracted to Andrea and a friendship with her is cuz she loves her people and her land like I do. And she loves them as she loves herself and as I try to do the same: with warts and all.
I have to finish grading a stack of papers that I shouldn't have left hours ago (but there are times when the work for money must be put aside for the work that pays in other ways). I couldn't find her "A Love Letter to Burque" poem so I leave you tonight with Andrea's "To All the Cholos I've Ever Loved Before" (I know we all didn't love cholos or cholas, but it's a great poem). Find her on facebook, buy her chapbook, and enjoy the cruise:
Andrea J. Serrano
I can't help but want you
you break into me like poison
sweet absinthe that takes me back
to those days
guys like you
whispering "mi'ja" softly in my ear
just before nuzzling my neck
a barrio king
hoping to be queen
The memory of you
keeps me warm the way your Pendleton used to
The smell of yesca mixed with Tres Flores still makes me hungry
the way you used to
and the memory of the backseat of your homeboy's '85 Regal
still makes me tingle
the way you used to
I can't help but turn my head twice
when I see a full bigote and goatee
I watch you walk down the street
white t-shirt slung over your left shoulder
tattoos blazing against your brown skin
and I imagine you
humming Brenton Wood songs in my ear
I wish things hadn't changed
I wish we hadn't changed
Shit gets heavy and we had to choose
you walked your path
and I walked mine
the crease in your Dickies cut a rift between us
and we couldn't fix it
I don't know if it was growing up
that burst my bubble
but you hurt me when you hurt yourself
I don't want to believe that you were as bad
as they said you were
because I done had my fair share
of your complete opposite
and though you let me down
you were never as bad as they were
Or maybe you were
and I just couldn't see it
I wrap myself in Pendleton memories of you
do me a favor
whisper "mi'ja" in my ear
for old time's sake
let me be your barrio queen
just one last time
(I wrote this last weekend then got shy. Ready or not, here it is.)
Today, I pulled weeds and raked leaves. I counted 10 garbage bags from the Costco box underneath the sink. I told myself, Once I fill these ten, I’m done. I figured I’d be out there for one hour, maybe two. I almost left five bags back. How much was I really going to do? I brought out all ten and placed them on Geen’s Grandma’s kitchen table that we keep on the patio. The table is one of those yellow formica 1970s pieces that almost everybody had and you lucky ones still have. I think ours from 19th Street was grey. The “patio” is a small patch of concrete outside the back door with beams and aluminum with some shingles eight feet high.
Well into my second hour of raking leaves, a roadrunner passed me by on her (it coulda been a her) way from the front to the back yard. I’ve seen a few roadrunners in these yards. Mostly, I see them in don José’s. The roadrunners have better pickins across the road with his chickens, doves, pigeons, apple trees, and some crops that are beyond a garden. His yard looks like a yard that is worked on every day, evening, and weekend. He was working on something and blasting his truck’s radio so long yesterday that his battery ran out and he blocked in his guests parked ahead of him.
I’m lucky to have a house. I’ve had homes, but this is my first house I’m paying a mortgage on. I’m a renter from a family of renters. I’ve paid and my family has paid the mortgages, taxes, vacations, time-shares, college educations, dental jobs, fancy eyeglasses, new cars and boats of landlords and their children for generations.
My sister who visited last weekend told me that our great-aunt--Nana’s sister—moved out of her place in the City’s Dogpatch neighborhood. I don’t know how many years Tía Mary had been living there, but her flat had that kind of comfy feeling that takes at least 10 years to get. She’d lived in that neighborhood her whole life. Her and Nana (b. 1920) grew up there. Their father worked at the nearby shipyards after the railroad. My grandfather worked at the shipyards too. In the late 1960s Nana moved to Pacifica then came back to the City and settled in the Mission. Tía Mary stayed where she had been.
I’m sure the new owners of Tía Mary’s building think they’re making the neighborhood better. The only thing that will definitely be made better is their wallets.
In 1983, we were evicted from our flat—two bedrooms (rooms with doors that closed), two livingrooms (we used one as a bedroom), diningroom (we used it as a bedroom), toilet room, sink and tub/shower room, mantel like the kind over fireplaces (no fireplace), cool molding everywhere, hardwood floors, second story sunhsine for days! The place is on Dearborn, that street that intersects 18th right there where the Women’s Building is and Dovre Club used to be. (Okay, Dovre Club was on the corner, but I had to put it in here if I’m going to mention TWB.)
We weren’t evicted for non-payment of rent. (See the SF Rent Board for the 15 reasons for “just cause” evictions www.sfrb.org.) The sheriff woulda got us outta there a long time before if Mom and Nana hadn’t paid rent. We weren’t evicted for excessive late payments. Money wasn’t rolling around in the ladies’ purses, but they knew there were limits.
Nana, Mom, my sister, her 1 1/2-year old son, and I were evicted cuz this is America and if you buy property, you get to live in it, on it, around it. Or not.
There have been times when I thought, no one should be able to own anything. This was after growing up with a bunch of cousins when I wanted my own everything. Instead we were made to follow Lopez-style communism. I owned or Mom owned and let me use my (her) choines, socks, shoes, shirts, pants, that one Easter dress, and sweaters. Okay, I had access to more than many people in this world ever have. But some of my stuff, yes, including the choines, were my sister’s or cousin’s before or after me depending on if said item was too big or too small. Maybe I was lucky that I was chubby – “Barríl” Grandpa christened me with the r’s rolled, “Barrel,” my uncles, aunts, and Nana said, “husky” Mom soothed, “Fat” my sister clarified. If I wore a 4 or 5 like my cousin my same age did instead of 6X, I would had to share even more. (My cousins, Bucky, Bones, Stinky, Coch(ina), and Harpo never weighed in on my weight.) It didn’t seem that way at the time, but I guess all my extra pounds did me a favor.
The owners told us to leave so they could live in our home/their property. Mom said they were gay. Not a quality my 100% heterosexual and, yes, at least slightly homophobic mother valued. I was so closeted/in denial about my own rainbowness I hadn’t noticed theirs. Once she told me, I thought about the smaller one’s soft face. Mom took us to live with Tía Mary in her flat on 3rd and 20th.
A few months later, Mom and I moved into a converted garage an in-law. Mom died within six months. There are three likely causes listed on her death certificate. One’s missing: “Eviction.”
I filled bag #10 and told myself, Ya! Actually, I sounded more like Roberto Durán: “No más, no más.” There were still more leaves on the ground. I started to pick up the rake to put it in the shed. Then I came inside and got bag #11 and filled it. Truth is I could spend the rest of my life filling bags with leaves and pulling weeds, but I stopped. I’m not old, but I’m old enough to have sore back and legs.
Here in my home-house that I can afford 1,000 miles from my home-heart, I sometimes miss calling the landlord when the drain clogs or the faucet falls off. Truth is, I miss the idea of calling the landlord. None of us often called the landlord when something went wrong. We didn’t want to get blamed. Mostly, we didn’t want the landlord to think we broke something and were gonna break more. If that happened, then two things we didn’t want to happen were going to happen: he was going to raise the rent or evict us. Until we found out we didn’t have to break anything to make that happen. No matter if there were 5 or15 of us living together, we couldn’t afford to move. So having a relative we could stay with for a while sure helped.
I can’t get evicted anymore. I guess Geen could try, but she really likes not dealing with the leaves or weeds so I don’t think she will. I could lose this house. We’re both working and have been since we arrived—thanks Mom, Nana, diosas! and knock on wood--but something could happen and we could lose it. Lose it to a bankrupt-in-so-many-ways system.
I guess I’d go back to paying someone else’s mortgage or jet ski. Then I wouldn’t have to pull any more weeds or rake leaves.