boyle heights como presencia

la primera, boyle heights

In Boyle Heights, the coming of Spring begins to permeate our mornings through the smell of flowers when the wind blows and in the brightening brown faces of gente walking the streets of a community perched atop a hill anchored in the heart of LA. As I walk around my community, up and down streets lined with victorian homes and multi-family apartment buildings bustling with life, on a bright March morning the jacaranda trees bloom and sprinkle its petals on the faces of brown children and viajeras who glance up to embrace its beauty and grandeur. The purple flowers hang off tree limbs that extend expansively into the sky above, a presence unwavered by wind and time.

Spring, as bearer of life and rebirth, serves as a backdrop for a community filled with hundreds of people as strong and as present as the jacaranda trees planted here and throughout nuestra américa, our transbarrios. Yet it was under a patterned blue and light purple evening sky, that I discerned perhaps for the first time yesterday, the meaning of this presence, how tangible, beautiful, and singular people of Boyle Heights are.

My love for this place runs as deep as my love for the smell of moist soil, the taste of food prepared by men and womyn in dozens of its street corners, for happiness and community on a park and plaza bench, and the gift of walking and moving and knowing where I was born, where my parents chose to stay and build, to harvest, and to grow.

Yet for a long time, when I’ve walked down its streets I have seen and felt an absence in this place I love without measure that I couldn’t exactly name. In my treasured ritual of walking down 1st street, an avenue of constant movement where storefronts neighbor the community theater and police station, I often have searched to find a connection, the gaze of my neighbors both young and old, to find reassurance in a smile and in an affirmation. Without understanding this need, I felt I wanted to embrace the people who live in a community I have gone on to carry with me wherever I have traveled, when Boyle Heights has rolled off my tongue when speaking with students and activist in Mexico City, when strolling down the pebbled streets of Oaxaca, when stepping onto the campus of a university in a small predominately white town in Northern California.

Many times I have instead seen the downward gaze of an elder man dressed in a sombrero and guaraches walking in the opposite direction determined to get to some place. I have seen lackluster storefronts, one after another, profiled against a sunset peaking through the skyline down below, absent of people, absent of warmth. As a community so close to downtown and so familiar to migrant spirits, its sidewalks and bus benches become home to lingering souls, momentary refuge for rest and sleep. Through the unceasing cycle of night and morning, I have yearned to feel and to see and to know that collectively us gente from Boyle Heights know how beautiful it is to be and to be together, here.

But it was under the illuminated lavender sky of March that I finally found what I had for so long searched for. Walking home from work, while waiting at the intersection, across the street I discerned my community convening to share tacos and company. Posted all along a rail in front of our local surplus food store, the man who sleeps at the entrance of the youth center sat awaiting his order. Beside him was the older man who wakes up early every day and tours the neighborhood to pick up plastic bottles to recycle. And surrounding them were men, womyn, elders, and families all lined up at Tacos y Burritos El Texano, waiting to scarf down an order of 4 tacos de al pastor each, some seriously considering buying a champurrado or tamale from the man stationed with his shopping cart right at the corner.

This vision, people who I greet day after day on my walk through Boyle Heights were together, eating, sitting, existing, and occupying space in a community that is ours. I discerned presence. I discerned space. I discerned the existence and being of individuals that for many never exist. In my search to affirm the communality and love of Boyle Heights, I have not only learned that the sadness of our people informs our collective existence, but that many times what we consider absence, is really living and breathing presence.

As the light turned green I walked across the street, exchanging a wave with my neighbor and plastic-bottle collector, and began my way down the street I have known as home for twenty-four years, the wind caressing a smile onto my face. Somos como la jacarandá, sigilosxs y presentes.

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Brotando Frutos: Lecciones del Campo

Roads that lead to apple orchards, Durango Mx.
Roads that lead to apple orchards, Durango Mx.

“Hubieron temporadas cuando tu abuelo cosechaba muchas frutas y frijol, él jamas dejo de trabajar la tierra ni de prepararla, pero hubieron años cuando el helado o la granizada les arruinaba la cosecha, pero la tierra estaba preparada. Ellos jamas pasaron hambre, ellos jamas dejaron de trabajar. Tú eres como aquella tierra preparada, cuidada, lista para brotar frutos.”

There were seasons when you’re grandfather’s land would reap lots of fruits, beans, and a bountiful cosecha. He tended the land year after year but there were years when the winter cold and granizada would ruin the harvest, pero la tierra estaba preparada. Ellos jamas pasaron hambre, ellos jamas dejaron de trabajar. Tú eres como aquella tierra preparada, cuidada, lista para brotar frutos. But you, just like the land, are prepared. You’re used to getting everything easily, you’ve been blessed with opportunities more readily, more steadily, more in the past, but you must work hard now and in the future. Good things will come Meli, you must work for them, and maintain all of the work you’ve put into yourself, the time and love and care you have taken to tend and nurture your being and your life. You will be able to reap flowers and life once again. Be patient and work hard.

Amorcito mio

I GUIDE MY LIFE THROUGH LOVE.

 Through the love that emanates from my body and simmers within my soul, through the love of creation and inspiration for justice and transcendence, love from within myself for myself and not the love I wish to see in the eyes of others who look at me.  Self Love, which  for so long I sought to find in others as a validating sort of love, radiates within me for life, for my lovers, and for love. I do not guide my life through fear, but through love. I love those who come into my life and those who part from it, because through the synergy and intensity of our love, we grew stronger, leaving each other with the lessons to continue, breaking down or building ourselves the way we need to.

Dulce Esperanza

What’s in a name?  A bit of investigative work and short conversations regarding what’s behind my name, my parent’s explain that it means “dulce esperanza”.  This, along with all of the symbolism encompassed with being a daughter of two mexican migrants now living in Los Angeles via way of Durango and Sonora, and who I am becoming, has prompted me to write this short piece in Spanish.  Espero que les guste, muchos besitos:

Yo tengo alma de ave, me seduce el viento que acaricia mi piel, como si animarme a tomar vuelo.  Desde pequeña me gustaba correr, brincar y jugar sin fijarme ni preocuparme hacia cual rumbo me dirigía, sin importar que me tropezara o me cayera, y un día de jugar era todo un éxito cuando terminaba con moretones en las rodillas y en los codos y empapada de sudor y tierra…a la angustia de mi madre.  Jamas me he dejado vencer o desanimar por miedo a causarme heridas, tras años de deporte de baile de viaje he aprendido que tengo un cuerpo muy fuerte y resistente.  Sí temo defraudarme a mi misma y esto me causa enfrentar retos con temor de ser insuficiente, de no creerme digna de lograr aquello que tanto me asombra, pero persigo aquellos sueños con tremendo empeño y cada día con más paciencia y amor y valentía. Porque me fascina la sensación de volar, de percibir la inmensidad del hermoso entorno; de vistas nuevas viejas y antiguas que se vuelven nuevas con cada día.  Me gustaría discernir las rutas por las cuales puedo volar, con amor y esperanza, para navegar por el mundo con la curiosidad y confianza desarrollada de niña y con el amor propio que voy desarrollando como adulta.  Y con la esperanza engendrada en mi por mi papá y mi madre, por mi familia y comunidad, por el mundo hacía mi y yo hacía el mundo.  Me gustaría navegar el mundo volando, con valentía y con la mira hacía el horizonte perpetuo.