Saturday, February 16, 2008

El Chicano Chingon y La India Reina

“Where did you learn to speak Spanish?”

It’s something I usually hear accompanied by a wide grin when I say a little word or phrase in Spanish to Hispanic people. The truth is I love learning new things so naturally I checked out a book on Basic Spanish way back when I lived in San Antonio in 95’. It was a necessity then because San Antonio is Hispanic town. That really didn’t do a lot of good considering I didn’t have anyone pronounce the words correctly for me except for my neighbor. He was a flaky guy and was usually angry about something so I never really bothered to ask him for help. These days I’m not fluent but I can pick up the gist of a Spanish conversation and carry on a fragmented conversation in Spanglish.

When I was but a wee Gelfling Spanish was what I saw on the television or the trips to town where a huge amount of Hispanics live. I knew nothing of it and did not really care to know anything about it! It was just another language and something I didn’t understand. It’s been a long road for me from the vast isolated expanse of the Dine reservation to the rest of the world. For some reason I just seem to click with Hispanic people. I can look back at all the years that I’ve lived so far from home and they were the group of people who took me under their wings many times.

“Mi Hija. Are you hungry?” Hispanic people would ask when I was down-and-out on my luck. At the time I was struggling and could hardly even afford bus fare. I’d wind up getting a meal or even an invitation to the home to eat a good home made dinner! I remember those faces and those people but do not remember their names. I do remember all the friends that gravitated towards me and they were Chicanos. One Chicano friend of mine who was in the Vietnam War always told my friends and I,

“I’ll only go out with India’s and Chicana’s.” There seemed to be a bond that I shared with these people that went beyond sharing the same color skin.

We are both brown. A little grand to say but that’s the way I see it.

I already knew that a lot of Hispanic people were a mixture of Indian and Spanish blood and my friendships with them just made that more apparent and clear. A homeless guy once told me while I was out on the streets panhandling one day he almost always had much unconditional graciousness extended by Hispanic people. I asked him why and he told me that the reason they were more ready to help was because they knew what it was to suffer! I took that line and remembered it because it just made the whole journey my life has taken with my friends more clear.

I wrote a little poem for the special relationship I have with la gente. It’s about a friend who I used to carouse around with who didn’t have to befriend me but chose to. He pretty much spent his life hanging around us down-and-out folks. He had a home and a loving family but liked to spend time with us. I don’t think he even cared that I was a Transgendered girl! I used to have such a grand time with him and he’d back me up if I needed it! He passed away sometime last year and I didn’t find out until I went back to Burque (Albuquerque) to see my friends. It’s not totally finished but it’s something that I want to print here. It’s untitled right now but as time goes on I’ll come back and edit.


Fists of fury

No man no cry

She found in him

A secret hideaway

A groovy kind of love

Spoken in street corner whispers

and countless unsaid

I knows

He told her one day

High on a five year ride

I got my set. You want one?


Work unfinished

a sign of rebirth and strength

It is a testament to what grand visions

he had beheld of her

She now carries her homeboys name

etched into every cell of her being

From his name on her leg

to the unsaid goodbyes

when he died

She stands the test of time

Her hideaway now in sun

Blue and brown

Chicano and Indian

She will hold her ground


© 2008 Tyrene Banks; except Images

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