Where I’m From (la Mera Neta)
I’m from cigarette smoke and kneeling on sea shells to recite Our Fathers as punishment for fighting, mouthing bad words, and talking back.
I am from altares to la Virgen de San Juan and nopalitos.
(Green, sizzling, cactus meat filled our plates at Lent.)
I am from Severa and Jose Rocha, from Martha Garcia and an unfaithful grandfather
from Saltillo, Coahuila, whose birth name never made it to me.
I am from running barefoot on the grey asphalt of night, street warmth
permeating my soles. I am from never believing my Mom’s boyfriends
were ever good enough for her.
I’m from bingo at the parish hall of the Immaculate Conception Church
and women who gather around telenovelas to discover things about themselves via
the characters on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.
I am from Gregory, Texas, and East LA, from Lorena Street and Corpitos,
from the Southside of San Anto, Fair Avenue and Hot Wells Boulevard, from
the white dust of dirt-road trailer parks in Ingleside and Aransas Pass, Texas.
From broken bones and digging ditches, from rooster fights, food stamps,
and tattooed devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I am from tricked-out Oldsmobiles and Silverados pushed up on fat 20s.
From boxing lessons when I was twelve and metalflake glimmering
in the sun of a lowrider show that I never wanted to end.
From wanting to grow up to be like my Tios and my abuelito, imitating
their walk, their talk, their clothes, their placazos, their dreams.
I am from Guayabera shirts, estirantes, tapas, and Stacy Adams.
From creased-up Dickies and Ben Davis, Charlie Brown shirts and Nike Cortez.
I am from barbecues on Sunday afternoons with a hundred and one relatives
and fajitas, chorizo, brisket, rice, beans, and potato salad for days.
From rosaries whispered over sick relatives and unpaid bills--
cancer, diabetes, and money for the light bill that was lost in a street bet and
At the kitchen tables of my childhood, we played Loteria and prayed before Thanksgiving; we learned that my cousin David went to prison for armed robbery, that my cousin Rudy had died after being attacked by an army of ants, and
that my mom had developed cancer in her uterus.
I am from those hours of men, women, and children--
the waiting, the praying, the hoping.