The Sum of its Parts

New map of San Antonio (from

In an effort to understand where I am going, I must continue to explore my past. So every so often I will ramble, rant, and rave about my upbringing. Some of these are normally topics of conversation I have with friends and family. But I document them here so that I might re-read them on those rainy days and sleepless nights.

My growing up in San Antonio, Texas, gave me access to a good public school education, in my humble opinion. I was in the Gifted and Talented program, I was in the National Honor Society, but somehow I lacked the knowledge of something that I hold dear to my heart today.  It wasn’t until college that I realized how much I did not know about Mexican American people like me.

I learned about the Chicano Moratorium attacks in Los Angeles, the labor protests in San Antonio led by Emma Tenayuca, the United Farm Workers Union  struggles, the Chicano Civil Rights Movement… or even what the term “Chicano” meant. Why had I not known about these historical markers? Why was I not taught these things in school?

Then I thought, “Maybe I was taught these things. Maybe I turned a blind eye whenever these subjects were taught in school.”

I was such an American kid that learning about my ancestors had become an unwanted burden. I didn’t want to know about Mexican music, food, or customs. It was grilled into me that Mexico was over there, and we lived in the United States. There was no both in my twisted “common sense,” there was only one or the other. And I didn’t fit into either. But I never asked myself, “Why?”

College for me was not in San Antonio. It was Austin that opened my eyes. One day, walking through campus during my freshman year in college, I heard Tejano music. Now normally I would not have listened to that music of my own accord. I was, however, growing weary of the ever-present grunge rock and country music of the early 90s.

But there was something about the Tejano cumbia that called to me. When I finally reached the source of the música, there they were: every Mexicano at the university was dancing, laughing, talking, eating, and having a great time. OK… so maybe it wasn’t every Mexicano, but there were a lot of Latinos there. And the music included salsa and merengue as well.

I had found my familia. And the first step in discovering myself as a Chicano…. and rediscovering my roots in Mexico. Suddenly, my past began to haunt me as a recollection of experiences, thoughts, ideas, flavors, aromas, words, sounds, and textures  that I shared with others in this familia. It was like lifting the veil… like removing the emerald glasses… like a rebirth.

And I yearned for more! Why was I not aware of it before? How could I have missed it? What if I had not gone to that university? What if I had not taken that walk around campus that day?

Image source:


One Comment

  1. I felt the same way you did when I went to college. I went to the University of Pennsylvania where less than one percent of the student population was Latino. It was then that I joined several cultural student groups, and learned so much about my heritage and its history. The other day my 7-year-old son asked me, “Am I Hispanic?” And I replied, “Why yes, you are!” I had neglected to educate my own son about his ethnic background. How ironic is that?


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