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Eulogy for Don Ramón

April 26, 2018


Ramón Guzmán Murillo was born on November 30 1933 on a small ranch in García de La Cadena, in Zacatecas. He was born into a world that is not too hard for us to imagine. The family lived in a small rural town and worked on a hacienda. Ramón  helped his father care for their animals and sold cheese to the rancho’s residents. He saddled up the family donkey and convinced residents to buy cheese by giving it to them on credit. It was through this labor that Ramón became schooled in arithmetic and became literate. Ramón’s mom cooked and cleaned and did laundry. The women, Ramón remembered, would laugh and talk and talk and laugh, “era pura risa.” This beautiful childhood was interrupted by his father’s death. Ramon had to grow up and he had to do so pretty quickly.

Ramón lived 87 years; 87 years that can’t be easily summarized. And yet, in listening to an interview I did with him 10 years ago, three themes stand out. The first theme is that of migration. Throughout his life, Ramón crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. He did so legally and illegally.  He moved throughout Mexico and lived in Zacatecas, Jalisco, and Mexicali. He lived near and along the border and as a retiree resided in both South El Monte and Santa Rosa, near Zapopan. In death, Don Ramón crossed the border one last time. He crossed in order to lay next to Leonor, on a hill just above the 10 freeway.

Ramón, like millions of Mexican males throughout Mexico, migrated to the United States with the outset of World War II and as the United States and Mexico created the quest worker program known as the Bracero Program. In the 1950s, as Ramón turned 19 and as his pueblo suffered from a drought, he migrated to the United States.

In one of his first jobs, Ramon worked in el traque (the railroad). Along with José María (aka Chema) and cousins and nephews from Zacatecas, he worked to replace worn out wood and rails. This was hard labor, but these young men enjoyed their time off and even got into some mischief. They knocked down some beers and frequented the cantinas. Don Ramón, in fact, was a sharp dresser. He went into a local tuxedo shop and told the owner, “I want a suit that when you twist it like this and then let it go, it’ll come back, like new, no wrinkles.”  With this 105-dollar baby blue suit, Ramón frequented the Tijuana Café in Oakland, California.

In our interview, Ramón fondly recalled one particular memory from his days on the railroad. Ramón regularly showed up to work at noon on Monday, per his agreement with his boss. One Monday morning, the migra showed up and took Chema and his other distant relatives and friends. “Se los llevo la migra,” he laughed fondly. La migra was smart, but el abuelo was just as smart. Before he had his papers he used a number of strategies to cross into the United States. I’m told by my uncles that he wore a suit, found and cleaned up a little puddle dog and walked it across the border as he said, “come’on Johny, come’on Johny.” In other instances, he would simply say I am U.S. citizen.

He also found legal ways to move unhindered across the border. When he worked as a mechanic in Calexico, his boss gave him a letter indicated that he had a job for him. Armed with this letter, Ramón visited the U.S. consul in Guadalajara and obtained a visa.


“La mecánica me dio para todo.”

The second theme that runs through Don Ramón’s life is working under the hood of a car or truck. He worked as mechanic in Guadalajara, in Mexicali, along the border, in the front yard of the South El Monte home, and at the old Pontiac dealership on Valley boulevard in El Monte. He learned as he went, but he also learned by attending night classes in Oakland, California. According to Don Ramón, the first English words he learned were the names of tools.

The third theme in Don Ramón’s life is home. Perhaps, since his childhood was so precarious, he made owning a house one of his lives goals. In one of our many backyard conversations, he justified his most daring exploit by explaining that if it had succeeded he would have bought everyone a house. That’s another story, for another time though. In the 1960s, Ramón and Leonor drove throughout Los Angeles, until the 60 freeway and Merced Avenue connected them to the small suburban streets in quite South El Monte. They bought the South El Monte house for $33,000. Later in life, Don Ramón build a small apartment in the back, but he also purchased property in Santa Rosa, a small colonia in Guadalajara. After purchasing an empty lote he asked his friends to bring truck-loads of sand, dirt, and bricks. Together with his brother, they slowly build two homes. For decades, they lived side-by-side.

Our themes of migration, labor, and home are connected by Don Ramón’s love for his family. When he first migrated to the United States he worked hard to provide for his mother and his siblings. Later on, he worked to provide for Leonor and to house and clothe and feed his children: Ramón, Mini, Francisca, David, Ray, Liz, and Jared.  He succeeded in that and the South El Monte home remains a gathering place for the Guzmán family.

If you believe in heaven, you might imagine Don Ramón having a beer with Don Chema (no te agüites vale), reminiscing about Guadalajara with Nicolas, serving his brother Trini just a little more tequila, and dancing cheek-to-cheek on a dirt floor with Leonor. If you don’t, you can find solace in the fact that he is gone, but not forgotten. He lives in the backyard parties, the songs we listened to, and the time we spend together.


All historical narratives are incomplete. Like an astronomer, a historian writes from their particular vantage point in the universe; from a distant and remote future the historian seeks to construct the past. This endeavor then is inherently flawed. All narratives contain blind spots and silences. This particular story is no different. There are adventures and stories and failings that I omitted. This story is also told from the perspective of a grandson, one who only ever knew Don Ramón as a grandfather with a full head of white hair. This story is also based primarily from an interview I did with him. By then, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease: years and decades overlapped, meshed into and on top of each other. This story is just a small slice of his 87 years on this planet.


Pochos en La Casa

November 18, 2013
Photo by Jennifer Renteria

Photo by Jennifer Renteria

La Casa de El Hijo del Ahuizote is not technically open, but its officially welcomed its first pocho academic. Founded by Diego Flores Magón, La Casa is housed in the old headquarters of Regeneración, on Avenida Colombia in downtown Mexico City. In an effort to break away from the bureaucracy and hierarchy of traditional archives, La Casa’s collections are completely digital and the building will serve as a cultural and intellectual center. Moreover, in the spirit of Magonismo we hope to create a transnational community of activists, scholars, artists, and journalists.

Photo by Daniel Morales

Photo by Daniel Morales

This past Saturday Israel Pastrana, doctoral candidate at UCSD, kicked things off with his lecture “cruz de olvido: el homicidio imprudential de migrants en Estados Unidos.” Pastrana narrated his families’ migration story, from his Bracero grandfather to his own experiences living and moving between Tijuana-San Diego. He noted how this family narrative influenced his academics interest. “I think of it as an obligation to my mother and grandfather and those who are crossing the border now.” Combining the personal and politically, he went on to use primary sources and his own memories to discuss the changes along the U.S.-Mexico border, focusing on the infamous migrant crossing sign. Between 1985 and 1990, hundreds of undocumented migrants were killed in automobile accidents within four miles of the international border crossing that separates Tijuana and San Diego. Concern over these deaths, particularly those involving pedestrians, led the California Highway Patrol and the state’s Department of Transportation to install warning signs to alert motorists of migrants crossing the road. Pastrana argued that despite their cultural significance, these road signs failed to address the causes of pedestrian deaths, namely, the Border Patrol’s explicit policy of pushing unauthorized border crossers towards major roads and freeways. casa.

In an effort to include the audience and making all of us story-tellers and listeners (very much in line South El Monte Arts Posse’ ethos) we passed out “name tags.” Yet instead of filling in your name, folks were asked to list a family member that had migrated, including the year, original state of residence and settlement. Lastly, we invited everyone represent this migration by drawing a line from place of origin to settlement on a map of the Americas. Y claro we had some mescal and played with Aura. If you are pocho in D.F. and interested in La Casa drop us a line.

on the balcony

Eulogy for Pops

August 31, 2013

Nicolas Guzman - On a bull - Unknown Date

Nicolas Guzman was son, a brother, a father of five children, grandfather to a two year old girl, truck driver, a self-taught businessman, and member of the Catholic Church, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Comite de Pasos. We all knew him in slightly different ways and are finding our own ways to remember, celebrate, and mourn him. This past week I spent a lot of time in my parents’ garage, searching for photo albums in cardboard boxes. I carefully looked though each album, selecting photos, organizing them by decades and genres, and finally with my brother’s help (Nick), scanning and uploading them onto our parents computer. Of all the themes and periods, I keep returning to my father ridding bulls. My initial thought was that this era represented a departure from a more responsible, serious, and pragmatic Nicolas that I came to know: that this was a more adventures and rebellious Nicolas. I have come to understand that my father’s bull ridding era was not a departure or an anomaly. Instead, it embodied his approach to life: attention to detail, careful planning, strong conviction, sacrifice, and a degree of risk.

My father was born in Garcia de la Cadena, Zacatecas in 1958. Like many other Zacatecano families, the Guzman family migrated to the then developing, but already large metropolis of Guadalajara. They settled in la Colonia de Santa Margarita, a poor and working class neighborhood near Zapopan. Jose Maria, my grandfather began his migration north, initially working as a contracted Bracero, but like many Mexican workers who participated in the US-Mexico Bracero Program, went onto live and work outside the legal parameters of the program. Lead by Manuel Guzman, the oldest of the 4 boys, the family found ways to scrap together a living. Manuel sold insurance, the younger boys sold gum on the buses and shined shoes just outside of Guadalajara’s Cathedral, their mother took in other people’s laundry, Jose Maria sent dollars through the mail, and the daughters of the family helped keep the house in order and no doubt kept the boys in check.

While difficult, the family made the most of their time in Guadalajara. Nicolas, Maylo, Lupe, and Lobo played soccer in fields across the city, in the cobblestone streets, and tapped into the Guadalajara’s urban culture. Nicolas worked at Lemus, a music store in downtown Guadalajara, giving him access to all the newest records: English giants like the Beatles, French stars like Francois Hardy, the international and tri-lingual star Jeanette, and American icons like Don McClean and the Bee Gees. When back in their house they huddled around the radio listening to Radio Futura. Nicolas did not know French or English, but this didn’t matter. His pants, like his hair were long, flowing out at their ends.

It was during this time that my father and mother met. My mother was born and attended elementary school in Guadalajara, then junior high school in Mexicali, and the last two years of high school in South El Monte. While living in South El Monte, my mother spent a summer in Guadalajara, where she met my father. They got married in 1977, living in Guadalajara and Los Angeles for a few years, until finally settling into a small trailer in Goleta, California. Nick and Romeo slept in the kitchen, folding the kitchen table into the wall, and laying down blankets in its place. Aimee and Amanda slept on a bunk bed, directly above our parent’s bed. Nicolas parked cars at a valet parking lot in downtown Santa Barbara and drove limousines at night. Francisca cleaned million dollars homes that dotted the pacific coast of Carpenteria and attended Santa Barbara Community College. We were poor, humble, but with class and dignity. My father had 2 suits, keeping them clean and alternating different ties, and shirts, always looking sharp. On one occasion, when Nicolas handed the keys over to the driver, the driver casually flipped him a quarter and blurted “your tip.” Nicolas caught it, slowly walked up to the driver and replied, as he handed him back his coin “I think you might need it more that I do.”

We could be in Santa Barbara talking about Nicolas the valet and limousine driver, but we all know that one of my father’s defining characteristics was an almost relentless quest for self-improvement. While we were in Santa Barbara, my father temporarily moved to Los Angeles to attended truck driving school. We eventually moved to Pomona where most of the Guzman children were raised. Safer than riding a bull, yet demanding careful attention to movement, Nicolas spent most of his adult life on freeways, loading freight, and parking diesel trucks. His primo Isais sold him his first truck and helped him get his start in trucking. My father was grateful for this, helping others along the way, including his brother in-law Fernando. As the sun rose, Nicolas’ white diesel truck’s engine would rumble, finally coming to rest at sunset. Truck driving provided my father a degree of independence, autonomy, freedom and endless opportunity for conversation: jokes with his fellow truck drivers through the “CV” and music through the radio and CD player were an arms length away. Nicolas loved joke and stories, having the ability to tell a joke for any occasion, with almost surgical precision.

My father often incorporated English expressions into his lexicon, though they always seemed a little odd, as if the English language couldn’t quite contain the multiple meanings my father sought to express. For example, “lets make numbers,” simply means lets add, subtract, divide, calculate…but for my father, “lets make numbers” really meant lets put these things down on paper, lets imagine possibilities, lets envision the future. “Lets make numbers” was almost an incantation.

My father’s quest to “make numbers” started really early. In Santa Barbara, when he worked as valet during the day and limousine driver at night, he got together with his cousin Raul and together they brought together enough money to make a down payment on a house. We lived in a small trailer, his primo in an apartment, and the house was rented out (I’m pretty sure neither could afford the rent of the house). When we moved to Pomona and my mom became a registered nurse, my parents bought a new house in Chino Hills-they drove up to the hills from Pomona every other weekend to photograph its progress: the dirt patch that outlined the parameters, the first wood-frame…until its final form. My father, like a good math teacher, cared as much about the process (the logic of things), as much as the final outcome. My father and mother would go on to buy more property, including a few condos in Playa del Carmen, which they also photographed through its various stages.

Our time in Pomona was also characterized by a desire for emotional self-improvement and spirituality. My parents became very involved with Sacred Heart Church-teaching Cathequism classes, attending retreats, and getting married by the Church. They also drove to Palm Springs to participate in “Latinos Unidos” a self-help group therapy organization for working class migrants.

This quest for knowledge of the self and self-improvement continued throughout his life, gaining urgency in his later years. My father’s cancer and our little brother’s alcoholism led my father to learn about and attend Mexican anexos. He loved the humble, almost austere buildings, the direct and frank way of speaking, and that they were completely autonomous and self-funded. For a short period he even pretended to be an alcoholic to continue attending meetings. Eventually my father and mother joined Comite de Pasos, a metaphysical group based on the 12 steps. One progresses through stages and is both given a mentor and is in charge of mentoring others. While we would all love for him to still be here with us: I think this was Cancer’s gift to my father. It gave him the chance to retire—though he continued to work, he managed the truck and truck driver and even took accounting classes. He worked in an H and R block before deciding he didn’t want to deal with the people or really need the money. Cancer allowed him to be mentored, to mentor others, and to prepare for death. He once said of the Comite de Pasos: when you receive this gift, you want to pass it on.

People often confused my father for a priest and a teacher. While he is neither, he taught his children a lot. Nick, the oldest of the five children, an engineer, shares our fathers’ love for numbers. Aimee’s graphic design contains his meticulous attention to detail and an aesthetic whose beauty lies in its simplicity. I’ve inherited his love for words and story telling. Amanda, my fathers’ determination. Dante has his adventurous behavior—sometimes I wish he had a little less of it.

I like to imagine Santa Barbara during the 1970s, when my grandfather lived there. Santa Barbara during the 70s and 1980s, when my father parked valets and drove limousines. The early 2000s, when I attended Santa Barbara Community College, worked at Rusty’s Pizza con Lobo, and lived with my tio Maylo’s family. The mid and late 2000s when Aimee attended UCSB. And, the Santa Barbara of today, Dante’s current home. I like to collapse time and imagine my grandfather, father, sis, and Dante sharing the sidewalks and streets of Santa Barbara, attending a rodeo, sharing a cig, and why not, a few beers. Perfect material for a postmodern novel.

Nicolas Guzman passed away on August 15th, at Pomona Valley on Garey Avenue. He was accompanied by all of his siblings, all of his children, his brother and sister-in laws, whom he loved very much, and his wife and his mother. It was a fitting place to spend his last days. Francisca spent the last 20 years working on various floors of Pomona Valley. The four oldest children attended Garey High School just a few blocks from the hospital. 1798 South Towne, east of the high school, was the family’s first house.  Nicolas, an idealist, romantic, yet always logical and pragmatic, loved life’s coincidences, often contemplating their divine nature. His last days, like his life, was a mixture of faith, serendipity, and careful planning.

Andar Fronteras: mexicano migrado

June 25, 2013

To break the isolation of research and writing, I often send my fellow graduate school friends quotes from sources I find in the archives. On this particular occasion, I sent Froylán Enciso, a doctoral candidate at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, a short portrait of a Mexican migrant/poet from the 1920s. The poet/migrant hated NYC (and American ‘costumbres’), loved to party, and constantly worried about not writing enough. Remembering our partying and working in Mexico City and NYC, I thought Froy would get a kick out it.

            He did, and to my surprise attached an essay titled “Mujer Migrada.” The essay, written in 2003, focuses on the relationship between migration and gender. It is a thoughtful and beautifully written essay, with some nice insights. However, what makes this essay worthy of sharing (and reading) is not its argument, but its place within Froy’s own particular academic (and intellectual) trajectory and movement. By using the essay as a point of departure, we hope to reflect on the relationship between intellectual production and travel. From 2009 to 2012 Froy lived in Long Island, taught and took classes at Stony Brook, was the President of Graduate Student Organization (2010-11) and partied with a ton of pochos. Below, is the essay, followed by a Q and A with Froylán


“Todas las puertas cerradas en nombre de Dios.

Toda la locura y la terquedad del mundo

en nombre de Dios.”

José Revueltas, Dios en la tierra.

¿Quién sufre más, quien se va o quien se queda? El caso concreto: te odia, te abandonó sin explicación, murió, ahora es indiferente, ya no sabes donde está, se fue a buscarte un mejor futuro o no adivinas cuantas de las opciones anteriores debes elegir. Buscar una respuesta no es sencillo, demasiado compromiso. Tampoco lo es para la mujer migrante, ni para quienes la hemos visto.

La migración es un fenómeno tangible, pero también simbólico. Una mujer migrante es el cuerpo—siempre normado por los Estados con términos como legal/ilegal, nacional/extranjeros, etc.—de un ser del sexo femenino que ha cruzado una línea imaginaria llamada ‘frontera’.

Cuando hablamos de migración y mujer no sólo nos podemos referir a  las que están “del otro lado”. Con frecuencia los que atraviesan físicamente la frontera son los hombres de la casa, maridos, nietos, hijos, yernos, hermanos, y la mujer se queda pero no se queda igual. Sus vidas de este lado sufren los trastoques de la migración sin haber movido el cuerpo debido a que la partida de los hombres implica una dimensión material y, sobre todo, simbólica. Están solas con su esperanza, cartas, llamadas telefónicas y remesas. Son mujeres que siempre esperan. La línea fronteriza atraviesa su mente, pláticas, familia, su ser mujer; sus referentes masculinos están mediados por la frontera y eso puede diluirlas o fortalecerlas.

Si observamos a las mujeres desde las nubes, también veremos cómo los hombres, migren o no, son—aunque no siempre impongan conscientemente—‘fronteras ’. Todas han cruzado cotidianamente líneas imaginarias a través los tiempos aunque las leyes y normas de los Estados-nación no siempre hayan estado ahí. El hombre define a la mujer y la mujer al hombre como si las imágenes en los espejos se hablaran para decirse cosas que los juntan cuando los separan porque dicen qué son y qué jamás llegarán a ser: mujer  migrada y no migrante, un concepto que en términos básicos busca incluir a todas aquellas atravesadas por fronteras.



Lo femenino de las mujeres de este lado, de las mujeres a distancia, de las mujeres que esperan, toma un giro estético y ético a nuestros ojos. Algunas personas tienen la impresión de que en el fenómeno migratorio las que se quedan en sus casas, en el pueblo expulsor, en el lugar de origen, tienen un papel pasivo o, en el otro extremo,  de mayor poder. Ni una ni la otra. Si bien es cierto que, cuando los hombres se van, el papel de la mujer se vuelve preponderante para la vida, la pregunta es ¿en qué sentido y por qué?

No necesariamente se vuelven más poderosas—o más empoderadas—porque el poder no sólo se expresa materialmente, es más que poseer, administrar el dinero, tomar las decisiones, ejercer violencia o vestir pantalones; también se expresa en el reconocimiento y en la posibilidad de tener la opción de decidir de manera independiente. Normalmente los poderosos son aquellos a los que reconocemos como tales. Quienes tienen poder usan sus recursos materiales—golpes, dinero o influencias—cuando ven que los subordinados ya no los reconocen. En realidad ésta  no es su demostración más grandes.

A las mujeres que se quedan no necesariamente se les reconoce como más poderosas porque ellas en realidad sólo son más influyentes. Sólo ocupan temporalmente los huecos que dejó el hombre.  El reconocimiento ahí se funda más en la autoridad moral que da el sufrimiento que en la posesión material de instrumentos de poder.

La sociedad no siempre perdona cuando la mujer toma responsabilidades, actitudes y papeles masculinos pero la mujer migrada puede hacerlo sin problemas por muchas razones: no se masculiniza, merece la admiración, nadie la reprueba, porque lo que en otras es rebeldía o ruptura del equilibrio natural de la vida en ella es acto heroico e ineludible. Ellas no deciden desdoblarse en hombre y mujer, no buscan crear dualidades progresistas ni reivindicar sus capacidades aunque de hecho lo haga en el camino.

Ese femenino no-decidir o el sabor a situación ineludible es lo que provoca cambios de la mirada social. Se vuelve buena ante los ojos de la gente como heroína sufrida, no como intrusa de lo masculino. Se queda sola y tiene que llenar los espacios que el hombre ocupaba, debe ser padre y madre a la vez, salir a trabajar y tomar las decisiones familiares que antes tomaban los que están lejos. Se vuelven seres llenos de dualidades y extrañezas, una especie de travestis. Su travestismo, empero, no es convencional.

Los travestis no son mujeres pero se comportan como si lo fuesen y, por decir lo menos, se les ve como a humanos incompletos. Las mujeres migradas de este lado también tienen algo de anomalía porque hay cosas que les faltan o les sobran. Aunque no busquen la apariencia de los hombres adquieren muchos de sus atributos, y eso provoca reacciones que, a pesar de que no son necesariamente de reprobación, tampoco les permite conquistar la independencia de acciones y criterios de manera consciente y definitiva.

He visto cómo más de una vecina o pariente  se pregunta “¿Cómo le hace para estar tan tranquila? ¿tu crees que esté así de triste porque se fue el hombre?” Terminan siendo más pregunta que respuesta, viven en la incertidumbre, en el borde de los equilibrios impuestos por las convenciones. No son mujeres liberadas pero tampoco están bajo el yugo inmediato del hombre que se fue,  sin intención transgreden  su posición en la vida social pero añoran el momento del regreso para dejar de hacerlo, son fieles a sus responsabilidades extras pero preferirían evitarlas, representan a todos los sexos sin tenerlos “como Dios manda”. En suma, son pero no completas. Su trasvestismo sui generis es una manera de entender la complejidad de sus relaciones con el mundo social que las rodea, su extraño estigma.


Todas las mujeres que viven del otro lado de la frontera han sido violadas. La violación sexual es el arrebato violento de las decisiones sobre la privacidad física. Primero, la violación migrada, aunque en ocasiones también sea sexual, en términos más generales es el arrebato violento de toda capacidad de decisión. Después, es la extirpación de la privacidad, de todo espacio femenino, de todas las nociones de espacio público y espacio privado del ser mujer. Con cada paso en su camino hacia el otro lado de la frontera, las mujeres migradas van acumulando signos de discriminación. Nacen, dan un paso y son mujeres. Siendo niñas siguen el camino y ya son pobres. Crecen, se vuelven adolescentes, avanzan más y, si la ascendencia y la historia lo dictan, son indígenas. Se casan y son mujeres del hogar.  El hombre se va y ya son abandonadas.

Con todos o algunos de estos sellos sociales, cuando deciden cruzar la frontera deben armarse de temeridad y esperanzas. Es cierto, no siempre ellas deciden pasar al otro lado. En ocasiones las llaman, las animan. Además no siempre cruzan solas. Sea por una cosa o la otra, de una manera o la otra tienen que pasar la mayor parte de las veces con la ayuda de un traficante de personas mejor conocido como coyote.

La situación por la que atraviesan esas mujeres es por demás injusta. El viaje para unos ojos extraños como los míos resulta, por lo menos, enigmático. El papel del coyote se parece mucho al del secuestrador. La migrada mujer, pobre, indígena, abandonada y/o recluida está en sus manos, ella no sabe qué hacer, su seguridad, su vida depende de él. Ni siquiera sabe cómo debe moverse sin que esto sea considerado un error que la vaya a dejar de este lado o, peor aún, en el camino.

El cruce de la frontera es un secuestro donde la secuestrada pagó el rescate por adelantado, no hay garantías de nada. Si algo sale mal, nadie te va regresar el dinero, ni la dignidad, ni la vida. La migrada cruza vulnerable. Si todo sale bien en el camino, al poner el pie al otro lado también será llamada ilegal. Puede reunirse o no con quienes le precedieron, las relaciones con los hombres allá pueden ser diferentes o no. Al final de cuentas, aunque cambie su papel de sumisión en el nuevo mundo, tiene que enfrentarse a una colección de objetos de relego y subordinación.  La interacción con los anglosajones le trae nuevos adjetivos, ahora raciales. Pasa de ser mujer a ser minoría étnica, latina, mexicana, morena.

Ahora su deseo no sólo está mediado por el espacio simbólico que la separa del hombre, también está mediado por la distancia. En principio, ultrajaron su tierra, casa, cocina, barrio, iglesia, escuela, perdió los espacios de creación para entrar a los espacios de servidumbre. No pueden ser bellas ni llenar su cántaro por que ya no tienen río para traer agua, son amazonas a las que se les extirpó la creación. Su identidad se disuelve, no pertenecen al nuevo mundo—siempre habrá alguien que se los recuerde—y, poco a poco, dejan de pertenecer a su mundo de origen.

Mientras se van aculturando se acercan a las personas del otro lado, pero se alejan del lugar primigenio. Se van convirtiendo en extranjeras de todos lados, incluso de sí mismas. Cuando ya empiezan a pertenecer al nuevo mundo, el origen les vacía recriminaciones como con baldes de agua hirviendo. Agringada, libertina, fácil, creída, traidora, vendepatrias, puta, las palabras retumban y se reproducen como diciendo “nunca más pertenecerás a este lugar”.

Así, la mujer migrada del otro lados cierra el ciclo del desplazamiento de su cuerpo por una frontera. Trabaja dando servicios domésticos, de mesera, cuidando hijos que no son los suyos,  limpia pisos que quizá nunca se imaginó que pudieran ser tan bonitos. Lucha y con el tiempo, si sabe evitar las deportaciones, obtiene ciertas recompensas a las aventuras y desventuras de su andar. Quizá pueda empezar comprando obsesivamente un par de zapatos en barata cada fin de semana y enviando remesas cada mes a su lugar de origen. Probablemente después, alguna jefa ayude a conseguir sus papeles y ya pueda comprar una casa. Al final, los zapatos estarán guardados en la casa esperando la oportunidad para poder usarlos, tal vez en una lejana, insípida ocasión extraordinaria sin delantal. Comprar, al final de cuentas, es un placer que se desgasta con la costumbre.

Recalco, si tiene suerte, y sólo si tiene suerte, en el camino su esencia se transmutará en otra que, al menos, será diferente.


Son mujeres migradas, sus vientres se tornan fuertes, engendran y ahora  sacuden como supuestamente sólo saben hacer los hombres. ¿Quién sufre más? Hay quien diga que la maldición es de origen divino. “[Dios] a la mujer dijo: multiplicaré en gran manera tus dolores y tus preñeces; con dolor parirás los hijos; y tu marido será tu deseo, y él se enseñoreará de ti. Y al hombre dijo: por cuanto obedeciste la voz de tu mujer, y comiste del árbol de que te mandé diciendo, ‘no comerás de él’; maldita será la tierra por amor de ti; con dolor comerás de ella todos los días de tu vida” (Génesis 3:16, 17). Negación de las mentes laicas: maldiciones del catolicismo viejo que se suman a las fronteras del protestantismo ascético.

Froylán Enciso

México D.F., diciembre de 2003

Romeo Guzmán: This essay uses gender as its major theoretical framework, but I couldn’t help to think that Mexican nationalism is an “invisible” lens from which both gender and migration are being examined. I was particularly struck by how you conceptualize crossing the border/leaving the Mexican nation: Todas las mujeres que viven del otro lado de la frontera han sido violadas. Were both Gender and nationalism conscious choices?

El género por supuesto que fue la idea principal. Y ya poniéndonos más personales decidí, en aquél entonces, en 2003, usar el tema de las mujeres migrantes para explorar mi propia naturaleza queer. Quería hacer un ejercicio de imaginación de las emociones de las migrantes, traté de meterme en sus ojos en cada paso del camino entre un hogar en México y uno en Estados Unidos. Lo curioso es que nunca había ido a Estados Unidos, aunque lo deseaba con todo el corazón. Creo que por eso mismo, da la impresión de ser un ensayo nacionalista. Releyéndolo diez años después por culpa de tus constantes provocaciones como pochointelectual, creo que más que nacionalista es un ensayo con una obvia, quizá inevitable, mirada nacional.  No había manera de que en aquellos años, en que, a pesar de haber trabajado con muchos estadounidenses (era investigador del Bureau en México de Los Angeles Times), pudiera evitar interpretar el mundo desde México, porque nunca había ido a Estados Unidos y mi “mundo” se reducía a un viaje de un par de meses a Cuba para tomar clases de teatro. Y este es un punto importante en que tanto los pochos, texanos, mexico-americanos, junto con los mexicanos más “cosmopolitas” tenemos que tener cuidado y paciencia: tener una mirada nacional desde México no es lo mismo que ser nacionalista. Es verdad que el nacionalismo puede limitar enormemente la comprensión mutua entre personas de ambos lados de la frontera y otras partes del mundo. Sin embargo, ese aprendizaje, que cuesta mucho trabajo y recursos adquirir, no se le puede exigir a todo mundo ni en toda circunstancia. Lidiar con las miradas nacionales y atesorar lo que tienen que aportar es obligación, creo yo, de todos los que hemos ido a las universidades a leer a Judith Butler y compañía. Si no lo hacemos, terminaremos tan estúpidamente faltos juicio como los nacionalistas. De hecho, y disculpa que lo mencione así de repente, hasta tú tienes una mirada nacional desde Estados Unidos, si no te hubiera impresionado más que dijera que la mujeres migradas del lado mexicano son travestis. Pero eso te lo dejo de tarea para tu propia reflexión. En resumen, la reflexión sobre género y la mirada nacional fueron elecciones conscientes, aunque no estoy de acuerdo en que eso sea necesariamente nacionalista.

RG: How has travel and time to the U.S. change your perspective on migration/Mexicans in the United States? O mas bien, if you had to write this essay again, what would you change/add/revise?

Definitivamente, no escribiría lo mismo diez años después. Vivir en Estados Unidos por algunos años, viajar a otros países, ir y venir a diferentas ciudades de México cambió totalmente mi perspectiva de la escritura y la vida. Ahora no soy tan teórico ni tan metafórico en mi escritura. La mejor forma de escribir estas intersecciones entre género, nación, clase, raza y religión que trato de manera tan superficial en este ensayo “Mujer migrada” deben escribirse de forma concreta. Tiene algo de encanto la poesía, pero no hay nada como ponerle un rostro a lo humano y no hay nada como hablar de cosas que realmente pasaron para conectar con el lector. Y eso lo cambia todo. Para ponerlo en términos más llanos déjame aclararte que cuando yo escribí ese ensayo pensaba que muchos pochos que encontraría al otro lado de la frontera estarían tocados por el diablo del imperialismo yanqui. Cuando llegué y les puse el rostro de amigos o estudiantes o amas de casa en barrios de migrantes de Long Island, pobres y discriminados del lado gringo, me di cuenta que hay mucho que podemos hacer los mexicanos para solidarizarnos con los problemas que tiene del otro lado de la frontera. Por eso me volví activista estudiantil en mi universidad y he hecho lo que puedo por defender la educación pública en Estados Unidos. Esa sensibilidad no la tenía al escribir “Mujer migrada”, es la sensibilidad de enfrentar lo concreto de la vida con acciones.

 RG: Your book, Andar Fronteras, (2008), sought to ground Octavio Paz’s intellectual trajectory within his time abroad. Before you left for Stony Brook, how did you imagine your time in the US would impact your ideas about Mexico, about the US, drugs, etc.

En el ensayo que estamos comentando se nota que Paz me influyó. Tienes razón. La idea de la violación la usó él  para explicar la chingada como parte primigenia del ser mexicano en El laberinto de la soledad y yo acá nomás le di una revisada pensando en la mujeres migrantes. Antes de salir a Estados Unidos, analicé la formación de Paz—sobre todo de sus ideas políticas—por  medio de los viajes. Eso me enseñó que yo personalmente cambiaría, como cualquier migrante, pero no sabía cómo y, de hecho, tenía la esperanza de que la experiencia no me cambiara esencialmente. Es que a diferencia de Paz, cuando salí, yo no estaba harto, tan hasta la madre de México como él, aunque quizá al igual que él me sentía un poco ninguneado. Y, siendo sincero, lo que realmente quería que cambiara era los términos de mi diálogo con la ciudad de México y que este viaje a hacer el doctorado ampliara mi posibilidad de establecer diálogos transnacionales alrededor del mundo. En concreto, quería tener más recursos para que me tomaran en serio mis compatriotas en México y conocer gente afuera de México. Y pues ahora que tengo tantos compas tan entrañables en Estados Unidos puedo decir que mis sueños se hicieron realidad.

RG: It seems that more and more Mexicans are traveling to the U.S. to pursue doctoral studies. How has this changed the world of Mexican ideas? Is this ‘democratizing’ the exchange of ideas between Mexican and American (including pochos) academics/intellectuals?

No creo que el estudio de doctorados en Estados Unidos sea el elemento más importante que esté cambiando el mundo de las ideas mexicanas y de lo mexicano. Alrededor de la fecha en que escribí este artículo, “Mujer migrada”, estaba la discusión sobre qué tanto había cambiado el mundo de las ideas mexicanas tras diez años del Tratado de Libre Comercio. Entonces, fui a preguntarle a Carlos Monsivais qué pensaba de los supuesto cambios culturales de lo mexicano ante el libre comercio. Me dijo básicamente que las ideas mexicanas estaban enriqueciéndose positivamente gracias a la oferta cultural gringa y global. Me lo dijo así:

“Es una situación variada. Diría que lo básico, lo que ha traído el TLC ha sido, en la economía, hasta el momento desastroso. El TLC era inevitable, todos los sabíamos. Pero no esperábamos lo que ha pasado de inequidad y de incapacidad del gobierno mexicano para hacer valer los derechos de los mexicanos en el TLC. El proceso cultural viene desde antes. En los periódicos ya desde finales del siglo 19 se decía ‘nos estamos americanizando’. En lo cultural, no ha modificado el proceso, lo ha intensificado: a dado la oportunidad a muchos demagogos de decir ‘defendamos lo nuestro’, pero no me queda claro qué es ‘lo nuestro’. Está por definirse. La televisión de cable está concentrando cada vez más público y ya es, en un porcentaje todavía menor pero muy significativo, una alternativa. Y, curiosamente, una alternativa que ha resultado muy importante porque las series norteamericanas de ahora son muchísimo mejores. Ahí por ejemplo la globalización tiene una zona positiva. Todo lo que hay de tolerancia está siendo impulsado enormemente por las industrias culturales de Norteamérica: las libertades de las mujeres, los derechos de los gays, por ejemplo.”

Y creo que en esto estoy de acuerdo con Monsivais todavía. Quienes estudiamos doctorados, aunque vengamos de un barrio popular de Mazatlán o de El Monte en Los Ángeles, somos una minoría privilegiada que no tenemos tanta trascendencia como la cultura popular. Es posible que algo estemos haciendo en democratizar las ideas de lo mexicano, pero eso tiene un impacto limitado comparado con las enormes desigualdades alentadas por egresados de doctorados estadounidenses en áreas económicas y legales en Yale, Harvard, Chicago, por mencionar el alma mater de algunos que han dejado a lo mexicano hecho un desastre.

En resumen, creo que te volaste con eso de que los doctorantes estemos “democratizando” nada. Mejor deja a la democracia en paz y tomémonos una chela pronto ¿no?

March 7, 2013

Great Piece by Ryan Reft on Tropics of Meta, about MLS, Youth Soccer, and Chivas

Tropics of Meta


In a recent podcast for Grantland, Roger Bennett and Roger Davies reflected on Major League Soccer’s (MLS) current fortunes. After nearly two decades, they argued, the league had made it through the leanest years intact, financially healthy, and ready to expand its market share. Indeed, soccer remains one of the nation’s most popular youth sports and perhaps more importantly, among 17 – 24 year olds, as was widely reported last year, soccer ranks second just behind American football in popularity. Undoubtedly, as evidenced by their recent success in the English Premiership (EPL), American players, most of them former or current MLS standouts, have become increasingly common. From grunge era throwback Brek Shea’s recent debut for and Geoff Cameron’s starting role in Stoke City’s side, Clint Dempsey and Stuart Holden’s (when healthy) long standing runs, and Landon Donovan’s past successes at Everton not to mention Jozy Altidore’s 24 goals for…

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History in Action: Black Arts Collective in the Land of Joaquin Murrieta

March 6, 2013

When James T Roane came to Columbia for his admit day visit, I said something like “this place kinda sucks, i aint gonna lie. But if you come here, we’re going to change that.” That was four years ago. And I still aint gonna lie. It aint perfect, but along with other students of color-Senia, Matt, Daniel, Jarvis, Kaveh, Melissa, and a ton of other folks-we’ve managed to carve a social and intellectual space for students of color. More importantly, we created an infrastructure that can account for gaps in activism and admission of students of color…

This coming Friday JT and Huewayne will be sharing from our latest collaboration, one that is particularly special to both of us. Not sure how it happened, but over the last four year, JT and I both began exploring the intersections of community building, art, and historical pedagogy. JT and Huewayne started doing art work out in Philly and Carribean and I did work in El Monte/South El Monte. This last Fall, they spent two weeks living with us, playing with Aura, meeting our families, and making art in South El Monte. As we constructed alternative historical narratives with South EL Monte High School Students, I reflected on our trajectory as historians. While we still have quite a bit of researching and writing, I think we’re closer to defining our role and responsibilities as historians of color.


Hope you can join JT and Huewayne this coming Friday, as they talk about their time and work in South El Monte and display some dope photographs of El Monte. Time: 6:15 Where: French House (in Front of Philosophy Hall), Columbia. Part of Columbia’s conference History in Action.

February 28, 2013

Tropics of Meta

While most artists find their voice in the studio, Ramiro Gomez Jr. found his in the space between two very disparate and disconnected worlds. In 2009, he left the California Institute of the Arts and moved in with a wealthy family in West Hollywood to work as a live-in nanny and care for two infants. Although nervous about his huge new responsibilities, he was also grateful and relieved to finally have some stability and a chance to rethink his artistic path.

With one baby strapped to this chest and another baby slung on his hip, Ramiro found his way to the park, the un-official gathering and organizing space for maids and nannies. At first the other domestic workers didn’t know what to make of him. Males, and especially second generation Latinos, are not common in this predominantly Latina migrant occupation. But once they warmed up to him and saw his…

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Pocho Heartache: Mexico loses to the US in El Estadio Azteca

August 30, 2012

I started writing this blog back in 2009. My first post, “Why I root for El Tri: an Exploration of Pocho Mexican Nationalism,” narrated the experience of watching Mexico barely beat the United States in Mexico City. Like most Mexico-US games, that one was filled with its dose of heartache and stress. Soccer is one of the few things in Mexico that gets embedded with so much meaning. It’s as if it was Mexico’s last stance against the encroaching United States. As if it’s the only bragging rights Mexico has left in US-Mexico relations.

Looking back on 2009, it makes sense that my first post would not just narrate the game, but use soccer as venue to explore “pocho nationalism,” belonging outside of the nation-state. So when Mexico lost at El Estadio Azteca I was caught of guard. Shit, I didn’t even watch the game. I was at the park playing a 4 on 4 pick-up game with some Mexicanos. It was clear they saw the game, but I don’t recall them mentioning who won. There were just a few scattered jokes: every time someone missed a clear opportunity someone would call them “Chicharito.” I can’t even say I wanted to watch the game. After so many years of watching Mexico play I only really care about the World Cup. Olympics, friendlies, international tournaments, they don’t really matter. The World Cup matters and teams that matter win it. It’s that simple. You think Brazil is sweating losing in a friendly? Nah. hell nah.

This lose is historic, this is true. Mexico’s 75 year winning streak in the Azteca is gone. To give it the drama and heartache Mexicans love the goal was scored by a Mexican-American. Mexican-Americans have long been caught in an awkward position: do they play for the US or Mexico? Professor Alamillo research shows that Mexican Americans in Los Angeles played for the Mexican national team in the 1938 Los Angeles Olympics. Imagine that, the entire Mexican pueblo in Los Angeles rooting for Mexico (and you). While soccer in the US continues to privilege middle-class and elite families—it cost a good amount of money to play at the most elite levels—we are seeing more and more Mexican Americans play for the US national team. The documentary Gringos at the Gate (coming out this September) is sure to provide some great insight. High profile players from both national teams are interviewed. But what about us, the fans? What are we to do? As more and more Mexican Americans play for the US national team our position becomes that much more complicated. Maybe we can continue to root for the Mexican national team, while hoping that Mexican Americans players play well… just not well enough to beat Mexico in the Aztec.

No se mata la verdad matando periodistas

August 3, 2012

Those of us north of the US-Mexico border constantly lament the quality of American mainstream media. Whether its the representations of people of color, the coverage of Mexico, drug trafficking, or the absence of significant social and political movements (in the US and Mexico). Academics, journalist, activist and bloggers seek to not only to correct misrepresentations, but shift the debate. We often forget that just south of the US-Mexico border journalist are doing similar work, but in a completely different context. Nuestra Aperente Rendicion is putting together a book to honor the journalist who have murdered or gone missing since July 2000. Please consider donating and spreading the word.



Update/Final Call for Black, Brown, and Blue at CU

April 23, 2012

Author: James T. Roane

The politics of this event is to have folks talking about race, space, and place at CU and NYC in ways and at times that they might not otherwise. People of color, so crunched in the physical plant of Manhattan and NYC, desperately need shared spaces and moments of simultaneity. As the history of slavery in the Western Hemisphere teaches, people need both to organize revolutions. Stealing away in the interstitial spaces, the swamps and woods  and importantly using local knowledge that the land’s indigenous inhabitants taught, black people organized revolutions in a scale from individual maroons, to whole maroon states, and to successful total revolution in Haiti. It is in this radical tradition of reorganizing space to reorganize time that we convene on Friday. Please join us at 4pm in front of Hamilton Hall.

In the spirit of collaboration and our effort to open up space for people of color we encourage you to send us a poem, rant, some words, a photo project, a twitter or FB status, etc. We’ve received a dope facebook status from Law School students, documentation of radicalism at Columbia from doctoral students/radical organizers at UCSD, an amazing photo project juxtaposing people of color with Columbia’s founding fathers (white, elite, males),  a photo project on racial profiling, and security alerts from the perspective of black and brown bodies. Send contributions to to and