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The Writing and Rewriting of the United States
My family walks a palimpsest, on translations and mistranslations of rivers, of people, of places, of faith. My family walks on unfinished words that have yet to be formed, stuck on molar, in mouths, being shaped by tongues that twist two into one. My family walks on places unfinished and already traversed.
The Bodies the Desert Hides
I stared down at the bones. Whether covered under centuries of sand or exposed to sun, the body was claimed by the desert in life and afterlife. Even though it had been uncovered decades earlier, the dust of the desert never released it from its grip. Father Francisco Eusebio Kino died far from his Italian home. Migrants along the way had told me of the crypt of the Jesuit priest who had missionized the Sonoran Desert 300 years prior. He first entered this desert on a mission in 1687 and it swallowed him in 1711.
In My Mexican Heaven
In my Mexican heaven, my grandfather's hands would be calloused from turning pages of poetry. He would be sitting at the dinner table, sipping coffee, and reading, looking up as I walked out the door to tell me “que dios te bendiga mijo.” He wouldn’t sing hymns or shout hallelujah, but every evening at the same time he’d sing the song “Gema” to my grandmother.
In 'God's Country,' But Far from Heaven
In that small town, we were told that we were in "God’s country." The physical and spiritual evidence that surrounded us made us all the more certain. If this was "God’s country," then this too was God’s community, God’s actions, God’s relationships. The community, its actions, its families, its relationships were sacred. Nearly every aspect of the community was transformed into some great action of the Kingdom. And we were reminded, almost as often, that The World was a threatening force trying to make its way in and it was our duty to keep it out.
I Will Be an Impatient Prisoner of Hope
“For us America is our own country, and it’s all the same: hopeless,” the general told his solider.
General Simón Bolívar had lost faith. The great Liberator of Latin America who fought for independence from Spain, with a vision of a continent united as a single nation would never happen. His men wore the wounds of the revolutions his words inspired and only the frail old man at the end of his life knew how worthless they had been. Political and social change was impossible. He had known the cause was lost for years and kept fighting out of despair, with no dream of any meaningful end.
The Contradictions of 'Assimilation'
When my white wife held her baby boy and girl to her chest for the first time, she cried. Falling from her cheeks onto their heads, her tears baptized them into a world that was confused and colliding and in desperate need of grace.
But she did not cry because she had brown babies.
Can Julián Castro Counter the Trumpian Narrative?
It is said that politicians must campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Presidents, perhaps more than any other national figures, must tell the nation a story about itself — of its heroes and villains, of its problems and their causes, of its promise and future.
This Is the Face of the Reconquista
The first cast in the ochre light of the dawning sun is a morning prayer, filled with hope and faith that ceremonies sought in earnest will feed the soul. I reel dutifully, waiting for a faint tap on the end of my line. My father stands at the front of the boat, scanning for ripples on the water in the low light. “Wachale!” he exclaims in joking Spanglish as he reels in the first largemouth of the day. Two Mexican-Americans bass fishing in Texas. This is the face of the Reconquista.
Seeking Communion: Religious Rites and Civil Rights
And nearly every Sunday, as broken bread stands for broken bodies, I am struck with the words of James Baldwin, when he wrote that to be born black or a person of color in America means that you must “give up all hope of communion.”
When Baldwin wrote those words he believed that the nation was both a Christian nation and a white nation. White supremacy was the foundation of American rites and rights. Whiteness was a prerequisite to be encircled by compassion and included in citizenship. The denial of communion — the denial of the body of Christ and the rejection from the body politic — was connected to the nation’s original sin.