A chunk of Arctic ice the size of Barrio Logan falls into the ocean
Aztlan is melting but my Chicanismo is stone-cold as ever
By Sonny Boy Arias
Okay, okay, okay, I just have to tell you bato, this global warming crap is getting personal and by that I mean, it’s affecting my Chicanismo. Now, I have to ask myself, my Chicano SELF (in a social psychological sense), “Self, how can that be? It’s like bato what are you talking about, man?” I can hear my favorite uncle now, my uncle Enrique; we call him “Hank” for short, maybe it is because he is short. Hank isn’t really my blood uncle, but we pay him respect because he has been around forever, does not judge us, and received three Purple Hearts in Vietnam and is a stone-cold Chicano, I mean who could not respect a person like that? I can hear him now, “Hey, bato, don’t try to out-Chicano me or tell me what it’s like being Chicano and experience global warming. I put my ass on the line so that you can be Chicano and that’s that!” If my uncle Hank heard me talking right now about climate change, global warming, and chunks of ice the size of Barrio Logan falling into the bay, he would be sure to say something about, “Aztlan melting away!” He would most certainly add a question as to what extent global warming is having a direct impact on my Chicanismo. If he were still alive, he would sit back in his “comfy” chair, you know the one with burn holes from leaving lit-joints sitting on the wood handles for the past five decades, that one. And he would lean back so as to purposefully position himself so you could see his Yaqui profile with his tanned skin and perhaps catch a whiff of his Tres Flores old-school hair balm in anticipation that things would inevitably heat up—and all at once, there he was transformed into his stone-cold Chicano Self. If he were alive, Hank would respond with something like, “Sonny Boy, I would love to hear what you have to say about how global warming and climate change are getting personal and how it is having an impact on your Chicanismo; tell me all about it, Sonny, tell me all about it!” Hank in his own way would give you his undivided attention, no iPhone, no music in the background, no nada, he loved to talk and engage people in a sparkling interchange of ideas as often as he could and he’d look you straight in the eye. Now. let me just take a moment and share with you that my uncle Hank was a cool bato; he was first generation Chicano at the fringe of the pachuco movement. He was like my old friend, the author-anthropologist Carlos Castaneda (famous writer and honorary Chicano from Brazil). He could present himself like a businessperson, then turn to the side, and look like a Yaqui shaman at a glance. This was part of the mysticism that surrounded him and he knew it. I do not know how they do it, but people like Hank and Carlos are rare like that. Another thing they had in common was the ability to focus, a characteristic harder and harder to find in people stuck to their iPhones these days. Carlos was a little like Victor Villaseñor, except Victor will tell you he spent hours crying at his keyboard writing all his stories. Carlos believed that before you talk to people you need their undivided attention. As Villaseñor puts it, “First, you have to hit the burro in the head, and get his attention, then, you can start talking to him.” (Burro Genius: A Memoir, 2004) So in order to get your undivided attention, Carlos (like Hank) would sit directly in front of you so that your knees were touching. One time Carlos actually grabbed both my ears as he adjusted our chairs and gazed into my eyes, and as he gazed, he all at once gazed even deeper, it was like, I could suddenly see his soul, much like the depiction below.
My sense is that there was not anything mystical about looking into someone’s eyes (Carlos never claimed there was) and getting their undivided attention is just something we never take the time to do. The truth is that part of our human condition is having the innate ability to connect to another individual by gazing into one another’s eyes; my nanita would see it this way, “Maybe this is the answer to reversing global warming or stemming-off alienation in humanity, people need to connect; Latinos know how to connect.” My nanita, who lives in Barrio Logan (Chicano Park) recently said the other day that her sweet tamales didn’t turn out quite right due to the heat outside. “Must be global warming!” she blurted out. I thought, “What the …...” I decided not to take issue with my nanita and I suggest you do the same, as she is one tough cookie. Speaking of cookies the other day I reached into her “Kuki” jar, pronounced “coo-key”, you know the way my nanita speaks with her lovely Chicana accent. It was as they say “unseasonably hot” in San Diego to be sure and the Kuki jar was for the very first time in my life, warm, not caliente, but warm as if I had never felt it before. When I took a bite of a warm “Kuki” I saw myself grimace in a reflection off her Frida Kahlo picture hanging in the kitchen and she saw me and said, “Global warming, the ‘kukis’ are getting old fast because of global warming, mijo!” She added that “….even the extraterrestrial aliens wandering over from ComicCon to Chicano Park have costumes that don’t leave much to the imagination because of climate change.” She observed, “Did you see Wonder Woman down at the café? Did you see her short-shorts and those red boots, her body must stay cool but her feet must get really hot. Climate change is like social change, who would have ever thought Chicano Park would be swarming with extraterrestrial aliens and Wonder Woman to boot, red boots!” Anyway, I provide these examples because Chicanos in daily life (much like my nanita) are making more and more claims about the impact climate change is having on themselves and others, que global warming this y que global warming that. I am not here to argue whether it is true or not, I am just saying, that whatever is going on with the climate, it is having an impact on how Chicanos view themselves and how they socially construct their reality in everyday life. Every time I sit with my uncle Hank and watch “box” (boxing), he tells me that the Mexican boxer known as “Canelo” is tough because he is a red head, implying that all red heads are tough. Hank said that due to global warming, the world is running short on red heads, especially Chicano red heads. Similarly, I actually heard a U.S. Navy Seal recruiter say that he actively seeks out red heads because they are tougher than most people; the problem is that “due to global warming there are fewer and fewer red heads to pick from.” What the f..…? You can say whatever you want about global warming, but let me tell you, I mean, how else can I say it, bato? This past summer I saw a huge chunk of ice-mass break off and slide into Glacier Bay, Alaska; it was larger than Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Chicano Park, Califas, all in one. It was a big piece of ice and boom right there, bato, it broke off right before my eyes, it didn’t cause a tidal wave like I thought it would, instead it was like when I slide into the bathtub, all the water rises. Watching the glacier fall apart rendered me speechless; that in itself is a rare moment. The music on the ship went off at the moment the ice-mass slipped into Glacier Bay. Seeing the massive ice-mass slide into the bay sent me into shock. There was an eerie feeling in the air, the mind of the crowd had taken over the mind of the individual; to be sure, we were suddenly alienated from ourselves, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Then, suddenly there was a god-awful cracking sound, like giant blocks of ice rubbing against each other against their will. It reminded me that when I was a child I ate so much chile one day my tongue was burning so bad I ran to the freezer and pulled out a tray of ice cubes (you know the aluminum ice tray with the long handle). I placed the frozen tray on my tongue and it cooled down for about half a minute, but I suddenly realized my tongue was stuck to the tray. I know you have heard about people who do this; well, bato, it actually happened to me. The point is that while my tongue was stuck to the bottom of the ice tray, my sister ran over and pulled on the handle; this in turn caused the tiny ice cubes to rub against each other. Well, the self-same sound the tiny ice cubes made I also heard in the ice-mass. I don’t know why, but, I call it “blocking.” Now magnify that sound by one million times and that’s the sound I heard when the ice-mass broke off the glacier and slid into Glacier Bay. Holy shit! Dios mio! And then, as if that wasn’t enough shock for the day it started up again, crack, crack, crack; it was like the Cucuy decided to return after causing great mayhem and he didn’t give a shit, now what? More “blocking”—crack, crack, crack, another huge ice-mass was breaking off right before my eyes. The people surrounding me had no time to respond from being freaked-out by watching the first piece break off, Like me, it had rendered them speechless. Again crack, crack, crack, all I could think of was god bless us all, this is it, this could be the end of my life and the end of humanity. The sound was organic, causing a visceral shimmer in me like never before; it shook me to the core. CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! This time I grabbed my video-camera and sure enough I zoomed in with my Sony Handycam with a German lens (54X clear image zoom) and I could see white powder flying high into the sky a few miles into the glacier. Now just like before I could hear that eerie “blocking” sound so loud I could barely hear myself think and then again crack, crack, crack: another piece of ice twenty times the size of Chicano Park slid into Glacier Bay. I was once again, rendered speechless. Technically I hadn’t come out of my state of shock from witnessing the first sheet of ice falling. Think about it. We had been there less than five minutes and two huge ice-masses had broken away from the hundreds of miles of blue-white ice as far as the eye could see. This was unprecedented. You know, every time this happens that’s what people say, “This was unprecedented.” In the most unexpected way possible, you might say I had just witnessed history at least that is what the park ranger who suddenly boarded the ship said. Later, I found out that she boarded the ship for safety purposes because she felt threatened by the ice-mass slides. I’ve been stabbed in the park (twice), beat-up by seven batos all at once, hit in the head by a baseball bat as a kid raiding a piñata, fallen off a cliff and even blown up inside a tank in Iraq, but man, watching the ice-mass break off like that, man, that was really something, I’m still not over it. When it happened the second time I felt for humanity, I felt for Aztlan. I felt the weight of all Chicanismo somehow, in some way, melting away, breaking off, breaking down, all I could think of was, “How could this be? Aztlan is melting, just say it ain’t so! No mas!!! I could see my friend Carlos Castaneda’s face forming in the bright white clouds above and he was saying:
Man, you guys [humanity], you guys really messed up. The ice only flows one-way; it is never coming back, humanity is done for and so, too, are Chicanos. What happened? This is not the kind of movement we envisioned? Fighting social injustices is one thing, fighting the environment is another ballgame. We have passed the tipping point on that one. People need to know that humanity has passed the tipping point and that’s that, so now Aztlan is melting.
And then the music on the ship started up, da, da, da, da, da, da, daaaa da, da da, da, da da, da, daaaa da:
Oye como va Mi ritmo Bueno pa' gozar Mulata
I thought, damn it, they are playing my death song, this is it, we are going down like the damn Titanic! All at once my life was flashing before me, how cliché. I recall how many years ago I responded to a call for extras for the movie Titanic as they were filming off the coast near the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Baja and we were having our family reunion. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the director of casting was not picking brown people like me, I mean, think about it, and can you imagine a bunch of Chicanos/as in the movie going down with the Titanic? Well, we were not picked then, but we certainly were picked today. Glacier Bay, thefamoso frikking Glacier Bay that was not on my bucket list, was rapidly becoming my deathbed. Moreover, the music played on causing my wife’s curvy hips to sway effortlessly.
Oye como va Mi ritmo Bueno pa' gozar Mulata
I looked over at my wife, my Patricia, my Mulata and just before kissing her goodbye for life, I peered over her shoulder and there it was, the original flag of Aztlan on the side of the glacier. Was I seeing things?
No, I do not think so as others were commenting on the appearance of the flag as well. The French couple next to us said, “Regardez ce drapeau!” The German couple exclaimed, “Sieh dir diese Flagge an!” And the Afrikaans behind me yelled out, “Kyk na aardie vlag!” causing me to reflect all at once of my years in the bush with descendants of Che Guevara and his men who spread their seed throughout Marripodi Compound just outside of Lusaka, Zambia. The music seemed to get louder because the frozen ice from thousands of miles of glacier acted like a giant acoustic theatre with the best sound possible, better than the Red Rocks theatre just outside of Denver where Tito Puente did his thing with La Fea.
Comments: Refugio I. Rochin said...Well done. FYI I’ve known Victor Villasenor since we were kids. Our parents compadres. Victor does not use computer. He writes all with pencils on writing pads. His sister or friends type all for him.
Reference: Carlos was a little like Victor Villaseñor, except Victor will tell you he spent hours crying at his keyboard writing all his stories. Carlos believed that before you talk to people you need their undivided attention. As Villaseñor puts it, “First, you have to hit the burro in the head, and get his attention, then, you can start talking to him.” (Burro Genius: A Memoir, 2004) So in order to get your undivided attention, Carlos (like Hank) would sit directly in front of you so that your knees were touching. One time Carlos actually grabbed both my ears as he adjusted our chairs and gazed into my eyes, and as he gazed, he all at once gazed even deeper, it was like, I could suddenly see his soul, much like the depiction below. September 19, 2018 at 11:17 PM