|Me an my dog, Skippy CA.1934|
Pictured here is my grinning dog, Skippy and I when I was about 5 in the front yard of my home in a small barrio in Modesto, California. It will be used on the cover of my new book, "Songs From The Barrio: A Coming of Age in Modesto, CA."
The book will be composed of stories and poems that document my experiences growing up during the 40's, 50's and 60's, in "Juarez", as we jokingly called our barrio in South Modesto, a one-city-square block of a dozen or so, houses of Mexican immigrant familys
The people who lived there were all Mexican immigrants, poor and uneducated, who left Mexico in the 1920's after its devastating Mexican Revolution (1910-20), and came here legally and illegally to better their lives and those of their children.
But they brought with them a vibrant language and culture and they kept it alive the best they could in competition with the powerful pull of Americanization. Slowly, their kids assimilated, forgot most of their culture and moved to the Northside,or out of town in search of jobs and the American Dream.
We grew up poor though the old timers felt rich, when compared to what little they left behind in Mexico. Our barrio's streets were unpaved, unlit and unmarked but we played in them nonetheless. Everyone knew everyone by name, being related or comadres or compadres of one another, having baptized one anothers kids. The houses were divided by wire fences and they could see and gossip with neighbors on both sides, in contrast to the 6' tall wooden fences we use today, sheltering our lives from those of our neighbor's.
We underwent our own form of discrimination covert, and often overt, to the point that some of us were ashamed to call ourselves "Mexican", preferring the title "Spanish" instead. College never entered our vocabulary. Most of us quit school, got a job, had kids, and a handful graduated from high school.
It was another time and another world then and I felt the need to document it now, before it's completely gone, for my kids, my grandkids and my family and for any reader hungry to learn how America became the Melting Pot that it is, though some of us refused to melt, completely. The barrio needs to be assigned its rightful place in the history of California and the United States. Not only that, but I'm an old fart now, and time is passing. I can't screw around. It's now or never.
While I have been writing since the mid-1960's, I have toyed with the idea of some time publishing a book. Many of the book's stories were already written, but as I began to edit and organize them into the idea of a book, I saw holes and gaps and set out to write those stories.
Keep tuned in and I will try to update you on the book's progress. I will be uploading the manuscript to the publisher in a few weeks, I hope. Wish me luck and I hope you'll buy a book when its ready. You owe it to me for all the hard work.