I grew up in Southern California, famous for its Hollywood movie stars, tangled network of freeways, and earthquakes. Somehow, I’d escaped earthquakes for the first ten years of my life, even though the San Andreas Fault line runs a stretch of over 800 miles.
It begins in Mendocino north of Sacramento, through the Santa Cruz Mountains and the San Francisco Peninsula, along the base of the San Gabriel Valley Mountains near my hometown of South El Monte, and all the way down south to the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley desert.
Why is the world in love again?
Why are we marching hand in hand?
Why are the ocean levels rising up?
I learned the answers to these questions when I was in the 9th grade. It was 1990, and They Might Be Giants had just released a new album called Flood. Up until this point, my musical taste was quite stunted.
Although I say that I grew up in Los Angeles, California, I secretly identify with growing up in Aguascalientes – I spent all of my childhood summers there. So much of my family history comes from Aguascalientes.
My grandmother on my mother’s side grew up on a hacienda in Durango, Mexico in the early 1920s. After my great grandparents lost their home and surrounding land during the Cristero War in the 1920s, they re-established roots in Aguascalientes. My grandfather grew up not too far from Aguascalientes, and it was there that he met my grandmother.
Growing up Mexican in America can be confusing. Even if the U.S. Census tells you you’re “white,” you don’t really see your kind of “white” on television or film.
I used to be ashamed of living in South El Monte, California, a predominantly working class, Mexican American suburb of Los Angeles. As a child, I felt that my classmates and neighbors weren’t cultured or educated enough. The city itself was an eyesore, with block after block of light industrial manufacturing, a gritty crossroads of the 10, 60, and 605 freeways. The Catholic school I attended from first through eighth grade didn’t have a music or art program, and our textbooks were outdated and falling apart.