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We have in this land ancestral rights rooted in the genealogy of time There is blood, much blood, which is a generous and noble testimony to our rights here.

Antonio R. Villarraigosa is the current Mayor of Los Angeles, California.
He is the first mexicano-latino Mayor of Los Angeles since 1872.

By Miguel Méndez

My boy:
An old man is like
a withering tree:
I want to see
my own branches alive in yours,
in the strong and vigorous branches
of a young and sturdy tree.
When I die, Son,
you will continue my story.
You will carry on in my footsteps;
in your new images mine will also live,
because the two of us,
you and I,
are ourselves as well as our ancestors.
Apá, where do we come from?
My grandparents were from Mexico.
What are we, Apá?
Mexicans, true Mexicans, Son.
Mexicans and we do not live
in Mexico…
Then we are not Americans?
We are Americans,
we love this land
where we now have roots.

Oh, Daddy!
In Mexico they call us “pochos”
and here they call us
“Mexican greasers”.
My dearest little boy,
what a thing to say!
Yes, Father,
we love this land,
but sometimes I feel it
so hard beneath me,
so very hard,
as if my roots were in the air,
nourished only by the breeze
from back there,
from the land of our grandparents.
Who are we?
Do we have a homeland?
Like moles we burrow our way
to the bowels of the earth,
tearing out metals for industry,
gold for minting money.

In the fields
we have been the strong arm
that sows the seed,
sweat in the furrows,
garden-beds that rise up and grow
in the cities;
the drive and desperate zeal born
of a difficult subsistence
have made us model laborers
for the hardest,
the most humiliating tasks.
While they proclaim the triumph
of technology,
the portentous advance of progress
and extoll the virtues of wealth,
many of us suffer,
uncertain of having a roof
over our heads or food to sustain us.

They have unjustly pictured us
as a lazy man asleep under his sombrero.
They have called us intruders,
and have shouted at us
that we are immigrants,
in order to ignore the justice
of our demands,
or perhaps…
because we are not as white as they are.
We have in this land ancestral rights
rooted in the genealogy of time.
There is blood,
much blood,
which is a generous
and noble testimony
to our rights here.

How different it would be, Son,
if we were all to join together,
united in joy and in anger like a head
of hair bristling with defiance.
Then we do have roots, Father?
As deep as all time.
We are, my son,
as evil as everyone else.
They are as good as we are.
A long time ago
certain things happened…
What remained afterwards
was man’s pain,
his fear and distrust.
His shelter was in the caves,
his instinct was his defense.
Father, how heavy the roots
weigh upon my back!
I do not want to be a sailor adrift
in a sea of hope.
I want a port!
With breezes and songs,
Birds warbling in the trees and the sky,
the clamor of children playing
and smiling workmen.
Mothers embroidering and knitting,
nests of poetry, schools, hymns of peace,
nights filled with shining swans,
constellated bears, maidens in love,
fireflies everywhere,
a serenade of morning stars.

When I die…my epitaph:
Here he lies covered by the earth
that was his homeland…
My dear son:
we forge our homeland by dint of our
With sweat and rejoicing,
with anguish,
and stubborn rebelliousness,
with illusions,
and dreams which will not always fail,
with the joy of our souls
and the pain of life.

Our homeland yonder, my son,
no longer remembers us…
and this one here still forgets us!
We are all victims.
He who wounds another
feels himself wounded.
All of us, Son, are
the same in essence:
human beings.
We are worthy men
fighting for our destiny.
When they ask you,
tell them, my Son,
and say it with pride:
We are Mexicans
from the United States!!

Contact Miguel Méndez:

Translated By Dr. Kristen Nigro.

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