Letter from Within

Gilberto Capone Saldaña Sr. | Ferguson Unit, Midway, Texas

As I heard the election results on my radio, with all of my carnales and friends anticipating the outcome for our country’s presidency on Tuesday night, and heard the announcement that the 44th president of the US would be Barack Obama, I found myself fighting back my excitement as I thought of just how far we have come as a country. I thought about growing up in my beloved barrio of Los Encinos, and about my parents and grandparents who lived through harsher and a more discriminative time than I did.

I thought about traveling to visit my Aunt Margarita and Uncle David and my grandparents and how I would always hear about discrimination and about the Chicano power movements. I thought about my cousin Paul and how he always taught me about the Chicano power movements, and that he wasn’t able to live long enough to see this historic day. I wish he were still alive.

I thought about the day in seventh grade world history class when a white classmate shouted, “Wetbacks, go back to Mexico!” on the morning after a Brown Beret Chicano activist was shot and killed by the California Police department during a peaceful and non-violent civil rights protest that was the first fight of many to come that I would be involved in. I thought about the Brown Berets Chicano movements and the mass meetings and public protests that were held, and the Chicano power cries throughout the cities and the country to protest against discrimination. Fighting for the rights of farm workers by civil rights leader César Chavez. I remember when I went with a friend to his home and I overheard his mother saying to him that she didn’t want that “little Mexican boy” inside her house. I thought about how I use to have a heavy Mexican accent when I talked English and being embarrassed about it. But later, I learned to embrace my ancestry, and built up my resolve and sense of pride because I refused to be anglocized the way they wanted.

I thought about how I was judged solely by the color of my skin and not by my character. Or my merits, or my talents, or whatever else I could offer the world. I though about how in the early years of high school, being lucky to get enrolled in the only art studio class the school had to offer, and having to explain why I was there- that I was talented and intelligent enough to be a part of this special class. I thought about all the wonderful opportunities that I have been afforded in my 45 years and the opportunities I was denied because of my race and the color of my skin.

I thought about how because of genocide and assimilation, our people for the most part have lost almost all connections to our native roots and identities, our language, our culture, our heritage, and sacred religious beliefs and practices. I thought about my mom and dad who are alive and if they acknowledge the enormous significance and realize that they lived to see and be part of the greatest moment in our country’s history. I have never cast a vote, and I now witnessed the power of voting. Someday, I hope to cast my very first vote. Because I also have a dream, my dream is that one day one of my own race, a native Aztekah-Mexicah-Mexicayotl, will become our President. I dream that I live to see that historical day. If not, I hope that my dream will carry on through the visions, hopes, and dreams through the descendents of my families.

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