All posts filed under: volume two

Introduction to Volume 2

The story of an almost-blind Czech child and that of an East L.A. boy fascinated with Albert Einstein. A girl running off to Mexico at 16 to marry a man she can’t understand. A gang member painting a mural to his barrio. A bracero coming to save the crops during World War II and a young man helping a friend cross the U.S.-Mexico border. A woman dying alone with her memories and another haunted by spirits. These are the stories you’ll find in this, the second volume produced by eight new authors in my Tell Your True Tale writing workshop at East L.A. public library. The thin volume you hold in your hands grew from an experiment tried in 2013. Daniel Hernandez and I began discussing a speech I had coming up at the Chicano Resource Center, which he directs, at the library. I’d been doing these workshops occasionally over the previous five years. Up to that point, however, all had been connected to a speaking engagement at a high school or college – and …

The Garage

The Garage

When I was in elementary school in East L.A. I would climb atop our rickety garage at night and stare up at the moon, the stars, and space. The roof was flat with a shallow slope. It was perfect for lying on my back. I’d wave a flashlight into space, the beam of light zooming out as far as my imagination would reach. There I wondered about the world around me. I had grown up in East L.A. and knew not much more. My parents, immigrants, had settled here because my mother was a shopper who dreamed of owning a home and for about $20,000, she bought one. The only times I ventured away was when my parents would take us on family outings, usually on Sundays after church. Protective, they kept my siblings and me close and warned us about the “cholos.” The garage became my refuge. Lying atop that garage, I used to think there was a giant “bubble” around my neighborhood and, if I aimed my flashlight just right, I’d see the …

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The Mural

In the summer of 1973, I was one of the kids who painted the mural in the Estrada Courts housing project in honor of the gang I belonged to, Varrio Nueva Estrada. That was my last summer in the varrio before my enlistment. Varrio Nueva Estrada had formed thirty years before by guys who lived in the project in the 1940s. By the 1970s, VNE was very large, one of the largest gangs in East L.A. It included several cliques. Mine was the Dukes. I was 18 years old and the first gang member in my family. I never knew my father. My oldest brother was my father figure. He painted furniture at a factory and was fifteen years older than I was. He was an alcoholic and a very prideful man. His pridefulness must have rubbed off on me. Anyway, my mother used to worry a lot about me. There was a lot to worry about. The gang was like my family. I felt I needed to protect my family at all costs. At …

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A Spiritual Misfortune

Street vendors, food stands, and nightly dances were what they were raised on back in Mexico. Ivette lived in Northeast Los Angeles, and visited her sister occasionally. The two would go shopping in the miniature strip malls and boutiques and dine at the mom and pop restaurants.

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Bending Branches

The wooden mess hall was filled with the warm smells of coffee, eggs and bacon. Over 300 workers from Mexico filled up on breakfast for the long day of harvest. The bell rang. They grabbed their sack lunches and jumped onto trucks that took them to the almond and plum fields.

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Leaving Tijuana

It was around 6:30 a.m. when I heard a knock on my window. It was Ernesto. “They took Ulises.” He had a look that woke me instantly. Ulises and I met seven years ago. I was a senior and he was a sophomore at Garfield High School. We shared the same immediate group of friends. Eventually, we forged a brotherhood that made us inseparable. I met Ernesto outside my apartment and went to Ulises’. We found the house door unlocked. There were half-filled plates on the table and the sink overflowed with soapy water. The burners beneath the comal glowed red, like embers from a waning fire. The door led to the kitchen, where we heard a clicking sound. It was a pot. Although the flame was off, the vapor inside struggled to pry the lid open, like a mouth of steel snapping at us. We went back to my house and called the rest of the guys. “They deported Ulises.” A week went by. Then, one day a phone call. “Diego. It’s Ulises.” “Ulises! …