For the past 20 years I’ve written a weekly opinion column for the San Antonio Express-News (technically, I started writing for the San Antonio Light, but it closed not too long after I began writing there and I moved over to the Express). My intent was to write, period. But writing is best done when done from experience and my experience was Latino – I had no choice in the matter and am perfectly at ease with it. It didn’t take long for me to be pegged as a Latino writer. I didn’t chose the peg, I didn’t intend the peg, it just happened.
Since the very first column I wrote in 1992 I’ve been receiving reader feed back; first in the form of regular mail (the kind people used to write with a pen on paper) and later email and comments at the end of the online version of my columns. And while the technology and the publication processes have changed, one thing has remained constant: every week at least one irate reader will tell me to go back to Mexico. I did the math. That’s more than 1000 times in my lifetime that I’ve been told, in writing, to go back to Mexico. It gets old.
The funny thing is that I once lived in Mexico, but I wasn’t born there. I’m a native Texan. I lived in Mexico on my parent’s whim and decision. That was between my third and ninth school grades. After that I crossed the International bridge in Laredo every morning to go to High School. College and the rest was done in the U.S. So this is my home, for several generations on my mother’s side of my family. Like so many millions of you, I can’t go back because I’m already here and have been for many generations. But that “go back to Mexico” thinking is emblematic of the same idea that pegged me as a Latino writer, the same thinking that pegs most Latinos as hyphenated Americans: it’s not so much “go back” as it implies “go away.” The people who are bold enough to voice that idea hold the feeling in their hearts. It’s a minority, I think, but it’s loud and it’s toxic. It’s also relentless.
So what do you do? You don’t “go” anywhere, except back to your writing – either at a newspaper or here at NewsTaco, and you do it again, and again. My 20 years of writing at the Express-News have come to a stop, temporarily maybe, maybe not. It was by my choice, in order to take on newer challenges. But I’ll continue to tap-away at the keyboard for NewsTaco, I can’t help myself. And in case the yahoos are wondering, I’m not going anywhere.
[Photo by NewsTaco]