Published on October 12th, 2021 | by Margaret Elysia Garcia


History Lesson

(The president said Lat-tee-nex aren’t getting vaccinated because we fear documentation and deportation.  Demoralization. Department chair: don’t they realize they’re all from farm workers?)

They will say the quiet parts loud.

They will tell you that they didn’t mean you.

They will say, funny, you don’t look…

                    Being Mexican is a mathematical equation:

Indigenous + European + in some states African = Mestizo=Mexican= North American

In 1912, Severo Garcia Barba bought a train ticket to Laredo, met up with indios he knew from Morenos de Lagos, got work in the silver mines of Arizona.

Silver mine Indians was a thing for three centuries in and around Zacatecas but you’re still looking for someone to do your lawn for cheap outside Home Depot.

In 1918, Carmen de Luna Calera bought six tickets to El Paso for her and her children, posed as a widow though her husband was very much alive, but on a trip to New York with another one of his other women.

Carmen’s husband Jose Maria Ocampo, a drunk and a dick who smelled of homemade liquor, returned to Aguascalientes to find his whole family, much of his money, and his best chandelier gone.

Carmen held grudges against her parents and the priests, for marrying her off at 14 to a drunken landowner twice her age and didn’t say goodbye. Draped our Lady of Guadalupe on her new kitchen wall and called it enough.

                                                                                    You see where this is going:

The man from the black lagoon and the pale lady of the moon shacked up one Arizona evening under the stars.

Everyone fell for the California dream of reinvention.

By 1923, Carmen and Severo bought a two-bedroom clapboard house in eastern Los Angeles by lush green banks of the San Gabriel River cash. The now seven children grew up and out of the house. Red roses lined Carmen’s front yard and she took pride in being the first family on the block with a washing machine. First one with a tv. Severo hung the chandelier, which caught the light and made the tiny dining room sparkle. A kid down the street got polio. Everyone got their shots.

                    Or maybe you don’t see where this is going:

It’s not all wading through rivers and desert sand.

It is no turning back. 

It is the variables of individual stories, not lump sums.

Carmen read revolutionary Mexican poetry written by a woman from her hometown to my mother from her wicker chair on the backyard patio. Severo drove his family into Hollywood for movies or the beaches on the weekends. The neighbors called Carmen ‘Dona,’ brought their children to her when they were sick and to play in her garden; Severo gave all the visiting children candy.

In 1954, Dona Carmen, who could read and write in three languages became a US citizen—my mother coaching her studies. In 1974, Severo, El Indio, died without citizenship, the written test proving too difficult for a miner turned construction worker turned blind from diabetes who’d never once been to a school.

They were not afraid of vaccines.

(Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

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About the Author

Margaret Elysia Garcia is the author of the ebook Sad Girls & Other Stories and the audiobook Mary of the Chance Encounters. Graft  will be published by Tolsun Press in 2022. She’s the co-founder and head writer of Pachuca Productions—a Latina theatre troupe producing original and social justice plays. She’s published poetry and essays in Hip Mama Magazine and Brain, Child. She’s published several chapbooks of poetry.

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