Sunday, October 30, 2016

sunday in california

"At first sight, the visitor is surprised not only by the purity of the sky and the ugliness of the dispersed and ostentatious buildings, but also by the city's vaguely Mexican atmosphere, which cannot be captured in words or concepts." That's Los Angeles for ya.
Mind you, these photos are from Northern California, Half Moon Bay, to be exact--because I thought it to be simultaneously romantic and incredibly creepy (Happy Halloween?), what with the pervasive fog and agricultural sprawl and imperious cliffs... but I digress.
I'm writing from Sacramento (where I first delighted in California's fall) and reflecting on my annual visit home (to see autumn in all its glory) and contemplating the frequent "so how's L.A.?"-s I received there. I wish I could tell you (them) I love L.A. Not quite.
But when my Aunt MaryAnn pressed the explanation further, and I mentioned that its the city's very Mexican-ness (as Octavio Paz described above) that makes me love being there, I realized the extent to which that's true. From there we went on to finish two bottles of wine and discuss the disgusting comments Donald Trump has made and inspired towards Mexicans. Apparentlys she's reminded her sons (my cousins) that he might as well be speaking about me, my father, my siblings. A fact that has not been lost on me.
I'm sure I noticed difference as a child, but I didn't understand it; not like I was made to learn later. How could I have possibly known that inner city-dwellers are black, and black men are to be feared, and Muslims are natural terrorists, and Mexicans are to be hunted?!
I ask the facetious question above in agitation to emphasize that what we desperately need, here and now, throughout this country, (Universe), is neither political correctness nor meek tolerance but the acknowledgement of our shared humanity. And a vote.
When I then told my aunt how it felt to grow up monolingual in our Italian-American town where Central American landscapers were "Mexican" and when Latina meant gold jewelry and outspoken sex appeal, she was surprised. She hadn't realized. She couldn't relate.
And of course this would be news. Although I expect each one of us feels the pressure of a world that dictates "what we are" and "what we are not", the sentiment is obviously felt on an individual basis. It can just as likely incite ambition as it can resentment; and understandably so. We are at the same time such resilient and fragile beings. And nearly every morning, when, from my L.A. home, I overhear my neighbor speaking Spanish in a familiar accent, I'm put at ease.
I'm reminded why immigration policy as well as higher education and reproductive rights are so important to me. We are the products of our experiences, our experiences matter, and so are the issues we're unequivocally drawn to as a result. November 8th, save the date.

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