The country is beset these days with controversies of opposition—guns, immigration, abortion, national debt, profiling, civil rights, freedom of speech anent book banning, environmental justice, global warming, poverty, reproduction rights, food production and security. Some shrill voices cry that the country is going to hell in a handbasket. Others alert us that we’re on the wrong road to the future. Despite the gravity of these issues individually and more so collectively, American Hispanics are rarely if at all at the discussion table. They are certainly absent on the ubiquitous talk shows that hawk mainstream views on these issues—oftentimes ad nauseam (inanely) with little or no thought for Hispanics impacted by these issues In effect all these issues are Hispanic issues as well.
Controversies of opposition have been with us since the beginning of the nation (perhaps since the beginning of time)—Whigs and Tories, “taxation without representation,” etcetera, bringing to mind Socrates’ exclamation at his trial for heresy that the “unexamined life is not worth living.” Controversies of opposition produce tension. It’s that tension, perhaps, that churns up Henri Bergsen”s elan vital, that vital element that helps us determine whether it’s fight or flight when we encounter challenges or adversity on Bravo Road.
Bravo Road is an ephemeral path, a little like Antonio Machado’s road constructed with each step we take. Though ephemeral, Bravo Road is real for all of us—it’s the road of life. In particular, it’s the weary road Latinos tread every day of their lives in the United States. Not every step is weary. Some steps take us to byways of exultation, of great joy, of discovery, epiphanies and triumphs. For many it’s the road of success. For others like the colonial American Puritans it’s a road to be endured. For me, Bravo Road is the title of my memoir with the subtitle “An American Odyssey.”
Like the road of the Beatles, Bravo Road has been a long and winding road of tears and laughter. At times we are solitary travelers on that road; at other times we are traveling with companions, with mirth and joys of great tidings. Sometimes we can see the light at the end of the road; at other times the elements obscure that light. But like the hordes of Par Lagerkvist, we keep on keeping on.
Here in New Mexico, life keeps on keeping on. My fingers are not on the pulse of all that is going on in the state. Though born in Illinois to itinerant Mexican workers, I grew up in San Antonio, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, I have a great affinity for New Mexico. I started my university career at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces in 1964, studied for the Ph.D. in English at the University of New Mexico from 1966-1971, culminating my academic career since 2007 at Western New Mexico University in the mountain heights of Silver City in the southwestern portion of the state where the Continental Divide at 6,000 feet above sea level cuts across the Gila Wilderness.
While I don’t know about all that is happening in New Mexico, I’m involved in a number of activities that keep me engaged with the state. I’m co-chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the New Mexico Library Association, a board member of the New Mexico Humanities Council, a board member of the Southwestern New Mexico Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, a member of the Silver City LULAC Council 8003 (named national Council of the year in 2012), and a paid-up-for-life member of the Silver City American Legion chapter. Extramurally, I’m also Editor-in-Chief of the ABC-CLIO Greenwood Encyclopedia of Latino Issues Today (2 volumes, forthcoming), and a member of the Advisory Board of the Mayborn Literary Non-Fiction Conference sponsored by the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton. All of this pretty much fills up my time in addition to teaching courses at Western New Mexico University where I’m Scholar in Residence.
I suppose this biographic information is to shore up my bona fides to write this blog reporting and commenting on what is happening in this part of Aztlan–Nuevo Mexico, whose history is vital in the story of the Hispanic presence in the Americas. The Spanish entradas into North America (what is now the United States) could not foresee the future of the region they traversed, though they aptly named one part of that region Nuevo Mexico—New Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca, Andrés Dorantes, Alonso del Castillo, and an enslaved Moroccan Berber named Esteban passed through New Mexico in their search for a way back to Mexico City after an 8 year trek following their 1528 shipwreck on what is today Galveston, Texas. Coronado passed through New Mexico in his memorable journey (1540-42) in search for Quivira. With Juan de Oñate, Gaspar Perez de Villagra (author of La Historia de la Nueva Mexico) chronicled the entrada of Juan de Oñate and his vicious attack of the Pueblos at Acoma—a degüello as brutal as the Roman extermination of the Jews at Masada in 73CE. New Mexico is full of such history—and still making history.
It will be stimulating, pleasurable, and a challenge to report on New Mexico with sallies into national issues for Latinopia’s Notes/ News from Aztlan.
At the moment, the state legislature is meeting in Santa Fe, starting on the 3rd Tuesday in January. As an odd-numbered year, the legislature meets for 60 days. The most pressing issues for the solons at this legislative session are balancing the budget and keeping Governor Susanna Martinez at bay in her efforts to ban issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented workers. Mas en el proximo reporte.