• December 9th, 2021
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A War of Attrition?


Pull out the paraphernalia, Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner. The Battle at Puebla, Puebla México fought in 1862 with an eventual French Occupation of México was just a reminder for what has been a long and tenuous struggle for freedom and liberation against repressive regimes that Mexicanas/os have endured for centuries. In 1862, Mexicanos were fighting for their economic and continued cultural existence against imperialistic forces dead set on controlling the world.  This battle where a ragtag group of campesinos decided to exercise their collective agency should serve as an inspiration for Latinas/os to further develop our collective agency. It should serve as a prototype for how oppressed communities can fight back.  The lesson that they leave Chicanas/os is that only through struggle will we achieve equality.

Our ancestors engaged in warfare centuries ago on the cornfields in Meso América in the 15th century against a powerful Spanish Army, the birth place of mestizaje. This was followed by 300 years of Spanish colonialism where indigenous cultures were dismantled and our stories were buried beneath mother earth. Mother earth nurtured and healed the many wounds, providing the succorance that would result in the birth of México as a free and independent nation in 1810. 1862 was just another reminder that freedom has a price. What has not yet been achieved is the erosion of our collective spiritual energy.

What we cannot afford to lose what is the core of our spiritual essence, the human dignity and self-respect that human beings deserve. Cinco de Mayo is a reminder to open up closed shutters that blind us to the realities of social life. Our humanity continues to be chipped away as we nonchalantly sit idly by. The Denver community needs to rise to the occasion. Perhaps, we should not only celebrate, but use this day as a clarion call for action.

Today Chicanas/os are in a war of attrition—a war that uses psychological guerilla warfare. For contemporary Raza, it consists of continued belligerent attempts by the power structure to chisel away at all aspects of our community and cultural life. During wars of attrition, the enemy wears down their opponents through continuous strategic attacks that take nefarious forms. The grinding down of our spirits and the oppressive nature of the dominant culture upon Mexicana and Chicano communities is a strong force. The DACA controversy is a good example of a battle in the war of attrition as it tears away at the emotional and spiritual energy of young people who live with perpetual anxiety, stress and fear of deportation. They also live with trauma. The question we must now face is what are we going to do about it?

Our spirit needs to be jolted to re-awaken and remind us of a time when we stood up just like our ancestors did against despotic forces. The Chicana/o Movement was born out of struggle. What do we stand to lose through inaction—except political seats in Washington where government is at a standstill as an autocrat continues to cause havoc in our communities. Waiting to reclaim Congress in 2020 should be the vision for our political leaders; however, there is should a contemporary community mission to struggle now. We should not be boondoggled by false promises that we will regain what is currently being sliced away through a war of attrition against our communities. We should not sit idly by as Mexicanas/os are detained at the San Diego Border by a federal government that refuses to grant them asylum or refugee statuses. We should not sit idly by as our children continue to suffer and fail in public schools.

What we cannot afford to lose what is the core of our spiritual essence, the human dignity and self-respect that human beings deserve. Cinco de Mayo is a reminder to open up closed shutters that blind us to the realities of social life. Our humanity continues to be chipped away as we nonchalantly sit idly by. The Denver community needs to rise to the occasion.  Perhaps, we should not only celebrate, but use this day as a clarion call for action. In the past, our ancestors lost land, today we are losing ground. What appeared to be the continuation of the Chicano Movement through the activism of the Immigrant Rights Movement has been truncated by federal immigration officials that have been given their orders to hunt down undocumented immigrants and send them back home. I say that we shout el grito de Dolores the same way our ancestors did on many occasions when tyranny overshadowed freedom.  We can be victorious in the War of Attrition!

 

 

Cinco de Mayo

by Dr. Ramón Del Castillo

 

Mexican flags floating

in an abyss of urban pollution.

Corona beer

gushing onto calles

like Noah’s flood

taquitos de barbacoa

musica del rancho

folklorico para los jovenes

el grito de dolores

muchos colores

of mixed up groups

wondering if the doors

are truly open or if it’s time

to visit the past

wave American flags

at half-mast

as a mirage of collective images

opens old sores

reminding us

of power mongers

of stolen land

a broken treaty

being anesthetized

by modern day pulque

hops at their best

shots of tequila

to soften the pains of oppression

supported by corporate irresponsibility

sweetheart contracts

signed by tio tacos

in places

where cheap labor and

political favors

become broken promises

as masses of people

pawns, transformed

into tricksters and teporochos

on both sides of a fictitious border

moan in agony, while

political slogans

watered down with mescal

where a worm laying

on the bottom of the bottle

eats away at

what is left

of our political consciousness;

salsa has replaced ketchup

as America’s number one condiment

while Mexicanos accused of replacing

American workers

die in barren deserts

on sojourns to work

in maquilas

owned by profiteers

transported by coyotes

who have replaced “el grito”

with howling noises

at midnight, as brown people

become experts at doing the limbo rock

mixed with una cumbia

while crossing las fronteras

con puertas cerradas.

It will all pass

La Raza will go back

to menial jobs on Monday morning

praying at mass on Sundays

making the sign of the cross

when they pass the church.

It’s Cinco de Mayo.

The aroma will disintegrate.

The streets will be cleaned up

when it is over.  Revolutionary spirits will

be tucked away

as Mexican flags

are neatly folded

placed into old wooden chests

until next year.

Truths will be hidden

behind the backdrop

of street theatre

as city dumpsters transform

what was once Mexican land

into the red, white

and musical blues

of a people whose muse

will be laid to rest

into a coffin, only to rise

next year when “el grito”

seeps out of the decrypted wooden box

shouting liberation

for a historical soul unwilling to die.

 

Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. ©5-1-2018.

Poem/Dr. Ramón Del Castillo ©5-25-2002