It does, however, describe many of the tapados -- people who are socially plugged up -- who insult us on a daily basis. The oddest points being made here are that many of us have been on both sides of the fence of racial slurs.
I was actually proud when a co-worker yelled out to me, ?Hey paisa.? For me, it is the ultimate complement when people identify me as a fellow compatriot. I become part of the social group. That aspect of human cravings which means so much to the solitary man, as Albert Einstein believed, makes us whole. Those images of so many faces that we wear as we walk the mosaic of society, according to Octavio Paz, is our adaptability that makes us unique.
But I was shocked when I was called a pocho racista.
As I was finishing up my last delivery in Sylmar, I asked for a signature on the paperwork. Juan, who was new, had talked to me a couple of times about wine, women and song. The usual conversations that macho men engage in about love and sex that would offend any woman within earshot.
Juan hands me back the paperwork. I look at him and point out this is not a signature, he only printed his name. I was displaying the harsh arrogance of a stupid pocho racista. How well ingrained racism is here, right here in me. To insult him for a life so different, so humble, so utterly superior to my educated snobbery was pure ignorance.
Juan told me that he was raised on a rancho and never learned to read or write Spanish or English. ?Que bonito el troquero pocho racista.? It really is hard to argue with such poetic symmetry.
Only a few hours before I was the paisa dragging a heavy hose, getting greasy, dirty, sweaty, stinky and asqueroso. But somehow pointing out a flaw in him makes me feel good and helps me forget my own shortcomings that keep me in my station in life, the life of a paisa in the white world.
Many of us have a tendency to believe that the mere fact we are literate makes us superior to another human being. It is part of the fallacy of the white racist education we received in school.
My mother told me that I spoke nothing but Spanish when I started Ford Blvd. Elementary School in East Los Angeles. We lived on Burger Avenue by the Long Beach Freeway as it was being built. I remember helping my baby brother knock off the cockroaches from his highchair tray before he ate. I was always a paisa.
I still am; we are the paisa of this country.
And sometimes we are the pocho racistas because we crave the acceptance of the white world. We want to be the blessed, certified, documented teachers to the illiterate paisas of the illegal community.
I can not afford to be a pocho racista because there are already too many in America.
Robert Bracamontes won a writing contest allowing him to publish a weekly column in a local section of the LA Times for almost two years. He has driven a semi-truck for thirty years. Robert had no previous writing experience.