Honoring the Trauma of Memory
An occasion calls for naming, the antithesis of silence
This week marks 25 years since my life was violently taken from me by club-wielding East Los Angeles deputies. The details are no longer important.
Published on LatinoLA: March 30, 2004
Please permit me to remember those days -- not by dwelling on the trauma I received to my body and the continual dehumanization I was subjected to -- but by honoring. Through the years, I've recounted, analyzed and reflected. But this occasion calls for naming, the antithesis of silence. Admittedly, an honoring, akin to a purification or cleansing ceremony, may not lend itself to a column, but that's how I choose to note this occasion.
I honor those elders -- who've since passed on to the spirit world -- who dedicated their lives to truth, peace, justice and dignity, and who affected my life greatly: Ruben Salazar (of the Los Angeles Times); Maestro Florencio Yescas, danza Azteca; Maestro Andres Segura, tradicion de danza Conchero; Archbishop Oscar Romero, El Salvador; Bill Weahkee, caretaker of the petroglyphs, Cochiti Pueblo, N.M.; Thomas Banyacya, the Hopi nation; indigenous rights activist Ingrid Washinawatok; and human rights champion Cesar Chavez. Presente.
Among the living, first, I honor my family, every last one of them, who not only got me released from my illegal imprisonment and who later testified for me, but who also showed me the meaning of strength and unrequited love, always. Especially, I honor my parents, Ricardo and Juanita, who not only have given me my education, but have also taught me, by example, what it means to be human. Gracias, con amor y corazon.
Next, I honor attorney Antonio Rodriguez, who defended me twice, seven years apart, the second time on a two-day notice (yes, we won). Tlazocamati.
Next, I honor those witnesses (Yoya, Josie, Kiki, Rick, George and Deena) who tracked me down -- amid great peril to themselves -- and who later stepped forward with great courage to testify. To this group, I add the homies of America's barrios (including the readers of Lowrider magazine) who, when no one else would listen to me, provided support and refuge.
I honor my friends, who offered assistance or inspiration throughout: Dolores Huerta, Barbara Carrasco, Consuelo Preciado, Geraldine Ramirez, Susana Oviedo, Steve Gonzalez, Dr. Arnoldo Soliz, Porfirio Miranda, Ernie Longwalker Peters and Warrior Woman, Jose Montoya, Rudy Acuna, Roberto Sifuentes, Felix Gutierrez, Antonio Villaraigoza, Gilbert Cedillo, Sam Paz and Gloria Romero.
To those who have guided me toward my own rehumanization and have helped give me back my voice: Jerry Tello, Irma Rangel, Maria Elena Salinas, Dennis and Tere Britton, Gary Keller and Stuart Dodds (belief in me), Dolores and Jonathan Sanchez (first job as columnist), Monica Lozano, Frank Matthews and Bill Cox (10 years at La Opinion and Black Issues in Higher Ed, respectively), Frank Sotomayor (ethics), Demetria Martinez, Sister Diana Ortiz and Luis Rodriguez (inspiration), Jose "Dr. Loco" Cuellar (song), Chris Clarke (forgiveness), Emma Ortega (story) Patty Loew (future), and Dona Enriqueta Contreras, Celia Perez, Raquel Salinas, Viviana Lopez and Sylvia Ledesma for literally restoring my voice.
Also, trauma expert Dr. Bessel Van de Kolk, Boston University: One can only begin to overcome trauma when one finds something more important in life; and danzantes Lucila and Enrique Maestas: "Warriors have to die many times in order to live."
I also honor everyone named above and their families and seven other families -- for believing in me: my colleagues at the California Chicano News Media Association, the family at Universal Press Syndicate, the Chicana/Chicano (Ethnic) Studies and MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) families nationwide, the Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition International, and the danza and Peace and Dignity Journeys families ... for preserving the knowledge.
I also honor those who've suffered similar or worse fates and/or who continue to be falsely imprisoned. Similarly, I honor those officers, journalists, judges, attorneys, prosecutors and politicians who do fulfill their sacred public trust. And for those who don't, that they be guided back to the way of justice.
And to all indigenous peoples worldwide and to all peoples worldwide who struggle for justice and to regain their humanity -- especially those who do not simply fight for their/our existence, but who fight against the desecration of memory.
Finally, I honor my beautiful wife, Patrisia, for our "amor revolucionario" y espiritual -- for helping not just to heal me, but also for loving humanity, healing humanity. Beyond that, for connecting me with creation and teaching me the language of dreams and the wisdom that hate can never be an ingredient of love. Never.
"Inin otik chichike kanoche nin toyolo" -- This I write from my heart.
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