chapter  4
23 Pages

The Rhetoric and Ideology of Self-Representation

As I noted in the opening chapter, my siblings and I grew up in a housing project that physically isolated us from other linguistic and cultural groups in our hometown of Harlingen, Texas. Except for a group of African American families that lived on the periphery of the housing project in a half block area between us and the public elementary school that we attended, almost everyone else in the housing project was Mexican or Mexican American. Because of the social and political forces that worked to contain us all, we rarely interacted with anyone else in the larger community outside of school (and in my case, little league baseball) who did not share our language, cultural practices or lifestyle. One afternoon when I was about 16 years old and lying in bed in an upstairs bedroom reading a book, I heard a voice call out from our front yard, “ ¡Oye, Chico, ven pa’ fuera, hombre! ” When my younger brother, Chico, failed to respond immediately, the voice called out again: “ ¡Andale, Chico, apúrate! ” After another moment went by, I heard a second voice-my mother’s-respond: “ ¿Y quién habla? ” The first voice responded, “ ¡Habla Horace! ” Surprised by the person’s non-Spanish first name, I bolted up from the bed and looked out the window to see an 11-year-old African American boy standing outside our apartment. A few seconds later, Chico came out the front door, greeted Horace-“¿ Qué pasó, Horace?” —then walked off with him to join a group of friends. That moment marks the first time I recall witnessing anyone of my siblings, including myself, interacting with a non-Mexican or non-Mexican American outside of a church, school setting or baseball field.