"Mi Viejito", My Old Dear Friend

As part of a multimedia series called "Arriving and Becoming: The Silicon Valley Story as Told by Immigrant Elders", San Jose Spoken Word Artist, Yosimar Reyes writes about his grandfather in this piece "Mi Viejito" teaming up with Jean Melesaine with visuals of his words.

"Mi Viejito" from DE BUG on Vimeo.

Abuelito is drunk again. You can tell by the songs that are playing on the radio. The way he rests his face on his hands staring blankly into the wall.  Its almost like he is trying to absorb all the feelings these songs produce. Somber and dark emotions coming from rough voices through the radio. He looks peaceful like this. Remembering the lands on which he first heard these songs.
Mi viejito is old and wrinkled like the brown paper bags that the wind blows down the street. He has been the only man in my life that has not left me behind. Stuck around to raise this brown boy into the man I am today.
   
 I am about 9 years old when he sits me down and tells me that when I grow up he is going to buy me a gun and a white horse because these are the things men of power own. I’m frightened because I have no idea what I would do if I did have power. These are his symbols of masculinity.
He tells me that it doesn’t matter that I have never met my father or even that mother is not around because as long as I have him I will never feel hunger. He is a man of honor and respect, carries himself with posture.
     
I like the way his eyes shine when he tells me he is proud of me. The way he boasts to his drunken compadres about how I speak English so well and how I’m going be a great man one day. He likes me to recite poems to him even though he doesn’t understand them. Even though he doesn’t know that the poems I write are about how I struggle with my own manhood, how for so long I have felt insecure being around other men because of queerness in my voice.
   
The night my abuelito told me that it was my duty to carry my name with honor and pass these stories down to my seeds I cried myself to sleep. Vicente Fernandez on the background singing “Volver Volver”. I knew then that I would never be like these men on the radio who sang about pain but were still respected; men who were allowed to express emotions because they were drunk.

Cuando mi abuelito toma I get sad because I know he is hurting, there is pain inside his chest and with every song you can sense how is heart is slowly crumbling. He always speaks about MEXICO to me, telling me its my duty remember. He has nothing but death to look forward to and somehow all his dreams have manifested themselves in me. In the smoothness of my skin he sees his Mexico. A young and careless Mexico where he was free to romanticize women and shower in rivers, unafraid of the connection felt between his nude body and water.  

I can only imagine how horrible it must feel to be caged in this country. Stuck between concrete buildings of ghettos  when you have grown up surrounded by milpas and soil. He drinks quietly and sheds tears. Theses songs bring back memories of a youth lived too fast, a time gone, they bring back Mexico, the feelings of fleeing a country, of home.

I like it when he tells me where I come from, cuando me platica de las montanas, de las playas, de la tierra. I am so far from knowing what  Mexico is. I am just a silly city boy that thinks he understands the world; ignorant like an American and it is painful to see how abuelito misses his land. So he drinks, tells stories and I cry myself to sleep hoping one day we will come back HOME.  Hoping that one day I will be man enough to understand why he drinks so much.

He tells me it’s my duty to remember, my duty to tell these stories to my seeds and since I don’t know if I will ever live to conceive a child I tell them to anyone that is willing to hear.

I come from a legacy of men who are silent. Poets that only dare to speak their truths when intoxicated. It is because of him that I tell stories. He raised us on the verses of unknown poets…


 

“Yo Quisiera Que Las Viejas Se Volvieran Lagartijas Para Matarlas a Pedradas y Quedarme Con Sus Hijas.” 



Simple Verses that would light up a room.
 Mi Abuelito is short, dark, bald, carries bags under his eyes. He is the Mexico I long to remember.




It was his breath, his arms, and his legs…


It was his very back that carried me here

This piece is part of an on going multimedia series called "Arriving and Becoming: The Silicon Valley Story as Told by Immigrant Elders", supported by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's Immigrant Integration in Silicon Valley project.

About Jean Melesaine

Jean Melesaine is a queer Samoan community activist, documentary photographer and editor with Silicon Valley De-Bug. 

This article is part of the category: Photo 
This article is part of the tags: arriving and becoming  / east side san jose  / essj  / immigrant elder  / immigration  / jean melesaine  / jota  / joto  / kollmar  / lgbtqqi  / mi viejito  / queer  / silicon valley debug  / spoken word  / two spirit  / undocuqueer  / yosimar reyes 

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