It is never easy to come up with the words for this column; there are so many issues and topics that one can become so overwhelmed trying to find one or two subjects to write about that the end result is writer’s block. Happens to me every week. But for this, the first column of the new year, I had four or five little snippets of information and reminisces of past new year happenings that I was sure it would only take a few minutes to put out something a least somewhat readable.
Humor would have been forefront in most of these entries, as I figured a laugh is a good way to start the new year. But those little, funny stories were derailed by a tragic event here in King City a few days after Christmas. The details that are known to the public affected me in a way other such narratives of past events never did. I am referring to the shooting of two young people whose bodies were left for dead in the street.
I am one of those who, over the past six decades, has experienced the changes in the social make-up of South County; along with the county and the whole of the state. I am speaking about the way in which the Mexican populace has become more prominent in the social, economic and cultural aspects of community. Now, before I get called out for political incorrectness, let me say that while growing up in Greenfield I was aware that many of my classmates’ families originated in Mexico, some were first generation, but many were second and third generation inhabitants of the Valley. There were, to the best of my knowledge, no other Latinos in Greenfield and the Mexicans who lived here were proud of their heritage.
I was blithely unaware that some of my classmates were older because of the language barrier, which prevented them from moving up a grade as did English-only speakers. That inequality has been addressed over the years as the Mexican and other Latino peoples have come into their rightful place in society and in the body politic. I watched as over the decades everything in my hometown changed as the percentage of racial mix changed from predominantly White to that of predominantly Mexican; it started with the restaurants and spread to other businesses and then to involvement in society as elected and appointed positions became more and more the bailiwick of Latinos from Mexico and Central and South America. This will continue to be the case for many years to come.
I will frankly admit that during some of these changes I was on the wrong side of history. A good example was my teen years, when the field workers were boycotting and striking for better working and living conditions. I was at that time too influenced by those who did not see the changes coming as beneficial but as time went by, and not much time, I came to accept and to embrace the changes. We either change or die.
Now I look back with more that a little regret at some of the barriers that existed in my youth, as I missed out on better knowing some of my classmates and fellow townspeople, most of whom were, and are to this day, wonderful people. None of this upward movement came without unity among the Mexican people, a unity that nonetheless had a dark and deadly side. And that side wages war against itself when an 18-year-old Mexican girl is shot dead in the street by, allegedly, a Mexican man. And this I cannot understand.
I am not uninformed nor naïve about gangs and their impact upon society. In the late ’70s while employed by the Monterey County Probation Department at what was then known as Natividad Boy’s Ranch and later into the ’80s as a correctional officer for the California Department of Corrections at Soledad Correctional Facility, I was aware of the history, leaders, members, workings, insignia and all of what was known at the time of California gangs; all gangs be they White, Brown or Black.
In prison I had witnessed firsthand the violence that one race can inflict upon others of the same race, but it was an abstract part of the job. But that has been a long time ago when I was younger and still had hope of understanding; I no longer hold that same hope. The ancestry of many Salinas Valley Mexicans can no doubt be traced back to the same states in Mexico, yet even with the great gains made by the children of these early immigrants, it is beyond my understanding why a segment of them continue to kill each other year after year. Utterly beyond my understanding, but I sincerely wish it were not so.
On a personal note: I received an invitation to a wedding in the mail recently. One my age, sadly, often finds oneself attending funerals more often than weddings, so this was a welcome change. The event will take place in Oklahoma on the 22nd of this month, so the chances I will be able to attend are about 99 to 1 against — make that 100 to 0. This is the third wedding I will have missed that I really wanted to attend (long story) and all for the same person.
My daughter Jenny it seems has, after three relationships and two marriages, finally met a man she cannot outdistance. Good for her, good for him; him having been an Army ranger for 26 years and been in some very deadly situations and now has a master’s degree working on a doctorate in special children’s care; she a paralegal working on her master’s degree in family counseling. If I were one to play the lottery, I might give in a few bucks in hope of winning enough to be there.
Happy New Year. Take care. Peace.