That “little beaner”

I arrived in San Antonio on Super Bowl Sunday, 1997. An eighteen year-old college drop-out from Southern Indiana, I hopped a bus looking for a brand new life. I traveled 24 straight hours, leaving behind a foot of snow in a small town and arriving in 85 degree weather in the middle of a big, strange city. As I stripped off the layers – winter coat… jacket… sweatshirt… down to my t-shirt along the ride, I noticed the world around me was getting darker. I didn’t think much of it when the bus driver and I were the only ones speaking English, but when I landed in SA, I found myself in full-blown culture shock! I knew a girl once when I was young whose last name was Muniz, but she was as blonde-haired and blue-eyed as the rest of the folks I knew. I came from a very, very white part of the world. I had some limited exposure to black folks when we went up to town to go shopping, but Ricky Ricardo was the only “Mexican” I knew growing up.

I don’t think I was raised racist. I never told my parents either time I dated a black guy, but I never really told them when I was dating a white guy, either. I know some folks from my hometown had some real strange ideas about what it was like being white and who you should be friends with, but they were generally hateful people and my family was always loving and accepting, so I guess I was pretty shielded from it. Once, one of my neighbors came to speak at our church about how he used to hold some high regional office in the KKK, but was now reformed (praise Jesus). No, I think I was raised to be loving and respectful of all people, regardless of who they are. We just happened to live in an area of the world where our skin tones ranged from paper-white to able-to-tan. I knew one girl with olive skin and I always thought she looked so exotic. In high school, I learned Spanish from a woman who spoke like she had never even heard what a Hispanic accent sounded like, “Hoe-la! Co-mow Es-Tas?” I never thought of us as racist, just very, very ignorant of the world outside our little farming community.

I had become much more worldly before I stepped off the bus into what I lovingly refer to as “Northern Mexico,” but nothing could prepare me for just how different life was here. My first serious boyfriend was a “coconut.” He had one grandma who would cook us lengua and tamales, but the other grandma didn’t speak a word of English and he didn’t speak enough Spanish to hold a conversation with her. My useless book-learned Spanish was now replaced by the standard Tex-Mex: “Mijo, why you running around in your chones? Throw on some chanclas so you don’t hurt your patas!” The ganja-smoking community provided me a whole new chapter in my lexicon, teaching me that “Pendejo means friend” among other things. When I go visit my family back home, we share some confused looks sometimes because they don’t know what I’m saying and I forget that they just can’t understand the concept of breakfast tacos.

It took a long time for me to go native. I just couldn’t understand these Texans and their PRIDE! I mean, it’s 100 degrees+ for three months out of the year, you have no real industry, no Big 10 college ball, your main tourist attraction is a ditch and an old building Ozzy peed on once, and your only professional ball team is largely ignored by the franchise. What’s so friggin’ great about San Antonio? At some point, SA got in my bones, though, and now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The 7th largest city in America (up from about 12th when I moved here), it’s still got a small town feel. The people are nice, the schools are good, the crime rate is low and we’ve got lots of good-paying jobs. It’s not ideal, but it’s home and I can see why so many people have never ventured further away than Corpus Christi.

In case you didn’t know, the Spurs are in the NBA Finals. I think there are 3 people outside of SA who are actually aware of this fact, although in town we have officially become Spurs Nation. So what if David Stern doesn’t care about us; who cares about David Stern? I’m not a huge basketball fan. I mean, obviously I like it (I am originally a Hoosier, after all). I just don’t follow sports. Living in SA at a time like this, though, it’s hard to keep uninformed about the goings-on in the NBA. Besides, I need to know whether I can get a free Valero coffee or TC breakfast taco the morning after a big game!

Well, last night was a big Spurs win… like, a total blowout. And that’s pretty cool. What was even cooler, though, was this little kid we had singing the National Anthem. Sebastien De La Cruz, or “El Charro de Oro,” found fame on “America’s Got Talent” showcasing his Mariachi skills. I hate mariachis. I don’t care how long I live in SA, they’ll always be annoying to me. Mariachis and fish tacos – I just don’t get them. Nonetheless, there are those who do like this style of music and good Lord this boy really DOES have a voice of gold! And heck, I’ll bet I couldn’t even get my 10-year-old to stand on the court before a ball game, let alone sing on national TV! Sebastien was amazing! He sang beautifully and even threw in a little of the old school machismo in his performance. What is so sad, though, is why I know about this. Seems there are a lot of folks out there who don’t understand the culture of San Antonio and have chosen to greet it with hate. Yeah, mariachis aren’t exactly the national musicians of America, but they are (unfortunately for me) a large part of the culture here.

I’m Irish by heritage. Okay, I’m a mutt, but I like St. Patrick’s Day and Celtic crosses… plus, I do have a hefty portion of Irish blood. Even if I went full on Irish, though, Riverdancing to Celtic woman while playing a harp under a green, white and orange flag, no one would make racist comments about me nor assume I am an immigrant at all, let alone an illegal one. I have heard such horrible things about the choice to let this little boy kick-off Game 3 of the NBA Finals, though. You would think we invited Kim Jong-un to use the Constitution as toilet paper! I understand what it is to live in ignorance. I also understand what it is like to not realize just how ignorant I am. I do try to refrain from being hateful, though, especially toward children. There’s no real, good solution for this. It’s just a sad state of affairs and caught my eye today. Plus, I wanted to share this with you because this kid is just too cool.

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