¿Que Paso?

By Nando

I was a student at Tucson’s Miles Elementary School, small for my age and dark for my neighborhood.

One Friday after school while on my bike at the playground gate, I was accosted by another student who began raining blows and invectives upon me. He struck me once for each “Dirty Mexican” or “Greaser” expletive he felt had to accompany his blows.

It was awkward for each of us while I was straddling my bike, to be effective in either scoring or evading blows but enough got through, accelerating my wobbling out the school gate, homeward, six blocks away.

I thought I had avoided adults at home until my dad told me my Nana and my Aunt Concha had noticed my bluish facial lumps. Mom was still at work at her Tucson Police Department office, Telephone: 126.

Dad sat across from me, angled his head left and forward, and said “Que Paso?”

I told him I had gotten into a fight at school because this guy was hitting me and cussing me out. I told him about the specific expletives and hate. I asked him why he beat me up.

He nodded, then left and came back with two sets of maroon, maybe 8-ounce gloves, and took me over some of the fly-weight Golden Gloves basics that had served him well about twenty years before. He could stop his sharp jabs as he pleased, never touching my face but getting me to respond and begin to anticipate. We stopped the sparring. Nodding his head, smiling slightly without disturbing his narrow moustache, he said “Not everybody can be Mexican.”

I realized years and years after this 1940’s incident that he had not answered my question, it did not merit an answer. I also realized that he gotten me back on the horse.

Later still, during 2019’s pre-election spate of racist this and racist that, and of victim me and other untruths . . . and beliefs stronger than truth, I recalled the above seven decades-ago incident.

I wondered what had happened to our thinking and values, or how our changes, good or bad, were brought about. And wondered if I was into a senior case of ED, Encroaching Decrepitude, and recalling just the good old days . . . which were not all good, re: above.

My experience was one in which the male child was brought up to forebear, be tough, and macho . . . macho before that term was media recast as a neologism meaning something like violent misogynist. It had back then mostly meant manly, forbearing, responsible, chivalrous, even. So, a macho first-response or reaction was not to wallow in victimhood, or in being less.

The three strong ladies of my childhood house were of the culture and would not adulterate the young male’s upbringing with undue, or even for them, situationally unbecoming, warm feminine caring. For example, my nana or aunt might have said, without showing sympathy, “Que te paso?” Or, “What happened to you?” . . . and not taken the warm fuzzies any further. A too empathetic response from them might have been such as “Ay! Mi’jo! Que te paso?” My Dad said: “Que paso?” or, “What happened?” placing no value or emphasis on human presence, my injuries, or even acknowledging I was his son.

Today, his comment on not everybody being able to be Mexican, well . . . so avant reverse racist? I still wonder what is happening.

April 2019