I grew up in a half white, half Mexican neighborhood in Roseville, CA. My best friend was Hally (Angelica) Rodriguez. Her parents were Mexican immigrants. Her older brother was a cholo and sold drugs from her house. He was a dick. Her older sister was tough and foul-mouthed and her bangs stuck straight up in a great wall of a tidal wave above her forehead. She was so cool, I barely dared to look at her for all my unworthiness. Her mom, Diana, was a second mother to me, as mine was a single one, working nine to five. My twin and I spent a lot of time at Diana’s house, oblivious to the rocky on-again-off-again relationship between her parents. Sometimes Robert of the thick horseshoe mustache was living there, sometimes he wasn’t.
Diana was a beautiful dark skinned Mexican woman with an exceptionally flat ass and a tattoo of Felix the cat on her forearm and both these features still stir my heart when I remember her. I loved her very much. Diana fed me menudo for the first time, which I detested but politely ate, and whose smell I still find unpleasant yet wonderfully nostalgic. The smell of tripe at all, really, brings me right back to Diana’s kitchen, with the green formica countertops and beige linoleum. She made enchiladas wrapped in cornhusks and introduced me to flavors like cumin and chili powder and cilantro. My mom learned to cook from my grandmother, who was a woman of the 1950’s when everything in white america was canned, boiled, gelatined, space-aged, and overcooked and bland as bleached flour. Diana’s flavors awakened my senses and broadened my horizons. Her enchiladas made me brave enough to try other “odd” or “different” looking things.
And I know Hally experienced new things in my house as well, that, like the things I experienced in hers, added to the richness of her life and even to some of her future proclivities and choices. Just like 1950’s casseroles and boiled vegetables get really old if its all you eat, so do enchiladas and menudo. Hally loved eating at my house!
That same story has happened so many times in my life; I could write a book about the many diverse people with whom I’ve lived, worked, dated, gone to school, and been friends throughout my life. They have added in big and small ways to my worldview and the full life I live. I get to enjoy so many things that people in my own family have never even heard of, because of something that someone with a different culture than my very waspy origins, introduced me to or experienced with me. I’ve been given perspectives of which I would have never even thought to think.
I’ve truly never understood the desire for homogeneity and even less, the strict aversion to diversity. When you are an eye and surrounded by nothing but eyes, what a difference it makes when an ear comes into your life.
Verily I say unto you, nothing can awaken the senses and invigorate the feeling of aliveness like a new experience, different from what you’ve grown accustomed; that same sensation, over and over again in the same exact spot, to which you’ve grown numb. It’s that new flavor that zings on your tongue. That fascinating idea of which you never thought. That new perspective. The new joy. The new sadness. The unexpected and the wondrous.
Artwork © Kija Lucas