Back in time El Paso, Texas was isolated from most of the United States. Hardly anybody ever left. This was in the forties an fifties. But then started the trickle in my family. Los Angeles and the rest of California were the main places. It was almost a religious thing, the pilgrimage to L.A. and back. They inadvertently came back to El Paso. Then one uncle, Frank Ochoa on my mom’s side of the family, and then another on my Dad’s side, Jose Montoya left. They would come back to visit but they were gone, never to come back accept for a brief visit. These were the first ones to leave our parochial town.
I never thought that I would leave. I loved the city, the thought of leaving never entered my mind. I stayed put. There were not many jobs to be found, those that existed did not pay much. But, I figured that with enough schooling I would be able to find work. Got married not long after high school graduation, and then the kids came. I had kept on going to school, went to night school at Burge High School and El Paso Tech. I was interested in My interested electronics and did well in classes related to that. There were few jobs in electronics in town. I had to get whatever jobs that I could to support my young and growing family. Worked food service at first and just managed. The only way to get a decent job was if you knew someone that could open doors for you. I thought I could make it on my own, and so I struggled.
After trying to find work and finding only food service jobs paying low wages I finally got smart. Deciding to ask for help, I found it in a couple of uncles that worked for one of the biggest employers in town, Farah Manufacturing. My uncle Joe Farah got me into the garment factory. Later Uncle Eddie Ochoa got me into their research and development shop. More tales to tell later on the eleven or so years that I spent at Farah. It was a great learning experience, leaning to work with people, knowing how to go up the corporate structure, but best of all applying my basic electrons classes. In the end, I had to leave. Problems within Farah family over control of the company and attempts to unionize created an unstable environment. And so I left Farah.
I am skipping over a lot of history but that will be the next step in telling the story related to my leaving El Paso for better pastures. My oldest boy had a good job in town working for an electronics company. The second son only found work in food service. My older brother had lived in Dallas for some time, so I suggested to my second eldest that he look for work in Dallas. It did not take him long to decide to go there where he found jobs easily. The electronics company my eldest worked with started one of many restructuring steps. Eventually, he too left for the Dallas area. The story is still incomplete but let me just stop here to say that I too followed in seeking work in Dallas.
Phileas Fogg Chips Snacks. Great stories on every bag. Great blog to follow. Thanks, Gary.
I recently stumbled across a trio of old photos, which has me sorted for three weeks worth of Throw Back Thursday material. This is the oldest one, taken in the early 90s. Can I provide a more precise date? Well, that sofa belonged in the family home in London before my parents upped sticks and moved to the south coast in late 1993, so the shot was taken before that point. The sofa didn’t go with them because the rather adorable German
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In the sixties, Farah Mfg., where I worked, held sensitivity classes for middle managers and below. Not including top managers. The factory floor work was like that in high school. That is, the guys would flirt with the girls. At times it would go beyond that with inappropriate touching! But that was dismissed as just boys being boys. I think that that helped improve the work environment. The program was as the result of a directive from the US Labor department. Most El Paso companies held the same sensitivity training.
A few years later I found myself working as a quality control inspector at a Dallas electronic component assembly facility. I had built up good experience in quality control. My job was making sure that assembly operator did their jobs according to specifications. One young ladies word did not meet the requirements. So I had to reject her work. Not long after that I confront by my boss. She had the idea that I might be harassing the girl. She had been asked by her boss to look into the matter. Later, I found out that her boss was somewhat of a leech, and the operator was one of his “sweeties”! I wonder if that ever went on my work record under harassment of a female?
When it comes to President Trump and race, there is a predictable cycle. He makes a remark that seems racist, and people engage in an extended debate about whether he is personally racist. His critics say he is. His defenders argue for an interpretation in which race plays a secondary role (such as: Haiti really is a worse place to live than Norway).
It’s time to end this cycle.
No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people.
And that makes him a racist.
Is it possible to defend some of his racially charged statements by pointing out that something other than race might explain them? Sure. Is it possible that he doesn’t think of himself as a racist who views white people as superior to nonwhite people? Yes.
But the definition of a racist — the textbook definition, as Paul Ryan might say — is someone who treats some people better than others because of their race. Trump fits that definition many times over:
• Trump’s real-estate company was sued twice by the federal government in the 1970s for discouraging the renting of apartments to African-Americans and preferring white tenants, such as “Jews and executives.”
• In 1989, Trump took out ads in New York newspapers urging the death penalty for five black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a white woman in Central Park; he continued to argue that they were guilty as late as October 2016, more than 10 years after DNA evidence had exonerated them.
• He spent years claiming that the nation’s first black president was born not in the United States but in Africa, an outright lie that Trump still has not acknowledged as such.
• He began his 2016 presidential campaign by disparaging Mexican immigrants as criminals and “rapists.”
• He has retweeted white nationalists without apology.
• He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful and disrespectful.
• He called some of those who marched alongside white supremacists in Charlottesville last August “very fine people.”
• He is quick to highlight crimes committed by dark-skinned people, sometimes exaggerating or lying about it (such as a claim about growing crime from “radical Islamic terror” in Britain). He is very slow to decry hate crimes committed against dark-skinned people (such as the murder of an Indian man in Kansas last year).
• At the White House yesterday, Trump vulgarly called for less immigration from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.
If you think this list is incomplete, email me at Leonhardt@nytimes.com.
For more on this topic, read my colleague Nick Kristof wrestling with the topic during the 2016 campaign: “Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities,” he wrote. “While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern — and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.”
And Slate’s Jamelle Bouie: “It’s impossible to know what’s in his heart. But what Trump feels is less important than what he does.”
The reference to north of border is geographical. That being because I have been living south of it for around fifteen years. Seeing what has taken place, I have few regrets. I only wish that I could see my kids growing up in a safer more inclusive society.
If people up north can see how divided the US has become, it is still not to get back to being a more loving, caring country. It is worth the effort no matter what it takes.
Say it isn’t so, Gary! I have so enjoyed your political blogs, especially those about Brexit. And about life on the other side of the pond. Would it hurt to just write a short blog once in a while? I think not. Hope to see a great blog from you shortly. Otherwise, I realize that heigh ho it is off to earn a living that you must go. Probably a bit late in the evening. You are already into the new year. But Happy New Year to you and Mrs. P,
It’s the last day of the year. The day before the first day of next year. It’s time for some resolutions to be set. I’ll try and be realistic. I’ll pay off what’s left on my credit card. It’s 0% interest and there’s not a lot on it, and no urgency to settle it, but I’d like to end the year completely debt free. Apart from the mortgage, of course. That’ll take a little bit longer. I’d also like to save up my overtime payments and have a new boiler put in. Or at least have the cash ready when the current one packs up. It’s
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I love the way this guy writes. It’s like we were born kindred spirits. This article brings back some many memories of El Paso, Texas, where I grew up and of the people around me at back then. We considered ourselves ultra cool vatos locos!
Thanks, Agustin for bringing back those times fraught with risk as they may have been.
I believe that it is important that those of us who have chosen to stake our life far from our aboriginal land we call home to make a concerted effort to return and experience the nostalgic moments of our upbringing. It gives us the opportunity to make connections between different time periods and events that have shaped our lives and those of the ones we left behind.
During our childhood years we accumulate numerous experiences that may be discarded or archived in our memory bank. Feet on the ground visits to our hometown often spark moments of reminiscing that would not be reveled otherwise. It is for that reason that I make it a point to return to my beloved El Paso as often as I can. Not only do I anxiously look forward to seeing my siblings but I also need to douse myself in the culture, language, and culinary delights that depict my heritage. The whole experience of my visits are often like time travel, chaotically swirling in my mind and attempting to chronologically sort itself to create a epic story of my days gone by.
When the day of such visit arrives, all is packed, arrangements made, siblings notified, and transportation set. The blue, yellow, and red bird of man’s creation lifts with great and graceful force, soaring through azure hued skies, dotted with pristine white clouds that look like flowing soft cotton as we rise. Mindless chatter is heard as if from a vast distance, some prefer to read, and still others close their eyes and digress to a sound sleep. On flies the bird, mile after mile ever changing the landscape below. From the green of forest to the blue of glistening lakes and rivers, on to streaks of brown, purple, orange and sights of mountains reaching up to touch the sky. We are closer to home and my heart starts beating livelier in anticipation of our arrival. The bird finally starts a gradual descent magnifying the welcoming ground below. We roll on the huge black welcome carpet and cruise to our final destination-home.
Our son is waiting and ready to take us and our luggage as we start the first episode of a long awaited visit. His smile and hugs tell it all, he has missed us. The transformation of visitor and traveler to citizen has begun. “¿Que paso, mijo, como has estado? Muy bien. Let’s go. We will go drop off the luggage and go get something to eat. How about some Chico’s Tacos? Mijo, do you have to ask? Let me call your Uncle T so he can join us.” “Hello. Ese, carnal. Que paso, bro? Nada, we’re in town and going to Chico’s, meet us there. “Orale.” He replied. The nostalgic visit suddenly submits to the vernacular of those days of old.
“Ese, Kaluli (my brother’s barrio nickname) have you run in to any of the homies? Some, ese. I saw Gaby, Tony, el Devil, and FaFa at the funeral for el Reyes. Have you seen Shorty or Viru? I think Viru retired from the Post Office and Shorty is still in prison. Que aguite, that’s too bad, carnal.” Just then I hear from behind,” ese Gus.” I see this white haired old man with a beard that I didn’t recognize and I just replied, “que paso, homes?” As he left I asked my brother who the guy is. He chucked and said,”you don’t remember el Sevollon? He retired from the Secret Service. He and Pelon were in the Secret Service, both retired. Pallin is an engineer and his sister Yoya is a medical doctor. Que loco, ese. One never knows how things will work out.” The rest of the week went along the same lines while visiting friends and family. The food was to die for and beer flowed freely. There is no place like El Chuco, to grow up or visit. You can take the Vato out of the barrio but you can’t take the barrio out of the vato.
Going back to the future leaves a small void in your heart but clearly, it has to be so. We board the blue, yellow, and red bird again. The bird ascends, contrails plotting the departure in the sun drenched sky. As we proceed the terrain turns from desert to lush grounds of green trees and rivers. The guys are all scattered now. Memories are the only things that keep us bound. Some have realized a better life than the others. We all had the same opportunities, some were blessed more than others. One thing for certain, all were loved by God, not one over another. It is inevitable that one day we will celebrate our reunion in the presence of our creator. It is sad to acknowledge that some are already waiting for us. The trip back to the world is quite a bit longer than usual and this barrio kid feels a lump in his throat and a cleansing small stream of moisture dancing down his cheek. God bless us all, homies.
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Before the turn of the century I read of guys in New York City renting closet space as living quarters. I’ve often thought that I could live out of a closet myself. I may get a chance to prove that out.
My daughter dreams of tiny houses. But our downsizing is not anything close to that. It is more like a temporary relocation form our Mansion de Patzcuaro to downsized living quarters in Zihuatanejo. It will be to be away from the extremely cold winter we have in January and February.
To be sure, it will be a short term experiment if we can survive it. The thing that I dislike the most now is having to write this blog on a tiny tablet the size of an ereader. I plan to fix that when I get back by bringing back my ancient laptop. More on this adventure as it develops.