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Butterfly Boy

Memories of a Chicano Mariposa

Rigoberto Gonzalez

Publication Year: 2006

Winner of the American Book Award

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

Excerpts from this book have been published in Analecta (as “Guitar Lessons,” winner of the Nonfiction Essay National Competi-tion); Blue Mesa Review (as “Ms. Burnett”); Crab Orchard Review (as “Piña” and “Our Secret Other Worlds,” winner of the John Guyon Prize for Literary Nonfiction, also cited in Best American Essays 2000),...

Part 1: Smarting Points, Starting Points

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Summer’s Passage, Southern California, 1990

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pp. 3-9

Butterflies, my lover calls it, the art he places on my back. He locks his lips on each shoulder blade and sucks the skin, leaving deep red, almost purple hickeys that he says resemble wings. One butterfly on the left side and one on the right, and then he works his way down to the middle of the spine: a trail of love bites. He perfects his craft...

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Welcome to Indio, California, Pop. 36,793

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pp. 10-16

There’s nothing like a bus ride out of town after a lovers’ quarrel to make a person sentimental about getting home to family. This trip to Indio is only the first step toward a longer journey into México, into the state of Michoacán, into the town of Zacapu, where my father was born, where my mother was raised, and where I grew up. The visit will be more significant because I’ll be turning twenty...

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Ghost Whisper to My Lover

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pp. 17-18

Maybe this will explain, querido, why I keep returning to my father. It’s 1975 and my father is the bass player for Dinastía, a band that plays throughout the state of Michoacán, but which is mainly in demand locally in our hometown of Zacapu. They perform for weddings, baptisms, graduations, quinceañeras, and anniversary parties. On occasion...

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Now Leaving Mexicali, Baja California, Norte

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pp. 19-37

The Mexicali bus station is bustling with people, some dragging their luggage across the floor by a strap like a pet on a leash, others sitting as they fan themselves to cool off, their suitcases prone like coffins at their feet. The grainy voice over the speakers announces gate numbers, schedule changes, arrivals, and departures in a flat, disinterested...

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Ghost Whisper to My Lover

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pp. 38-39

Tell you something else about my father? Claro, querido. My father holds a peculiar fascination for extraterrestrial life. He was pleased to discover that a magazine existed for people like him, the Spanish version of UFO—OVNI: Objetos voladores no identificados, which came packed with firsthand narrative accounts of close encounters...

Part 2: Childhood and Other Language Lessons

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Bakersfield, California, 1970–72

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pp. 43-46

My father gave up boxing a few years before I was born. According to my mother’s sisters he wasn’t a very good contender anyway. Their assessment was based entirely on the only match they ever saw him fight. This was also his last match. His humiliation at being knocked out seconds after the first-round bell was so great that he never ...

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Zacapu, México, 1972–79

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pp. 47-54

We descended on a half-completed corner building in Colonia Miguel Hidalgo. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla had been the priest who in 1810 stirred the Mexican people into action, which eventually lead to México’s independence from Spain in 1821—300 years after the conquest of Hernán Cortés over the Aztec empire. México had one long history of battles and it seemed appropriate that los González...

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Thermal, California, 1979–80

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pp. 55-66

My family came to settle in the southern California desert, in the Coachella Valley 130 miles south of Los Angeles and 95 miles north of Mexicali and the international border. This town was known as the Grape Capital of the World because of the endless acres of the crop spread across its landscape. The town also conveniently housed...

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Thermal, 1981–82 (Our Little Home on Top of the Garage)

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pp. 67-99

In the family legends, there is one that has always been used to explain the poverty of los Carrillo, my paternal grandmother’s branch of the family tree. When this story is told a date is never given but if I start mapping out the generations, this tale involves my grandmother’s great-uncle, my great-great-great uncle, who is simply ...

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Summer’s Passage

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pp. 100-111

...My father and I exchange words in the dark. I can’t even tell what time it is, but I know it’s too early in the morning to be having this conversation on the bus, especially about my special friends. I can just make out the sky becoming clearer over the horizon and the dominant sound is still the rough engine shifting gears as it speeds onward to Michoacán. And then something takes hold of me. A need...

Part 3: Adolescent Mariposa

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Ghost Whisper to My Lover

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pp. 115-118

Don’t be surprised, querido, but you’re the first Mexican I’ve ever known who isn’t a Catholic. No wonder you’re fearless. But I can’t say I’m much of a Catholic myself. The Eucharist entered my body only once, on the day of my First Communion. My brother and I went through the religious ceremony one hot summer in 1984 because this was one of my mother’s last wishes—that we fulfill the third of the holy Sacraments...

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Indio, 1983–88 (“El Campo” Years)

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pp. 119-161

As the story goes, my mother had been picking grapes along with her crew at one of the Freeman fields in the Coachella Valley. The harvest season had just begun, but already the day temperatures were uncomfortably warm. She became thirsty, nothing out of the ordinary, so she informed her coworkers that she was going down to the end of the field block to have a drink of water from the supervisor’s...

Part 4: Zacapu Days andNights of the Dead

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Summer’s Passage

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pp. 165-174

Once we board the third bus to Michoacán on our third evening, Iresolve not to antagonize my father for the remainder of the trip, though all the bus interiors look exactly alike and it feels as if we’re climbing into the same cabin containing all the negativity I’ve been dispelling into its air. We have approximately seven hours to go and...

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Ghost Whisper to My Lover

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pp. 175-177

I think, querido, that none of us really knows how to grieve. It’s such a mystery of an emotion that we trip over ourselves trying to get through this feeling of our bodies collapsing internally. But we have to fall apart in order to piece ourselves together again. Is it any wonder we love ceremonies, or flickering lights through our unknowing and the unknown. When our former neighbor the hunchback died (his name was Tony, but my...

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Zacapu, July 1990 (Imago)

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pp. 178-191

As soon as I walk in the door, my grandparents smother me with hugs and kisses, an affection that makes me feel awkward. The banter that transpires between them is usually comic yet somehow intimate, as if no one else has a place in the conversation...

Part 5: Unpinned

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Riverside, California

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pp. 195-203

Each time I return to my ugly old Riverside, where I have never seen a river, only bumper-to-bumper traffic that shimmers its strings of headlights into the evenings along Highways 60, 91, and 215, I remember that this is the place of my learning. I would be more embarrassed to admit what I didn’t know if I hadn’t come from the kind of place I did. I didn’t know, for example, that jeans came in different...

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Ghost Whisper to My Lover

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pp. 204-207

I’ll end with this, querido, one of those strange tales in my life that I didn’t have the chance to tell you during our nights when I wanted to share everything, when I wanted you to know and possess all that was me so that I could close the book of my childhood and call it a past. So that I could make you my future. But that was not going to be possible, was it? Every one is a lesson. I present this...


E-ISBN-13: 9780299219031
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299219048

Publication Year: 2006