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fl fl fl OntheTopicofImmigration Tires crunch my driveway. Mole tunnels crosshatch the four truckloads of dirt we brought in to cover the glacier-ground rocks we built on. Five big sage plants are blooming yellow, and a morning glory vine slithers through dead ryegrass, and quail peck at roots. Walking up the driveway, waving, is a Peruvian exchange student, a journalist, María Angeles. Yesterday, she phoned wanting to interview me about the food bank two friends and I founded ten years ago. Ma. Angeles Gómez y Vasteguí, her card says. An unapologetically firm handshake. Thank you for watching me, she begins—a little flustered?—I mean for seeing me. For talking to me. I know you are very busy. She’s stocky, with a long jaw, and huge green eyes. Panty hose highlight the hair on her shins. Her clothing is tasteful and expensive. And from the look she trains on my ratty sandals and sweatshirt, ouch, maybe she expected a guy in a button-down oxford cloth shirt and polished penny loafers. She is, maybe, thirty. I invite her to sit on the deck and drink a glass of ice tea. She produces a notebook and a mechanical pencil—maybe she’s twenty-five—and clears her throat. Okay. How long have you been at the university? Since 1967, I say, and wait for her eyes to glaze with the math of it, but she plunges on. And how come you know Espanish? I’ve been around it all my life. Pardon? Because of my grandmother. Okay, she flips a page. And how long since you, I mean, she pauses, es de, esta obra de caridad. Maybe she’s not too comfortable in English.¿Hace cuánto que abrimos el banco de comida? I offer. She lifts a hand as if shooing a fly. 26 the permit that never expires How long since you find it, found it? Founded it, I want to say. But then I think, what the hell. About ten years. The eraser tip on her pencil quivers like a dog’s nose. And where they come from? Our clients? She nods. From Michoacán, Jalisco, Guerrero. Not Oaxaca? Not many. Are you sure? I say nothing, and she crosses out the word Oaxaqueños. She gives me a calculating glance, and zas, I feel a Wal-Mart frame click into place around me. And what do you call your own ethnicity? she asks. Chicano? Nope. Why not? Because I wasn’t raised as one. Because being Chicano/a leads to a very different kind of life from mine. Not better or worse, by the way, only different. And what do you call the life you lead? I’m a hillbilly. A what? It is simply another ethnic flavor, like Chicano/a, only different. Hillbillies come from border states and tend to be restless, hardheaded, anti-authoritarian, and loyal to their own. Do they have an affinity for mexicanos, or is it vice versa? It is both. How come? Well, because they’re cousins. I mean their values are 90 percent the same. And when the two aren’t fighting over scraps that fall off the table of the wealthy, they know it, and they act like it. Hillbillies and mexicanos—I can’t resist telling her—are going to be the prevailing mix hereabouts in the twenty-first century. Don’t get me wrong. It won’t be a seamless connection. We can count on scuffles and catcalls. But the values of Andrew Jackson and those of Benito Juárez are headed for a blend, not a collision, a mestizaje that’ll knock your socks off. I pause for breath. Her pencil hasn’t moved. I know she’s only trying to get an interview. But as usual, anything like prim disapproval, and my thinking balks and wanders. Suddenly, Topic of Immigration 27 I am ready to bet that María Angeles’s literary future is already lined with triumphs and international praise. I mean, the fix is in. Without really wanting to, I imagine what will no doubt be her best-selling travel book, based on interviews like this one: the United States of cottonwoods and dandelions. Portrait of bilingual hillbilly on cedar deck. White-trash do-gooder. Am I pathetic or what? She looks up and ¡ayyy buey! her eyebrows contract. And The Question follows. She would like to know, if it isn’t too personal, how it was I got...


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Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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