They ran across the railroad tracks and returned to the hood through an entrance in the rear of the Projects behind the office. The excitement of the fight still swirled in their minds. There were 20 of them and they had all just finished getting down with Los Angeles Jesters. They had represented the Barrio and slipped away clean when the Judas arrived. As they gathered at the Four Corners in the heart of the Projects, they were slapping five, laughing, and reliving the events and excitement of the fight. Everything was de aquellas, all the homies felt proud for getting down and representing the Barrio. It was time to take up a collection and buy some pisto and do some real partying with the homegirls. A couple of vatos brought their liras and when the pisto arrived, the gathering moved to the office, the playground behind the Project’s where Gato, Pastel, and Chico’s mom lived. In no time the party was in full swing. Tony, Lil John, and Lil Tiger were playing the liras and singing. Rabbitears and one of the homegirls were kicking up some dust and dancing a corrido on the grass, and the homeboy Karate was trying to convince his ruca that he single-handedly downed five vatos at the fight. In the background, Torito, Boy, and Lil Willie were taking it all in remembering the tempos they spent together in the joint and how they used to envision thoughts of partying here in the Barrio just like this. It was the ultimate viaje being here partying with all the jente who were willing to put themselves on the line for you, and who right or wrong, would always back your play, “jenti de aquellas”.
At midnight, the party was still blasting, all the jente was still there. Yet, as the party continued, Charlie Wino began to withdraw himself from the others. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was a definite void in his soul. He decided to leave and take a stroll through the hood. As he walked away from the office he could still hear the laughing and partying in the background, and as it slowly faded he knew that the laughter would never again have the same meaning. As he walked toward Leroy Street, the mirror on the Big Wall came into sight. Zapata was almost lifelike standing there. A symbol of pride and dignity, a warrior of days gone by. Homeboy Rabbitears had put his soul into the painting of this mural and the result was a masterpiece, a beacon of strength watching over the Barrio. He felt drawn by the painting of the great revolutionary hero and as he approached the mural a voice startled him “Que pasa cholito, why aren’t you celebrating with the rest of the homies?” Homeboy Charlie Wino quickly looked around trying to determine where the voice came from, but saw no one. He turned slowly towards the painting and broke out in a cold sweat when he realized that it must be Zapata talking to him. The painting had came to life!!
“Don’t be afraid cholito, I’m only here because your soul has called for me,” Zapata spoke to him again.
“But you’re only a painting, how come you’re talking to me?” Charlie Wino replied.
“Do not ask who or try to understand how,” the old warrior tried to reassure him. “Just know that I’m talking because you are ready for what I have to say, even as you were fighting tonight, you were ready for what I have to say and why.”
“I wasn’t calling out to you,” Charlie Wino countered quickly, “I was just getting down for my hood!” But even as he denied it, he sensed the old warrior was looking directly into his soul, but he wasn’t ready to admit it. For a fragment of a second homeboy felt kind of foolish, conversing with a painting on the wall, but he continued– “You yourself fought in the revolution, you as a warrior should be able to understand why I am fighting!”
“Cholito, the old warrior almost laughed, “how can you compare our revolution to this gang warfare? Have you not read the history of your Mexican ancestors?” Zapata asked, but when homeboy didn’t reply, he continued, “We fought for the rights of the compesinos, the people. The farmers, the hombres who fought at my side were men of peace who until then had devoted their lives to work in the soil and raising their families. But when the little they had was threatened, they fought with great courage.” The old warrior paused, recalling with a proud heart the valiant men who gave their lives for the cause of freedom, who at times fought with nothing more than machetes against rifles and guns. Again, the old warrior spoke, “Cholito, you are a very brave and courageous young man, but these noble traits are being wasted because you are fighting for causes which have no meaning. Number one, how can you justify taking up arms against other Chicanos simply because they live in another Barrio, and another thing, how can you or the homies justify selling drugs to earn a living? Even if you yourself do not sell drugs, you are partially contributing to the destruction of your brothers and sisters who are destroyed daily by the current drug epidemic. Their jefitos are just like yours, they also cry when their hijos are hurt, they pray for their hijos just like yours and they swell with pride and joy with the accomplishments of their children and they eat tortillas, frijoles, and chile just like your family does. Ideology, there’s no difference between your culture and theirs. Yet you are killing each other with drugs and gang banging– why!!?”
Charlie Wino did not answer the old Warrior. But as he stood before the painting, The youngster felt the Warrior’s wisdom penetrating the core of his soul and he began to melt the doubts confusion from his heart and mind.
“Your life is so precious ese, the old Warrior sensed that the little homie was beginning to understand…, “yet you are willing to lose it for the sake of some excitement and a reputation, and to continue to live your present lifestyle, you will surely become your own enemy.”
With that final note from the old Warrior, the homie heard a familiar voice behind him. It was Rabbitears strolling and speaking to his hijo Snoopy. Charlie Wino turned and was greeted by the homie Rabbitears, the artist of the mural. “Orale homie, que paso ese, how come you’re all alone?”
As Charlie Wino turned to check out the painting of the old Warrior, he softly stated, “I’m not alone– I have been with him!!!”
Homeboy Rabbitears knew exactly what he meant, because he too had once spoken to the old Warrior and had his soul touched by the great wisdom of the old Warrior. The homie Charlie Wino turned and put his arms around Rabbitears’ and Snoopy’s shoulders and they all strolled toward the Four Corners–the heart of the Barrio.
You know Rabbitears, tomorrow I’m going to the library so I can begin to read and learn of the struggles of our raza and ancestors, because tonight I have learned in order to prepare my future I must also understand my past, que no?” And, with that statement he bid good night to the homies…”Ay te wacho minana Rabbitears and Snoopy!”
Well, it seemed the homie was on his way. He was finally going to make a stand against Barrio Warfare and drugs in the neighborhood. But as he walked alone that night, he was gunned down. What a loss!!! He was and could have been the tool to free his homies from the anguish and violence of the Barrio Warfare and drugs.
The time has come for you to believe in yourselves and to know that you can make a difference. Remember that gang banging and drugs will in the long run bring nothing but sorrow, misery and pain, and only take what is important to you away from you!
The time has come for you to believe in yourself and in your ability to seek the education necessary to open the eyes of your brothers and sisters in the Barrio and to hold one another up in a positive way.
The story “Mystical Painting” is a dedication not only to my Mexican race but also to all the brothers and sisters inside and out who have the inspiration to bring their people up. The task can only be done through education. So, take it upon yourself to educate yourselves so that you may be included in the driving force of educating those who will follow in your footsteps.
by: Robert Joseph Garcia
COPYRIGHT 1992 Robert Joseph Garcia