FOR THE LATINX RESEARCH CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY
By Jesús Cortez
White fantasies built
on the foundation of corpses—
sweetened by legality
Your Leave it toBeaver, white
picket fence suburban heaven,
Your Brady Bunch aspirations
Your mutilated bodies left
behind grandiose missions
Your disneyland dreams
covering up the blood left
by murderous police
Your yellow haired devil
of your choice—
he will fulfill all your desires
Your Great American dream
will never leave, as it has
never existed for those like me—
Never forget, you helped make
they discovered you
they named you
they baptized you
in the fire of their guns
and in the name of
their loving god
they became americans
you remained a slave
you remained a number
branded with their freedom
branded with their name
bodies with no identity
they killed one too many
of your brothers and you
took to the streets
To reclaim your humanity
to reclaim your streets
to reclaim your soul
The savages carried guns
you carried stones
Prop 187 Daze
In 1994, one of the biggest issues affecting the immigrant community was proposition 187–an
anti-immigrant bill that would bar undocumented people from certain services, including
education. Pete Wilson was the governor, the streets were at war and I was in 9th grade. Nothing
made much sense, and survival was the priority of the day, not political matters.
One day in the Fall of 1994, there were rumors going around the school that there might be a
walk-out. Someone handed out fliers and I happened to see one. I didn’t really care about school
so walking out to show discontent with proposition 187 seemed like a good reason, since I never
needed one before.
So after lunch I headed to French class, and wondered if it would really happen. Was my school
really going to walk-out and make a political statement? I remember Madame Fix tell us she
understood the situation and she had heard the rumors of the walk-out, but discouraged us from
doing so. Minutes passed and the scheduled protest time was approaching. Finally, the time came
and as I looked around the room, I could sense the fear from the students—they did not seem
ready to take a stand.
Suddenly I saw three people rise. One was David, an acquaintance who I knew had never gotten
in trouble, then there was James who later became my enemy in the streets, and then there was
Dianne who was one of the popular seniors at the school, who probably felt obligated to take a
stand. I rose up too. We all looked at each other. We were ready. We walked out.
As we made our way through the halls, the sad reality hit us—only three others had walked out.
One of those was my acquaintance Cesar. My classmates were so discouraged that they
immediately returned to class. Taking a stand now seemed pointless.
After a while, it seemed only Cesar and I were left alone in the hallway. Seconds later, we saw
the security guard coming towards us on her golf cart. Cesar said, “let’s go foo.” I don’t know
why, but I ran, and kept running across the soccer field, across the baseball field, with security
chasing after us, until we left the school.
While I walked home that afternoon, I had the brilliant idea of telling my mom that I wanted to
drop out of school. I was too embarrassed to go back after the walk-out fiasco. She said it was
fine, but I had to go to work with my brother the next day. I hardly went to school in the first
place and she knew it. Working as a gardener was better than school, I thought.
The following day, most of the Brown kids walked out of school to protest proposition 187.
That day was the first time I had wished to be in school instead of mowing lawns.
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