It Was Easy to Be a Shadow

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

We were the tolerated, but not the accepted. We were the pitied, and never the envied. We were the children of the Valley, growing up in the silence of intolerance and unfairness. We were the bewildered generation. Perplexed and bewildered by the times and by the changing winds that blew across the land. It was the 1960s in the Valley, and the times they were a changing.

IT WAS EASY TO BE A SHADOW

By Al Garcia

We were the tolerated, but not the accepted.  We were the pitied, and never the envied.  We were the children of the Valley, growing up in the silence of intolerance and unfairness.  We were the bewildered generation.  Perplexed and bewildered by the times and by the changing winds that blew across the land.  It was the 1960s in the Valley, and the times they were a changing.

Our high school days were our coming of age.  Rock and roll was playing everywhere.  Drive-in restaurants were the rage.  And Friday night football was the crowning jewel of our existence.  The shadows of our past were slowly disappearing into the light of day.  The Chicano culture was finally beginning to emerge from the decades of inequity and bigotry experienced by our parents and grandparents.  We felt we were the chosen generation.  We felt entitled to acknowledgement and respect.  The Rio Grande Valley was changing, and the darkness that once prevailed began to slowly lift and drift, leaving only shadows and remnants of resistance for what used to be.

There was still the “us” versus “them” mentality in play at school.  It was evident in every way and in every place.  Chicanos were allowed to glimpse into the inner sanctum of the chosen, if you were big, strong, good looking, or played football, if you were a guy, and slim, smart and beautiful, if you were a girl.  The rest of us were delegated to the fringes of high school society, to enjoy the dregs of everything the “in” group and the teachers chose to throw our way.  The times were changing, but attitudes sometimes did not keep pace with time.  There were too many shadows still left behind that concealed and masked the true high school experience of Chicanos in the Valley.  For Chicanos, it was easy to be a shadow and go unnoticed and ignored.

High school days were not always happy days.  No matter how much we tried or struggled to fit in or blend in, it was just not to be.  We were always the kids placed in the back of the bus, and not allowed to succeed or exceed beyond what was expected or allowed.  It was easy to be a shadow when no one cared.

Yet despite the obstacles of high school days, there was a burning determination that our culture and our families instilled in us.  An inborne passion to pull ourselves up and to move ourselves to the front of the bus.  We could feel the wind of change, and hear the roar of discontent across the land.  And we stood up as the young and restless Chicano generation, and we took one step forward, and never looked back.  Even shadows get tired of living in the dark.

Our parents lived, and many died, in the shadows of their past.  We took their courage, their pride, their resilience and their dreams, and we said enough.

Today Chicanos in the Valley are alive with the spirit of our past, and with a passion and vision to exceed the dreams of our fathers, and filled with new dreams of boundless possibilities that await.

It was easy to be a shadow once, but being out in the light means being seen for who we are, Chicanos, proud of our roots, and destined to change the Valley once again.  This time, not with our hands and our backs, but with our voice and our vision.


Submitted: June 21, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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