Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Narrative We Choose To Believe

Author and honorary Laredoan Fernando Piñon greeted old friends yesterday as he signed copies of his new book at the Laredo Public Library.  

On the first page of "Searching for America in the Streets of Laredo: The Mexican American Experience in the Anglo American Narrative" the author inscribed, a Laredoan who knows the culture & history of being part of a privileged group of people - a Laredoan.  I think that means me.  Kinds words from a man I've never met before.

(Image via KGNS)

I was impressed by the turnout.  It was a sizable gathering that included a Who's Who of Laredo.  (I did not spot not a one current elected official in the bunch.)  Regardless of whether the crowd was mostly made up of Pinon's friends, I think everyone wanted to get his take on Laredo culture.  

Mr. Piñon grew up in El Azteca, one of Laredo's first barrios.  As the author recalled, there were no Anglos in that neighborhood.  His earliest exposure to the Anglo American culture was through comic books, or movies he enjoyed at the Plaza Theater.  The heroes he admired, the ones that battled the evildoers, however, were always white.  Piñon enjoyed the tales of good versus evil, but he eventually acknowledged the fact that people of color were featured in different roles, occasionally as characters who were, how you say, less than admirable.  And this is where the conflict arose for Piñon.

According to the author, America's sense of superiority is always rooted in the Anglo American version of history.  It's the white person that is better than the minority; beauty is measured by how much more fair one's skin is.  It's that 'narrative' that sets the standard for the rest of us to strive towards.  But in believing that we are, somehow, less than our Anglo counterparts, we set limits for ourselves that keep us from succeeding, from reaching our full potential.

What we need is a swift kick in the pants.  Actually, Mr. Piñon believes that, through a sense of mission and self confidence, we can attain our dreams.  It's through our own struggles that we empower ourselves.  We all have the capacity for something better; However, he suggests meting out a little motivation to each other every now and then to get us out of the rut of second-guessing ourselves.  

When we can prove that Latinos, Blacks and every person living in this country helped to mold this nation, then we can prop up the ideals that America flaunts, that we all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It's when we can equally embody the notion that all men are created equal that our nation can evolve and be the example it sets out to be for the rest of the world.  Countries come and go, Piñon said.  What makes up a nation is its people at that certain point in time.  In the foreword to Searching for AmericaPiñon cites Edmund Burke's concept of society:
Since the objective of this partnership cannot be obtained in one generation, this contract becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are yet to be born.
The Anglo narrative is far-reaching, and that was grossly evident last night as I was eating dinner at Fuddruckers with one too many a George Washington's Birthday Celebration (WBCA) poster around me.  We all glorify our Founding Fathers, and that's fine to a certain point.  They deserve props for what they did, but everybody who helped build this nation, and everybody who has influence in modern society equally deserves their due.

The Anglo American narrative has run its course.  We have to acknowledge that America today is made up of much more than the Ward and June Cleaver family model.  We have to acknowledge that the American narrative today is made up of people of different colors and stripes.  If we dismiss the contributions of all cultures in America, then we will constantly be in a state of dissonance, as Fernando Piñon describes.    

As far as I know, the book is not available through any retailer.  Contact the public library to see if they have a copy.


  1. Props for paying attention and taking notes. Glad you went & sat behind me & didnt fill my hair with spitballs. Should be an interesting read.

  2. Interesting presentation and should be a good read as well. Thanks.