Posted: July 21, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

I never had enemies in East L.A.  Gangbangers had enemies.  Viejas had enemies.  Boys in the schoolyard had enemies, but not adorable chicas like me.  If you were a sweet little girl in the barrio, you were protected.

The Cholos affectionately called me ‘Little Moni’.  I was pure, untainted and way too young to be a member a of their club.  I was also way too young to be found dead on a garbage-infested lot.  Get your ass home before I kick it, meant a shooting was coming.

I wanted to stayed in my Chicano neighborhood, but Mom was scared.  So a drastic plan was put into motion that would change my life forever.  I was about to get a rude awakening.  My little mundo was about to get gigantic.

Field Elementry in Pasadena, California was my first real battleground.  Blacks, Armenians, Russians, ‘rich’ whites and the unclassifiable converged on me like locus.  There were three races in East L.A. (as far as I was concerned) , white teachers/school staff, Korean liquor store owners and Chicanos.  I had never seen people like the ones in Pasadena before and worse, I couldn’t find my own people. I was terrified and it showed.

Blacks could kill me. Yes, its true, I really believed it.  Armenian boys could strip your clothes off and make you run home naked. Rich whites could make  you wish you were dead with looks and nonstop teasing about your clothes.

Maria Felix ruined my life! Okay, so what if she was trying to save it? I’ll take bullets over white bullies any day of the week. Such was the thought process of a coconut in the making. I never thought about appearances (i.e. clothing labels) before Pasadena, but I sure did after.

Mom worked three jobs to afford a real house with a fireplace (no fireplaces in East L.A.) in the middle class neighborhood of Hastings Ranch, Pasadena.  That said, we were still on food stamps and Medi-Cal.  I was never more scared of running into a classmate at the grocery store than when my mother broke out with her food stamps!

In my dreams, I was white, blonde, blue eyed and rich.  Whites ruled the world or at least my world.  If I couldn’t look like them, I was going to talk like them, go to museums like them, read like them and write like them.  I was going to kiss up to them too.  Adios, Little Moni.  Hello, Monica (in gringo accent of course).

My wanna-be-white persona amused alot of my classmates.  No matter. I was going to will my way to whiteness. I was 9 years old. What do you want?  My ace in the hole was my name.  Monica is a white girl’s name.  Esteban, my brother, was screwed. So he did the next best thing. Changed his name to Steve.  Carmen didn’t care.  She was okay with who she was.

  1. kristen says:

    Monica – this reminds me of a great segment on This American Life that I just listened to a few days ago on their podcast app. Try and find this episode and listen to the segment about the Mimis. Fantastic stuff.


  2. coconutspeak says:

    Are you a FB friend, by any chance?


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