Monday, May 15, 2006


Monday’s post by Daniel Olivas

César A. González-T. tells me that his parents, José A. González and Camerina Trujillo de González, came into this country by Japanese boat at San Pedro, CA, in 1928-29. González was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. His parents’ labor and sacrifices put him through Loyola High School. González eventually went on to his studies at the University of Santa Clara, Gonzaga, and later UCLA, doing work in the areas of humanities, philosophy, Spanish literature, and sociology. Through the years, González has worked as a dish washer, grape picker, and grave digger.

Along the line, González was an undocumented worker in Mexico for six years, teaching three years in Chihuahua; and, years later, working at a community development project in México, D.F. The walkouts of 1968 brought him back to L.A. to work with the Chicano educational reform movement, including working as a supervisor at a complex of East L.A. Head Starts.

González married Bette Beattie in 1969 (Bette is pictured above), and made their home in San Diego. His first job in their new home was as an employment counselor with Operation SER. In 1970, González began another adventure of a lifetime as founding chair of the Chicano Studies Department at San Diego Mesa College.

In the course of the years, Chicano literature became González’s other great love. Among the many authors whom he’s enjoyed and have come to know especially well, include Rudy A. Anaya, Luis Alberto Urrea, Alma Luz Villanueva, and Tino Villanueva. Recently González enjoyed the work of Ohio writer Lucrecia Guerrero. González’s model and mentor in academe continues to be Dr. Luis Leal.

González has published some poetry, short fiction, and literary criticism including Unwinding the Silence (1987); Rudolfo A. Anaya: Focus on Criticism (1990); and A Sense of Place: Rudolfo A. Anaya, an Annotated Bio-Bibliography (2000), co-authored with Phyllis S. Morgan. Some of his poetry is anthologized and some has also appeared in the Bilingual Review, RiverSedge, Prairie Schooner, Nebraska Humanities, Blue Mesa Review, Saguaro, and others.

Here is a poem by González:

Popule Meus: Improperia / Reproaches*
for CA Prop 187, 1994 / HR 4437, 2005

Patriotism is love for one's country, with the desire to make it better.
-- San Diego Mesa College students, English 205.

"Popule meus,
quid feci tibi,
aut in quo contristavi te?
Responde mihi."
"Oh, my people,
what have I done to you,
or in what have I offended you?
Answer me."

I sought work,
and you exploited my hunger.
I agreed to work for a pittance,
and you called the migra on pay day.
I picked your fruits and your vegetables,
you poisoned me with pesticides,

I tended your gardens, your fields of flowers,
and you flogged me with thistles of sound bytes.
I made your food, served you in your restaurants,
and you have heaped my plate with bile.
I sewed your clothes in your storefront sweat shops,
you threw me out naked into the night.
I watched over your children and loved them,
and you would terrorize even my unborn babies.
I cared for your incontinent and troubled old folks,
you turned my agéd ones out to perish.
I cleaned your warm homes and filled them with love,
and you sent me into the pitiless night.
I have come whenever it suited you,
you have thrown me out when you were through with me;
you use my country as one would a whore house:
Take--without consequence or responsibility.

And now let me tell you what will happen to you:
God will curse you and divide you and you will be confounded.
You will attack others as you sing of "your country,"
and the world will condemn you.
The land that we would make great
will become the Divided States of North America;
you will be nobody's country
until you are everybody's country.

And so we pray:
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas,
Pray for us.
Frances Cabrini, North American saint and patroness of immigrants,
Pray for us.

And finally, with the prayer of the United Nations, we ask for
unity among nations:
"Strike from our hearts
the national self-righteousness that causes hatred and division
between persons and countries,"
we beseech thee, O Lord.
So be it.


* On Good Friday, commemorating the death of Jesus, after the crucifix is unveiled, it is venerated by the ministers and the people while the choir sings the Improperia or Reproaches of the Savior: "Oh, my people . . . in what have I offended you." The following are samples of these reproaches, each followed by the refrain "Oh , my people": "I opened the sea before you, and you have opened my side with a lance. . . . I gave you the water of salvation to drink from the rock, and you have given Me gall and vinegar to drink. . . . With great power I lifted you up, and you have hung Me upon the gibbet of the cross."

[This poem was orignially published in the San Diego Weekly Reader 13 April 1995: 62; distributed free every Thursday in San Diego County. Published Holy Thursday 1995. Also in Phati’tude Premiere Issue 1.1 (1996): 44-45.]

NUEVO LIBRO: Rigoberto González reviews Ada Limón's prize-winning debut, Lucky Wreck (Autumn House Press). Of this book of poems, González says: “She works hard to create her own vocabulary of ambivalence, quandary and ambiguity -- the everyday contradictions and dilemmas that cause either momentary pause, or unshakable heartache.”

OSU TRIP: I had a wonderful time last week visiting Ohio State University to help celebrate the release of Frederick Luis Aldama’s Spilling the Beans in Chicanolandia (University of Texas Press). More on this later.

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Gonzalez!!! You are one awesome man. This is Liana Rocheford-Ruiz and Caesar G. Ruiz (SD Mesa College MeChA 1984-1985) Remember "El Soldado Razo"? (The play?) It's been a long time. Glad to see you and Betty are well. Mr. G you will always be "our" inspiration! Much love,
Caesar & Liana

Anonymous said...

I hope you get this in time.

Mr. Gonzalez T,, I am looking to read your poem for my Spanish class.

It is the one that contains: They never touched, not one clack of fingernail..., hopefully you could send me a copy of it as it is one of my favorite poems ever.

Glad you are well.

chris siemens

Anonymous said...

I just quoted Mr. Gonzalez in my sermon last Sunday. He was my Chicano Studies professor at San Diego Mesa College during 1972 to 1974. I went on to graduate with a BS in Law, then a Juris Doctor (1978). Cesar and Bette celebrated my JD. 30 yers later, after retiring from a career as a Federal Special Agent, I also graduated with my Master of Divinity. I am now a Presbyterian pastor in Ventura, CA. Cesar Gonzalez was an inspiration to me - truly one of those teachers we encounter who make a difference in how we think, in how we see the world. I have thought of him often over the years. I was deeply blessed and I am truly thankful to have known and to have sat at the feet of such a gifted teacher.

Rev. E. Wayne Kempton
Community Presbyterian Church
Ventura, CA