Shedding My Prisoner of War Name

   After my stepfather hit my mother in December of 1996, we almost went down in blows. I found myself calling the police. I have never had to call them or have wanted to do so for anything. In the closet, I fear their immense power, and on the exterior I despise them for the same reason.

It was a painful Christmas.

   I began to reassess my life. I began to question why my father had left when I was two, and why my stepfather was such a jerk. I cried profusedly without stop and without direction.

   I wanted to be as far away from them as possible. But I was them. I was the alcoholic, my father was, and yet I was going on three years sober. I was also the temperamental stepson my stepfather saw in his own shadow. I had to change.

   I found myself at a pay-phone crying like a baby without end. Days later I found myself with a friend reading poetry in front of the old administration building where just a year ago a few of us sat choosing to starve ourselves for something we believed in. The question now was, what do I believe in. It was the first time in my life that I truly spoke to the Great Spirit and begged forgiveness for all my mistakes. It was the first time I prayed without reciting "El padre nuestro" or "Ave Maria". There was no script to this one, no colonial memory chip.

   The fire I lit began to burn uncomfortably. It screamed deep-blues and frightening purples. I saw in it our people burning at the stake, and I just stood there idly by. So we sang, marched, and went without eating, so what. People were still dying. Not much had changed, except the stakes.

see Spanish-English glossary near the end of the book for translations and/or editorial notes.

   The rest became clear. I have always been proud of the nopal that rested atop my head. Mis raices are not something I ever wanted chopped off. However, through false Catholic indoctrination I had become all too accustomed to feeling guilty and falling to my knees at the hands of the oppressor. Now the only oppressor was I, towards myself. If Jesus Christ was out there, he wasn't draped in silk robes or trapped in protocol, but rather, he was free.

   I had become all too accustomed to speaking two colonial tongues, both from Europe. Both foreign to our people.

   I had become the fortunate college kid, of Indian descent, who would fill the undisclosed color margin in a capitalistic world trapped in its own confusion and chaos. I was being bred by an institution to become the poster child for the new 'Horatio Algier' cereal. I, the rancho boy, turned barrio nerd survived the concrete jungle by knowing the lingo, but steered clear of the 'big pedos' except for a few 40oz. of pain, or at that time of pleasure.

   I stood face to face with both my past and my future, but my present seemed hollow and empty. I knew how I felt. I was a zero. An unknown. The one who constantly wanted more. The one who read and read, asked and asked, to get more history, more cultura, more pride and I was still searching, still trapped, still longing.

   For a time I was Caesar, an American. Now I felt homeless. It was time for me to formally introduce myself to myself. My name was/is Cesar Alonso Cruz Gomez Villafana. My name tells of generations of conquest. Villafana was my great grandfather's last name. He was a tall Spaniard with deep blue eyes. He raped my great grandmother. Somehow this was omitted from the 'tell-me-about-your-ancestors' conversation. Gomez was my grandfather's last name. He beat my grandmother until she had the courage to take him on, the Bracero Program, an International border, and two governments seeking to keep her down.

   Cruz was my father's name. A middle class city boy from Guadalajara who sought to marry a poor village woman, my mother, from Juchitlan. All men. A lineage kept in the closet. A history of conquest. I was still a slave to patriarchy, power, privilege, and myself. I was unaware of it at the time, but this introduction helped forge a new beginning. Months later I realized that if I was to transform, to grow, to be, I needed to reach further.

   An elder walked towards me and handed me prophecy. Teolol-the nahuatl (Aztec) word for zero, for the unknown, but also for the balance of positive and negative energies- was to transform me. It was to strip me of my slave name and lead me on a path towards liberation. This elder never even mentioned the word. His eyes told me to search for it and his heart helped me to find it. So I began to play with a pregnant thought. What would I do? Let it sit for nine months without care, without nutrients?

   Could I be incapable of delivering a new birth? Or would I abort? I was nearing my first trimester and was scared for I was facing 500 years of colonialism.

   But I know that I'm not alone. I wanted to introduce myself to myself once again. My name is Teolol. Now came the test.

   As Geronimo ji-Jaga (formerly known as Pratt) was released from physical incarceration, I was asked by a Latino reporter to share some thoughts on the matter.

   After doing so, he asked, "Please state your name and the organization you represent."

   I replied, "Teolol" He seemed confused and let out, "hmmm" I went on, "and I represent the Xinach, the seeds." The reporter, a mirror image of most Latinos in America, seemed puzzled, like my Aztec ancestors did in 1519.

   I smiled and replied, it need not be important and walked away. But, I leave you, my friend, with this explanation for it needs to be told. They must know we, the indigenous people, are returning from our coma. The nova'cocaine' has worn off, and the roots of the tree have not been uprooted.

    Cueponizqueh in xochime
    uan in cuauhtiame
    mo mina xoxoctic.

    (the flowers will grow
    and the eagles
    will adorn
    the sacred earth and its blue skies.)

Slowly I began to shed my prisoner of war name. It was all in due time.All in due time. And the Great Spirit smiled at the praxis of prophecy.

Written by: Cesar A. Cruz

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