SAN DIEGO -- I'm sorry, but I'm not quite ready to leave El Paso.
The rest of the media can go on ahead without me. In fact, many have already
moved on to other news -- including the tariff standoff with China, and whether
hip-hop mogul Jay-Z should be partnering with the NFL.
Not me. I'm still processing the story of the most savage assault on Mexicans and Mexican Americans since the United States looted its southern neighbor and
grabbed half its territory.
It takes time to digest madness. What do you call it when Mexican Americans are hunted like animals for supposedly launching an "invasion" of a city on the U.S.-Mexico border that has a Spanish name, whose population is 80% Latino, mainly Mexican and Mexican American, and which used to be part of Mexico?
There is more that needs saying. And I've said a lot. For newspapers, magazines, and news sites, I've written nearly 7,000 words on this tragedy. I've worked through sorrow, rage, confusion, rage and fear. Did I mention rage?
Besides, what's the rush to pack up our notepads? It's disrespectful.
We've just finished burying the last of the 22 people who were, on Aug. 3, murdered for the crime of shopping while Mexican. Two dozen others are still healing from wounds they suffered for committing the same infraction.
The deceased included Margie Reckard, whose 61-year-old husband, Antonio Basco, invited "everyone" in El Paso to mourn with him because he's all alone now. In what is being called one of the largest funerals that Texas has ever witnessed, more than 3,000 people -- most of them complete strangers -- showed up to pay their respects. If that isn't a good story, I don't know what is.
Reckard wasn't just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It also appears that she was the wrong color.
Witnesses in the Walmart next to Cielo Vista Mall on the west side of El Paso say that 21-year-old Patrick Crusius -- whose obvious mental disorder didn't prevent him from purchasing a high-powered rifle and who told police he wanted to kill as many Mexicans as possible -- allowed white customers to exit the building before indiscriminately gunning down those with brown skin.
Can you think of anything more hideous -- or racist?
In right-wing circles, cowards who aren't shy about slapping the label "racist" on the female lawmakers of color known as "the Squad" won't do the same when the villain is a white male with an evil manifesto.
In their latest deflection, conservatives claim that it's the media that is dividing Americans by race.
Nonsense. Crusius who did that, and with deadly consequences.
To think, those who want to run away from stories involving race and racism will sometimes insist that Latinos are white.
Tell that to Crusius. He's white. To him, we are the "other."
Meanwhile, for Mexican Americans -- those 40 million people stuck in limbo between black and white, Mexico and the United States, English and Spanish -- this scaled-down version of ethnic cleansing has provided us with what my college roommates called "the big guess what." It's an epiphany that shatters naive assumptions and teaches you how the world really works.
Before the El Paso shooting, many Mexican Americans thought they could "pass" for white. Many of us tried to separate ourselves -- from Mexican immigrants, from family members who live in poorer neighborhoods or have less education, from what President Trump calls "bad hombres" and former President Obama called "gangbangers," from members of our tribe with darker skin, harder lives, and bleaker prospects.
What do you expect from a community that lives on the run? My people are either chasing something or being chased by something. If we're not chasing the American dream, then we're being chased by the ghosts of Mexico.
Even if the media forgets El Paso, Mexican American folklore will create a record so people remember.
Corridos are Spanish-language ballads that tell stories, often performed either without instruments or simply with a single guitar. It's a powerful form of musical poetry that dates back a hundred years to the Mexican Revolution. A new corrido is making the rounds -- "El Llanto de El Paso Texas" -- and it tells the story of what happened in the West Texas town. "El Llanto" means "the crying," in a city where "many people are mourning." All this, the song says, because a "monster" tried to break the Mexican people but wound up uniting them.
Let's hope that, just this once, life imitates art.
Ruben Navarrette's email address is email@example.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.
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