Background: I grew up in a very conservative city with very conservative strictly religious Mexican men being the norm. My own father was not religious, but was very very strict–and so I have always associated ‘strict’ with ‘Mexicanness.” Of course by ‘strict,’ I mean deeply conservative, extremely old fashioned, stifling rules on gender and gender roles–all the stuff that make it really hard for a young queer Chicana to exist, basically. When I went to Colorado, it was the first time I had experienced a different way of being Mexican, of being Chicana.
A scene: When I was in Colorado, there was this park that I walked through everyday. There was hardly anybody there on weekdays, but on the weekends, every Mexican in Boulder was there. If there *is* a best thing about national parks, it’s that if they are close enough to home, it just takes a little ingenuity to create a whole day of good times for very poor people. There was fishing and eating and dancing and Frisbee throwing. One family was sitting tightly packed on a small bench, and laughing their asses off every time the young son popped a rubber toy at people walking buy. The sun was brilliant, the air was warm and dry, and when you looked up, there were those awesome Rocky Mountains watching you.
As I walked on that particular day, I noticed a young Mexican girl on a bike. She had long ink black hair and was wearing pink shorts and a stripped shirt with spaghetti noodle straps. Her bike was one of those old beat up banana seat kinds–the kind that was really popular back in the 70s. She was fat and had light brown skin–and she was flying down the pathway, peddling as fast as she could.
I smiled as I watched her, she reminded me of myself–still at the age where she’s oblivious to the societal mandates of what “fat brown bodies” are supposed to do and be. Free.
The path began it’s ascent, and I stopped watching her to focus on getting my own butt where it needed to go. When I say you’re going up mountains in Colorado, I mean you’re going up mountains. A “hill” is really a paved mountain that will hit a 90 degree angle after about three or four feet. When you’re used to “hills” being something that your kids roll down for fun, this type of hill is a bit intimidating, to say the least.
As I was huffing up this hill, I noticed that the girl was not alone–her father was behind her, and because the ascent slowed her down, had just caught up to her. He was wearing blue jeans, work boots and a nice shirt. And was clearly more than a little uncomfortable trying to get that bike up the hill. With a few quick strides, I had caught up to him, and only because I had sympathy in my soul and a history of being lapped by walkers while on my own bike, that I didn’t charge past him.
I heard a bunch of clicking and cursing, and knew that he had changed gears–I snuck a few looks over to him and saw his feet peddling madly and his bike barely moving. He was on first gear.
His daughter was not so lucky. She was going, if possible, even slower than her father. Her bike almost tipped over, twice.
But by that time, her father was going so slow that when he stood up on the peddles to try to go faster, he did tip over after his foot slipped off the peddle and almost slammed him face first into the handlebars.
Which, of course, caused his daughter to laugh.
But as she laughed, she stopped next to her father, offered some encouraging words and began peddling again. The father realigned the bike, got his feet firmly planted on the peddles and pushed off.
I have to say I admire the dude. If you have ever tried to move a bike on first gear up a mountain while wearing blue jeans and work boots, you know he was working a feat worthy of Lance Armstrong’s admiration.
And that he and she were both doing this while surrounded by white, trim grandmas in spandex, bikers on thousand dollar bikes, runners with pure bred dogs –all of whom were going faster than they were–it’s like they were facing down the Devil from hell himself.
But the thing is, after the daughter started laughing–the father got moving again, and then he started laughing too. His entire persona of bad ass macho Mexican man was completely obliterated–in front of a bunch of rich white people no less–and he was laughing. A daughter was watching her father fail miserably at being a bad ass macho Mexican man–and both he and she were laughing together.
After a little while, the pair stopped their trek up the mountain and got off their bikes. They walked the bikes around until they were facing the opposite direction. I could hear the labored way the father was still laughing and trying to catch his breath at the same time.
They each got back onto their bikes and then kicked off. This time, there was no struggle–the bikes slowly rolled at first and then were flying. As the girl passed me, her feet were up on her cross bar and her hair was streaming behind her. She maneuvered easily through the speed walking grandmas and thousand dollar bikes.
The father kept his feet firmly planted on the peddles. He called out a few words that I didn’t understand, but that I assumed were words of caution to his daughter. The high screeching sound of of breaks controlling descent followed him all the way down the mountain. He didn’t go as fast, and he didn’t move as easily through the crowds.
By the time he reached the bottom of the mountain his daughter was well ahead of him. He eventually melted into the rest of the crowd and I didn’t see them again.
As I turned and continued my walk up the mountainside, I couldn’t stop smiling.
The world can be righted.
My feet beat the words into a rhythm on the sidewalk.
The world can be righted.