Posts Tagged ‘Kingsville’

Cover Girls

She always tried to cover them, the scars of her former self when she was into cutting. Every shower revealed them. As she stood there, water dripping off of her, all wet and squeaky clean and free of the dust of the day, the irony was not lost on her.  At her cleanest the scars presented themselves to her.  At first she used what was convenient.  A long sleeve shirt or a piece of fabric she’d fashion into a cute little bracelet but she finally decided that her foundation made the best cover for the scars.  Wiping away a large swath of steam from the mirror, she mocked herself derisively: You’re an honest to God “Cover Girl.”

She’d often feel shame. Ashamed that she had let him besmirch all the pride her mother had instilled in her. But she was a mother now too and full of hope.  The kind of hope only a mother can have and she was determined to better herself.  Determined to be the best mother she could for Jamal like her mother and grandmother had done before her.  She assured herself of this, that nothing would stop her. But he had before and she feared he might again.  Only time will tell she thought to herself as she walked into the bedroom to clothe herself.

Maritza, her longest friend, was playing with Lil’ J in the living room and whatever she was doing filled her little apartment with his raucously joyous laughter.  Renita hastened her clothes on so that she might catch them in action; almost tripping as she made her way toward them.

“Watch this,” Maritza exclaimed, “watch this!”

She covered her face in a peek-a-boo fashion revealing herself to Lil’ J in a playful tone.

“Auntie Maritza loves you, yes she does!’

Her hands moved from her face to his belly in one smooth motion the length of the sentence like a skater on a rink.  Whether it was the tone of her voice or the poke of his belly with her fingers, or perhaps a combination of the two, the gestures sent Lil’ J into a fit of laughter, sudden and boisterous, that ended when she covered her face with her hand. And then again.

“Auntie Maritza loves you, yes she does!”

Laughter eruption.

This went on several times when Renita declared, “I’m going to the store now, M, want anything?”

“Auntie Maritza loves you, yes she does!” Her hand impatiently shushed the question away in a bothersome gesture.

“I guess not,” Renita said as she made her way toward the door adding: “I’ll be right back.”

Renita walked down the same street, coming from the same store, humming the same song. She was a creature of habit after all.  She was thankful Jamal wasn’t with her and that she had some time alone.  She was grateful for the space and that Maritza had agreed to watch him even if only for the time it took her to get back from the store.  This caused her to hum along with extra jubilation.  Melodies took on another form, she thought, when it was just her voice. No words. No music. Just her voice.  The notes seemed more real. More alive, like they had crawled themselves out of her own soul.

It was hot, oven hot, but she didn’t mind because stiff winds blew by her a brief respite at a time.  Hot air was better than nothing and besides, she told herself, at least it made the trees dance; entertaining her.  The heat of the asphalt crawled up her flats making the soles of her feet uncomfortably warm and sweaty.  She was approaching 2nd and Huisache when she stopped and sat on the one bench that remained there.  Smoking a Black & Mild, the one with the wood tip, she couldn’t help but think of the stories her father often told her.

In the 80’s this corner was the center of a thriving community with bustling streets.A restaurant here, a barber shop there.On that corner a night club that later became Hill’s Antiques and Collectables. A grocery store over there gave closure to the space bracketing it in as a hot spot of black wealth and entrepreneurship.  Her father was fond of calling it: Kingsville’s own Greenwood, Archer and Pine.  What the rest of the town called “Little Africa.”  King Star Baptist church was just up the street where her grandfather used to preacher and where he fell in love with her grandmother.  These were the days of a by-gone era. The good ‘ol days her father came to call them.  It all hardly seemed possible considering the current state of the neighborhood: graffiti filled red brick facades, broken down doors and windows. Trash piled up against walls left to fend for themselves.

When she returned home, Maritza had Jamal sprawled out across the floor on his favorite green blanket. She was thoughtful enough to keep the oscillating fan fixed on him.

“He just fell asleep,” she said.  His naps didn’t last long so they sat on the kitchen table to talk, music just audible in the background.

“So have you made a decision or no?” Maritza inquired with curiosity.

“I made the decision a long time ago, M, only thing left is the courage to follow through. I don’t know if I have that yet.”

“Well you know I believe in you Love. I know you can do this,” she consoled her punctuating the point with her finger on the table. She continued.

“I’ll help you in any way that I can. Come live with me for a while until you get back on your feet, you know, like we talked about.”

“I can’t do that, M, I told you already. I can’t risk bringing trouble to your place cause you know that is what’s gonna happen.  He’s not gonna just let me just walk away from him. He ain’t gonna let that happen. I know him, he’ll make this as hard as possible for me. And for you too. I can’t live with that. I won’t live with that!”

Maritza countered, “Harder than you have it now, living under his thumb all the time? Not getting to live your own life or make your own decisions?  From where I’m sitting, Love, you have it hard already! Can you live with that? Will you live with that?”

After some time, the intensity of their conversation subsided.

“Fuck girl, it’s hot in here!” Maritza indulged in the obvious. Can’t we turn the A/C on or something?”

“You know X-Jai won’t have that shit.  It’s bad enough he pays for my bills.  If we want A/C we’ll have to go chill at his pad. And besides, grandma paid my utility last month when X-Jai and I had that big fight. I’ve got to take it easy on her.”

Looking around to comfort, she clicked the fan in Maritza’s direction.

“Here you go, my Peach,” she said smiling.

“Just for a bit, Love. I got to head to work soon. I was late yesterday and got my ass chewed.”

“Don’t forget about you Sprite and Hot Cheetos, M, you’ll need your strength.”

“I didn’t ask for anything,” she replied. A big smile on her face.

“I know but that’s your favorite combo. You’ll want it later on at work. And here’s you Lone Star card too. Thanks again”

She sighed, her words escaping without courage.

“I’m flat broke again.”

“No worries, Love. I got your back. You know that,” she comforted her with a warm smile. Lifting her right arm in the air, she cocked her left shoulder and gave Renita her best solidarity fist.

Little Renita Jai

She had been called “little” since birth.  Her namesake came from her great grandmother, the grand matriarch of the family.  She was a woman so important, so revered that her name had been hers alone, kept from at least two generations. Hers alone, that is, until: Little Renita Jai.  Her birth was the stuff of miracles.  She was born premature, given a grim prognosis by all the doctors in the city.  Her parents were told that if she lived at all it would be at a ghastly price.  That she would never maintain a “normal life.”  Her eyes were malformed though she could see.  Her tiny arms were mangled and deformed. The shape a stick of Laffy-Taffy might take if left in the South Texas heat too long.  Her legs were bowed at the knees, so much so that it seemed they might have been a portal to another dimension or another time.

Her skin was so dark and mysterious, multiple shades of deep dark bruise purple, it made the night sky writhe in jealousy of her.  Her eyes, when they were open to be seen, were a deep eerie white. As white as pure sin after the Lord’s grace has washed it clean.  She was the scion of a proud African family that came to Kingsville very early, when dark folks were welcomed only for the labor they could provide.  They had settled in what was called “Little Africa” on the corner of what came to be 2nd and Huisache.  Her great grandmother among the first blacks to settle the neighborhood on land donated to the “town folk” by the venerable King family.

Little Renita Jai was not expected to live beyond a year.  And that year, they were told, would be a year full of heartache and medicine, doctor visits and costly procedures until finally what ailed her would prove victorious and take her fragile little life.Leaving the family with only bitter memories and gnawing questions of Why?

For all that, here she was at age four, a precocious little girl with dark curly hair, eyes a splendid moss-green and a smile as wide as Texas itself.  She still suffered the pains of her misfortunes, of course, because miracles never work out as we’d like them to.  in life, Lazarus never really rises from the dead, or Jairus’ daughter for that matter.  But here was little Renita Jai, alive and well despite all the wisdom of the learned medicine men.  She had just began learning to talk, a symptom of her mother’s insatiable need to read her stories at night.  All the classics too: Dr. Seuss, the Bothers Grimm, Aesop.  When she began to speak it was a little miracle in and of itself.  When she was able to put words together, enough to string sentences along toward a semblance of meaning, she told her mother about a recurring dream she ‘d been having.

Mommy, I dreamed of place I’ve never been. I was wearing a pretty dress with new shoes and my hair was up in a bow.  It was a big parking lot but there was no cars.  It was night-time and I was all by myself. A few lights were on but I could only see just so far into the distance.  And it was purple everywhere. Dark and purple like when I look out the window when you read to me and the train tracks go on for ever and ever.  I was scared because I could feel something was there in the dark. I could feel something was looking at me.  I call out to it: monnstro, monnstro, like I know the name of the thing that’s out there. But nothing happens.  Then there is a man who come out behind me and asks me why I’m all by myself in the dark parking lot.  He’s a good man, mommy, he asks if I need help.  In my dream, all I can do is point out into the darkness.  He asks me, “What are you pointing at, sweetie? Are you afraid of the dark, there’s nothing there I promise.”  All I can do is point out there into the dark place.  Monnstro, I say, over and over again but he doesn’t understand me.  “monnstro? what is that sweetie, what is it?”  And again I point.  “Do you mean, monster?  Is that what you’re trying to tell me?  There’s a monster over there?”  Then he walks a few steps closer to the dark place.  “There’s nothing out there sweetie.  Look, there’s nothing there. No monsters, nothing. You don’t have to be afraid.”  And then we hear it.  A loud noise, mommy. A very loud noise like a lion and a pig and a human all screaming together at once.  The man jumped toward me and pulled me behind him. He tries to protect me. All I can do is close my eyes real tight and cover with my ears with my hands.  Then I wake up

Her mother was rightly put off by the dream she heard. It was just a dream she said.  Told Little Renita Jai that dreams are mysterious things that happen to everybody.  Sometimes the dreams are scary but sometimes they are really good one too.  She consoled her with these words.  Throughout all your life dreams will happen to you. There is no need to be afraid of them.  She took her in her arms and showered her with affection, somewhat saddened that her precious daughter now had nightmares to worry about on top of everything else in her young life.  Little Renita Jai, sighing into her mother’s chest, asked her pointedly: Then why do I have this one all the time and not those other ones?

Little Renita Jai has regained much of the normalcy the doctors predicted she would never have. She outgrew those words a long time ago.  She has made something of herself. She can walk and talk.  She has friends and even a lover, all those things normal people have.  She lives in Kingsville, the place her great-grandmother came to as a young girl.  He mother has passed and her father too.  She has had a thousand dreams since then and a thousand nightmares too.  But this one, this dream, of her fragile little voice echoing in the night, “monnstro,” haunts her still.

A Powdery Nothingness

Genius visibly struck her as Maritza closed the door to leave.  She would take advantage of Lil’ J napping and finish putting her make up on.  Looking at herself in the mirror, and gently humming the Lauryn Hill that played in the background, she peeled her now-sweaty clothes off the mass her physique had become.  She tried to take hold of the fact that she was older now and a mother, not wanting to let her mind drift back to her younger years when she had mad booty.  Many more men looked at her then, with desperate eyes, like she had all the power in the world.  Even so it was not like she could give over to them anyway.  X-Jai just exploded when me looked at her.  It always embarrassed her but at least they looked.  It got to the point that he’d lose so often the men just stopped looking.  Or rather they did look, but they were older now and less attractive. Their eyes had gone from inviting to hunger, plain and pure, like they wanted one thing and one thing only.  Fixating on a remnant pimple under her left eye she softly hummed the first melody her ears deciphered.

“Renn?” a booming voice called out from the front of the apartment.

“Renn? Where are you girl.”  he asked with intensity.

“I’m in here, in the bathroom,” she said informing him.

X-Jai poked his head through the doorway, his eyes darting her up and down.

“Aren’t you ready yet? I told you we’d be leaving by six when I got here.”

“I know,” she said gravely, “I just have to finish up. We have to drop Jamal off at grandma’s house. Will you get him ready?”

“Sure, but hurry up. We gotta go Renn,” he said with typical curtness.  And as was his custom, he let off a sharp crisp snap of his fingers over the operative words of his sentences.  In this case: hurry up!

She peered into her eyes in the mirror. It was time to be strong. She had heard someone say on television that God did not want us to be happy. He wanted us to be strong.  And that was her mantra the last few months while she built up the courage to leave X-Jai.  Could she go through with it? Could she escape her former self and be brave enough to leave him come what may?  He heart pumped with great resolve. today was the day.  Today was the last day of her former life.  Any love she had for X-Jai withered long ago.  After the threats of violence became occasions of pain and sorrow, after the hospital visits became more and more frequent her love for him withered away into  powdery nothingness like the wings of a butterfly.  She could not stand it any longer. Not with Jamal around. She could not take him learning to be like his father. A violent and possessive man, full of jealousy.  She was tired of worrying. She was tired of being afraid.  And she simply did not want to think about X-Jai anymore.  Never again.

It wasn’t just that she was tired of the thoughts of him. It was that she had in mind another.  A man she’d met altogether elsewhere. Had not even told Maritza about him.  He was handsome, yes, but there was more.  It was his eyes, yes, but there was more to him than that.  It was the peculiar way in which he looked at her and saw all that which she could not see in herself, like her father used to before he died.  All the potential wrapped into her package he just intimated without a word.  And it was in that moment that she knew she loved him deeply because all of her insecurities solidified themselves within her, vast and immovable as the sea.

the Kingsville Underground (KU)

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Fiction
Tags: ,

“Only now do I understand the lonely hero who alone had waged war against the fathomless, elemental boredom that strangled the city.” 

–Bruno Schulz, Tailors’ Dummies

The cold night came as a godsend. In the middle of a marathon like summer, the heat blazing at will, a gift from the venerable kings of the city was given. They had summoned the favor owed to them from the great horizon with the mighty form of an ancient past. Standing tall like spires into the heavens, the kings called out in one loud harmonious voice to the four winds, beckoning the North wind forth. And because the favor owed to them was long overdue, the cold night wind fell on the town with a sort of vengeance. The winds blew leaf and other debris into whirling and chaotic dirt devils, the trees danced at the behest of mighty gusts; so mighty in some places across the city that when blown against some wall or other such flat edifice, the leaves were said to form sinister faces. This is how the Third Epoch befell us: as a soothing gesture before the fall.

He had always wondered what it would be like to peer out of a second story window, strike up a match and light up a pipe of smoke. You know, to accentuate a point; to summon drama and emphasis from the act alone. He rarely had anything that important to say, however. Being from a small town is like that; all the moxie in the world, but with a chance for bravery that is always either too early or too late. And with the state of the city before the fall (sexual scandals among the university elite, embezzlement charges brought against several county employees, one member of the business community involved in stealing monies customers had paid her for the grave stones of their loved ones) you would think there would be a lot for a hero to do. But his story is not that kind of story. And as some would come to say: Yuvàl ain’t that kind of hero. The Second Epoch ended innocuously enough: a blind man walked into a bar.

Yuvàl entered the Kingsville Underground (KU), paid the cover charge, and sputtered over to the bar where he ordered his usual drink: straight Crown on the rocks. Unlike the other early birds that mooned about the room, he was still and observant. He would strike up a conversation at will to anyone that would listen. This time it was Mel, the bartender.

“Can you believe this,” he said, “of all the days to forget my damned overcoat, I pick the day a stringent norther rolls through.”

“Mr. Yu,” offered Mel, “it shouldn’t get that cold tonight.”

Already hip to the routine, she placed the drink before him clinking the glass with a spoon.

He moved his arm in a most methodical fashion, almost inching his way forward, toward the glass. When his hand had reached the vicinity of the drink, Mel would take his hand the rest of the way. Once in his grip, Yuvàl had no problems sipping from it.

He retorted: “Not that cold?! Little one, have you been outside in the last hour, it was cold enough for an old man like me walking over here and it will be even colder when I walk home after Last Call,” adding at the end of the sentence in his best Tony M, “let me tell ya!”

“Maybe you’re right,” she said, “I’ll see if I can’t maybe find something for you. Do you need help to your table?”

“Not at all madame, thank you. But I will have another one of these at the table,” he said shaking the ice about in the glass.

He continued.

“Is anyone here yet?”

“Sure are,” said Mel, “Dino and Dominick are over at the stage setting up.”

He turned right, toward the stage, and let out in loud vulgar death metal grunts: “Dominick the Devil, where art thou?!”

Even before he could catch his breath Dino interrupted, already walking toward the bar.

“What’s up Yuvi Hall?! Bout time you get here. Want a shot?! I’m buying!” he said as he placed his hand on Yuvàl’s shoulder.

You bet your ass I do,” he fired back, “especially if you’re buying.”

Hell yeah! Two Jager Bombs, and one for yourself, pretty lady.”

The three raised their shots in the air carefully taking the time to clink the glass in Yuvàl’s hand.

To the KU and all that come here”

While this was taking place, Dominick begrudgingly assembled his drum set. Though methodical, having every little piece already laid out across the stage floor and labeled, he appeared haphazard and hurried. He was sweating and you could easily see he wanted to finish the task as quickly as possible. His eyes cutting back and forth from the equipment on the floor to the half assembled facade of the drum set on the stage. He clearly was not cut out for this part, he was thin and ibis like. He much preferred the fine tuning of the drums: the sound of the tom toms to get just the right punch and tone or the angle of the cymbals to attain fluidity and balance with his, as the band would constantly tease him, suspiciously short arms.

As the glasses were emptied and placed on the bar, Dominick walked up slowly, full of intentionality. Peering at the three he asked in a calm stern voice, knowing full well the answer: “Did you bastards just take a fucking shot without me?!”

The question sent Mel and Dino scurrying for a hiding place; she behind the bar pretending to work, and he, pretending to chat amidst the others that were standing near by.

Yuvàl stood his ground.

Bout time you get your ass over here, you dirty beast!” he said imposingly.

I gotta set my shit up man!” countered Dominick.

A blind man could set that shit up faster!”

I’d like to see you try bitch!” he spat back.

Allowing the pretext to dwindle, he and Yuvàl began to laugh raucously.

Continuing in quite a different tone,

How you been, Dom?!”

Dominick took a step back, raised his tatted arms in hip hop fashion and said, butchering an infamous Biggie lyric: “Beats, Bitches and Dro – that’s all this Nigga know.”

You ain’t big or black motherfucker, now help me to my table.”

Once at the table, the two began to speak of still more introductory things. It was them that had hit it off in the few weeks since Yuvàl had begun to hang out at the KU.

My primary reading experience has been within Christian origins, New Test. literature and so-called 2nd Temple Judaism.  Obviously, the literature surrounding this subject has had a long history and is quite vast.  So currently there is a lot of situation work being done; that is, trying to situate what we’ve learned in the last fifty years within the overall history of the field (i.e. relationship between newly translated texts like the Dead Sea scrolls or those found at Nag Hammadi and Christian origins, etc).  It seems to me that kind of epistemology, as it were, is difficult to set aside. So as I turn to look at South Texas history, I can only conclude that my views are colored by this experience.

Theme I

Tejano historiography has had a generative period.  Although it is but a slice of overall Chicano history, it has proved as formidable as any.  Writers like Carlos E. Castaneda, Jovita Gonzalez, Felix D. Almaraz, Jr.,  Andres Tijerina, David Montejano and Jesus F. de la Teja (to name but a few) have set the foundation for all future work.  They answered the call to establish the story of the Mexicans of Texas. Naturally, they set about articulating the roots from which the Tejanos grew.  We can thank Drs. Castaneda and Tijerina (among others) for establishing clearly the Mexican aspect of Texas, that aspect of “change” that “the Anlgo-American underwent by the nineteenth century” for which “neither the plains nor the frontier could fully account.”  (Tijerina, 1994)

Chronicling, as it were, the Tejano emergence necessarily led to a focus on “the Tejano experience.”  This led to a full accounting of “Anglo attitudes toward Mexicans” in any given era of Texas history.  Works by D. Montejano (Anglos & Mexicans in the Making of Texas) and A. De Leon (They Called Them Greasers) focused on shedding light on the issues.  Additionally, providing a nuanced look into Tejano culture was a common concern.  It seems to me that this remains the current situation: Seeking to solidify Tejano history and identity and desiring to bring the national civil rights movement to bare on the experiences of Mexicans in Texas with writings focused on racial and gender issues, particularly, but also with wider civil rights movements in mind.

So what’s next? How does establishing our legitimate roots in Texas, chronicling racism and sexism, economic discrimination, political oppression and responses to that (LULAC, LA RAZA et al) inform our progression into the future? What does it mean to have successfully deconstructed a myth (Anglo superiority) and thereby construct a plausible future? Quite rightly, some have sought to transform the political process; by integrating what we know with what we do.  As Montejano argues, racism becomes Racism when it is enacted by public policy. And so perhaps there is where we should focus our energies, as many have, on repairing, as it were, policy in education, health care, etc.  This has been a long process, with failures, but many many successes as well.

Theme II

From the beginning I wanted to focus on Kingsville history because, although there are works available, most of it is wholly centered on the KR and its families and legacy. There is something inherently right and useful about this, after all, works on the Kings and Klebergs are essential to our history. But I would like to emphasize that although Kingsville began with the KR it does not end with it. Rarely do the structures look like the foundations on which they are built. It is with that understanding in mind that I wish to contribute my writings.

So for example, literature on Kingsville has still do deal with what Montejano calls the “geography of race,” that spacial demarcation that separated Anglo, Mexican and African Americans. Railroads may have been the hallmark of progress for many but for many more still it was an iron sign of the times. And although there has been a good measure of intergration among the Anglo/Hispanic community, it is clear the legacy haunts us still.  There is also the broad ethnic mix unique to a South Texas town because of TAMUK: among others, from China, India and Pakistan.  Do they live in a vacuum? Surely not! One need only look at the business sector to see their impact. How do they impact the social complexion of this city?  I’m not absolutely sure but it seems a rather unique situation for a small Texas town; one that has an immense potential to explore.

As you can tell this is situation type work on a personal level!  I look forward to exploring these issues in the context of my rubric “existentialism, modernity and the sweep of history.”  It seems to me that these three experiences are at the very core of humanity.  So as we thrust forth into a new millenium where does Kingsville or Texas and the literature that surrounds them fit into the globalism of our time?  Do we simply fall into the general pattern taken by all borderland civilizations that live next to a marketable river; that is to say a pattern of conquest and accomodation (Egypt and the Nile, Rome and the Tiber, England and the Thames so, therefore, Texas and the Rio Grande?) or are we a unique set of traditions from a very specific historical and cultural lineage that must deal with rapidly changing times in a search for self-determination?  It’s a little of both; something every one of our ancestors lived through and endured.

One who just sighed,

EAIII

It’s like math. When holidays are celebrated, nostalgia for things past is necessarily a part. It usually takes the form of stories of a relative, usually deceased, and how they used to do it. This year was no different. I was reminded of a time when my mom would house and kill chickens. No joke. I suppose one conjures this being done on a ranch or at least a large acre of land, no! <em>This was urban fowl butchery</em>, or as urban as Kingsville can get.

It was when we lived on Warren street and we had a garage. On this occasion my mother acquired about 8 or 10 chickens which she kept there. The process by which she killed them is what makes the story so infamous. She would take hold of the unfortunate hen, grab a firm hold of its neck and proceed to violently twist and turn the body until the head ripped off. The bird would then run wildly and chaotically around the yard until, finally, the thing would collapse onto the ground; nerves still twitching from raging against the dying of its delicious light. Needless to say, us kids were amazed (disgusted?). It was the closest thing to ranch life that I had experienced. There even arose a legend among us, that with the blood dripping from the severed head, my mom would make a cross on the ground; and it is there that the chicken would finally rest.

She would then proceeded to pull the feathers off and cook the bird accordingly, usually for “Noodles.” (a kind of chicken-n-dumplings but with long strands of noodle-think tagliatelle. Very popular in my family.)
This type of thing didn’t happen often and this was one particularly memorable occasion (and there may have been more, like the time a pig was gutted, again, in our garage-different house. but that’s another story). I now realize that it was the last vestiges of ranch life, preserved in my mother but lost to me and my siblings. It is almost inconceivable that any of us would go through this process. Even if we wanted “freshly killed” chicken, we would likely find other means of getting it. It is indicative of changing times; from rural to urban living, from ranch life to city life. Put sociologically, a time of acculturation.

The process of change is nothing new. Focusing on South Texas, one can see the process of change quite clearly. If we were to apply a generic periodization scheme (a fancy term historians use to place things into understandable chunks of time, i.e. Reconstruction, Dark Ages etc) we see that the indigenous period gave way to a colonial period which gave way to an autonomous republic which, ultimately, gave way to statehood into the “American colossus.”

It is one thing to acknowledge (even understand) broad historical change and quite another thing to see it worked out in our daily lives. It’s a reminder that not all change is sweeping and chaotic. Most changes in life takes place even beyond our awareness, while we’re busy living. It is the small incremental changes that have the most lasting effect for our lives; changes as a result of decisions made and behaviours unlearned, like our willingness to remember an event such as the headless chickens running about our yard but not our willingness to practice it.

I end with a quote from Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), that Jesuit historian who opened China for us Westerners, because I think it is appropriate to the topic at hand. It reminds us that we make and change history on a daily basis!

It often happens that those who live at a later time are unable to grasp the point at which the great undertakings or actions of this world had their origin. And I, constantly seeking the reasons for this phenomenon, could find no answer than this, namely that all things (including those that at last come to triumph mightily) are at their beginnings so small and faint in outline that one cannot easily convince oneself that from them will grow matters of great moment   -Historia, Fonti Ricciane

Kingsville is in need of an enema:  a thorough cleansing of the inside so as to better understand the external changes that time has wrought.  There was a time when the city thrived in the context of the King Ranch: The westward expansion of the Easterner looking for a better life, the ‘Wild Horse desert’ carved out of the space created by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the inculcated Mexican and the legacy of the Kineño; all focused upon the region’s figureheads of commerce and commercialization: the Kings and the Klebergs.  It is more complex than this simplistic picture of course, but the foundation of tourism for the city and, indeed the region, is not interested in the accuracy of history so long as the mythic narrative supports and justifies the inflow of money.  Simplicity and stereotype are the life blood of tourism.

Over the last 20 years or so, Kingsville has experienced a growth of daunting proportions.  The University and the Naval Air Station have changed the complexion of our city.  The demographic make-up consists of more than the ethnic trinity of the by gone era, namely peoples of Anglo, Mexican and African descent.  A more robust and accurate picture reveals Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, and Filipino population growth, to name only the most visible.  And yet, recent literature about Kingsville continues to focus upon the same tired narrative of ranch life and cowboy culture.  Again, largely for the sake of tourism.  The fact remains, when we look at the recent trends in business the “foreigner” seems to dominate.  Whether we look at convenience stores, hotel/motel industry or restaurants, the clearest entrepreneurial spirit is to be found within the immigrant community. As the country is cast head long into a wider global culture, and Texas along with it: Where is the literature taking them into account?  Where is the literature that even mentions their existence?

There is a host of complex relationships when we take into account these other cultures.  Aside from the pure economic aspect, the religio-political-historical dynamics are fascinating.  The mixed bag of experiences bring to light a Kingsville that is far more variegated, interesting, and relevant than the sleepy township of Ranch Hand breakfasts and Posada parades would have us believe.  If we would take that into account and seriously contemplate the possibilities of this reality then maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t have such a large portion of the young people of this city itchingly eager to leave it.  Maybe, just maybe, we could celebrate the richness of the multifaceted culture we have available for us to learn from and experience.  And maybe, just maybe, therein lies the path for further growth and progress within a larger pluralistic society in which we find ourselves.  This would be the heart and the engine of a tourism industry of which we can be proud; quite outside the tired narrative of the King Ranch and the Cowboy.