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History Class To enter was to breathe in the illegitimate idea of the class: only what was written was valid. Seated in the same prescribed place I felt myself, finally, dislocated. I looked all around and nothing was shining for me. It was some morning in autumn, or the spring of ’59, and already we were the wheat-colored people who felt alien, as if no one would intercede for us, because to enter was to defy the suffocating results of the conflict: the state against us with no weapon of a retrievable date to wield against the long speeches of that teacher with the hard Southern mien, creator of the dream and hierarchies, who repeated, as if it were his mission, my people’s crippled history: And beware of the Mexicans, when they press you to hot coffee and “tortillas.” Put fresh caps on your revolver, and see that your “shooting-irons” are all in order for you will probably need them before long. They are a great deal more treacherous than Indians. That corrupt teacher was not among the authors of the light, nor did he help the quick brains of my people grow with his facile remarks and snobbish attitude: He will feed you on his best, “senor” you, and “muchas gracias” you, and bow to you like a French dancing-master. and wind it all up by slipping a knife under your left shoulder-blade! And that’s one reason I hate them so. To keep from crying out the anger boiling up in me I bent over my desk like a human question mark; I imagined myself in another state, however, I was falling each time toward humiliation’s dense abyss, the persistent theme of my time. Who were we other than some kids detained at the perverse border of prejudice, still without effective documents to proclaim our freedom? My tongue went crazy. I wanted to know rightaway and to say something to stop the abecedarian of power, to lift myself up and with one blow split the enemy’s obsessive phrases, and let loose arguments about our courage and plant, in the middle of class, the badge of my faith. But all was silence, obedience to the infected dark cast of the texts, and it was too early during that morning in autumn or spring of ’59 to say what needed to be said. But the years passed and the books changed to the beat of the people’s rhythm, because only for awhile can a man carry on his back the burden of the one who thinks he’s a conqueror. Here my life scars over because I’m the deserter, the profane impenitent who quit the crazy class, the insurrectionist stripped of the creeds of negation. So let there be other words that are triumphant and not the ones of infamy, those of the blinding fraud. Tino Villanueva THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15