Saturday, April 16, 2005

'Pocho' Redefined

I'll never forget my journey to a Chicago downtown hotel a few years ago to go hear Virgilio Elizondo, pastor at the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, speak. I had read the few books he has published (ravished them is more accurate), and felt so validated as a Mexican-American by his 'Mestizo Theology', and his insights into the 'Galilean Jesus'. Galilean Journey and The Future is Mestizo are must reading for anyone captivated by the idea of mestizaje.

My expectations were fully met as I listened to Elizondo talk about his experiences rooted in the barrios of San Antonio. I'll never forget one thing he shared that day. As he was coming up from the subway station to enter the hotel where he was now speaking, he was robbed! Yes, someone had the audacity to stick up a Catholic priest in full garb. Anyway, he composed himself and gave his lecture.

After he was finished, I made my way to the front of the auditorium, and waited to meet Elizondo. He was speaking to a few people, and I was working out in my mind what I would say. "I'm a mestizo" "Horale, good to meet you." "Father Elizondo, it's a pleasure to meet you." Whatever I finally said, it must have come out convoluted and quite possibly in Spanglish. Because almost immediately, he flung his arms wide open, gave me a bear hug, and said, "Pocho!"

I was shocked, because I was used to being referred to as a pocho (a Mexican-American born in the United States with a limited grasp of the correct use of Spanish) in a derogatory way. And here, with his big smile and affirming embrace, he seemed to be communicating that it was fantastic that I was a pocho, because I represented the Mestizo Future that he often writes about.

I am not fully Mexican, not fully North American- I am an in-between person. A mestizo, a blend. And this great theological thinker (although I don't agree with all of his conclusions) was affirming this new reality as some thing positive and good.

I can't tell you how amazing that felt, and still feels today! For some reason, God has allowed me to embody this pocho-reality. While it is often confusing, and not always easy to explain or quantify, it is who I am.

To be pocho, is to be a person who has felt isolated, marginalized and labeled as inadequate for being a in-between person. To be 'Pocho!' (Elizondo style) with an exclamation point on the other hand, is to be identified as a member of the future mestizo race that is blended and beautiful and needed because he/she has the capacity because of who we are, to envision a new mestizo nation and church.

I can't wait to see Virgilio Elizondo again. Now, I know how to greet him right, 'Pocho!'


At 5:20 PM, Anonymous rudy said...

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Noel Castellanos said...

Thanks. I just checked it out after playing tennis here in sunny Chicago.

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Glen said...

Several years ago, I stopped to visit you at your church in Chicago with a colleague, of a Mexican immigrant family. We had some conversation on our way home to California about this Cultura Pocho.

Lalo Alcarez of lives in by barrio.

At 3:04 AM, Anonymous rudy said...

rate your pochismo:

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