Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa (Writing in by Rigoberto González

By Rigoberto González

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Los Tigres del Norte—or one of the group’s many imitators—plays an upbeat norteño, heavy on the brass. The tune isn’t exactly what I have in mind, but it will do. Suddenly I’m easy to please. I make myself comfortable against the itchy seat, relax my head against the rest, and sigh once more. And then the bus pulls over to the side to let the first-class buses exit first. “Santa mierda,” I say. I’m positive I’m not the only one on board to curse. When the bus driver turns off the noisy engine, the music grows obnoxiously loud.

Only my father’s father had been born outside of the country, in the north, like I had been. In Zacapu (once Tzacapu) we also had the beauty of the surrounding mountains and not far off the enchanting Lago de Pátzcuaro, where Janitzio salutes from the center with its giant statue of José María Morelos y Pavón, the other famous Mexican priest who led the independence movement after the execution of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. The name of our town comes from the Nahautl word for rock, but the area was actually lush with the lumber-producing pino, encino, madroño, and to a lesser extent, tocuz and capiz trees.

My father and his friends found me there some time later, still grasping the donkey’s stringy mane. That same evening he put me on a makeshift swing—a log with a rope tied around its middle, the other end thrown over the high branch of a tree. He made me sit on the log with the knot at my crotch. He then pulled the other end of the rope to lift me like a swinging piñata in the air. The more I cried the more he pulled on the rope, as if he were pushing my lack of bravado further away from him and his friends.

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