Con Respeto y Dignidad Para Todos.
With Dignity and Respect for All
It was a very warm June day in 1966. I had just graduated from high school when I heard this very interesting story – can’t be sure if I really heard it – can’t really remember – so long ago. Was it a dream? No matter – now that I am old I need to tell this story – I don’t want it to fade from all memory into some night sky.
A clear, more than hot day – heat rising off the car’s hood reflects the aguacate trees that promise relief from the relentless sun. And there they sit under the trees – three old vatos – Cerveza Pacificos in their hands helping ward off the heat.
Carlos still with a full head of dark almost black hair speaks. “You know, I’ve been thinking about our lives since…” He didn’t have to finish his thought – both Francisco and Jaime understood. They had done great things in their youth. They had freed Mexico from the yoke of oppression, or so they hoped when they fought with Pancho Villa. They were proud that they had been and still were in their hearts and souls-Villalistas.
Francisco, slight build, hair now very gray, listened as his compadre spoke. “I have been thinking as well.”
He was interrupted by Jaime, “Well flaco, that’s got to be something new for you.” He laughed at his thought sitting in the shade of los arboles aquacates. Jaime had grown a lot since their days in the revolution for the freedom of Mexico. That growth could easily be seen—his pansa.
“Por seguro, hombre. I’ve been thinking about that gabacho gordito making that movie. You heard about it?” Neither Carlos or Jaime knew what he was talking about. “I can’t recall his name you know the guy that’s way over weight. In many ways he acts foolish—and in some ways he’s like a girl. What’s his name? He’s that comedian. Oh, I remember now, Dom De Luis.”
“I know who he is,’ chimed in Francisco. “He’s really estupido. I can’t stand him.”
“You’ll never guess who he’s portraying in this new movie.” There was no answer from his compadres so he continued. “Tiburcio Vasquez – that’s who”
“Ni modo, no es lo posible. Dom DeLuis es un payaso.” Carlos is now very interested in what Jaime is saying. He takes a drink from his cerveza and listens.
“It’s called ‘Vasquez’ Revenge’. Only they are pronouncing Vasquez like the gringos–Vasqwez . It’s supposed to be a comedy filmed by those stupid rich cabrones down in Hollywood. Now Tiburcio had lots to revenge and maybe he should revenge these pinche cabrones and their chingado movie. How can they do this to Tiburcio? When the Americanos destroyed our country he fought against them – then the Americano pendejos hung him. At least they didn’t go around California with his head like they did to Joaquin Murrieta. They are filming it at Las Rocas de Vasquez.” Jaime waited for this to settle in with his compadres.
Carlos, now very angry, “Once again we are disrespected. Compadres we cannot let this be.”
Francisco, always the conciliator asks, “What do you suppose we should do?”
He looks at his dear old friends under the aguacates, in the shade, in the waning years of their lives. It had been fifty years since their glorious days fighting with Villa for the freedom of Mexico. They were now, simply very old men sitting in the shade, trying to stay cool in the oppressive heat of Sanger, California.
“Well we cannot just sit here. We cannot let these fools disrespect Tiburcio. I mean there should be a movie about him. You know, let all of the young vatos know of his supreme sacrifice he made for us.” Carlos was on a roll—he was very pissed-off.
“Maybe so Carlos, but we are just old men sitting under the aquacates trying to stay cool. What do you propose we do?” Francisco knew that Carlos could go off and his anger had not subsided-had not mellowed with age.
Jaime, the quietest of the three spoke up, “Let’s go down there.”
He could not finish as Carlos spoke, “Yeah that’s it let’s go down to L.A.”
“How do you suggest we do this Carlos?” Francisco asked.
“Un bien pregunta mi amigo. Let’s think about it.”
There was silence in the shade of the aguacates. Despite the trees, sweat rolled down Jaime’s face and dripped on his shirt. He wiped off the sweat with his shirtsleeve and remembered … Blanca – her eyes – soft – lying in bed, he had felt covered – surrounded – embedded with love. Those days long gone and sadness now surrounds him. He should have never let her go—should have wrapped himself around her with all the love he had for her, but he was estupido – careless and now he just holds it all in – never speaking of it – never letting on about his deep remorse – his deep sorrow. Life fades and is soon gone and now he sits.
“I’ve got it!” Carlos excitedly said. “Remember in Mexico?”
“Sí, yo lo recuerdo. So?” Francisco replied.
“Caballos,” answered Carlos.
“I don’t get it,” answered Francisco.
“We go down on horses, you know like the old days.”
“That’s right like the old days,” Francisco replies.
“No, I’m serious about this. We can do this thing. In fact, I believe that we have to do this. I cannot sit around on my nalgas and watch this shit!”
“I just don’t know,” replied Francisco again.
Jaime had been listening. “You know Carlos you may have something here. I too remember the old days when we fought for justice and did not just sit around like old dogs and complain. Maybe, just maybe…” He didn’t finish and let the words just sit there under the aguacate trees.
“Come on” Carlos pleaded. “We can do this.”
Jaime let these words circulate. Francisco sat, took another drink from his cerveza and watched the condensation drops drip down the bottle – a lazy afternoon, under the trees.
Then Jaime spoke, “Yes we can do this thing hombres.” Both he and Carlos looked to Francisco, because after all he had always been the solid one. When they had left for Mexico those many years ago it had been at Francisco’s urging. In his heart Francisco knew the answer he was going to give, but he thought that he’d let his friends wait a little. Finally he took the last drink from his cerveza and said he thought it was a good idea – a necessary thing to do. “Pero amigos, somos viejos. This action needs to be well thought out.” And with that the three friends talked and planned what to do next. There was an excitement in the old ones’ voices. A new energy, one that had been lying low for all of these lazy old men years in Sanger, California, in the heat under the shade of los árboles de aquacates.
“How will we get there?” asked Jaime.
The gabachos have made a trail that they call the Pacific Crest Trail. It goes from Canada to the Mexico. I believe that it actually goes through Las Rocas de Vasquez. We can ride down it. It is quite possible that we can take it all the way.”
“Fantastico.” Jaime said with enthusiasm.
Carlos was overcome with this new idea and he too was thrust into his past – long gone. Carlos walked away from his compadres and sat on a rock – and in his aloneness he reflected on his life. So much anger – the disappointment he had felt with the betrayal of the revolution’s ideals – with the usurpation of the revolution. So damn angry – so many years and now he ponders about revenge – pinche pendejos – so angry – picks up a stone and throws it at the no trespassing sign. He picks up another – stands up and throws it. “No fucking trespassing – fuck them.” He finally hits the sign with a rock and the sign is still there – mocking him. He goes to the sign and rips it out of the ground – throws it down, and stomps on it. He wishes this would erase his anger, but it doesn’t. “Fucking gabachos and their no trespassing signs!” How to erase this anger he has carried inside of himself. What a failure he’s been. He was strangled by his hate – hard to catch a breath. Sitting down tears that he never would have allowed flow and drop to the ground under the avocado trees – all alone. “So, maybe what we are going to do will help—help me find peace – finally.”
It did not take long for the three old men to gather the horses and gear for their quest for justice. They took out the old rifles, bandaleros, y pistoles. They very carefully cleaned them and got them in working order. It felt good revisiting their pasts. It felt equally good getting everything ready for this, their important mission.
Each of them was energized by their plan. If they had doubts they kept those doubts to themselves. Every afternoon they would meet in the shade of the aguacate trees to plan. And each day they seemed to get stronger. They had energy they hadn’t felt for years. There were bounces in their steps and secret smiles on their faces.
“It’s time to decide when we will actually go. One thing we do not have is a map of California and especially the Pacific Crest Trail.” Francisco said thoughtfully.
“I’ll get the maps.” Jaime was anxious they go and soon.
“When.” Asked Francisco.
“Manaña. I’ll get them tomorrow.”
They met the next day and Jaime had indeed gotten both maps. The Pacific Crest Trail did go right by Vazquez Rocks. “How long will it take us to get there?”
Francisco told them they were about 200 miles from their destination.
“How far can we go in a day?” asked Jaime.
“Don’t know, but in the old days…”
Carlos was interrupted by Francisco, “Yeah the old days, now we are old, what we did when we were younger may or may not be possible for us today.”
“Are you saying that we cannot do this thing Francisco?” Asked Carlos.
“No amigo—we can do this thing, it’s just that it will be harder than in the old days.” Francisco replied.
“Yeah harder on our old and lazy nalgas.” Jaime laughed at his own broma. “None of us have spent much time on a horse in years.”
It was decide by the three to leave in two days. It was early Septiembre and the weather was beginning to cool off. So, in two days they got up quietly in the early morning and in silence of this day they met under the aguacate trees to begin their mission for justice. It was still dark when they rode through the outskirts of Sanger and headed for the Sierras. No one talked – no one felt like talking. They were each in their own worlds thinking about what had been and what was to be. It was grand being on horseback with their compadres in the early morning hours. It was like back in the old days riding out in the dark to take back their country. The horse hoofs marked the way, heading east to las montañas.
They rode up and up as the sun made it’s way over the ridges. Riding directly into the glow of the new day they put their sombreros down to shade their eyes. Eyes looking into a grand and important task at hand.
Jaime spoke first, “Is this not wonderful – riding together again. I haven’t felt this good in years amigos. How about you?”
“Por seguro amigo. It’s almost like, you know, riding with Pancho – and we are on an important mission.” Francisco could feel the power he now had – how good he truly felt. And on this brilliant day Francisco bathed in what his life had been. Dolores wiping his tears when he had cried – cried about his failure to change Mexico – make it a country to be proud of. Of his hero – Emilio Zapata – the ideals of this great man. Justice for all of the people and he had failed – they had all failed. “Pero, Francisco, I love you with all my heart. I do not know what I’d do without you,” Dolores would whisper this to him on moonlit nights – under the stars of hope and beauty – that was Dolores – hope and beauty – and most amazingly she loved him – and today he holds on to this vision of Dolores as if he was still with her, but he is with her -she lives in his heart. She still gives him the solid ground that he seems to walk on – here on the land in California’s Central Valley. He is taken from his memories by Jaime.
“Yo también. I feel like you Francisco. It’s like I have energy whereas just a little while ago I was an old man sitting under the aguacates in the shade trying to stay cool and just fading away like the light at the end of the day,” Jaime said adjusting himself in the saddle.
They rode on and on slowly rising up and out of the Central Valley. They stopped after a couple of hours and saw that they still had a long ways to go to get to the crest, to the Pacific Coast Trail that would lead the to Vasquez Rocks. “Let’s rest for a minute,” Francisco said, wiping his forehead with his bandana. They stopped under a pine tree and all them could smell the dry trees above the hot and polluted valley that was their home. They got off their horses and stretched their old bones. The small animales could hear the jingling of their silver spurs and watched from a safe distance. The water was cool and gave them strength. “Vamos amigos. We’ve got a long ways to go and we haven’t even reached the trail.” As he said this Francisco put his bandana back in his pocket. With a groan they got back on their saddles and continued their ride.
They persevered all day in the sun and rode strong -with determination. Of course they were only into their first day of their journey. Around five o’clock they stopped. No one had thought to bring a watch so they weren’t sure of the time, but no worries – this was not a time for watches. They found a peaceful spot under large pine trees with the softness of hundreds of years of fallen pine needles. Slowly and somewhat wearily they dismounted. Carlos took the horses over to some grass and hobbled them. The horses were soon eating.
Jaime and Francisco were taking out their bedrolls. Carlos came over and did the same. They did not talk – each of them did a chore for their campsite. Wood was gathered, rocks to set up for their fire. Jaime took out the tortillas, frijoles y queso. Francisco took the cervezas he had hidden to surprise his amigos. “Hombres—quieres?”
“Buena Francisco – cerveza -tan bueno.” The three gathered and a toast was given by Carlos. “Salud amigos” and the cervezas were quickly drained. “Tienes mas?”
“Sí. Yo tengo más,” answered Jaime. More cervezas were brought out and the old ones sat on the earth, near their fire pit, horses well taken care of. Nothing was said—each in their own thoughts of how it was and how it was going to be.
The night was hard on their old bones. Carlos was the first up and looked at his amigos and listened to their snores. Sí – somos viejos, but we are strong. He purposely made noise to wake his compadres. It worked, Francisco stretched, Jaime farted. Soon they were ready to continue on their mission.
This day they reached the trail – the horses rode strong and the men felt sure. No small talk – each thinking back when they were young – when they were strong and this strength was seeping back into them. Brilliant colors from the sun surrounded
Them – enveloped them – into their very souls. Strength long forgotten had returned. And through the day they rode in confidence and in pride of what they were going to do.
In the warmth of this day – brightness painted their path. “How long until we get there?” asked Jaime.
“No se amigo. It’s over two hundred miles. It depends on how far we can travel in a day. Maybe a week or so.” Francisco responded, then continued. Not so bad and doesn’t it feel fantastic here en las montañas – el aire claro – las estrellas brillante. Este es la vida, Sí?”
“Sí,” his two compadres answered. And on they rode on. Darkness crept up on them, it was as if they were almost riding to the stars. And under the stars they stopped for the night. Francisco brought out more cervezas and they toasted.
And the days were like this. On a late afternoon on their fifth day Francisco spotted a lone rider in the distance. “Quien es?” They stopped and looked. The rider was behind them – when they stopped, the rider stopped. “He’s following us – who can he be?”
“No sé.” “No problema amigos, ándale. We’re making good progress – just got to keep on. But the rider didn’t go away – didn’t get any closer – just followed them. That night they had the last of Francisco’s cervezas, got out their bed rolls, and fell asleep one by one so close to the estrellas that Carlos actually touched them. Their dreams were strong and when they awoke the next morning they were ready to go. They had forgotten about the rider in the distance—well almost anyway, because there he was again.
“Dios Mio amigos – that rider es un Indio.”
“How do you know that Jaime?”
“I dreamt about him last night. I remembered my dream just now. Yes – he’s an Indio.”
“Porque is he following us? Oh…..”
“Oh what?” Carlos asks.
“Why are we doing this? We’re doing this because we have to. We cannot let those payasos make a mockery of our culture – of our heritage. Our land, culture was all stolen from us amigos – it’s time to take a stand. Sí?”
Francisco y Carlos nodded.
Jaime continued, “And who are we – how great are we, because it was we who stole the land and the culture of los Indios. Think about it – maybe this Indio is on his own mission and we need to respect that. Anyway – this is what my dream told me.”
The others did not comment on this, but they knew Jaime was right and humility surrounded them. They were strong, but they were humbled. So the three of them rode on with the shadow Indio behind them.
Finally they reached the outskirts of Vasquez Rocks. It was late in the afternoon and they decided to camp out one more night. You see, they did not have a plan as to what they were going to do. They only knew they were here and something had to be done. They sat around kind of pleased they had made it this far. The sun dropped from view and they saw the lights of the movie set blast the peacefulness – vans – trailers – and lots of people. What a spectacle it was. Sleep did not come easy, but finally dreams wrapped around them this night.
“OK amigos – it’s time to go.” Francisco announced in the morning. They gathered up all of their gear. They saddled up. Stopping for a moment, they crossed themselves, and made sure their rifles were loaded. “OK amigos. Aquí vamos.”
They charged – horses riding strong with fiery breathes – they knew the importance of what the three vatos were doing. Rifles held high – they blasted the sky with their bullets. The movie set was in chaos – people running with nowhere to really go, so frightened.
Francisco yelled out, “Dignitad y respeto para todos!”
Jaime, “Dignitad y respeto para todos!”
Carlos. “Dignitad y respeto para todos!”
Horses thundering hooves kicking up the earth.
They were killing the sky with their bullets.
Jesse – an L.A. Sheriff watched this. There were about a dozen off-duty Sheriffs on the set to provide security. Pablo ran up to Jesse, “Qué pasa?”
“Don’t know.” Just then they heard Captain Dexter, “When I give the order—fire on these assholes – kill them!” The twelve sheriffs all aimed their weapons at Carlos, Jaime, y Francisco.
Jesse looked at Pablo, “ni modo Pablo.” He threw his badge and gun down, turned, and walked away. As he was leaving he heard one more time, “Respeto y dignitad para todos.” Carlos, Jaime, y Francisco continued their charge. Captain Dexter gave the order to fire. The sound was thunderous as the automatic weapons aimed at los tres vatos exploded. In tears, Jesse turned as the three vaqueros rose up in unison towards the sky and he heard one last time, “Respeto y dignitad para todos.” There was a fourth rider with them. He continued on his path—never looking back.
Con respeto y dignidad para todos. = With respect and dignity for all.
Chingado = fucked
vato = homeboy – close friend
los árboles de aguacate = avocado trees
Villalistas = followers of Pancho Villa. In our case: los tres vatos.
compadre = friend
flaco = skinny
pansa = belly
Por seguro hombre = for sure man
Gabacho gordito= fat white man (derogatory)
estupido = stupid
Ni modo, no es lo possible. = No way, it’s not possible.
es un payaso = is a clown
cerveza = beer
pinche cabrones = damn bastards
Pero amigos, somos viejos = But friends, we are old.
pendejos = fuckers
Las Rocas de Vasquez = Vasquez Rocks
vatos = friends/brothers
Un bien pregunta mi amigo. = Good question my friend
Sí, yo lo recuerdo. = Yes, I remember.
Caballos = horses
loco = crazy
nalgas = butt
Sí – estamos viejos. = Yes, we are old.
Fantastico = Fantastic
bandaleros y pistols = bandaleros and pistols
Manaña. = Tomorrow
broma = joke
Septiembre = September
Por seguro amigo. = For sure my friend.
Vamos amigos. = Let’s go my friends.
Frijoles y queso = beans and cheese
Hombres—quieres? = You want, my friends.
Cerveza – tan bueno. Beer is so good.
Sí. Yo tengo más. = Yes. You want more?”
las montañas = the mountains
el aire claro = the clear air
las estrellas brillante = the brilliant stars
Este es la vida – Sí? = This is the life – yes?
Quien es? Who is he?
No sé. = I don’t know
No problema amigos, ándale. = No problem friends, let’s go.”
Porque = Why
Dios Mio amigos—that rider es un Indio = My God my friends—that rider is an Indian.
Aquí vamos. = We are here.
Qué pasa? = What’s happening?