THE MAN WHO GAVE US BIRTH AND OUR NAME RODRIGUEZ. WAS BORN IN THE SOUTHERN FLANK OF THE MEXICAN STATE OF SINALOA, BORDERING WITH DURANGO IN THE HIGH SIERRA MADRE MOUNTAINS. WITH ONLY ONE YEAR OF SCHOOL, HE BECAME AN ORPHAN IN HIS EARLY CHILDHOOD.A HANDSOME MAN WHO ALWAYS WORE A STETSON HAT, HE WAS A HARD AND CREATIVE WORKER. HE LEARNED THE MINING TRADE AND BECAME AN ELECTED TRADE UNION LEADER IN THE TOWN OF BACIS, DURANGO ALSO IN THE HIGH SIERRA. THERE IN THE 30s, LIKE THE MAJORITY OF MEXICAN PEOPLE, HE FOLLOWED PRESIDENT GENERAL LAZARO CARDENAS AND HE TURNED INTO A PASSIONATE “CARDENISTA,” AND AS A UNION LEADER HE TRAVELED TO MEXICO CITY TO MEET WITH CARDENAS HIMSELF. SELF EDUCATED, HE WAS A TENACIOUS POLITICAL ACTIVIST AND HAD A HIGH SENSE OF HUMOR WHICH I BELIEVE ARE THE REAL ROOTS OF OUR POLITICAL CREATIVITY, OUR TENACITY AND SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS AS A FAMILY
WITH MY MOTHER ISABEL AND THE FIRST TWO OF NINE CHILDREN, JOSE AND JACOBO, IN 1938, THE YEAR OF THE NATIONALIZATION OF MEXICO’S OIL RESERVES, HE TOOK THE FAMILY OUT OF THE PROVINCE ON HORSEBACK, WHICH, AT THAT TIME, WAS THE MAIN TRANSPORTATION FOR THE POOR. THEY LANDED IN THE CITY OF DURANGO WHERE HE HAD FAMILY. EXACTLY WHEN, I AM NOT CERTAIN, BUT THE FAMILY MADE ITS WAY TO TORREON, COAHUILA. WHERE SEVERAL OF US WERE BORN. HE ALSO MADE SURE OUR GRANDMOTHER AND MY MOTHER’S SIBLINGS FOLLOWED AND JOINED US. UNEQUIVOCALLY HE WAS A PROVIDER WITH STRONG FAMILY VALUES AND BELIEVED IN FAMILY UNITY.
TO REITERATE, AMAZINGLY, HE BECAME SELF EDUCATED, READ PROFUSELY AND CARRIED THE RED BOOK OF MARX AND ENGELS, THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, WHICH HE SLEPT WITH IT ON HIS BEDSIDE. ADDITIONALLY IN TORREON HE BECAME A MEMBER OF THE SINDICATO METALURGICO-METAL WORKERS UNION, A MEMBER OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY, A RAILROAD INSPECTOR, WORKED AS A MEMBER OF THE JUDICIAL POLICE, BOUGHT A HOME, OPENED UP A SMALL GROCERY STORE AND LATER A CHAIR FACTORY. HE SOLD THE BUSINESS AND THEN BOUGHT TWO TRUCKS TO TRANSPORT WOOD FROM DURANGO TO TORREON. IN THE 11 YEARS IN COAHUILA, HE WAS NON STOP. THERE’S A PHOTO OF HIM IN A POLITICAL BANQUET IN THE COMPANY OF PRESIDENT CARDENAS WHICH MUST HAVE BEEN IN THE FORTIES, IN TORREON. HE WAS ALWAYS ARMED AND THE STORIES ABOUND OF HIM, AT TIMES ARRIVING HOME, ACTUALLY BEING FOLLOWED BY POLITICAL ENEMIES THAT ENDED IN SHOOTOUTS IN FRONT OF OUR LARGE HOME. I DO RECALL THE TIMES HE WOULD PRACTICE SHOOTING AND ALSO TEACH OUR OLDEST BROTHERS THE ART OF SHOOTING WITH HIS 45 CALIBER, IN THE LONG PATIO OF THE HOUSE AND THE TARGET WAS A LARGE THREE FOOT ROCK.
A NONE SEDENTARY, IN 1948 HE TRAVELED NORTH TO JUAREZ, CHIHUAHUA TO ESTABLISH A BASE AND A YEAR LATER HE IMMIGRATED THE REST OF US. THERE I HAVE KEPT SOME BEAUTIFUL AND PLEASANT MEMORIES OF HIM AND MY MOTHER. WHEN WE LANDED IN JUAREZ BY TRAIN HE WAS WAITING FOR US AT THE TRAIN STATION. HE RENTED, NOT A TRUCK, BUT A HORSE BUGGY AND FROM THE EASTERN PART OF THE CITY WE GOT OUR FIRST TOUR, ALL THE WAY TO THE WESTERN END OF JUAREZ, TO “LA COLONIA ARROYO COLORADO,” THEN THE POOREST NEIGHBORHOOD IN TOWN. BUT AS I SAID, HE WAS TENACIOUS. IT WASN’T LONG BEFORE HE LEFT A CARETAKER JOB AND BEGAN TO EXPORT BEEF TO EL PASO TEXAS AND AT THE SAME TIME, HE ALSO IMPORTED THE COVETED AMERICAN GROCERIES. HE MOVED US TWO BLOCKS DOWN TO A LARGER HOME BY THE ARROYO -THE STREAM- AND SOON HE BOUGHT A LATE MODEL BLACK AUTOMOBILE.
I WAS A FAVORITE SON AND BOTH OF MY PARENTS ALWAYS HAD ME BY THEIR SIDE. BECAUSE IT WAS THE GOLDEN YEARS OF MEXICAN CINEMA, EL CINE DE ORO IT WAS CALLED, I SPECIALLY ENJOYED GOING TO THE MOVIES WITH THEM. HE ALWAYS SENT ME TO GO AND BUY THE NEWSPAPER “EL FRONTERIZO” AND HE TAUGHT ME TO READ BEYOND THE ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORTS SECTIONS. SO AS A CHILD, I ALWAYS TURNED TO THE FRONT SECTION AND LEARNED TO DISTINGUISH THE LOCAL, NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL NEWS FROM REST, AS I STILL DO IN THE PRESENT. MOST IMPORTANT HE TAUGHT ME THE MEANING OF COMPASSION AND SOLIDARITY, AS WE ALWAYS HAD EXTENDED FAMILY AND FRIENDS LIVING WITH US AND HE NEVER REFUSED A PLATE OF FOOD TO IMMIGRANTS THAT KNOCKED ON OUR DOOR IN JUAREZ.
I’LL LIVE IT HERE PAPA. HAPPY BELATED FATHER’S DAY.
THIS BRIEF NARRATION OF HIS LIFE IS DEDICATED TO HIS MEMORY, TO THE CLOSE TO 100 IMMEDIATE RODRIGUEZ FAMILY AND TO THE 500 PLUS EXTENDED FAMILY MEMBERS AND BRANCHES OF MY FATHER’S BLOOD LINE WHO REMEMBER HIS HUMOR. I APOLOGIZED FOR NOT POSTING HIS PICTURE, I DON’T HAVE ONE HERE IN BOYLE HEIGHTS AND ALL MY FAMILY HISTORY ARCHIVES ARE IN LAKE FOREST WITH MY DAUGHTER. ZAZ
*Javier Rodriguez is a journalist, a blogger and a media and political strategist. A long time social activist, He was the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 million historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006, as well as the May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott. Back in 1982-86, he directed the mass street mobilizations in LA that led up to the Amnesty Law IRCA of 1986; recently he co founded the LA Millions of Voices Coalition that on Sept. 22, 2013 organized one of the largest marches nationally for that year for Immigration Reform; this same group is now organizing a California July 4th March to Rescue DAPA and on July 10th a Civil Disobedience protest in front of the LA Federal Court.
A journalist, he traveled for 5 ½ months throughout Mexico in 2012, observing and writing about the country’s political process, the aftermath of a highly questioned presidential election, visited several war zones and his family in Coahuila, a state controlled by a corrupt PRI government and Drug Cartels; he also visited the State of Tabasco at the border with Guatemala, where the Central American migrants catch the train known as the “La Bestia-The Beast.” Between 1987 and 1996, his son Jesus, his nephew Jaramillo and his brother Jesus all fell victim to LA’s neighborhood violence. His blog is Larayueladejavier.wordpress.com; firstname.lastname@example.org