Mexican dads are stupid about picking names for their daughters. They’re old fashioned. They want something religious like Maria Guadalupe, or super romantic like Isabella. Every other Mexican girl is named Maria Guadalupe and Isabella, but Mexican dads never stop to think about that. Why should they? Whatever they say goes, period.
Bad luck for Tex-Mex girls whose dads were Mexican teenagers in the late sixties, in the cosmic grip of the Chicano movement. Even if they didn’t care about school walkouts or protesting in front of the courthouse, even if all they did for the cause was listen to the Royal Jesters while hotboxing in a Nova, those guys turned Chicano forever.
Bad luck. Because in 1977, instead of religious and romantic, they went political and named their baby girls Crystal for Crystal City, Texas, birthplace of the Raza Unida Party, or something idealistic like Esperanza, or they took it back to the roots Aztec-style with Xochitl. They didn’t care about the daughter going through life as one of five hundred Crystals. Or that some dumbass was going to change her name to Esperanto or the fucking worst ever, Xoch-Panoch.
My father picked Lucha. Lucha, noun and verb. Lucha, the battle cry. Lucha is what my father named me; fight.
He is a one hundred percent Don’t Tell Me About His-Panic, Brown Power Militant. But I’m his daughter. There’s no room for me in his legend of a south Texas Tenochtitlán.
He likes to say, it’s sad, what’s happening.
After my mother died, I couldn’t stand to be away from him. I was five years old and, outside of work, my dad took me with him everywhere. I was the whiny kid in the back of the movie theater. I stretched out in restaurant booths and slept beneath his leather jacket. I had to be where I could put out my hand and find him.
Now there are so many silences between us. So many spaces.And between all that nothing, the fights. Holy Mary Mother of God, the fights.It’s his own fault. He picked my name and now it’s who I am: daughter; Chicana; fifteen.
All of a sudden, every little thing in the whole world enrages him. If he’s not watching out, I might turn into a kite, a huila. A little kite loosed, freewheeling across the skies. Only for me loosed means loose, means shame, means ruined forever.It’s his job to make sure I never get the chance. That’s my dad’s idea of me becoming a woman.
I can’t explain to him how wrong he is. Rule number one: Mexican dads are never wrong.
If I could, I’d tell him this: One night I curled up in the back of the Blazer when he and his friend Jesse took a trio of musicians to serenade a girl Jesse liked. That girl, she never even turned on the light to let Jesse know she was listening. Fuck that bitch , my dad said, and to cheer Jesse up he drove around for two hours with the musicians crammed in the middle seat. There was a violinist, a guitarist, and a man with an acoustic bass so large he had to roll down the window to play it. My dad wouldn’t let them out until he’d gotten the time Jesse’d paid for, plus my requests— Whatcha wanna hear, Lulu? Y’all better play something for my baby . They cursed my dad, but they did it.
The guitarist sang in a high sweet voice that warbled when the Blazer hit potholes. My dad sang along too and it was a marvel to me that he knew the words to all those songs. I lay on the floorboard and listened to them sing. The cold breeze snatched their voices out the open window and outside the street lights loomed and faded, loomed and faded, until I fell asleep.
These days, he bellows Lucha! and I am readysetgo. I am trapped like those musicians, just holding out for the car ride to be over. Only, I’d like to tell him, I won’t play for him.