San Ysidro Blues — 30 Years After the Massacre – Excerpt From Sunshine/Noir II

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in California, Civil Rights, Culture, History, Life Events, Media, Politics, San Diego

San Ysidro Blues: 30 Years After the Massacre

San Ysidro Blues: 30 Years After the Massacre

By Francisco J. Bustos

I remember playing on the kitchen floor when the shots started firing.
I remember my cousin and I running outside the apartment, like many others did.
The sound of bullets instantly changed everybody’s eyes and nobody could
explain it.
We lived on Sunset Lane, just a couple blocks, de aquel Mac Donals, 30 years ago.
We jumped outside at the sound of more bullets,
if we could make it to the corner, we could catch a glimpse of our San Ysidro

I don’t know why we tried running to that corner. Something pushed us. With every step that we took, more shots sliced the air,
and more shots and more shots, again and again and again.
Our eyes and ears, between each bullet sound, squeezed tight, very tight,
if only we could catch a glimpse of our San Ysidro Boulevard.

Sunshine-Noir-thumbnailWe never made it to the corner. It was impossible.
We were children and we were not able to save anybody.

Running back home, more bullet sounds ripped the air,
sirens started, one helicopter, maybe more, maybe a hundred.
The TV news flashed images of waves and waves of police cars and police men while the real time bullet sounds from outside our apartments kept cutting through.
We locked our doors and we closed our windows, and still, the bullet sounds
kept cutting in,
if only we could catch a glimpse of our San Ysidro Boulevard.

And that’s when it happened
Nuestro San Ysidro pulsó y se congeló y nada sería igual después.
Nuestro San Ysidro pulsó y se congeló y nada sería igual después.

Silence squeezed tight between each bullet sound
if only we could catch a glimpse of our San Ysidro Boulevard.

Until, until, until, they finally stopped the man with the rifles and the guns, finally, por fin.

But we must have kept hearing the shots, even after we went back to Sunset School
and some children did not make it back, and we knew why they weren’t with us,
and when those children, our neighbors, didn’t get back, we kept on hearing
the shots
and we never forgot their faces and we never forgot their smiles.

We remembered walking to the cafeteria with them,
we remembered walking to the library with them,
and we remembered sharing the playground with them.

We must have kept hearing the shots, even after some of their moms
kept going back to our school as volunteers.
Those moms didn’t leave us, and we never forgot them.
Those moms kept coming back to our playgrounds and cafeterias
and that somehow helped us heal,
and eventually we protested together and we demanded together
que el lugar ese del Mac Donals had to close for good
on that massacred, San Ysidro piece of land.
That spot was no longer theirs.
It belonged to the lost faces and smiles.
It belonged to those who lost their hearts and broke down on the boulevard.

We were just children and we couldn’t save anyone,
but we marched with candles and with moms and dads who were broken
and we kept marching and we demanded a memorial park,
and eventually, we got it.

We got it because we refused to forget those bullet sounds and those lost faces
and smiles.
We got it because of broken moms and dads, together, healing, marching and
30 years later, the wind along our borderlands
still carries echoes of those endless bullet sounds,
still carries San Ysidro playground laughs of lost neighbors,
every one of them, forming llorona like border beats and chants in the middle
of the night,
memories pulsating through our San Ysidro boulevard and beyond.


Editor’s Note: We’ll be publishing excerpts from Sunshine/Noir II: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana, an anthology of local writing about San Diego over the coming weeks. As City Works Press co-editor Jim Miller says in his introduction:

“… San Diego is still a city in need of a literary voice, a cultural identity that goes beyond the Zoo, Sea World, Legoland, and the beach. With Sunshine/Noir II we persist in our romantic, perhaps Sisyphean, effort to address this need and expose the true face of “the other San Diego.”

The book gained national recognition when National Geographic Traveler recently listed it as a must read before visiting the San Diego/Tijuana region. To buy a copy of Sunshine/Noir II or any other San Diego City Works Press book go here.

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