a mountain

November 2021

a black and white photo of Louis Vasquez and Theadora Petras holding hands, smiling, and walking down Congress Street in 1944. Louis is on the left, wearing a white t-shirt, a cardigan, and Levi’s. Theadora is on the right, wearing a shirt, pants with a fancy belt, and her hair pulled back in a headscarf.

In 1944, when my yaya was traveling by train from San Francisco to visit family in Mexico, she and her tia stopped in Tucson. My 15-year-old yaya was long-distance dating a Tucsonense boy, Luis. He asked his big city girlfriend if she wanted to go to A Mountain. Her response: “sure, I’ll go to a mountain with you.” 

On special days we would drive up A Mountain and take in the city. We called it A Mountain then because we didn’t know any different; now we know better.

People are snatching up barrio houses built by sweat, labor and tias, nanas, mamas, tios, primos, tatas, dads whose sweat is baked into the Adobe bricks—the neighborhoods’ ancestors. Unlike these culture snatchers’ parents—midwestern transplants who fear my salsa—would be terrified if they realized how close their offspring live to the city jail as they spent years of their lives toiling or inheriting for bigger houses farther away from these others. Their white-haired, blue-eyed grandchildren raised upon soil that was deemed safe as a site for toxins two, three generations ago because “no one lived there” with the subtext screaming, “no one [white enough] lived there.”

Caterpillar again pummeling lands, this time for a corporate office with air conditioning year-round for the out of towners that the building was erected for. Not unlike in Palestine where their bulldozers bulldoze generational houses and Palestinian People for Israeli profits and colonial apartheid. I thought they said, “Never Again”?

Tucson is spreading. I was initially confused at the no parking signs under the A, as we have always parked here to take in our city, built at the base of the black mountain where Hohokam, Pima, O’odham ancestors irrigated and farmed and thrived. These no parking signs mean shit to me. This is my own colonial mentality—this is my territory; it always has been.

Displacement exists with capitalist notions of success. I liked my town better before the parking meters, student housing, street cars, and people who are “discovering all downtown has to offer.” Displacement comes in all hues, though the color is milky.

At the top of Sentinel Peak, I see no water.

I see the jail.

Developing desert Levittowns.

New, shitty high-rises not made of adobe, not made for us.

I see the cathedrals that my family built—figuratively and literally—and I admire their beauty only in lineage and form because in practice they incarcerate, destroy with claims of salvation. Sinister.

I see my house. I see far off mountain tops and intruders trampling Tumamoc,

Blue skys,

And fucking no parking signs.