It’s 1995 and we’re sitting in my father’s car driving in el campo as the summer sun beats down on us. It’s a broken down white Buick with angles so sharp, as a child, I thought they might cut me if I wasn’t careful. There’s a hole in the floor where we toss back pebbles that jump into the car, and roll up windows that scream against gravity. Affectionately named as his “limo,” to a child in poverty it might as well have been.
Where we’re going isn’t important but he shows me over and over again how to roll my tongue so I don’t lose it by trading it for another colonized language in school. And so we practice, with música norteña playing softly in the background and I stumble into rolling my “r’s” like it’s a race and all I want is to make him proud.
This has been my favorite memory with my father, because other moments we shared were always too much or not enough. But this was tender, passing down love through our mother tongue and strengthening my roots so that one day I too could speak without fear and leave no invitation for a stranger to say I don’t belong.
There would always be enough room for Intocable or Los Tigres del Norte in our trips and while they were familiar sounds to accompany the smell of mole in my mother’s kitchen, in my father’s limo I’ve come to realize they tell a different story.
I see them as moments of vulnerability he chose in the form of CD’s. Despite the role he was taught to play and embody the versions of machismo our culture glorifies, the music he played offered a delicate space. He never sang along or hummed but I know he felt the sadness within the passionate cries of mariachi.
Love songs and tears turned into poetry through these mens’ voices were the only acceptable instances he could touch his emotions without fearing he would burn his hand. And now when I hear Enseñame a Olvidar on our drives, I see him discreetly opening his heart in these small windows of refuge on our way to get groceries. And these hidden moments become my new favorite memories with him.