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Punk Rock Academy Fight Song – Wassup Rockers

June 14, 2011

Punk Rock Academy Fight Song - Wassup Rockers"Mr. N - What are You? What do you mean, what am I-? Yeah like what are you, you know where are you from? Oh I live in Long Beach but I grew up in  San Gabriel if that's what you mean. No Mr. N what are you, what's your nationality.  Well I'm American. NO, NO, No comes the exasperated response where were you born. Well I was born in Georgia but what does that have to do with anything". And so it plays out like an updated version of the old Abbott and Costello "Who's on First" routine whenever my students find out that I am in fact like most of them -Hispanic or Latino or Chicano or whatever the correct term is.The discovery usually happens when I catch them muttering some profanity in Spanish and respond with a quick " Le hablas a tu mama con esa boca" and their jaws drop in befuddlement. So after a few rounds of playing "what the hell is he?" I relent and finally reveal that my dad is from Mexico and my mom is from Guatemala and that is how I know what they are saying and why I can speak fluent Spanish. This revelation quickly changes things in my students minds-it instantly gives me some kind of credibility because now they know Im like them, but at the same time they know I'm still a little different. I don't look like any other teacher or counselor that they have ever met. I like to surf. I wear a shirt and tie but I don't look like a guy who wears a shirt and tie unless he's at work or in court. Then they ask me the most important question " What kind of music do you like" and upon hearing my answers they get it- "AHHH, Mr. N you're a rocker".

All truth be told I never made a big deal about my background and growing up no one else really did either. I grew up speaking spanish at home since before I can even remember and we took yearly vacations to visit family in Mexico. I know where bumble bee man from the Simpsons really comes from. I remember listening to Dodger games on the Spanish radio station whenever Fernando Valenzuela would pitch. At the same time I was raised protestant, sorry no Virgin Mary icons in my house, I used to root for John Wayne in The Alamo and my mom cooks great Italian food and I cant stand telenovelas. To me being Hispanic has never seemed to be anything at of the ordinary. So my parents are from another country-aren't most peoples? I'm sure as hell not going to say I'm white washed either cause that ones right up there on the bullshit scale with sellout. I prefer to call my self the undercover Hispanic. Anyway it wasn't until high school, when one of my friends on the football team overheard me calling my parents on the pay phone and asking them in Spanish to pick me up from practice, that my Mexican-ness really mattered. Up until that point i'd just been the goofy kid with the weird last name but the fact that I spoke Spanish was like unlocking some kind of secret password that made you a little bit cooler a bit more down. I was still the goofy kid with the weird last name that listened to that crazy music but I also was now the goofy MEXICAN kid- yeah yeah I'm only half but it gets to be a pain having to write Mexican/Guatemalan all the time and then you have to explain where Guatemala is on the map. So for the sake of ease I just go with Mexican (sorry ma). I've always been proud of my heritage even  if I did make my grandpa go out and buy me cornflakes because I wouldn't eat any of the traditional food my grandma cooked when we took those vacations to Mexico. I've also never known why some people think it makes you less Mexican to like things like surfing and Punk rock when you live in southern California.

Which brings me to a scrawny light skinned,  Mexican kid in the Adicts T-shirt at a middle school in North Long Beach and the best question I was ever asked. As I'm walking out of my classroom towards the end of year he says to me out of the blue "Hey Mr. N were you like me when you were a kid". Yeah, I was I tell him. He then responds with a quick nod of his head and a slight "cool" under his breath.

-Daniel N-



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