My soul is Latino. Let me explain.
That deep well of feeling, stretching back to pre-Colombian mesoamerica, back to Spain and Ancient Rome before it, filled with the holy water of Catholic baptism, flows over and floods the North American homogeneity that my father’s ancestors succumbed to upon their arrival at these shores, much like other immigrants from Europe, raindrops in a swelling sea of whiteness.
Whiteness is a concept, not an identity. He who has no culture and no old traditions, whose history does not stretch back into mythical and legendary ages, is disconnected from the reality of his blood. Whiteness never concerned me. I’m concerned with latinismo, with understanding the indelible mixture of blood and soil in the heart of every man, which leads me to Yucatán and Teotihuacan and Andalusia and which also leads me to Ireland, where my father’s forefathers grew potatoes and in whose peat they are buried, whose consumptive clouds they fled for these gold-paved streets a century ago, before they forgot who they were and became gringos. No I never was all that interested in “whiteness.”
He who creates an “identity” by cherry-picking his favorite pop-psychology and hobbies and uses an institutional, mass-produced moral compass (legal, religious, subcultural, etc.), who seeks out and adopts lifestyles and one-size-fits-all identity tropes, such a man is the inventor of the self, mechanically piecing together the parts at will, collage style. And although great ingenuity and some interesting lateral-thinking techniques may be used, with a virtuosic degree of creative problem-solving displayed, at best he may hope the resulting character will resemble a Rauschenberg assemblage, (which may be seen as beautiful or hideous, depending on the viewer’s conversancy with the necessary vocabulary and other factors, excluding personal taste), but owing to the material impetus of the work, lacks communicative meaning. Such a self reflects aesthetic values, but not true ethical or epistemological values.
In contrast to this soullessness is he whose blood binds him to his ancestors and to the earth, whose familial collective unconscious bears agriculture and warfare, songs and recipes, deaths, sacrifices, and rituals. To a person such as this, the self is something perhaps partially obscured but ultimately discoverable and essentially unalterable. His disconnectedness (owing to urban life and lack of connection to the soil) is as real and the gulf is as wide as that of his “white” brethren. But his process is one of discovery rather than assembly, a spiritual path, a sculpting of the soul as if from stone, a chipping away at the exterior superfluities until the true self is revealed.