Washington Street Corrido

Para Jacob – and those who named him

Back in ’65 when we were barely alive
Los Beatles had just arrived.
But the Beach Boys were the real trip
And Tony thought himself real hip
Because his hair was long and thin.
He’d chase the gringas down
Who’d turn their noses and frown;
His hair was straight but he was black as sin.

“I get around, ’round on the town
I’m a real cool head
I’m making real good bread
Round, round get around, I get around …”

The surfer syndrome, that’s what it was:
Converse tennies, madras shirts and pegged-tight pants,
Anything but to be a greaser, man.

“Don’t talk Spanish in front of my surfer friends, Dad.”
“Me da verguenza.”

But in gym class they all would scoff:
That permanent suntan doesn’t wash off, ese.
Not even wheelies on your Stingray bike or handstands on a skateboard could turn your beautiful bronze skin to milk advisory bored white.
But, hey, we’re all Americans first, right?!

“Love child, born in poverty
Love child, take a look at me
Love child, always second best
Love child, different from the rest.”

To ignore the other dark-skinned guys was impossible.
Besides, they’d kick our asses if we did.
We were their link to that Pepsi generation that rejected us all:
Joey, Tommy, Henry, Julio, Bones, Caveman, Larry, Ricky, Jimmy y los de mas.

At school, we worked out socially
To strengthen us emotionally, smiling those Colgate smiles
But always acknowledging our vatos locos:
“Hey Joey, man. What’s happenin’
Are you fucked up at school again?”

Yeah, TV didn’t help at all.
Jose Jimenez, Chico and the Frito Bandito made us look smaller.
We’re all natural-born comics, right?!

Nobody laughed cuando mataron a Leo in a dope deal,
The only way, his counselors said, he’d make a living.
With the right push, he could’ve been a chingón counselor himself.
Do counselors watch the tube?

“I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
When I’m driving in my car and a man comes on the radio
With some useless information
Supposed to buy my imagination
I can’t get no … no no no.”

Hey tonight after the funeral is a Rec. dance.
Let’s show up early so we can see if anyone fights.
Chale con Larry si no quiere ir, my Mom will drive us.

Was it uncool to dance with Chicanas?
Not the Clearasil güeras with no zits.
Besides, they don’t relate to us anyway.
The only thing we have in common is cultural heritage and chicanismo.

And don’t get all pushed out of shape if the gabachas don’t want to dance the slow ones with you.
Just go home and jack off to that Playboy magazine – that’s what it’s there for.

“What does it take to win your love for me?
How can I make this dream come true for me?
I just got to know
Oooo Baby cuz I love you so …”


“Where’d you get that haircut, Ricky?
Fall down on some broken glass? Ha ha!”
“Kiss my ass,” he’d reply.
“John Sias and the Death Machine,” we’d tease. Only Rick could ride that thing. It scared us to death. (His bike’s handle bars were stripped at the base so they came loose while riding; extremely hazardous to the uninitiated.)
The rest of us had Stingrays mostly:
Peddle your shoes off to go 20 yards.
That summer we really got into playing cards.

In football we would always defeat
Ese Linky and his ardent followers.
In outrage he inevitably hollered:
“OK, let’s play tackle in the street!”
Theirs was more of a survival situation.
Ours was a struggle against boredom during vacation.
Did they really have to ask permission to eat?
Or were we the upper class of the barrio?

Back then, no “Que pasa?” or mention of Raza,
Only Clairol blondes, soap-opera brunettes and frustration
Engulfed us in assimilation
Which became the foundation
Of our cultural emasculation.
“Is Joey still out on probation?”

“I fought the law and the law won.
I fought the law and the law won.”

Not much to relate to on Washington Street;
The junk in the alley, the junk in the street.
It’s the cultural artifacts outside that affected
The young men who sought “self” and never suspected
The ludicrous world beyond the end of the block
Is what shaped, molded, defined and determined the stock
We’d be made of:


I guess all of these different experiences create
This highly complex personality of late.
It must take the turning back of the clock
To view clearly that real world in one block.

Calle Washington from you we can’t run.
But what of all this will I relate to my son?
Will he, too, be prejudged by Sweet Judy Blue Eyes
Or by those who live in a Disneyland reality
And think in AM radio mentality?
Laura Scudder will abuse him,
Virginia Slims will seduce him,
Jack La Lane will reduce him to vanity.
CHIPS will confuse him,
Charlie’s Angels will refuse him
And the world will lose him to insanity.

But wait: This is only the preface to the Washington Street Story.
For within this grim view there’s a source of power and glory.
What about our people’s history?
Better we tell them than to have them hear it from the Marlboro Man.
Our hijos will make it if we lead them on the right track.
Show them the way out of Washington Street …
… And show them the way back.
History is on our side.

El Pato de Montes Aztlan