The Mass

We’re almost at the end of holy week with Easter coming this Sunday. Everybody getting their Sunday best for church services and preparing for their annual family picnic at their favorite park and even staying overnight to reserve their space. Most of them are Christians who believe in the risen Christ.

As I recall from my earlier days as a youngster, we were not having picnics or gathering in my barrio. Our whole sense of holy week was devoted to our traditional religious events during the week. For example, on Palm Sunday, there would be people selling little crosses or baskets made from palms. Later it was blessed by the priest during the Mass. This is what I remember from that time.

As a youngster I knew that I had to go to church. Didn’t know why but I was encouraged by my grandmother to go to church every Sunday. I thought that after I made my first holy communion I didn’t have to go. Anway, I went, and I sat right under the place where the priest would present the homily. It seems at that time that everybody was going to hell, according to the priest, if we didn’t repent. I had no idea what he was talking about. Looking around as I was constantly distracted by some parishioners praying their rosary and not listening to the priest. Also, there were some people visiting the statues of Mary and other saints while the mass was going on. Others were lighting candles and praying for a sick child or others.

I assume that it was normal for people to do that. Later on, as I learned more about the church I came to find out that there are people who are believers and those who are striding the fence. They follow traditions but don’t know why. They go with the flow. For example, there is a part of the mass where the rite of the Eucharist is being presented by the priest. Catholics believe that Jesus is there in the communion host and the wine is his blood. This the holiest part of the Mass because the priest consecrates the bread and the wine as it was during the last supper. In essence we are there when Jesus presented the bread and wine as part of His body. This is lost in many Catholics because it is a mystery.

Today’s Catholics are either believer are just not wholly verse into the mass. Like most other dominations like the Baptist, Methodist or others, we follow a strict rule of liturgical readings and prayers of worship, praise and communion. We read from the old and New Testament and our priest reads the gospel which is writings taken from Jesus words. The difference is the word “Mass” instead of “Sunday Service” or going to “church”. Mass means we are celebrating the Eucharist, that of holy communion with the Lord. Hence, we are going to Mass.

We have many traditions, and we follow them regularly, especially those who believe. I firmly believe that the gift of faith is given to those who ask for it. It is through that that most Catholics celebrate Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. That is, even though they don’t attend Mass on Sundays.

Church has always been a gathering of people for the purpose of worship. It is not a building. I still remember going to Mass outdoors in the middle of a battlefield. There are no non-believers there.

Black is Black?

During black history month I made it a point to check out some of the black movies that were shown on TV. I watch “Shaft”, and others that were made for black audiences. There were other romantic and dramatic movies that I saw in the modern sense which reached out to everybody. This last group did not, I assume, have any racist tones and if it did, I missed it.

So, I remember my life associating with the black community. Living in my part of the west side, we didn’t have any negroes that I knew. The word “negroes” is Spanish for black, and it never had any racist undertones. The Anglo community just changed it to “niggers” because they couldn’t pronounce it.

However, there were Mexicans who it seems to me who looked black because of their skin color. For example, my uncles, Isauro and Anselmo who were very dark complexion and I thought that being in the sun working the crops darkened their skin. But their brothers and sisters were whiter. I for one was evenly tan but my dad was whiter than I. 

The first time I met black people was when the Wesley basketball team that I belong to, played against a Denver Heights in the East side of San Antonio. They were big fellows. We didn’t win the game, but we ran circles around them because were shorter. After I join the Army reserves when I turned 17, I went to basic training at Camp Polk in Louisiana. I met quite a few blacks and there is when I found out that they came from all walks of life. Most of them were draftees and like everybody else, they were city folks, farmers. Educated and illiterates.

As I went through my training and my twenty years as a career soldier, I had a chance to evaluate my thinking of black people. Of course, there were some who were just plain lazy and others who rose to the challenges that the Army provided. That went whether they were black or white because I had both. When I started to have a friendly relation with some of them, I realized that they had the same problems we were all having except that theirs was more complex because of their color.

After retiring from the military and joining the civilian world I moved to the east side of San Antonio which was heavily populated with blacks. My wife had moved into that area back in 1956 and she said that she was scared because of the young black men attitude when they were on the bus. Now she was working at the school that our children had attended, and it was a different story. There was a mixture of Hispanics and black children attending that school. Later, when I started to work at a mostly black community center, I found that it too was changing. There was a mixture of black and Hispanic children and the school next to it had mixed blood children of parents who were either white or Hispanic who were married to a black parent. I saw the beginning of a generation different from which we are accustomed to.

This is not new. This has been happening to blacks in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and south America where black slaves were brough in from Africa by Portuguese slave traders to the new world for the purpose of working the fields. It was found out that the natives did not have the ability or the strength to work long hours in the fields. So, they brought in black slaves to do the work.

The blacks’ slaves began to populate the colonies and soon there were more slaves than there were Spaniards. Black families grew and colonies mated with blacks and blacks with Asians and whites with blacks. There began a mixture of races. It went so bad that the Spanish government created a caste system which define what race a child born of mixed parentage belong to. It started with a Spaniard married to an Indian. The child was then a mestizo and so it went.

The treatment of blacks then was so terrible that a lot of them wanted to escape their torment. In Mexico, there was a young black man named Gaspard Yanga who rebelled against the Spanish government and ran away into the mountains near Vera Cruz. He was joined by more runaway slaves where he created an army of slaves. He fought the Spaniards and won. He set up a region where all blacks were free. It is called Yanga which is still in existence now.

There are many communities of blacks in Mexico and so many who are of mixed blood that the Mexican government in their census reports now ask those people what they identify themself as instead of relying on their appearances. A lot of them don’t know because they have Asian, mestizo and Spanish blood.

In South and North and Central America including the United States there exist a multi generation of mixed blood heritage that is Arab, Anglo, Asian, Indian, and Native American. My own family on my father’s side is  a mixture  of Mexican and Huichol Indian. My grandmother’s mother has American Indian blood. Finally, my nephew on my wife side is Mexican and black. His family is a mixture of white, Mexican, and black.

So, where are we now in this thing call “race” or ethnicity? The census of 2020 was trying to identify different ethnicity but, in my opinion, failed on races because most people noted “other” in the report. I think that eventually that item of race will be taken out due to indifference or ignorance.