Latino Americans Blog

Heart and Casa

September 6, 2013 11:51 AM by Jesse Borrego

It's a warm summer night in San Antonio Tejas. I'm doing Tai Chi in the moonlight behind the building I've helped restore, in the southside, my old barrio. My daughter is starting college at my old Alma Mater, Incarnate Word, where I studied Theatre and Acting, and where I first courted her mother, my beautiful wife Valeria, also an actor. Here in this neighborhood, there at that college, and here in this town I told my first stories, played my first characters, danced my first dances, sang my first songs. My grandmother Olivia drove me and my sister through these San Anto streets, shuttling us to our performances and dance contests. My father played his accordion and shared his songs in these very well known congalitos (nightclubs). So it occurred to me that at 51 I had come full circle, back to the beginning where it all started. Home and heart of all I try to represent.

      I've been back in San Antonio for a year now and in that time I suffered the event that most people dread in their life time. the death of my Mother, Gloria Flores. A significant thing happens when one loses their birth mother, the woman who bore you, someone who went through actual physical agony so that you would have breath and life on this earth. You suddenly see an end to a road. And you assess that road in a very sober and real way that allows you to look forward and back and forward again for seven generations.

    So as my pueblo grows, as any mata that is cultivated must grow, I feel a certain responsibility for where the home and heart of our seven generations is headed. In this place in time, at the end of this my Mothers mortal journey, and the beginning of my daughters adult journey, the road is clear. So I take a deep breath, look right , gaze left, center myself, and live on.

     I will continue to produce my father Jesse Borrego Sr. in the studio, seeking to capture a piece of his musical legacy, recording classic Boleros, danzones, rancheras, and even a cumbia or two, songs that were taught to him by his mother. Now our family band Conjunto Borrego has been performing together for several years now, my sister and I sing with my father and my brother plays drums and percussion. We're recording at Blue Cat records with Grammy Award winning producer Joe Trevino, again here in my old barrio, right up the street. The road is still familiar. And I realize the road is long for my fathers journey, he was a self taught accordionista that in the 60's was in the conjunto scene along with Flaco Jimenez and Mingo Saldivar. And we've been  performing with him since the 80's. The road is long but filled with music.

      I will continue to invest in my community. I've formed a nonprofit Cine Studio San Antonio that supports local filmmakers and their projects, and especially the youth in my barrio interested in Media and filmmaking. This has allowed me to connect with a family of like minded artists, many of which I've known since my early years as an actor. Now many of us are successful artists and we are now the Elders of these new Artisans of culture, and they look to us for the knowledge on how best to trod this long road that we laid for them to travel easier, the same way my father and mother and their ancestors formed the roads and paths with their very feet where there were none before, so that I could travel easier. The road winds back again.

   I will also continue to dance. The world reknowned Flamenco Grand Dame Teresa Champion has temporarily occupied one of the spaces in my renovated storefront and I took advantage of this and took a flamenco class with her. She is from the neighborhood and has known my family and my wifes family for years. And here she is at 74, in my artistic space that I helped cultivate, still sharing that precious knowledge and art that now her daughters and granddaughters possess and create. My dream of having an artistic space in the barrio continues to manifest. And the road continues.

         I wind down the last few movements of Tai Chi, my breath is calm and peaceful, the moon is high and full, clouds drifting across her face like the herons that now have returned to the newly restored SA river, again right in my barrio, right up the street, all part of the culmination of interests, economy, and culture that have synergised here in my neighborhood, in my abuelitos and abuelitas home. And I know I'm home.

   And though the road still stretches long before me, I know I will continue to tell our stories, dance our dances, sing my grandmother Olivia's songs that now I sing with my father and now my daughter Tonantzin sings with me. And I hope that those songs will comfort her on her long road, just beginning, and that their melody and memory will lead her back to me here. Back to her heart. Back to her pueblo. Back to our casa.

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