I Am Joaquín Magón

Jesús E. Valenzuela Félix holds a United Farm Worker flag with Dolores Huerta, who founded the UFW with Cesar Chavez.

By Jesús E. Valenzuela Félix

It’s been a little over a year since I started writing “The Diary of Joaquín Magón,” the blog where I share my experiences working with the United Farm Workers. I look back at the entries that I have written – the Democratic Convention and my amazement of being part of this movement, another where we collected 50,000 cards to put on the governor’s desk, to the more academic one about attrition and immigration.

I’ve met many people through this job and I’ve met many people while writing this blog, men and women who are part of a day-to-day struggle just to survive: those two young men I met while writing on the conditions of farm worker housing; the young high school students who formed a group to help the farm workers; aging strawberry pickers with fear in their eyes as they realize they are getting too old to compete with the young.

So now, one year later, I want to introduce myself not as Joaquín, but through my real name.

I am Jesús Valenzuela. Born in México, raised in the eastern Coachella Valley, educated in San Diego, living in Salinas; writer and activist for social change, all of those experiences molded together constitute what has now become Joaquín Magón.

As one can imagine the human soul is a division of multiple people, multiple identities, multiple thoughts and hearts that at times work in sync but at times the existence of one is contradictory to the existence of the other. But the force that constituted both the writer and the activist was so strong its own identity needed to be created. It would be unfair to say I created Joaquín; in reality he created himself.

So one might ask – why Joaquín Magón? To which I respond:

Joaquín– like the epic poem by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales. “I am Joaquín/Lost in a world of confusion…I shed tears of anguish/as I see my children disappear/behind a shroud of mediocrity/never to look back to remember me.”

I am Joaquín, that name that has become the spirit of our every day struggle between economic prosperity and cultural retention – to retain a culture and not advance economically or to advance economically and lose a culture? Joaquín would say to obtain both.

Joaquín is remembrance; it’s culture, as Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Suri Prakash wrote, “Culture may be seen as memories. Ways of recalling establish fundamental differences between cultures…”

Magón – like the writer and revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magón who in the early 1900s worked to spark a revolution in México and died in a jail cell in the United States. His words where an attempt to break from the past and form a new future in which all men and women where equal.

He worked tirelessly to spread his ideas and the ideas of a just society through a number of newspapers he either founded or edited. To that end, he always fought, he always struggled for something greater than himself.

And one might ask – why a different name? Why not simply Jesús Valenzuela? Well, Joaquín Magón is a part of Jesús. And I, as Jesús am composed of many other selves – the organizer, the son, the brother, etc. etc.

And, as you can imagine, they all get in the way when it’s their turn to get attention. So what better way to harness and allow one aspect of Jesús to flourish and grow than to give it its own name and identity and allow it to form on its own without the interference of the rest? In other words, to allow the pure sense of imagination to flourish fully without the criticism of the rest.

Naturally, the aspects cannot be completely independent of each other. In this instance Joaquín (the writer and photographer) is dependent on the organizer. Sounds crazy; and in reality it is. It’s an almost schizophrenic feeling to have a part of me rant for so much attention that it has to divide itself into a new identity to be able to exist.

And that self is Joaquín Magón –the one that remembers, the one that writes to not forget, the one that fights for justice with a pen.

In the end, I am I and I am Joaquín.

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