In Mecca, Dreams of Utopia
By Rogelio Montaño
I grew up in a small, one-room trailer home in the small, rural town called Mecca. In this town isolated from the rest of the valley, there is so little diversity or foreign subjects I was exposed to that I even began to wonder as to how my aspirations were formed. As I begin to recall the many memories I’ve unintentionally made there, I am overcome with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, as one would expect, but I had almost been so overwhelmed to the point of tears. The reason being, it is there, among the narrow, cracked streets, the dry desert foliage, and the small-town mindset of the community I lived in, that I began to crave something more. Just like the sun-beaten environment I have grown accustomed to, I became thirsty—thirsty for knowledge, the kind that was not within my immediate grasp.
Looking back on these memories, I began to see I had a potent interest for foreign cultures and languages from a very early age, an interest that was initially implemented by the purchase of my very first globe at the age of four. I remember it distinctly; a multicolored globe, with the names of several cities per country, and bumps to identify the mountains. I loved it. I “played” with it everyday by looking at it, and while it spun, I would use my finger to stop it, and whatever country I landed on was my homeland for the day. Even though I had no real idea of the culture, language, or customs of that particular country, I still let the pot of my imagination concoct my own language and customs for the country. Right next to my trailer home, there was this large patch of land in which I would take in the joy of creating my own different countries with my own drawn up borders, and I would even create wars between them. Obviously not knowing the ramifications of war, I would often make one country completely obliterate the other.
In my old, small town of Mecca, the majority of the population is not only Latino, but of a low socioeconomic status, my family included. Even at a young age, I realized that I could not have everything I wanted, and I was completely dumbfounded when I found out that my parents couldn’t buy what they wanted. Why couldn’t they? However, not long after this realization I accepted the fact that the world isn’t that a great a place, as I compared my home and community to the rich “American” families’ lives that came on television. Why did they have more? The answers to these questions are obvious now, but to my infantile mind, the concept of people being unequal was mind-boggling. It was then that I began to imagine my countries as what I now know are called utopias—social and political perfection, the complete contrast of my graffiti-covered, low-income neighborhood.
I now live in the community of Coachella, a town of similar conditions as Mecca, but much bigger. I found more people of the same situation I was in; low-income without the same access to school resources as the rich, white neighborhoods north of us. This obvious contrast has wanted me to do something for the planet Earth, hoping that there I could come up with some sort of invention or method or SOMETHING that could push the human race to become like the utopian countries I would imagine as a child.