Roberto Sifuentes, Presente!!!

One of my favorite professors died today after years of battling various maladies.

Sifue, as many would call him, came to CSUN in the early 90's. He was very debonair, he wore a suit and tie everyday.

He was from Mexico, but was a devout Chicano. He had a thick accent that made his reciting of poetry, from memory, or reading of passages from books enthralling. He was too cool.

He was always hanging out with the students in the Chicano Lobby, always dropping stories, jokes, dichos, one liners and up for a little party. He came over to a couple of bar b ques and hang outs that we would have in our apartments around campus. Never drank with us, health issues he claimed, just smoked his cigs and once played some dice with us. Maybe some cards.

I had him for several classes as an undergrad and grad student. My cohorts through BAs and MAs loved his passion and love for life and knowledge. He would always want to know what we were into and doing outside of school. Everything he did, or said, or asked was with passion. One of my co horts was so moved by his description of Guanajuanto while reading a Carlos Fuentes novel, she packed up and left for Guanajuato at the end of that week.

He was a tough and loving professor. If you didn't read or come prepared to speak up in class he would kick you out of the class. If the whole class was lagging, he would just walk out and say "Don't waste my time and yours." He was always available to us. Anyone who met him, was a new friend.

He never told us anything about jobs and the future, he wanted us to learn our stories, culture and to dream. He was a man in love with knowledge and loved getting his students turned on to learning and to love life.

He was a painter and poet. He helped students find these talents within themselves, walking along with them.

He had lived his life like baller. He told me about all the jobs he had in his life from glamorous to menial, but at each one, he had a great time. That is living.

One of my favorite Sifue moments was in La Paz, Baja Cal. Mex. A lot of us from the dept went there to present at a conference. Sifue was presenting a paper on his Chicano identity. All of his students, about 5 of us and other profs, rolled in with him. We knew what was about to happen and we needed to be there. See, the Mexican academics don't really 'get' Chicano. They are very Euro centric and parochial. When Sifue ended his presentation the Mexican academics threw a fit. "How can you be born in Mexico and now call yourself a, a, Chicano!" He simply said, "Didn't you pay attention to my presentation?" and laughed!!!! They were so pissed off. He let them stew for a couple minutes and then said "Chicanos are down to fight for the underdog, anywhere. I see myself and my revolutionary spirit in that attitude, that consciousness, so I am a Chicano. If you aren't down to fight for your people or people who are oppressed you can't be a Chicano. You almost can't be a human if you aren't down to fight oppression of humans." He said this in the most eloquent Spanish I had ever heard him speak. He left them silent. Like on cue all of us from CSUN began to stand up and applaud. He then walked towards us and said, "Let's get out of here."

They don't make men like him anymore.

He was our profe.
Un chingon de aquellos.
Suave, smart, hip, passionate, intelligent, and inspiring.

They don't make men like him anymore.

I'm so glad and honored I knew this man.

(Sifue, Frank Colon & Harry Gamboa Jr.)
*all photos taken from FB CSUN heads who have posted his pic. All rights reserved to each and all.


Roberto said...

Such beautiful and familiar stories keep my father present. He was devoted to you, his students, and you all gave him such joy and life.
You all meant so much to him.
Thank you for posting this.
Roberto Sifuentes

Pachuco 3000 said...

He loved you so much Roberto. He would always tell me about your latest travels, performances, jobs.
He told me how you were practically raised on the UCLA campus and had your diapers changed by the Chicanas there. I feel like I knew you a little through him.
He was so proud of you, he gushed when he spoke of you.
He loved your mom so much! She was the most beautiful woman in the world to him. I got that feeling from him every time he brought her up. He told me stories of the amazing accomplishments she had achieved and how lucky he was to have her as his wife.

I lost my mom a year ago. She faded away with cancer in a year. My dad and I witnessed it and had to be strong for her. Now you can be weak. Now you can let go and grieve with your momma.

You are so blessed.
All love to you and your mom.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog on el Profe. He was one of a kind!
~Raquel Sanchez

Maria Concepcion Ayon said...

Your words describe el Profe on target. He will be missed by many, but he will continue to live through many.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog, Gerry, thanks.
Good to read about Sifues, "el maistro," loved those Chicano Movement stories, even the desmadroso ones. A big influence on Chicano Studies. I'll miss him. Always a pleasure to run into in the hallway. Sifue! Siempre Presente!

Elenamary said...

well written. beautiful. also a good reminder of what it is to be xicano.

Jamie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie said...

I unfortunately never got to meet this professor but reading this story really made me wish i could have. I loved the description in the story and highlights of not only the things that went on in class, but how he interacted with students outside the classroom. Really makes you realize how passionate some people are about the things they do. I really am jealous of all the peoples lives he touched, i wish i could have had the honor of meeting him...