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.


like a dream,

Showed me colors where theres none to see...

I'm glad I didn't die before meeting you...


Days of the Dead

Two years ago on Day of the Dead I had been asked the day of to come and be the MC for the bands from sundown to the end. I had done stage managing in years past, so introducing each band would be no problem.

That morning I took my mother to the hospital because she was having trouble breathing. It was the beginning of her final fight with cancer.

My dad was out of town and she called me telling me she wasn't feeling well. I asked if she wanted to go to the doctor. She said "Yes." Leaving BH to pick her up was a long ride. My mind wandered to possibilities I wasn't ready for. At the hospital she checked out 'fine.' but they wanted to keep her overnight for observation. She told me to go and do what I had to do.
(all images from DoD 2010)
I will never forget the fear and loneliness I carried that beautiful Sunday afternoon. I had planned on resting most of the day then going to pick up my gf in the valley and back to the Eastside for my 5 p.m. call time at SGH. I told my gf I couldn't pick her up because of my mom.

Getting to SHG was a blur. I don't remember parking or most of the bands. I know I interviewed each of them before they went on to give out info. during their intro. I wanted to keep my head in the work and not back to mom. My gf showed up with her two friends and that was great, and hard. It was good that she was there to support me, but also hard cuz I just wanted to just break down on her. Keep it together, keep it together.

It was the Sunday night before the election of Obama and people were excited about voting and hope. I would mention the election, to make sure to vote, and the crowd would erupt. It got me excited and took my mind far from mom. I had this high before and it sucks cuz you can be on stage and all this great energy is there, but then you have to go home all alone and don't know what to do. I knew it was going to be a long night. My gf left with her friends after a long good bye, telling me that all would be ok. Fortunately she surprised me by getting dropped off at my place and she was there for me when I got home. The next day we were able to go to the hospital together to get my mom and learn about the upcoming battle.

Within that year Obama would become Prez and hope would be lost on him and my mom passed in August.

Day of the Dead 09 was the third month anniversary of her passing. I went to the site where I scattered her ashes before going to be the MC for that year's SHG event. I was still in deep mourning. I fluctuated between relief for her passing and end of suffering, crying, numbness, heartbreak, loss, fear, anger etc and so forth. It was a lot. My gf and I had broken up a month or two before my mom passed, so I was dealing with this all by myself. I kept busy with work, and being asked to co-host the DoD event with Lalo Alcaraz helped to keep my mind busy during the first day of the dead without mom.

It was the first year SHG did DoD at the East LA civic. It was an awesome show. Eight thousand people came. I rented a mariachi suit and had my face painted. People took my picture anytime I left the backstage area. It was a long evening. By the time I was done around 11:30 p.m. my feet were killing me. The boots I wore were super pointy. I came home showered and just knocked out from exhaustion. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling not alone. I felt my mom's presence and fell back to sleep.

I didn't do an altar for my mom that year, nor this year. Last year, it was just three months since she passed and I was told that she was going to be near me for about a year checking in and also checking out Mictlan, getting her bearings. I did feel her around me a lot. When I needed to make decisions I could hear her voice telling me what to do. When I would get scared or lonely I would hear a noise and snap out of it, knowing it was her. This year I didn't do an altar for her because she didn't believe or practice such things.

My mom's mom, my grandma, Nana, passed five years ago. She lived in the same house as my parents. I would often ask my mom if she felt her mom near, and she would say "Always. Sometimes I can even hear her upstairs walking around." Both of them, my mom and grandma, were hard core Catholics. Church every Sunday until they were too sick to go anymore. They didn't do altars in the house or the cemetery, and hardly went to visit graves. They did believe and I helped them bless their house by dipping yerba buena in holy water, praying and sprinkling the corners of each room, but this Day of the Dead thing was me, from what I learned at SHG and school.

So I felt a little weird about doing an altar for my mom when she didn't practice it. My gf mentioned building an altar for our loved ones, but we never got around to it. It was a small relief. As is, I have a place where I keep my sacreds. Power stones, sage, cedar, candles, etc. I didn't know if we were just going to add some pics to this or build something entirely new. She left out of the country just before DoD this year. I would be doing another DoD alone.

The first night she was gone, I heard a lot of different noises in the house. I walked around checking windows and doors. We had gone to see "Paranormal Activity 2" a couple days before she left, so that was in the back of mind somewhat. We saw it at the Highland Theater for $3 with a bunch of young rocker types who talked and laughed through most of the movie, making it seem like a pretty lame 'horror' movie. Nonetheless here I was alone at home during the time of the year when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest. I poured out a shot of my good Cuban rum and put it where I keep my sacreds. The noises stopped and all was calm. A couple of days back I cooked for myself and made a taco that I placed next to the shot glass for any visitors. Maybe I'm on my way to making a proper altar.

This year SHG had Felipe Esparza, winner of the Last Comic Standing on NBC, a local BH homeboy that is getting his 15 minutes - to be the host of DoD. I was helping him and the bands backstage. It was another great show. I came home around midnight with that high. Sat down to calm my mind down, played some video game and before I knew it was 2 a.m. on a work night.

This year I didn't even have time to visit where I scattered my mom's ashes. I will go in the next couple of days. My dad has been out of town as well. Hopefully he can go with me when he gets back. Haven't heard from the gf since the morning of DoD; based on her fb she is having an amazing time. I feel my mom still pops in to check in on me, especially when I get scared and lonely. I know loss and death are something everyone goes through in their own way. My way, even as an only child is not unique by far. I did have a moment when a friend asked me if I meditated. I replied "As an only child, I think I have meditated my whole life. No one is there." I stopped myself, because there is always someone there. Or at least it makes me feel a little better to think that when I looked around and see no one is there, but I know someone is There.