Young Women United and Media Literacy Project have been collecting stories from across New Mexico about what makes New Mexican families strong. Their efforts are a part of the Strong Families initiative, a 10-year national initiative to change the way people think, feel and act in support of families. David Martinez, a native of Española shares his story.
For generations, New Mexico has been the home of many strong and flourishing queer families. Unfortunately, national and state media coverage of these families are few and far between. Instead, were inundated with stories of discrimination and narrow-mindedness that portrays our state as one that is hostile toward queer families and individuals.
But amongst these stories are those of love and acceptance, not only from family members, but also from the communities at large. My family and the community of Española are the beginning of such a story – my story.
My earliest memories revolve around playing “housie” with my sister, and dressing up in my moms’ baby blue chiffon dress as Cinderella when we would travel up north to visit my grandfather in El Rito.
My sister had gotten a walking Chrissy doll one Christmas, and even though I had also gotten a Marvel the Marvelous Mustang horse, I wanted a Chrissy doll as well, so at the urging or my mother, and against my fathers’ wishes, I soon was the proud owner of such a doll!
Oh, did I fail to mention my parents were in their early 40s and very traditional northern Nuevo Mejicanos, which meant traditional Chicano family values, a large, tight-knit family – both immediate and extended – and staunch religious beliefs.
Middle school was the time when I began to form friendships and social circles that to this day have remained strong. I quickly got involved in choir and the drama club and somehow found my niche amongst what others considered weird and, yes, queer.
When high school came around, I had acquired a bunch of good attributes as well as some nasty habits, including playing hooky, and found myself enrolling in an alternative school for “troubled” kids. It was there where, again, I found a kinship with these kids who embraced me as well. And yet, still, my father’s and mother’s unconditional love was the one constant in my life.
From that love is where I began to grow into the man I have become today. Not that I have attained any type of perfection, but within all the contradictions in my life, love is from where I choose to operate.
My father passed away in January 2005, and even though we never really sat down and discussed my sexuality – because, of course, those things were never spoken about – in his last minutes of life, I promised to make him proud of me and take care of my mama and sisters, thus making me the “man” of the house. He approved, and shortly after that one-sided conversation, went peacefully.
In later conversations with my sisters, they told me he had told them that he was proud of me and hoped that I would find all the happiness in the world, with whoever it was.
From the small farming community of Canjilon, filled with Catholic ritual and brotherhood, to the “bustling” town of Española, where he worked as a door greeter at Walmart and never gave up the opportunity to introduce me as his son to his old hometown buddies, my father, with all his ideas and notions, came to terms with his son. It was never a question of acceptance as much as it was a gift of unconditional love.
Española, with all its beautiful landscape, culture and even controversial reputations, is indeed home. You, my beautiful valley, like myself, are comfortable in your own skin. You have been ridiculed by some, loved by more and proud to be who you are. You have nurtured me, made me laugh, caused me pain, but indeed you have fed my soul.
It is important, now more than ever, that we remind our country that New Mexico understands that love does make a family. We are standing against such searing stereotypes of rural New Mexico as backwards and conservative, as well as legislation that does not reflect our states’ commitment to strong, healthy families.
My name is David Martinez and I am proud to be brown, queer and from rural New Mexico. Que viva mi querido Norte, que viva mi raza bonita, y que viva la familia fuerte!
David Martinez is a Chicano, born and raised in Española, where he lives as a hairdresser and poet.