Character Sketch of Frank Barnes by Zakery R. Muñoz

Brother Barnes

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My Mexican friends are upset. San Marcos turned to Zinc town New Mexico, New Mexico not Old Mexico. The United States came through and took all of this land from my Mexican friends. Lines moved across the sand, but the people stayed the same. I wasn’t here for it. I didn’t see any of the conflict. Imagine, coming into a movie that was half past its climax. That’s me in the mining town. My name is Barnes, but my friends call me Brother Barnes, to be clear. Or sometimes they just call me “the Anglo”. I’m the Anglo of the group sent down from International. The Mexicans here, they aren’t treated the same as us Anglos. They have no safety codes, no nada as they say. Safety contracts have been signed in other mining districts, but not here. Not the district where the old Mexicans have become “new” but aren’t treated like new Mexicans, Nuevomexicanos. They want equality with the other workers. Not special treatment. But equality is something the bosses can’t afford. They tell the white miners when they become angry, “hey, at least your better off than the Mexican.” This keeps them straight. This wises them up. One man speaks for them all. His name is Ramon. I think I should help this man stand up to the company and support his strike. But I am an Anglo in a New Mexican world. While I have better mining conditions than my brothers, I have no more power than they do. Anglos, Mexicans, it doesn’t matter in the eyes of capital. We are all capital, here.  

 

A man was hurt in the mines; he’ll probably die. He was a Mexican, of course. Ramon got fired up and pushed the foreman. He blamed it on ignorance, but the man died. There is not as much safety for the Mexicans. I watched the whole thing, and the foreman is white and so is his boss, and his bosses boss, and what am I here? A translator? They put me in this camp to keep things under control to keep them oppressed. They don’t work for me, I tell them! I work for them. I will stand beside them. They don’t teach this stuff where I’m from in the East, of course we don’t call it the East in the East – but the West is always the West no matter where you are. They don’t teach this part of history. When they told me that I was going to be reassigned, I was scared. What’s a white man going to do in the mines with a bunch of Mexicans? But they have accepted me into their homes and into their hearts. We play cards. They need a liaison.  I did not sign up for this. But I will stand for them and with them against the machine of oppression. My wife calls me the worst of the lot for not supporting the women in union meeting. If the issue is equality shouldn’t there be equality for all? Although they accept me into their lives, I cannot be the first to speak. They must speak first for themselves, only then can I support them. I’m the organizer, and I’ve got good ideas. But the Mexicans are still suspect of me. Ramon in particular because of who I am. He just lumps me together with the rest of them. White workers, white bosses, it doesn’t matter we are all just white to him. I’ve got too much to learn about their culture, and I’m not sure I ever will be able to fully empathize. I’m not sure anyone can. 

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