Brothers for Life


One of the most moving and powerful moments in my life was watching councilman-elect and my best friend Daniel Penaloza being sworn in as the youngest council member in Porterville’s history yesterday. Seeing him up there in the dais, my mind went back to the experiences we’ve shared together. Sleeping in cars, road trips to Sacramento and LA when we would exchange ideas about organizing and politics, and the nervous chitters before speaking truth to power. Although this is new, it feels like it was always meant to be. - Benny Corona

I GOT INTO ONE OF THE BEST MASTERS PROGRAMS IN THE WORLD!


Well now I have a real decision to make. I will go to graduate school. It will happen. But will attend this year or next? I am finally in a stable period in my life where I have health insurance, life insurance, a vehicle, a livable wage, and living in a place that I love. But going back to live like a student now that I have a little taste of the good life?

My World of Unending Possibilities

I grew up in a world of unending possibility

Where everywhere I looked, looked like me. Never once have I’ve been struck by the sideways glance of another person’s doubt. My future paved by the strength of those who are like me. Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud, a flash of lighting, a break of the wave, belief in myself is instant.

I grew up in a world of unending possibility

Where raising my voice was to be a man. Where defending myself from the path of piercing arrows was considered having “balls”. And just like the hyenas mock the lioness before it strikes, never once was I laughed at for wanting to compete with boys.

I grew up in a world of unending possibility

Where I could walk home and not once be barked at by my kin. Where just like the vampires swarm as unwanted visitors onto the flesh, I can feel safe whenever I’m alone, and never do I expect the unwanted attention.

I grew up in a world of unending possibility

Where I was encouraged to be a strong boy. Where delicacy and sweetness is best served for the sissies. Where the opposite of strong was to be a “pussy”. Where being loud and defensive meant strength rather than “bitchy”.

I also grew up with a mother

Who taught me strength knows no gender

She swims against the current of Machismo legacy, where a generation of people are taught to learn their place. Where a positive thing is never said about you, where you are always teared down, where your dreams are forsaken. Where even today, in the campaigns some of the Mexican men still openly say “women shouldn’t be president”, and their only crime their womxness.

But strength knows no gender.

She is a force so strong that it can repulse any supernova, and the greatest strength her love.

What stories are we told about strength?

From having the two full-time jobs, to caring for all her strong men, while caring for herself. Although I believed it at some point, strength isn’t measured in our ability to cause pain.

I grew up in a world of unending possibility

I’ve learned a valuable lesson. We are in a man’s world, and we are the protagonists. But they are like gods that author us into the life of this world. - Benny Corona

Who Am I?

What is an immigrant?

This world does not belong to anyone,

Only God.
We are all its guests.

My own prosperity seems like an unexpected gift,

How or from whom I know not,

Yet not far from being a miracle.

Sometimes I feel like I am in a dream,

Yet I remain happy to be alive.

My existence is borrowed,

I thank those responsible,

And even if there was no one to thank,

I would still feel it appropriate to thank into the thin air.

What use is anything that I can do,

But what use is to not do anything at all?

It is our purpose to give to this world

Not to take from it.

The devil has fooled too many into the wealth of this world,

But the true wealth cannot be held or touched.

That which feeds our souls is what prepares us for the next world.

Truly we are not worthy for either.


Who am I?

Some say, I am not Mexican enough.

Some say, I am not an American.

I say,

You don’t define me,

I define me.

I am a farm worker,

And I am a scholar.

I am American

And I am Mexican.

I am Purepecha

And I am proud.

I am a worker of the San Joaquin Valley fields,

And I am a student of the University of California, Berkeley.

My president doesn’t love me,

But I love me.

My family is Libertarian.

My family is Liberal.

My family is Conservative.

My family hates politics.

I love my family.

I have seen my mother work the fields and I cried.

I have seen my mother become a business owner and I cried.

I have seen my father work the fields as an undocumented worker and I cried.

I have seen my father become a citizen and I cried.

We have both seen the Mexican National team lose, and we both cried.

I am the son of immigrants.

I am the son of Americans.

I am the son of Mexicans.

I am me. Benny Corona

I am me.

Snippet of a young farmworker

Snippet of a Young Farm Worker

It’s 4 am in the morning, the air is cold, and our little bodies are already shaking from the early morning breezes inside our home. There is no early morning heater in this home. It’s one of those homes they call “trailers”, the same one that I hide from my friends, the same one that is the reason I never have visitors; the same one that taught me about early childhood bullying. This home is damp and you can see your breath materialize when you cough, the same way when you and your friends pretend you are smoking with fingers touching against the sides of your lips. I dress quickly because I can already picture myself laying my head next to the car door window in the backseat. This way I get to sleep a little longer, I get to forget that I don’t have to pick oranges just yet. In the background you can hear your father start his early morning grumpy yells, and you better hurry lest you become the target of his early morning wrath.

I’m in the backseat with my brother and my dad starts the early morning radio. Le gusta escuchar “La Campesina y no mas” o “La Maquina Musical”. I believe this time it is la Maquina Musical; I can’t quite remember because I’m always asleep during this time.

The best part about arriving to the fields is that sometimes we get thirty minutes before work begins, this way we can sleep even longer in the backseat of the car; here I can keep dreaming about soccer, about watching anime, about living in Japan, about becoming rich one day, about never picking oranges again, about having a day-off from school where I don’t pick oranges.

Till this day, I don’t eat oranges. The very sight of them gets me nauseous. They remind me of breathing in dust, dirt, and pesticide particles from the trees and fields. They remind me of the misery. They remind me of times when I was ashamed of myself. They remind me of the times I would hide in public when I wore my work clothes. Oranges remind me of how my soul was slowly becoming storage for accumulating sorrows, evaporating hopes, ignored injustices, and broken promises.

But before I can stare at any orange for too long, I can already hear the yells of the people to notify us that it is time to work. I instinctively march towards the ladder trailer. I pick-up my fortress of metal and lay it on top of my right shoulder. I march towards the rising sun, there are other farm workers ahead of me, and the human bodies sporadically begin transforming and meshing into angels, and maybe they were there the whole time, maybe not. I can see in the background massive hills and mountain tops, an orange sky, and massive clouds. They are calling me forward, they are inviting me to heaven. But the heaven is a cruel lie. Instead in this early morning I get oranges. I get lambasted by my parents for not working hard enough. I get lambasted for being shy. I get lambasted for not knowing what to do. And all these fucking branches keep hitting against me. It is like a volcano inside my head and I grab that God damned orange and slam the shit out of it into the fucking ground. I slam my foot onto it repeatedly until all that is left are the juices and the protective coating of the orange. Fucking orange, fuck you, you fucking piece of shit!

But eventually, in those fields those oranges mesh into little treasures when we dig our arms in between those branches and their thorns, and they keep us going. We are like waves in the ocean, we are like the beat of the heart, our bodies having been reduced to motions, we are the streaming oils that fuel the machinery of the agricultural industry.

The second best part about arriving in the fields is when you leave. When you get to sit in the backseat of the car without your work gloves on. When you get to think about all the fun things you will do the rest of the day. When the rage leaves you and you can only help but to be relieved and hopeful.

When I get home I forget about what happened in the early morning. I forget about all the early mornings. I forget about school. I don’t even know that I have friends. I forget about the fun things. I don’t even know what the world looks like. I just lay in the tiny bed. I close my eyes, and my dreams start coming back to me again. Eventually I fall deep into them, and my world, in this Earth, finally ends. - Benny Corona

Just Mercy Review

In what is the most moving book I have ever read, Bryan Stevenson exposes readers to the harsh reality that the “opposite of poverty is not wealth, the opposite of poverty is justice”. As a Harvard educated lawyer, Stevenson has dedicated his life to protecting and defending the poor. In a powerfully written anecdote, readers learn that Stevenson easily became the victim of a power structure that treats races differently; benefiting some and severely oppressing others. 1 in 3 black males is expected to end up in jail or prison. The majority of people on death row are men of color, and practically all are poor. Most of them cannot afford legal representation, and tragically, without legal assistance, whether innocent or not, avoiding execution becomes a near impossibility. In this country we don’t execute murderers through our justice system, we execute the poor. This book is an absolute necessity to anyone considering law school. It is equally important, dare I say, to every American. Racism and segregation is alive, it manifests in the justice system, it manifests in mass incarceration, and it manifests in laws.
The stories told inside this book have given me a new-found appreciation for life.

Although seduced like any other by the lure of cursing at the circumstances of my life, I am reminded that existence is inherently beautiful. Existence is a worthy enough reason to struggle in all your struggles. For some of us, it may take learning about men on death row and how they desperately fight to draw breathe on this Earth, to appreciate our lives.

As humans, I think we feel the need to ‘soften’ peoples’ suffering. Men on death row find that just before they are executed, they get the entire world wanting to “help them”. Is there anything I can do for you? But where are all these people when you really need them? “Where were all these helpful people when Herbert was three and his mother died? Where were they when he was seven and trying to recover from physical abuse? Where were they when he was a young teen struggling with drugs and alcohol? Where were they when he returned from Vietnam traumatized and disabled?”, Stevenson writes with disdain about Herbert, one of the many in death row he represents. This phenomenon reminds me to offer my assistance, help, love, whatever it is to anyone whether the offering – on the surface – appears needed or not.

Although these are maddening realities, Stevenson inspiringly reminds us “that there is light within this darkness” and that “each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done”. This book is a reminder that through mercy we find salvation from the evil and pain that surrounds us. Infuriating, saddening, but ultimately inspiring. - benny corona

Worthy Immigrants

My Mother and I

 

She told my brother and I about how our cousins’ dad was deported. They had to move to Mexico afterwards so they could live with their dad. Their mom took them out of school. One was in middle-school with the big kids and he never got to perform his play he was always practicing for. The other did not seem to like school, he was always quiet and never really played with anyone during recess. I would watch him from afar in the playground. I was a lot like him. Always alone, and never talked. When our cousins came to visit us from Mexico, they would tell us about how you have to learn to fight because all the kids want to fight you because we’re gringos. Over there everyone fights.

She also told my brother and I about how they wanted to deport her sister. How everyone in the family is scared. I wondered why now they talk about lawyers and why the police wants to deport her. She told us my aunt crossed the border through the desert. She tells us about how everyone in our family crossed the border through the desert, how bad it can be, how it is the worst thing in the world, how people die, how she was pregnant with me when it was her turn, how she wanted me to be an American, how my dad wanted me to be born in Mexico, how she had to disobey him.

A few months later, she told my brother and I about how she is trying to become a permanent resident. My dad is a legal resident now so he can help her. She says that she will pray that they don’t try to deport her. I and my brother become worried. Are we going to have to go to Mexico like our cousins and fight with all the kids? She told us not to worry, she is getting a lawyer that will help her.

Sometime later, she told my brother and I that we get to skip school. The whole family is going to San Francisco. The lawyer and the judge are going to be there. She told me to take my terrific kid award the school gave me for being a good student. It will help convince the judge to let her stay in the United States. I and my brother are worried. For some reason, this made me think that all the responsibility rests on my shoulders. She says with her motherly tone, “todo va estar bien, Benny”. We finally get to San Francisco and by God it is amazing. I have never been to a city. There are a lot of people in San Francisco. There is a lot of people jogging, and I have never seen the ocean so close. This is our first vacation. I love San Francisco. My brother and I ask my dad if we can move here please. He told us maybe when we’re older.

We walked to a building that looked like an arrow pointing to the sky. We thought the elevator must be huge, and I and my brother love elevators. We like to pretend we’re levitating. When we jump, time lapses and we take flight, we glide forever; there is joy in our faces because this is what we were always meant to do.

What I can remember is walking into a room with rows of seats like the ones in church. They are wooden and we sit behind my mom and the lawyer. The judge is facing all of us and there is a man in a suit on the other side of my mom and the lawyer. I sit down next to my brother with my terrific kid award in my hands as they begin tremble. Reality sinks in, and I hope that the judge is one of the nice ones. I am not sure if this will be enough. Panic-stricken, I remember not to cry because I don’t want to get my mom into trouble or make the judge angry. In church the wooden seats have cushions in the bottom where people kneel to pray. I don’t want the judge to see my face. If only these seats had the cushions, I could kneel like I do in church and sink my face into my hands and talk to God with my thoughts. The whole time I remember, trembling hands, and staring into my terrific kid award. The whole thing must’ve only lasted five minutes. Eventually I see my mom smile. She hugs the lawyer. The judge says congratulations. I get excited and think this must be good news! I ask my mom energetically, and she says she gets to stay. And this is what true joy feels like. The room is filled with beautiful transparent sparks and smiles galore. Silent tears river down my cheeks as mom squeezes her children. They never told me to show the judge my terrific kid award. I give it to my mom. She gives it to the judge. The judge’s mouth widens into a smile, and then the blond lady in the black robe and glasses says to me, “well, we do need more terrific kids”

Folks

Well the compliment I can think of for myself now
is somehow finding hope even when it feels really hopeless
besides also having folks reach out and support me
since no one is ever doing stuff alone
it’s about interdependency

Unbelievable Belief

When I was growing up, I had a hard time believing in myself. I am not sure why. I think it had a lot to do with my parents telling me ‘no’ all the time. When I disagreed with anything, it was grounds for punishments and immediately I am led to believe I am wrong. As I grew older, I allowed other people telling me no to hinder my belief in myself. I guess I didn’t believe in myself because I was scared if I did, someone would tell me no.

This is not a problem for me anymore. I learned to not let other people’s opinion of me become my reality. I do believe in myself, and as I say, I have an unreasonable, unbelievable belief in myself. <3