Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, "I Am Joaquin"

Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales was born on June 18, 1928, in Denver, Colorado. He grew up in a difficult neighborhood, raised with his five brothers and sisters by his father. Gonzales claims that these circumstances taught him early the importance of defending himself. He became interested in boxing in 1943, but did not compete until after World War It. He was quite successful in competition, with a record of sixty-five wins, nine losses, and one draw. In addition to competing as a boxer, he was a bail bondsman and the owner of "Corky's Corner"-a bar where he became an advisor to barrio people who needed his counsel. Around 1957, Gonzales became the first Mexican-American district captain for the Democratic Party in Denver. In 1959, he financed Viva, the first barrio newspaper in Denver. Soon after, he served as the Colorado coordinator of the Viva Kennedy presidential campaign and the chairman of the city's antipoverty program, as well as a general agent for Summit Fidelity and Surety Company of Colorado.

Los Voluntarios (The Volunteers), a politically activist unit formed to protect Chicano youth from the abuses of the system-particularly the police, was founded by Gonzales in 1963. It was funded by the government's Office of Economic Opportunity and provided low-income youth with employment. Gonzales continued his work for the inner-city youth of Denver, serving on the boards of a number of social service commissions, until 1966, when he was accused of discriminating against blacks and whites in favor of Chicanos. He responded by founding the Crusade for justice and developing a program that would allow for the Mexicanization of Chicano culture and the political Americanization of his people. He went on to produce a manifesto called the "Plan of the Barrio," adopting the concept of Aztlan to identify Chicanos with their Mexican Indian heritage.

In 1972 Gonzales published I Am Joaquin/Yo soy Joaquin, an epic poem that some describe as a social document rather than art. The poem, however, is very much appreciated by Chicanos, because it provided the revolutionary movement with a very succinct statement of Chicano nationalism and ideology. The following selection, in effect, served as a battle cry to the Chicano movement and implied an invitation to rebel. 

I Am Joaquin: an Epic Poem
I am Joaquin
Lost in a world of confusion,
Caught up in a whirl of a
     gringo society,
Confused by the rules,
Scorned by attitudes,
Suppressed by manipulations,
And destroyed by modern society.
My fathers
have lost the economic battle
and won
the struggle of cultural survival.
And now!
I must choose
Between the paradox of
Victory of the spirit,
despite physical hunger
 to exist in the grasp
of American social neurosis,
sterilization of the soul
 and a full stomach.
I have come a long way to nowhere,
Unwillingly dragged by that
 monstrous, technical
 Industrial giant called
and Anglo success…
 I look at myself.
   I watch my brothers. 
    I shed tears of sorrow.
     I sow seeds of hate.
 I withdraw to the safety within the
circle of life…
I am Cuauhtémoc,
Proud and Noble
    Leader of men,
King of an empire,
civilized beyond the dreams
of the Gachupin Cortez.
Who is also the blood,
    the image of myself.
I am the Maya Prince.
I am Nezahualcóyotl,
Great leader of the Chichimecas.
I am the sword and flame of Cortez
                                 the despot.
I am the Eagle and Serpent of the
                        Aztec civilization.
I owned the land as far as the eye
could see under the crown of Spain,
and I toiled on my earth
and gave my Indian sweat and blood
    for the Spanish master,
Who ruled with tyranny over man and
beast and all that he could trample
I was both tyrant and slave.
As Christian church took its place
in God's good name,
to take and use my Virgin Strength and
            Trusting faith, 
The priests
    both good and bad
  gave a lasting truth that
Were all God's children
  from these words grew men
        who prayed and fought
 their own worth as human beings,
            GOLDEN MOMENT
I was part in blood and spirit
 of that
        courageous village priest
in the year eighteen hundred and ten
who rang the bell of independence
and gave out that lasting cry:
 "El Grito de Dolores, Que mueran
 los Guachupines y que viva
 la Virgen de Guadalupe. ..”
I sentenced him
                    who was me.
I excommunicated him my blood.
I drove him from the pulpit to lead
 a bloody revolution for him and me...
            I killed him.
His head,
  which is mine and all of those
  who have come this way,
I placed on that fortress wall
  to wait for independence,
All Companeros in the act,
to feel the hot gouge of lead
   which my hand made.
I died with them...
 I lived with them
   I lived to see our country free.
from Spanish rule in
        Mexico was free??
The crown was gone
all his parasites remained
            and ruled
            and taught
 with gun and flame and mystic power.
I worked,
I sweated,
I bled,
I prayed
waited silently for life to again
I fought and died
  Don Benito Juárez
Guardian of the Constitution. 
I was him
     on dusty roads
            on barren land
as he protected his archives
 as Moses did his sacraments.
He held his Mexico
            in his hand
            the most desolate
             and remote ground
             which was his country,
And this Giant
        Little Zapotec
 not one palm's breath
of his country to
 Kings or Monarchs or Presidents
of foreign powers.
I am Joaquin.
I rode with Pancho Villa,
 crude and warm.
A tornado at full strength,
nourished and inspired
 by the passion and the fire
 of all his earthy people.
I am Emiliano Zapata.
"This Land
        This Earth
The Villages
   The Mountains
     The Streams
       belong to the Zapatistas.
            Our Life
Or yours
is the only trade for soft brown earth
and maize.
All of which is our reward,
A creed that formed a constitution
  for all who dare live free!
"this land is ours…
    Father, I give it back to you.
        Mexico must be free. . ."
I ride with Revolutionists
                      against myself.
I am Rural
    Coarse and brutal,
I am the mountain Indian,
    superior over all.
The thundering hoofbeats are my horses.
The chattering of machine guns
  is death to all of me:
I have been the Bloody Revolution,
The Victor,
The Vanquished,
I have killed
  and been killed.
       I am despots Diaz
       and Huerta
 and the apostle of democracy
        Francisco Madero
I am
the black shawled
faithful women
who die with me
or live
depending on the time and place.
I am
       Juan Diego
       the Virgin de Guadalupe
Tonantzin, Aztec Goddess too.
I rode the mountains of San Joaquin.
I rode as far East and North
    as the Rocky Mountains
all men feared the guns of
Joaquin Murrieta.
I killed those men who dared
 to steal my mine,
 who raped and Killed
                 my love
                 my Wife
I Killed to stay alive.
I was Alfego Baca,
 living my nine lives fully.
I was the Espinosa brothers
 of the Valle de San Luis
were added to the number of heads
 in the name of civilization
were placed on the wall of independence.
Heads of brave men
who died for cause and principle.
Good or Bad.
Hidalgo! Zapata!
Murrieta! Espinosa!
are but a few. 
dared to face
The force of tyranny
                        of men
                        who rule
By farce and hypocrisy
I stand here looking back,
and now I see
            the present
and still
    I am the campesino
    I am the fat political coyote
of the same name,
In a country that has wiped out
all my history,
            stifled all my pride.
In a country that has placed a
different weight of indignity upon
burdened back.
is the new load…
 The Indian has endured and still
emerged the winner,
The Mestizo must yet overcome,
 And the Gauchupin we'll just ignore.
I look at myself
and see part of me
who rejects my father and my mother
and dissolves into the melting pot
 to disappear in shame.
  I sometimes 
sell my brother out
and reclaim him
for my own, when society gives me
 token leadership
          in society's own name.
I am Joaquin,
who bleeds in many ways.
The altars of Moctezuma
            I stained a bloody red.
 My back of Indian slavery
            was stripped crimson
  from the whips of masters
  who would lose their blood so pure
  when Revolution made them pay
Standing against the walls of
     Has flowed from
on every battlefield
Campesino, Hacendado
  Slave and Master
I jumped from the tower of Chapultepec
  into the sea of fame;
My country's flag
   my burial shroud;
With Los Ninos,
whose pride and courage
could not surrender
        with indignity
          their country's flag
To strangers ... in their land.
 I bleed in some smelly cell
 from club,
 or gun,
 or tyranny,
I bleed as the vicious gloves of hunger
 cut my face and eyes,
as I fight my way from stinking Barrios
 to the glamour of the Ring
  and lights of fame
   or mutilated sorrow.
My blood runs pure on the ice caked
hills of the Alaskan Isles,
on the corpse strewn beach of Normandy,
the foreign land of Korea
                                and now
Here I stand
before the court of Justice
for all the glory of my Raza
               to be sentenced to despair.
Here I stand
         Poor in money
Arrogant with pride
         Bold with Machismo
         Rich in courage
    Wealthy in spirit and faith.
My knees are caked with mud.
My hands calloused from the hoe.
I have made the Anglo rich
Equality is but a word,
  the Treaty of Hidalgo has been broken
 and is but another treacherous promise.
My land is lost
            and stolen,
My culture has been raped,
                    I lengthen
  the line at the welfare door
and fill the jails with crime.
These then
are the rewards
       this society has
For sons of Chiefs
               and Kings
               and bloody Revolutionists.
gave a foreign people
            all their skills and ingenuity
to pave the way with Brains and Blood
those hordes of Gold starved
changed our language
and plagiarized our deeds
                       as feats of valor
                       of their own.
They frowned upon our way of life
 and took what they could use.
               Our Art
               Our Literature
               Our Music, they ignored
so they left the real things of value
and grabbed at their own destruction
                   by their Greed and Avarice
They overlooked that cleansing fountain of
           nature and brotherhood
Which is Joaquin.
The art of our great señores
             Diego Rivera
             Orozco is but
another act of revolution for
the Salvation of mankind.
   Mariachi music, the
   heart and soul
   of the people of the earth,
   the life of child,
   and the happiness of love.
   The Corridos tell the tales
   of life and death,
                of tradition,
   Legends old and new,
   of Joy
    of passion and sorrow
   of the people... who I am.
I am in the eyes of woman,
            sheltered beneath
her shawl of black,
            deep and sorrowful
That bear the pain of sons long buried
            or dying,
on the battlefield or on the barbed wire
            of social strife.
Her rosary she prays and fingers
    like the family
working down a row of beets
       to turn around
       and work
       and work
     There is no end.
Her eyes a mirror of all the warmth
       and all the love for me,
And I am her
And she is me.
    We face life together in sorrow,
    anger, joy, faith and wishful
I shed tears of anguish
as I see my children disappear
behind a shroud of mediocrity
never to look back to remember me.
I am Joaquin.
        I must fight
        And win this struggle
        for my sons, and they
        must know from me
        Who I am.
Part of the blood that runs deep in me
Could not be vanquished by the Moors.
I defeated them after five hundred years,
and I endured.
    The part of blood that is mine
    has labored endlessly five-hundred years
    under the heel of lustful
I am still here!
I have endured in the rugged mountains
 of our country.
I have survived the toils and slavery
 of the fields.
I have existed
in the barrios of the city,
in the suburbs of bigotry,
in the mines of social snobbery,
in the prisons of dejection,
in the muck of exploitation
in the fierce heat of racial hatred.
And now the trumpet sounds,
The music of the people stirs the
Like a sleeping giant it slowly
rears its head
to the sound of
Tramping feet
       Clamoring voices
     Mariachi strains
    Fiery tequila explosions
   The smell of chile verde and
 Soft brown eyes of expectation for a
                                        better life.
And in all the fertile farm lands,
                                the barren plains,
the mountain villages,
smoke smeared cities
            We start to MOVE.
  La Raza!
or whatever I call myself,
I look the same
I feel the same
I Cry
Sing the same
I am the masses of my people and
I refuse to be absorbed.
            I am Joaquin
The odds are great
but my spirit is strong
               My faith unbreakable
               My blood is pure
I am Aztec Prince and Christian Christ
            I SHALL ENDURE!
            I WILL ENDURE!