I took her on Thursday morning from what can only be called the barrio in southwest Denver, to the campus of the University of Colorado at Denver. It was a 13 mile ride and I learned something each and every mile. I can only write this out of my own experience, in that I was born a privileged white guy in Pueblo, Colorado. Pueblo has been 50% Hispanic for 100 years. My graduating class of 545 had 18 graduates whose last name was Martinez. I spent 23 years of my life living there. I also spent 11 years living in the San Luis Valley, which has a marvelous, complex combination of cultures with Spanish surnames. My son is married to Melania, whose family brings the rich heritage of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, along with Chickaree Apache, into our family tree. So when I picked Angelica up near a bus stop and she hopped in my car, her life and story was not one that was completely unfamiliar to me.
I asked her what she was studying in college and she told me criminal justice. I asked her what she planned to do with her degree when she graduates next May. “I’m going to apply to get into the police academy. I truly want to become a cop. Way more than half my family are gang bangers and I’m sick and tired of seeing what wasted lives looks like”. We began one of the more amazing conversations I’ve had with anybody in this red car in some time. Without any prompting she began to tell me her story. In many ways I think she’s lucky to be alive, let alone as resilient and driven as you can imagine. “Last year when my uncle got out of prison, one night he had been drinking and began to harass me. He was making fun of me for my desire to become a cop. Then he began to put his hands on me and I told him if he didn’t stop I would drop him. He didn’t stop – guess what? I put him right on the floor just like I learned in my self-defense classes. I told him he needed to grow up and quit being a victim, become a real man and not some poser”.
We had another few minutes where she said things like “I want to give my life to things worthy of my life”. Today is Saturday and I have given rides to at least five more amazing women. Any one of them would be worthy of a story. Okay, I confess, I have very little hope that men will turn this mess around. However, I continue to be moved by the courage and honesty of women.
Onward and Upward,