Illegal Letters by Patrick Fontes

Boisterous laughter rose up from a dozen kids as a brilliant orange sky cast festive, glowing hues down onto the party. Lupita’s cousin Mari twirled her around in circles attempting to disorientate her—both laughed with their hearts. Lupita stopped, her legs firm but her body felt like it was still moving. Dizzied, she flexed her calves, stood her ground, and raised her face towards the warmth of the hidden sun. Giggles, coughs and throat whistles from her cousins and close friends echoed around the enclosed patio.

All her life she dreamed of this day, of becoming a state licensed Cuerpo, strong, fit—respected by both La Gente and El Gentry for contributing to a working society. “Your body is the temple,” since birth, Lupita heard from the Ministry broadcast every morning.

She didn’t want to be like her Tio Jesse who failed to receive certification, and who now lives in a Wastelands’ shack in the Firebaugh sector. Her mom once took her to visit Tio Jesse. The Ministry didn’t place air purifiers in that sector. Lupita remembered the atmosphere so thick that she used up one “breather” that day--breathers lasted at least a month. Jesse lived in a community of makeshift wooden shacks. Inside his small home Lupita recalled a fire pit and a bed made out discarded Ministry cardboard. A plastic crate with a few tattered books contained all that he owned. Sandra, her mother, said Jesse was a poet, a crazy rebel who played with useless words that only brought misery to his life. To society, and his family, Uncle Jessie was a wheezer, an outcast, unfit to serve the Ministry as one of the respected Cuerpos.

“Mija, come here,” Jesse motioned to nine-year-old Lupita. His raspy voice muffled beneath a set of soiled rags tied about his lower face. Even though only in his late 30s, Jessie’s skin was weathered like an old boot, his reddish eyes with hints of yellow at the edges testified to a couple decades in the Wastelands.

“Look at this Lupita, open it,” Tio Jessie handed her a tattered book.

“Don’t go filling her head with any of your nonsense Jessie, do you want her to end up like you, pendejo? Living here alone with nothing but wheezers for friends?”  
Jessie looked away with a pained expression.

“Here, I brought a breather for you,” Sandra handed him a device.
“What, no flavors?” he tried to joke as he coughed. Sandra laughed, the plastic mouthpiece fogged up.

“Does she know her letters?” he forced words out through a bloodied throat, then coughed. His face turned red. He spat blood onto the dusty floor.

Lupita gasped.

“No! I’m raising my kids the right way. One day she’ll be a Cuerpo, like me, like Pop and Ma—letters are not for our people,” Sandra pleaded with her brother, recalling their youth when she attempted to sway him to reason. “Jesse, remember, the nursery song Ma sang to us at night? Sandra’s muffled voice fluttered in eerie motherly fashion. Broken slats in the walls let in rays of red light illuminating dusty air, “My children, mis hijos, tools for la gente, and books for el gentry. Strong eyes, strong arms, strong hearts. We are all a part.”

Sandra had taken Lupita to visit Jessie in order to make an impression on her, and it did. Ever since that day, Lupita’s sole goal was to receive Cuerpo certification and live a respectable life in the East Quadrant, Fresno Sector.

For the last few years Lupita kept a disciplined daily routine, as suggested by the Ministry of Duo-Freedoms. Every morning on the screen her workout regiment appeared for her to follow. Laying on her weight bench, building biceps and forearms for lifting, she would get lost in the colorful sky above her enclosed patio. Deep red, purple, yellow and green clouds swirled about, constantly painting the air in new color variations. The Ministry’s air purifiers along the street allowed Gente to see as far away as a couple of blocks, without them each home would be lost in its own deep orange cloud. Lupita and all Gente knew how toxic the air was; each day brought about new deaths from the wheezer colonies, yet to Lupita, in those moments, the fatal air was something beautiful, a horizon reaching out to her with new possibilities and hopes.

Lupita stood firm, balanced, as the other kids yelled, “hit that piñata!”

“Come on Lupita!” “Wow, look at those muscles!” a few teased. With biceps taught, a grin appeared on Lupita’s face as she cocked back her arms and swung with all her might. She wanted to prove how strong she was on this special day, her Quinceanera. Blind folded, with an old broom handle firmly gripped, she landed a blow to the piñata that sent candy flying in every direction, even bouncing off the ceiling of the hard plastic interior of their patio.

“Don’t throw the stick Mija!” Lupita’s mom Sandra yelled.
While the candy was still flying about in midair Lupita hurriedly ripped away her blind fold and jumped into the mob of children greedily vying for candy and sweet air pills.

Sandra and the few other moms present tried to keep their children calm. Too much excitement might bring about uncontrollable coughing that lasted for hours, or even worse, wheezing that lasted for days, even weeks.
After the mad rush for candy the children sat down breathing heavily into their devices.
“Aw cool look what I got!” shouted Louie, Lupita’s stout ten-year old cousin.

    A ring tone shot out from the living room. “Lupita! Lupe! Everyone,” called Sandra, “The Ministry is calling, hurry.” The kids grabbed their goodies and ran into the living room surrounding the holographic projection stage atop a coffee table.

“Ok, ma, answer the call,” Lupita said nervously to her mom. The room was completely silent. Only the deep droning sound of the air purifiers in the street could be heard--their sound was constant. A Ministry spokeswoman appeared atop the hologram receiver plate. “Whoa a Gentry,” one of Lupita’s younger cousins blurted out, much to her embarrassment. He’d seen Gentry only one other time in holographic form. Lupita nudged him to shut up. “Lupita, on behalf of the Ministry of Duo-Freedoms I would like to congratulate you on your Quinceañera celebration.” Lupita and Sandra held their breath for more news. “I also bring great news to you. We recognize your hard work on developing a strong, fit body that will serve society well. You passed your test for Cuerpo certification. You are now an adult, with all the benefits the Ministry grants Cuerpos. We shall see you and your mother in San Francisco tomorrow. Travel well.”

“How come she didn’t have any muscles?” asked the younger cousin
“She is Gentry. Gentry are skinny and weak in the body,” Lupita said, “Not like us, we are strong,” she flexed her biceps.
“Without our strength Gentry couldn’t survive.” Lupita said to a captive audience.

Overcome with pride, Sandra stared at her grown daughter from the kitchen. Sandra looked down at her own forearms and biceps, flexing her muscles as hard as she could so that her veins popped out. At thirty-two years old, Sandra’s biceps still measured at fifteen inches of hard muscle. She looked down over her shoulder to her calves, the size of footballs. Sandra looked back again at Lupita’s young, fit body. She was relieved that Lupita was now carrying on the family legacy of hard-working, strong Cuerpos.

“Lupita, I forgot to get a candle for your cake. Go to the Ministry pantry to pick one up?” Sandra asked. “My ration card is in my worker’s bag.”

Lupita took off her indoor breathing unit and put on her outdoor air mask. The mask covered her whole face, from her eyes down to her chin. She placed a cherry flavored air pill into the mask receptacle. Lupita took a deep breath; she thought about San Francisco, the clean air she only had heard about. With eyes closed, Lupita imaged the sweet air of the city.

Lupita stepped outside. The painted atmosphere felt like a warm napkin caressing her skin. Looking back at her home, she wondered at her future. Her future was predictable, practical, yet there remained an inarticulate longing in her stomach for something more. Lupita could not describe the feeling in her gut. She tried to describe it to her mom recently, “It’s like if you’re caught outside without a breather on a toxic day, you keep gasping for more, deeper and harder, yet there’s no oxygen to satisfy you. Then fear hits. That’s how I feel mom, inside. I don’t know why I feel this way.” Lupita hung her head. Sandra made the sign of the cross, said a quick prayer to St. Chavez and hoped Lupita’s feeling would go quickly leave.

Her single-family unit, built for one parent and one child, was twenty feet wide and twenty feet from the street to the back. Within that small space was a kitchen, a living room that served mostly as a Ministry hologram space, and a bedroom that her and Sandra shared. The concrete floor of the enclosed patio made the space an unbearable, toxic oven during the summer heat waves from February to October, when temperatures outside rose to 125 Fahrenheit by late March, dropping down to the 80s only in late October.

    Lupita walked past several identical dwelling units. The streets were barren—the Ministry issued a warning alert for the Central Valley atmosphere that morning. Gente stayed inside, behind sealed doors, watching Ministry hologram documentaries on the history of worker’s rights or the benevolence of Ministry paternalism toward Cuerpos. Lupita tired of those documentaries long ago. She wanted to know more about society, but she didn’t know what questions to ask—she had a constant blunt pain in her stomach, like the sensation of homesickness.

    After a minute of walking, Lupita’s summer jumpsuit was covered in fine, orange dust. She clapped her hands, sending a cloud of luminescent particles back into the atmosphere.  The silhouettes of two towering, neighborhood air purifiers came into view; approaching, the air became clearer, their humming, sonorous. Four, large vacuum ducts on each machine sucked in grimy air, letting out purified oxygen through massive wind turbines fifty feet above. Lupita stood in front of the machines, letting the deep humming vibrate her body as she watched in wonder at the swirling colors where the fresh air was released back into the environment. On the underside of the machines red letters said something, Lupita didn’t know what—she was bothered by not knowing. When she was a little girl she would lie on her back and stare at the letters. She never told her mom. It was forbidden for Gente to know the letters. Punishment for understanding letters meant banishment to the Wastelands without any Ministry aid: no unit, no food, no breathers, no Ministry credits, nothing but a savage existence, short lived.

A group of wheezers sprawled out in front of the Ministry pantry begging for credits and breathers. In their mid to late twenties, living such a harsh life made them appear to be in their forties. Dressed in shredded clothes and rags, only their hands and faces were visible. Their skin had deep furrows, bleeding in parts where the skin became so dried, it cracked open, like the parched ground Lupita once saw around her uncle’s shack in the Firebaugh Wastelands. As Lupita passed the group one of the men called out in a rough voice, “Ah, a Quinceañera, wow,” he spat out blood onto the pavement, “happy adulthood.” How did he know? Lupita thought to herself. The man could see the confusion in Lupita’s face. “Don’t worry, I’m not a mind reader, I’m not that far gone yet” he laughed, then gagged for several seconds, “You’re Lupita right? You’re pretty famous in the East quadrant, your strength is legendary already,” he let out a raspy guffaw along with the other wheezers. They all began to gasp for air, a couple clasping their throats, with faces turned red. Lupita hurried into the Ministry Pantry, once inside she could still hear them choking outside.

While paying for her candle, Ministry sirens screamed across Fresno’s smog-kissed landscape. The noise warned of life threatening air levels. The sirens came alive several times a year, while acid rains killed off sickly, homeless wheezers. Anyone outside quickly made his or her way home, less their skin burn within the poisonous environment. The sirens didn’t bother Lupita. She remained overjoyed at passing her qualifications for Cuerpo certification.

“Lupita, you better run home Mija, the blood rains come.” Old Manuel, the Ministry attendant warned Lupita, his wizened white hair shrouded a weather-beaten face. He still wore the old-style metal breathers from half a century ago. “This was my mom’s breather, it’s all I have left of her, I just clip off a bit of the new filters and it’s just as good as new.” He would say to kids who saw him for the first time. “Of course I ain’t got no sweet air pill slots but I’m old school, I don’t need none of that, just fresh air for me, Ma’am.” He handed Lupita her candle, “Now hurry home Lupita, and Happy Quinceañera! Say hi to Frisco for me, I once left my heart there.” As Lupita left into a darkening neighborhood, Old Manuel took out an ancient record, placed it on a turntable and began to dance in place.” The twentieth-century hit My Girl followed Lupita out the door.
    Outside, Lupita noticed the group of homeless wheezers had turned their cart upside down and placed it against the pantry wall, then erected acid-rain-proof plastic tarps over their makeshift frame. She felt a bit of pity for them, and wondered at their silhouettes surrounded around a single light inside. The storm was approaching at a dangerous distance now, but her curiosity compelled her to step next to the makeshift tent and listen. The young man who had talked to her was talking aloud yet his words seemed off, as if he were not talking to anyone directly but into the air.
“Hey, someone is out there,” one of the young women inside the enclosure said.
Lupita screamed and jumped back as the young man quickly pulled open the tarp, startling her. “I, I, um,” Lupita stumbled.
Lupita stared inside. They all sat in a circle. One flickering candle lit up their faces in eerie fashion. The young man held a book in his hand.
“We’re reading, care to join us?” He said, with a coy yet sincere gesture.
“Uh, no, no, thanks, I’ve got to run now, the acid storm is coming.”
Only a few miles away, the massive black cloud rolled towards Fresno, a giant Tsunami of acid rain. Lupita made it back home just in time. “Traviesa! Didn’t you hear the sirens Lupita!?” Sandra yelled, then wiped her tears from her cheeks.

“Yea I heard, then came right home, here’s the candle.” Lupita said as she washed fine, orange particles from her arms and face at the kitchen sink.

Lupita then joined her mother and the rest of the partygoers at their living room window as all looked out at the ominous acid-rain-cloud overtake Fresno. A couple of the smaller cousins pressed their awe-struck faces against the window, where only inches away polluted rain missiles sent out minuscule mushroom clouds on impact. On the other side of the window smoke arose from the ground creating an eerie scene with a black sky as a backdrop.

The next morning Sandra and Lupita stood at the train station awaiting their ride to San Francisco. The morning after an acid rain downpour a heavy smell of sulfur filled the air. Even the strongest sweet air pills hardly masked the smell and taste. Mr. Chester’s Salt Water taffy came close, but still not quite. Cuerpo workers scoured the streets spraying a new layer of plastic asphalt where rains had left pockmarks throughout the city’s infrastructure.

Sandra took the train to the City every morning since she had turned fifteen, so many years ago. “I remember when I was standing just about here with my mom when I turned fifteen. I remember how excited I was,” Sandra exclaimed as she looked into Lupita’s eyes. “Are you excited Mija?” Sandra asked her daughter.
“Yea, yea I am,” Lupita grinned beneath her breather.
“Don’t be nervous, don’t be afraid, I am going to be at your side the whole day,” Sandra said reassuringly, stroking Lupita’s long braid. “You are going to see Frisco, Gentry, a blue sky, and be able to see miles in any direction. The air is that clean.” Sandra beamed.
“No way, a blue sky!” Lupita raised her voice in feigned awe.
Lupita already knew all this info from watching documentaries created by the Ministry of Duo-Freedoms.

“Don’t be a smart ass, Mija,” said Sandra. Both women laughed, fogging up their breathers.
“I’m kidding mom, I can’t wait to see a blue sky, and I try to imagine what it will be like but it’s hard. And Gentry too, I’ve only seen them in holograms, but never in person, not like you, you work for Gentry everyday. What was it like to see them for the first time?” Lupita asked her mom.
“Oh Lupita, I wasn’t like you. You are so strong, and brave and well, I was more naive than you.” Lupita wondered at what her mom meant.
“I was scared to be around Gentry at first, they are so tall and beautiful, I mean you are beautiful Mija, but they are different, they are beautiful like the mountains with a large blue sky beautiful. The top of my head barely comes to their waste. For the first 5 years I couldn’t look at them in the eye, even my boss lady who was so nice to me, sometimes giving me food they had left over from dinner. I was very strong, yes, like you, but they scared me. They are so intense. You can sense how smart they are, way smarter than us, but we're stronger—we need each other, we balance.” Lupita sensed an uneasy disingenuous tone in her mom’s recollection, as if she were trying to convince Lupita. She couldn’t explain exactly this thought or feeling, she did not have the words to describe it, but she felt dishonesty in her mom that was foreign to her character. Lupita felt sad for her mom. Her sadness was a fleeting thought, as the two watched their train pull up to the station. “Oh I’m so excited,” Lupita said squeezing her mom’s hands.
“Wow, watch that grip Superwoman,” Sandra laughed as she shook the pain off.
“Train to San Francisco now boarding,” a Cuerpo attendant walked up and down the waiting corridor. He was thin for Cuerpo standards, his job did not entail the heavy lifting and manual labor most Cuerpos undertook. Yet, his muscular chest stood out like two cinderblock bricks, his right forearm as large as a grapefruit, swung a bell up and down as he yelled out “Now boarding train to San Francisco. Andale Gente!”

Lupita rushed aboard to get a window seat, she wanted to see as much as she could. To this point she had never ventured out of the East Quadrant, Fresno, not even to the other Fresno sections. Her whole life was spent in a four-mile radius from her home, and most of that within her own housing block near familia, except the time she visited her Uncle Jessie out in the Firebaugh Wastelands. Lupita could never see past her block, even on the clearest of days, and most often she was content with that. Now, excitement filled her gut as the train left the station in amazing speed.
“We will be in Frisco in one hour, Mija, just sit back and enjoy the ride.” Sandra said.

For the first half hour Lupita could not see more than a hundred feet or so past the rail tracks, the swift train disturbed the air, causing unique color formations that played on Lupita’s imagination. In those curious swirls of toxic air, she imagined her new job as Cuerpo, where would she work? Would her co-workers be nice? Would the Gentry be nice to her? Would she see the world? Would she learn to…

    As she was thinking to herself, wondering about the many possibilities for her life, the train began to ascend a hill. The reddish, orange smogscape soon gave way to an amazing vista as far as her eyes could see. Giant wind turbines pointed toward the Valley, her home, kept the toxic air at bay, separating the clean air Gentry breathed and the air Gente lived in. Lupita’s mouth dropped. She gasped. Sandra bit her lip and grasped her knees as she saw the wonder on her daughter’s face. Lupita began to cry, as if all her life she were blind and saw the world for the first time. She wept pointing outside, “This, this, this is what I haven’t seen all my life? Why, why? Why mom?” she cried aloud. In her train carriage other Quinceañera girls were also taking their first trip to the City. A group cry rose up, as wonder overcame them all.
    In no time, the train approached San Francisco. A new amazement hit Lupita as the city rose higher and higher up to the wondrous, beautiful blue sky. She had never seen a building higher than two stories. Ministry air purifiers were the tallest things she had ever seen. Now, she was looking at hundreds of buildings rising like metal monsters up to heaven.
“How far does the city go mom?” she asked Sandra
“Well that part there is San Francisco,” Sandra pointed to an identifiable center where the buildings were highest. “But the Gentry live continuously from this point all the way to the Mexican Republic sector. One long, unbroken city along the California Republic coast.”
“And only Gentry right, no Gente?” Lupita asked.

Sandra felt uneasy about answering her questions.

“Arriving at Jack London Square. Arriving at Jack London Square, San Francisco.” A Cuerpo called out. A dozen Quinceañera birthday girls exited the train with their mothers. A Gentry woman appeared on the platform to meet them. She was nearly seven feet tall, slender, poised, dressed in a dark blue skirt suit. Her blonde hair held up in a bun underneath a blue cap. She was pale, even translucent compared to Lupita and the rest of the Gente who arrived in her coach. Her nametag read “Agent Hanson.” Lupita marveled at the woman, twice as tall as her or her mother. Lupita looked back at the women who had also arrived from Fresno, then looked at the Gentry agent, then back at her Gente. Lupita suddenly felt inadequate, even ugly. She looked down at her forearm and flexed, then looked at the Gentry’s body, sleek, smooth, defined but not bulging like her body. The woman stood erect with back straight, so straight it looked weird to Lupita as if the women were to tip backwards. Then, Lupita looked at the Gente. She never noticed their slouch before, as if their arm muscles were so large, pulling their shoulders downward. Lupita felt embarrassment. Lupita felt the urge to cover up and hide. Yet, she stood still, and listened.

“On behalf of the Ministry of Duo-Freedoms I welcome you Quinceañera girls to the beautiful city of San Francisco, capitol of our beloved California Republic.” She said with professional poise, “Please, you may remove your breathing devices, you do not need them anywhere in the Plutocity. So, remember, no matter where you are assigned to work, from Frisco to San Diego, you may remove your breathers, as you call them,” she smiled at her attempt to connect with the Cuerpos by using their slang, she winked at Lupita. She went on, “…as soon as you enter the Plutocity.” Then she waved her arm and shouted, “Let your party begin!” Her white teeth sparkled beneath a brilliant sun.
Out of nowhere, a mariachi band appeared blasting their instruments. Sandra and many other Cuerpo mothers began to cry, because all Gente cry when they hear mariachis, but also because they were reliving their party celebrations of so many years past.
A couple other Gentry appeared, this time young women, the same age as Lupita. Lupita once more stood in amazement. Standing at least six feet tall, a young woman with wide smile, red flushed cheeks, red lips and long blonde hair, approached her with a traditional Quinceañera dress. The dress was powder blue, tight at the waist, spreading out with multiple layers of lace. It was the most gorgeous dress Lupita had ever seen, or worn. All the Gente were ushered into a shuttle and taken to a reception hall.
Once dressed, the Fresno Gente group sat at a few round tables with placards that read “Fresno Quinceañera Cuerpos – Welcome.” Lupita guessed what the placards might have said and thought it was ridiculous since none of them could read.

Lupita leaned over to the table behind hers and asked another young Cuerpo, “where are you from?” The young woman answered back excitedly, “Hey, I’m Missy, from the Bakersfield sector, and see that group? That’s the Sac sector. Did you know Sac used to be the capitol of California before the Great Woes? And over there, you see them, very dark girls?” The girl said a little too loud, “Well they are from the West Hills sector, a lot like the Wastelands but still Ministry regulated, mom says stay away from them, they’re like wheezers.” The girl talked too fast for Lupita, yet she was fascinated that she knew so much.
“And do you know where we are from?” Lupita asked the girl.
Hmm let me see, the girl said staring at the placard on Lupita’s table. The girl made an F sound, then made it again. "Ah ok Fresno! You’re from the Fresno sector but I don’t know which quadrant."
“Oh!" Lupita exclaimed, "did you just read that sign? I mean, you can read?” Lupita asked.
Another girl at the Bakersfield table jumped up and yelled at the top of her voice, while pointing to the girl Lupita was talking to, “She can read! She reads! Maria knows how to read!” Her voice carried throughout the auditorium hall. Everyone went silent. Then, two Gentry men with blue jump suits and long flowing, blond hair walked up to the Bakersfield table. The girl’s mother cried aloud “No, no, this is a mistake, I swear, she doesn’t know how to read! She was pretending.” She begged.
“Liar!” the accusative Bakersfield girl protested, “She’s lying, I knew she was teaching Maria the letters, I knew it! So gross, ew!” The girl gyrated in place as if shaking off worms.

“Did you read our letters?” One of the Gentry agents asked Missy. Missy held back tears, but held a defiant look in her eyes, a look more mature than fifteen years of age. Lupita felt a connection with her, as if she wanted to side with her, but didn’t know why. Missy looked around the auditorium. All eyes were upon her. All remained silent.
“Your letters?” Missy said aloud.
“No baby, no baby please don’t do this, my god,” Missy’s mom said, pleading with her daughter to stop.

    “Come with us please,” one of the agents grabbed Missy’s arm. Even though they were seven feet tall, Missy was twice their strength. She pulled away from his grasp and yelled out to all the Quinceañera birthday girls in the hall, “They are not their letters! Letters are for all! Strength is for all.” At that, they sprayed her face. Missy immediately slumped over, hitting her head on the table. A communal gasp went up from everyone in the hall. All the women at the Bakersfield table began to cough and wheeze; those closest to Missy passed out. Lupita buried her nose and mouth into her dress as a filter. Missy’s sobbing mother followed the two agents as they carried Missy’s limp body out of the auditorium.

    After a minute went by, Gentry agents appeared at each exit doorway. Ms. Hanson entered the hall, her feet clacking loudly through the silence, as she walked toward the stage. Agent Hanson raised both her arms over the crowd. She slowly lowered her arms, at the same time the lights in the hall were dimmed. A musical tune rose steadily, one everyone in the hall knew so well. Hanson and the all Cuerpos present sang together: “My children, mis hijos, tools for la gente, books for el gentry. Strong eyes, strong arms, strong hearts. We are all a part.”
“Let’s sing it together standing, holding hands,” Hanson exclaimed.
Lupita told her mother she had to use the restroom.
“Hurry back,” Sandra replied. Sandra held hands with a Quinceañera and another mother. She closed her eyes and sang along, repeating the nursery rhyme five more times.
“Now everyone hug your neighbor, then hug your other neighbor.” Hanson asked.
After twenty minutes Lupita had not returned. Sandra began to worry. She asked one of the Gentry officers to look for her. After an hour went by Sandra feared the worse, that the Gentry also took her daughter as they had taken Missy. Lupita never returned.

Two weeks later, in a small shack in the Firebaugh Wastelands, Tio Jesse looked up as an intruder entered his home without notice, “Hey, hey!” His raspy voice called out, startled. He grabbed his protection stick, pointing it at the stranger.
Lupita unwrapped her face. Dirtied, desiccated, thirsty, she said, “Tio, please, teach me my letters.”

Patrick grew up in Fresno, CA. The grit, grime and strength of the working class city laid the foundation for both his characters and their worldview. Patrick received his PhD in American History from Stanford University. His research interests include Mexican American history, immigration history, 20th century American youth cultures, and the criminalization of Chicano culture. Patrick’s poetry has appeared in multiple journals and his poetry manuscript “Eating the Air” is forthcoming. Floricanto Press published Patrick’s first novel, Maria’s Purgatorio in Jan. 2016. Patrick currently teaches at Fresno State in the Chicano and Latin American Studies department.