My great great grandfather José María Guerra, the grandson of Eugenio Gutierrez, was the first of the Guerra-Cañamar family to successfully settle the 8,856-acre Los Ojuelos tract in 1857. José María’s father Isidro and grandfather Eugenio had previously tried to settle the land, but had been deterred and discouraged by Indian raids, and they subsequently returned to Guerrero Viejo (Revilla). José María settled Los Ojuelos with his brothers Dionicio and Juan Nepumoceno. They raised sheep and cattle and used the springs there to irrigate crops that sustained the settlement. A town of about 400 eventually grew up around the ranch of stone houses.
Two of my best friends from high school live in Boston and Washington D.C. We graduated from St. Augustine High School in 2009, and since then, they never came back to live in Laredo. At 25, I am lumped into the “millennial” generation. I realize it would be irresponsible to speak for my entire generation, but what I can say, is that almost my entire graduating class of 126 students lives outside Laredo. I hope that my insight can shed a sliver of light on this phenomenon.
When I turned fifty I understood how cars feel when their warranties expire. If cars feel anything when their warranties expire. On December 9, 2015, two months after my fiftieth birthday, I ended up in the hospital with a kidney infarction. I felt slightly upset — and also slightly betrayed — that the odometer had barely rolled over and a major system went on the blink. But it did, and there I was, for four days, mostly reading and watching TV between nurses’ visits to draw blood, take my blood pressure, and check the heart monitor hanging around my neck.
This post was originally published in Trace of Echoes. The Greek philosopher and teacher Aristotle once said, “The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation, rather than upon mere survival.”
Laredo is a rich environment for that sentiment, because issues of survival explode in front of us every single day. Harsh geographic and political circumstances along with the demoralizing violence of poverty confront large numbers of our neighbors. The river swallows the dreams of those seeking a new world, while the appetites of drug users way beyond the border checkpoint fuel a dependence on drugs and the violence they breed. Amid this constant border reminder of how important it is to survive, there is a beckoning to the awareness and contemplation encouraged by Aristotle.