Sunday, August 17, 2014

Paying Respects

Saturday morning Rebel Girl woke early and drove to Orange, to the Holy Family Cathedral, to pay her respects to Emigdio Vasquez, an artist and muralist whose work documented life in Orange County and who was a familiar presence at the little college in the orange groves in the 1990s.

There's much to say but not enough time to write it all, but she will say this. Rebel Girl was fortunate enough to be in the company of a dear friend and colleague who, like Emigdio, grew up in Orange. The friend knew the neighborhood, went to the church and attended Catholic school alongside Emigdio's younger brother. The church was full enough, mostly the stout robust figures of the community faithful, almost entirely Mexican American plus some local officials and community leaders. Rebel Girl spotted Rueben Martinez, bookstore owner and MacArthur fellow, onetime IVC commencement speaker.  He still had that regal head of hair but it is all white now, and he seemed thinner, as if age was catching up.
After the service, the friend drove Rebel Girl around, pointing out this and that, remembering what still remained and what was no longer there. She knew it all - the homes, the families, the businesses, the packing houses. As they drove down Cypress, the friend looked for one of Emigdio's most beloved pieces, an early work painted on the side of the apartment building across from where he lived with his parents. They found it, newly restored by Emigdio's son Higgy and Chapman University.  Under the bright late morning summer sky, it glistened as if the paint were still wet, as if the artist must still be nearby admiring what he had just finished.

As they stood there, a passing car paused. The driver was a young man, a straw fedora perched on his head. (Chicano? Mexicano? Latino? He looked as if he belonged on the mural they were admiring.) He rolled down the window and called out, "He just passed away. The artist."

Yes, Rebel Girl nodded.

"They're having his services at the church," he added helpfully, motioning behind him.

"Yes," Rebel Girl replied. "We were there."

It was a moment that Rebel Girl could imagine Emigdio painting, the young man behind the wheel had a face he would love. And Rebel Girl loved the sense of neighborhood, of community where such a young man would stop and speak to two strangers about the death of the man who had lived there for over 70 years.

See that photo on the lower right on the funeral fold? A profile photo? Rebel Girl's friend took that and it appeared in the 1991 issue of The Ear, the college literary journal, which the friend edited that year. The photo accompanied an interview with Emigdio and his artwork graced the cover. That was back in 1991. Emigdio liked the photo, she told Rebel Girl, because it made him look young. And here it was again, after all those years. Life. Life!

Photograph by Linda Thomas.



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Very nice litte blog. Thank you.

tito darien vasquez said...

god bless my cousin emigdio Vasquez r.i.p the god father of chicano art movement ........

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