By Adrián Arancibia
A friend once said, the good ones always leave San Diego and never come back. They leave. They never come back. I’ve spent the better part of 20 years watching brilliant folks build something here. Build something. And move on. This year will be no different. This year will be especially sad for me.
Two folks I admire and love will be leaving. They’ll be moving to Seattle. Jade Power Sotomayor and José Fuste will be moving to Seattle. If you don’t know, they’ve created a following in San Diego. A following for bomba. Something I’ve found to be one of the few authentic music events here in San Diego.
But how does San Diego say thank you? How do I say thanks to the compa that gave me calma cuando mi apá se fue. This is the hermano that in my greatest moment of uncertainty, when I wanted to talk to the spirits to ask how my father’s spirit was. When I worried about gins and the way they circle our life.
I remember his lines almost calming my heart. “Pero Adrián, tu apá está en paz. Trás esa fiesta de despedida y celebración, como puede estar su alma en la malas. Tanto cariño, tanto amor para él. Se cerró el círculo. Tá bien mano.” And I began to learn to understand goodbye. To know that it was OK. To learn I couldn’t go down the rabbit hole of death. And I accepted his death more. I found the footing to continue to live.
And tonight, I went to bomba liberté. I went, ’cause my girls wanted to hear the bomba. “Tío José and Tía Jade will be playing, we should go” they said. And it wouldn’t be at my other compa Karlos’ place. We went to the advertised place and it was empty.
Then, one of the folks told us that the bomba was going down across the street. Across the street, a space like the early el campo ruse days hosted the sound of music, the sound of dance. Wood beams. Rafters. Drywall and elements. Sweat and eyes. And there were the chants. The drums. The voices reminding this was the beginning of it. Of art. Reminding me, this was the esclavo chanting I have to survive. I have to make my reality temporal. I have to make it until tomorrow. Tonight, I have this bit of rum. I have the dance. Esas mujeres. Bailando. Compartiendo el color. And the community sharing that dance. Sharing that rhythm. Sharing the steps. Sharing the rhythm.
It is authentic as first drunk sessions, it is authentic as mothers seeking dance while finishing breastfeeding. It is authentic as folks getting together to celebrate the end of the week. It is creating a song to state who we are. Where we are. And what we offer to survive. It asks that we share something beyond. I’m walking in, Eduardo, Gabriel and Laurel say hello. But the crew Jade and José have created sense how beautiful it is to congregate and have a bit of rum. A bit of freedom.
It’s sad longing, that longing for things to remain the same. It asks for a certain nostalgia. But as my mentor tells me, it’s not nostalgia if you keep doing it. Hermano, I just know that San Diego will be a poorer place when you leave. I know it will lack this communal sentiment. I know it will lack the feeling I would’ve wanted my girls to dance to. And perhaps, that is the most prescient thing I can say. A piece of my girls will leave with you, and a piece of you will stay with them.
José? I know you have answers. But to the haters, where has afropessimism creeped on this hierarchy? Ethnic studies has become our life. Who are we these days? What work will we follow as important, as real? Why do we hold onto every moment as if it were new? I’m drawn to this thought while thinking of my girls. My girls who love bomba. My girls understand more about underground and art than I ever did as a child.
Like I said, the good ones always leave San Diego and never come back. They leave. They never come back. Here’s a toast during the song. In a bomba. We hope you come back.
Adrián Arancibia is an author and critic based in San Diego, California. He is a founder/collaborator of El Campo Ruse, Voz Alta and the seminal Chicano/Latino performance poetry collective Taco Shop Poets. Born in Iquique, Chile (1971), Arancibia is also the co-editor of the Taco Shop Poets Anthology: Chorizo Tonguefire. He has authored the collection of poetry titled Atacama Poems and The Keeper/El guardador . A Literature Ph.D., he currently works as a professor of English at Miramar Community College. His creative work depicts and comments on the lives of immigrants while his critical work focuses on literature and it’s relation to social space and popular culture.