Eulogy for Tony Hernandez

Read March 20, 2009 at Forest Lawn, Covina Hills, CA by Luis J. Rodriguez.

A laugh, a smile, a touch, a word—Tony opened up the world with simple things, gestures, intonations. There wasn't a room that didn't light up, get brighter or wider as soon as Tony entered. Tony impacted in small but significant ways. Ways that you'd remember for a lifetime.

I have to say the funniest moment I had in years was when Tony and our mutual friend Rulies were supposedly trying out Aikido moves at a Mosaic men's conference one summer—I won't get into it here but they were clowning around and I was practically rolling on the ground.

Tony was also serious. He loved to read. He had books on subjects of substance that we talked about, shared, and related. He was a sensitive soul. Every injustice moved him. He often raged against the pains, oppressions, and sufferings in the world. He seemed to take them all in, the weight of this on his face, his shoulders, his walk.

Tony also brought joy when there was none. Once in Rosarito Beach in Mexico I saw Tony run and flip into the breaking ocean waves, like a boy, laughing and truly present. I saw the same smile and wonder when we took him to Peru, because he had done so much to better himself in ten years and I wanted to honor the changes he had made by then.

Tony was loyal, to a fault perhaps, but if I were to go into any battle I'd want Tony on my side. Tony cared about his friends, his family, his daughters, his brother, cousin, girlfriend, his books, his tools, his ideas, the foods he loved to eat—like the chicken soup at the Dom Pachana Thai restaurant in Sylmar or the chicken & waffles of Roscoe's in LA.

Tony also suffered—spending seventeen years in juvenile lockups and adult prisons, a heroin addict for more than twenty years, as an undocumented man who had to get another identity because his real identity could lead to his arrest and possible deportation.

He was Chicano, raised in the Chicano culture, in the Buena Parque barrio, but the truth is he was born in Guatemala and spirited to Mexico as a baby. His family obtained Mexican birth certificates that eventually went with his mother and siblings to the United States.

Tony was really borderless—a soul of the whole world, a Mayan, an indigenous man, who took part in native ceremonies in LA and the Navajo reservation and in Peru. His native soul belonged everywhere, even though a legal social order denied him a name, a place, a personage.

Because of Tony I wrote to his brother Omar when he was in prison, and tried to help him as soon as he got released and ended up in Mexico. They were brothers who cared for each other, like brothers should care, although far too often brothers don't.

I'll tell you now—Tony was a revolutionary. He criticized the economic and political system for all the pain it has brought humanity. Tony wanted a world in which cooperation, caring, coherency and community truly reigned.

Was Tony a dreamer? Yes, and, man, could he dream. We talked about this quite often. Tony and I shared a lot of the same ideas—we both wanted a better world, of deeper relationships, to save our communities, this country, this world.

Tony had answers, too. If only someone who could do something about them, if only some politician or powerful personality, shaker & mover, would have known Tony. He didn't just gripe, he imagined. He didn't just dream, my friends, he dreamed big.

And because of this he was my best friend in LA, my compa, mi carnal, my homie. Tony, in fact, was my biggest fan—he came to many readings and talks I did in schools, galleries, libraries, bookstores. He would sit in the front roll, attentive, as if he was hearing me for the first time. And he contributed insightful comments to discussions when moved to speak.

Tony and I talked in caloorale, Crow, ay te wacho. He called me Chin—he was Crow—our placasos from the streets that we picked up again and re-shined, now more grown up, wiser, smarter, but also kinder.

Yes, Tony could fight with the best of them, but he was also generous and big hearted. I truly believe he couldn't find a big enough world for his big heart to feel at home.

I want to read a poem by Rumi, one of Tony's favorite poets from the Mosaic Men's Conferences in Mendocino:

On the day I die, when I'm being carried
toward the grave, don't weep. Don't say,

He's gone, he's gone. Death has nothing
to do with going away. The sun sets and

the moon sets, but they're not gone.
Death is coming together. The tomb

looks like a prison, but it's really
release into union. The human seed goes

down in the ground like a bucket into
the well where Joseph is. It grows and

comes up full of some unimagined beauty.
Your mouth closes HERE and immediately

opens with a shout of joy over THERE.

Now, in spirit, among the cosmos and the vastness of the ancestors, accessing the power of the other world, Tony Hernandez is home.

Cuidate, carnal—al rato.

Antonio E. Hernandez, born June 10, 1967 in Guatemala; Passed away March 8, 2009 in Culver City, CA.


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