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About Anita Endrezze Essay, Research Paper
Hi, my name is Anita Endrezze. My father was Yaqui and my mother is a combination of
Italian, Slovenian, and German-Romanian. Although I’m Yaqui I don’t speak for all
Yaquis. I speak for me and my experiences as a woman, a half-Yaqui, and a wife and mother.
I have two children, a teenage son and a daughter in 1st grade. We are all
complicated humans, with many influences in our lives. My tribe comes from northwestern
Mexico. Look at a map. South of Arizona is the state of Sonora. You will find the Gulf
of California. Look for the Rio Yaqui. It is a river named after my tribe and where most
Yaquis live. In Mexico they speak Spanish. Some Yaquis speak Yaqui, which is a language
that has been spoken for thousands of years. I don’t speak it. My grandparents left Mexico
about 1900 and moved to California. Some Yaquis also live in Arizona. I live in Washington
state. Leslie Ullman
Endrezze’s collection, her first, is
luxuriant with fragments of myth, the voices of different personae, striking visual images
and always, as a backdrop, metaphors interweaving the natural world with the landscape of
human emotion. Her heritage is half-European and half-Yaqui Indian; in these poems, native
American sensibility manifests itself in the earthbound nature of her images and in her
deep sensitivity to the rhythms of nature rather than in the subject matter. Endrezze is
also a professional storyteller and a painter (one of her vivid, dreamlike paintings is
the book’s cover.) These abilities, which also arise from a warm, primal sensibility,
surface in her beautifully visualized images and in the strong narrative movement of many
Endrezze’s is a voice, or vision, that constantly
redefines familiar things, sure of itself at every turn but respectful of an abiding
mystery. Throughout these poems Endrezze strikes arresting balances, via metaphors,
between the human world and the natural world, as in these opening lines from
the days are circles of bread, paper-words, the
light in the egg
the nights are grass-moons, volcanic glass
the dark wine of the body
The calendar of water is lightning-flint, the dew that scars
the iris, the bitter salt of blood
my wrist is time’s turning on bone, the sinew of
Often she seems to be translating passionate
feeling directly into landscape, which allows her to speak from the very personal realm of
desire and loss in such a way as to link personal dynamics to the less personal, more
encompassing workings of nature. In "Searching for the One in My Dreams," she
conjures the searched-for lover through a metaphor, making him more a natural force rather
than a specific person: "Your name is a red branch. Your eyes have been the western
twilight …. Though you be the only rain on a high plateau, I will find you."
And in "There Are Roses You’ve Never Given Me," she uses images of roses
to honor, with particular grace, the sensual, expansive, powerful feminity of the speaker:
"I carry …. Roses made of teeth / and threads of rain."
Passion in Endrezze’s work is enduring, yet full
of ebb and flow, linked as it is with natural laws. In the example above, it has a lyrical
quality, something gentle and plantlike. Elsewhere, however, passion has the heat and
rankness of animal life. In a poem called "Fox-Woman Goes Man-Hunting,"
Endrezze’s Yaqui background and her skills as a storyteller come into full play, as a fox
"take[s] on the illusion of womanskin" in order to find the man who killed her
"Kits" and to become impregnated by him so that she can have more. She hitches a
ride into town and enters a bar where she sees:
…. the evasive eyes of gray-suited men who
think they are wolves. There are hands that snap-trap the flesh in dark comers. There are
the growly words that smell like old meat on the teeth of urging men. But I got savvy. I
know some tricks of my own! I take the smoky light into my nails and scratch my sign on
their groins. Now there’s some action!
from a review in the Kenyon Review ? 1993 by Leslie Ullman.
from "A Journey to the Heart"
The faces of my ancestors are both luminous and shadowy. I’m standing in a
long line, holding the memory of their hands. My own hands are bone and muscle,
sinew and threadlike veins of blood. We’re dreaming about each other or maybe
playing a game of "telephone," hundreds of years old. You know, where
one person whispers a message or story to another, who then whispers it to the
next person in line. Pass it on. The message is changed, perhaps only
slightly but continually, until it has created a new language, a different shape
of itself. Or maybe the words become the dimple in your mother’s cheek or the
stubborn cowlick in your sister’s hair. Still, there is a connection of breath,
heart, mind, and spirit.
Not one of my immediate ancestors was a professional storyteller, yet all
told stories about our families, and collectively the stories of their lives
have influenced me.
I’m half Indian and half white. Most people assume it’s my mother who is
Indian. Not so. My mother’s grandparents came from Vinica (Slovenia), Fai Della
Paganella (alpine Italy), and Curciu (Romania). For sociopolitical reasons, they
all probably spoke German in addition to their national languages. They were two
men and two women, traveling individually from their small villages to the end
of the earth: Butte, Montana. They came in the late 1890s: Johanna Ostronic,
Joseph Kambic, Elizabeth Yaeger, Eugenio Endrizzi.
Like many young men, Eugenio Endrizzi intended to work for a few years in
America, make his fortune, and return to Italy. In Butte, he met Elizabeth
Yaeger, and they married and had children (my grandfather, William Eugene
"Papa Billy," was one of them). Eugenio had already sent his family
back to Italy when he was killed in a mining accident on October 11, 1905. He
I have a copy of the newspaper article about his death. The headline reads: Dead
Miners Careless. Below that it says "Endrizzi and O’Neill failed to
follow instructions of the shift boss."
Further headlines add: Crushed Beneath Tons of Rock in Speculator Mine.
The detailed article goes on to say that "suddenly and without warning,
an immense quantity of rock came down from the hanging wall and caught O’Neill
and Endrizzi. One of them spoke a few words after falling, but the other appeared
to be dead."
I’d like to think it was my great-grandfather passing on that message,
speaking his last few words. What did he say? I’m still listening. Maybe my son
was learning as he arranged his rock collection. The beauty of each rock was
formed under certain immense pressures in the heart of the earth. Each rock
exists, singular in its own beauty, and ageless. Like people.
Eugenio’s widow and children returned to that raw city of bricks and trees
burnt leafless by the sulfuric acid in the air. Butte was a city of great
wealth, vitality, and death. A town that heaved itself up and out of the earth,
home to immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Scandinavia. My mother was
Her name is Jean and she is Papa Billy’s daughter. She’s fair-skinned with
amber-colored eyes and blondish brown hair. I have photos of her when she was a
little girl, wearing her blond hair in a Dutch-boy haircut. She’s told me how
she played on the mine tailings.
Shortly before World War II, she moved to Long Beach, California, and worked
in the naval shipyards, drafting. She was very good at it. The blue lines were
clean, neat, and precise.
My maternal grandmother, Ann, or Nana, was also a quiet woman. Deeply
religious, she tried to get me to go to mass. My mother wouldn’t let her. Even
so, I grew up with ideas and experiences in both Catholic and Protestant
churches. Nana was ninety-two when she died in 1994, and she taught me a lot
about patience. She was a nurse in a time when nurses were instructed how to
formulate their own disinfectants and told how to prepare a kitchen for a
woman’s birth labor. She was born in Butte, Montana.
She was a good shot; they called her "Annie Oakley." But she was
also fearful, didn’t like taking risks, avoided changes. I have tried to follow
my mother’s example of saying yes to life’s possibilities. Still, I can
understand my grandmother. In her lifetime, the world went through changes
tremendous and frightening to the timid soul.
Her husband, my Papa Billy, was a steamfitter by trade and an inventor by
inclination. He invented an ore classifier used in the Montana mines.
He had a rock collection: stunning purple crystals and clusters of yellow
crystals that caught and refracted the light. We set them all on our mantel.
Blue-green rocks?copper?that we were warned not to lick. Solid "fool’s
gold," or pyrite, which made our childish eyes glitter. Heavy chunks of
lead. I learned the names of rocks before I learned my multiplication tables.
Although Papa Billy’s father had been killed in that mining accident, he was
fascinated with the deep earth?and the deep sea. Papa Billy invented a
nuclear-powered submarine with a conical-shaped hull. I still have all his
patent drawings. I can see his drafting table, set square in the golden light of
a lace-curtained window. Pens. Straightedge. Crumbly erasers. A small penknife
to sharpen thin-leaded pencils. The implements of his creativity were just as
exciting to me as his creations.
Someday I’d like to write a book about my mother’s side of the family.
My father, Alexander Raymond Diaz, was Yaqui. A full-blood with a dark moon face
and hair so black it shone blue at times. When he met my mother, he was a
divorced motorcycle mechanic for the Long Beach Police Department. After they
were married, they tried to buy a house, but because he was Indian, no one would
sell one to him. And because my mother was a woman, she wasn’t allowed to buy
I wrote about this in "La Morena as the Sad-Eyed Jaguar Priest." La
Morena means "the dark woman." and she is one aspect of the female
presence in many of the poems and prose poems I have included in this book. I am
also related to the Moreno family. My godfather was Alex Moreno (see the poem
"Anonymous Is Coyote Girl"). Additionally, the Virgin of Guadalupe is
known as "La Morenita," which is an affectionate way of saying
"the little dark one," since she is of indio blood.
"Someday, your daughter’s going to write about this," La Morena
promises in "La Morena as the Sad-Eyed Jaguar Priest." "Doesn’t
matter if she gets it the way it really happened. Nothing happens the way we
While collecting stories for this book, I asked relatives for their memories
and discovered that people remember things differently. One story might be told
three different ways, filtered by individual perceptions and by time. I was
intrigued by something Stravinsky said: that we live by memory, not by truth. In
gathering material for this book, I learned that the truth is not often found in
fact. The reporting of history is always subjective, no matter who is telling
it. This discovery freed me: I was able to figure out how I wanted to approach
my family history?as fact or fiction? Long troubled by the question, I decided
to do it in both ways. This book, therefore. is history, myth, family anecdotes,
poetry, and short stories, and they are all the same thing.
Yaquis have had centuries of contact with Europeans. The first Spaniard went
through in about 1533 on a slave-raiding expedition. Another explorer, Francisco
de Ulloa, saw "naked people " and smoke signals on the beach as he
sailed up the Gulf of California sometime between 1539 and 1541. There have been
periods of relative peace, but consider this: at one time, there were thirty
thousand Yaquis living in eighty rancherias. Three hundred years later,
there were only ten thousand left. For better and for worse, Spanish culture,
language, and religion have influenced Yaqui culture.
Other tribes in the region have fared worse. Of the ten original Cahita-speaking
tribes, only the Mayos and Yaquis survived.
The Yaquis have lived near the Rio Yaqui in northwestern Sonora for thousands
of years. In fact, one name given to us is Ria Hiaqui, which means "People
Who Shout across the River." Another name used by native speakers is Yoemem.
It means "the People."
My father’s parents, Carlotta Ramos and Emiterio (Meetah) Diaz, were Yaquis
from Mexico. It was a terrible time. Just before my grandparents were born, more
than one hundred Yaquis were burned to death in a church in Bacum, one of the
eight Yaqui pueblos. This is what happened: six hundred men, women, and children
surrendered to a Mexican colonel, who ordered four hundred fifty of them into
the church. The others were let go. He kept ten leaders as hostages and promised
that if there were any attempts to escape, all hostages would be shot. He
trained his artillery on the church door. I tell about this in the poem
"Red at Bacum."
There were constant battles against the Mexican government and the soldiers,
the federales, who enforced the tax collections and took away Yaqui
rights and land. Reprisals against the Yaquis included deportation to Yucatan,
enslavement, rape, murder, and starvation. My grandfather, Meetah, was just a
boy when he saw his father murdered by Mexicans. Meetah escaped by hiding under
the porch and later walked north. In "Bones Resembling My
Grandfather," I relate how he "scooped up handfuls of mud and made a
turban of wet earth" as he crossed the Salton Sea. This is how he avoided
sunstroke. Since the Salton Sea wasn’t formed until after 1905-1906, when the
area was flooded by the releasing of a dike damming the Colorado River, he must
have been there after that date.
In 1886, when Carlotta was a child. the Yaquis suffered a defeat at the hands
of the Mexican general Carbo, military commander of Sonora. Two hundred Yaquis
died and two thousand became prisoners of war. Diseases claimed the lives of
many civilian Yaquis. Many Yaquis were settled in the eight pueblos, under the
control of the government, but the majority left the Yaqui Valley, seeking work
and freedom. Some fled to the rugged Bacatete Mountains. They raided the
Mexicans and the pueblo Yaquis.
In 1900, General Torres battled the mountain Yaquis and killed four hundred
men. Many others committed suicide by jumping off cliffs. More than a thousand
women and children were forced to march down the trail. Most died along the way.
This is called the Massacre of Mazocoba. Only eighteen federales were killed and
sixty wounded. Thirty-five guns were taken from the Yaquis during the
By 1907, Yaquis were a cash commodity, selling for sixty pesos a head to the
owners of henequen plantations in Yucatan and sugar fields in Oaxaca.
Many Yaquis left Mexico at this time, some fleeing to Arizona, refugees from
their homeland, always hoping they would be able to return. My grandparents
(separately, since they were not married at this time) went to California.
Although Yaqui history continued hand in hand with Mexican history (in 1910
the Mexican Revolution changed the country), my grandparents had removed
themselves from those dangers?and begun to merge with American history and
The Arizona Yaquis maintained a more unified identity as a tribal people than
did those who lived in California, who blended into a Mexican American identity.
My grandparents struggled with making a living and raising children. Although my
father grew up knowing he was Yaqui and heard the family stories, he was not
political. Even after my parents divorced and he moved to Green Valley. Arizona,
he didn’t participate in the Yaqui effort to establish a reservation outside of
Tucson. Instead, he was busy with his nursery business and raising my two
younger half- siblings. In ill health for a number of years, he died in 1979.
the same year the Pascua reservation was approved by the federal government.
My grandmother Carlotta Ramos came to the United States before 1916 (when my
father was born here)?probably around 1902. An astute businesswoman, she later
owned property in several California counties: produce fields and houses for
field workers. She carried her money wrapped up in her shawl. My father clearly
remembered the early days, when they all had to pick lettuce and strawberries
and walnuts in order to survive. They went as far as San Francisco, working in
Carlotta had been raped by Mexican soldiers. I wrote about it in the poem
"Angelina," which appears in Part Two of this book. A bad thing
happened to Carlotta, but by all accounts she was a good and kind person. She
was not the bad thing. She was stronger than that.
Carlotta’s father, Pedro Ramos, had been a merchant in Sonora. He had a
caravan of burros loaded with supplies that he traded and sold along the coast
near Guaymas, Sonora. It is possible that he was also a smuggler, perhaps a
gunrunner for the Yaquis in the mountains.
Pedro was murdered, "shot by Mexicans dressed as Indians,"
according to family legend. This phrase always made me wonder until I learned
more about Yaqui history. I think that the mountain Yaquis had a disdain for the
pueblo Yaquis and would have characterized them as "Mexicans dressed as
Indians." In other words, the pueblo Yaquis may have dressed like other
Yaquis but were really Mexican at heart, living and accepting Mexican rule. Or
perhaps he was simply shot by Mexican bandits.
In any case, his wife, my great-grandmother Estefana Garica, marched to the
local law authority. With a gun on each tiny hip, she demanded that he find the
killers or die himself.
Another story is told about her. She had a tooth pulled?and it was the
wrong one. She swore she’d kill the "dentist." For more about her,
read "Estefana’s Necklace of Bullets."
My Yaqui grandmothers were strong women, educated, clever, and fearless.
Carlotta was also graceful, exceedingly beautiful, and kind. She fed hoboes,
loved music (she played the twelve-string guitar), and sang. She was only four
feet, eleven inches tall, with masses of dark hair piled up on top of her head.
Her eyes were deep black. I have her photo on my office wall, next to one of her
husband, Meetah. He’s posed stiffly in a suit, with a shock of unruly hair
escaping out from under a dark hat. He didn’t like Mexicans. He lived his life
like an Indian, he’d say to anyone. He could easily lift four hundred pounds,
according to my father. Meetah was five-ten and stocky. As a young man, he
trained horses all over California and Arizona. He died from a hit-and-run
accident in the middle of the night in Long Beach, California, on September 19,
1937. He’d probably been drinking. I wrote about it in "Grandfather Sun
Falls in Love with a Moon-Faced Woman." The story is actually a retelling
of an old Yaqui story about the sun falling in love with the moon, but I wove it
into our family history.
Meetah owned a junkyard that now is just part of the neighborhood across the
street from the Long Beach Community Hospital, where I was born. His was a long
journey; from his experience as a boy witnessing his father, Valentino, being
murdered by soldiers to the experiences of a man living not far from Hollywood,
town of illusions and fantasy.
Valentino also dealt with his father’s death. Valentino and his
brother and father had been up in the mountains in Sonora, hunting for honey,
when something happened. I don’t know what, maybe a heart attack or a fall down
the mountain trail. The boys had to bury their father there among the red rocks
and crumbling earth.
Diaz is not a Yaqui name but one given to our family. It is a Mexican name,
specifically that of the Mexican president Porfirio Diaz, who was in power from
1876 to 1910. Sometime during that period, we acquired that last name. I was
born Anita Diaz. Other family surnames were Flores, Garica, and Ramos?all
Mexican names, not Yaqui. Many Yaquis had both a Yaqui name and a Mexican name,
along with nicknames by which they were more commonly known. My childhood
nickname was "Stormy." My Indian name, given to me shortly after my
birth, is Desert Rose.
Life was hard for my ancestors. They didn’t live long. But I know about them
through the stories we still tell. There are not enough stories; I always want
to hear more. I want to understand them and learn more about them and myself.
I want my children, Aaron and Maja, to know them also. That’s why I write and
paint, to pass it on.
The history of words is the history of people. People define and are defined
by their language. If you study languages, you learn about war, religion,
adventure, and spirit. I think it is interesting that scholars studying Indian
languages today are coming to realize that the great diversity of languages in
this hemisphere supports the idea that we have been here a lot longer than the
accepted, academic starting point of 11,500 years ago (the Clovis timetable).
Indeed, recent research has agreed that native people have been here for about
45,000 years. The voice of a people truly is their history.
My father never spoke Yaqui. When he was young, he was ashamed of being
Indian. He didn’t want to listen to the old stories. And yet he liked to tell us
about what life was like "in the old days." My younger half-sister,
Rondi (who was born in Farmington, New Mexico, on March 15, 1959), told me how
our father would go skinny-dipping in the ocean and the police would take his
clothes. He traveled with his family in a buckboard wagon into Los Angeles. He
was, she says, great at storytelling, funny, and generous. Rondi says, "I
see him with both the eyes of an adult and the memory of a child. When I was
little, he was wonderful. He’d sing for me and let me blow up the muscles on his
arm by blowing hard on his thumbs." But he also ran around with other women
and was a "happy drunk." For sometime he was separated from her
mother, and he lived for a while in New Mexico. We have a picture of him giving
a corn grinding demonstration at Chaco Canyon.
Rondi says, "He claimed to be a Catholic. Other times, he’ d talk of the
Happy Hunting Grounds. If truth be known, he didn’t believe in anything.
Whatever served his purpose at the moment." Yet she also relates how he
became a Christian later in his life and was a changed person: "He became
kind, considerate, and humble." She enjoyed being with him then. "So
his last days were his happiest. They were my happiest, also, because I found my
dad before he died," she told me.
Our father, Alex, was married three times (my mother was the second) and had
six legitimate children plus several illegitimate ones. My older half-sister,
Mary Francis, has only good memories of him. She still misses him, twenty years
after his death. My full sister, Barbara, remembers him not at all. My other two
half-siblings, Raymond and Tim, have mixed feelings about our father.
My parents’ marriage was very troubled. We lived for a while in Merlin,
Oregon, near Grant’s Pass. My parents logged their land. I remember napping in a
tent covered with crawling caterpillars. I breathed the close, green-tinted,
pine-scented air. I heard the milky sighs of my sleeping baby sister, Barbara.
It was a place of violence, I’ve since learned. I wrote a poem about it,
which appears in this book. It’s called "My Little Sister’s Heart in My
I remember my father’s violence. He scared me. We finally left, my mother
secretly stealing away with us girls. We moved around a lot after that. From
birth to age eighteen, I lived in thirteen different houses. I went to a
different school every year from sixth to twelfth grade. In the poem
"Housing Dreams" (in the recently published The Humming of Stars
and Bees and Waves) I say, "There’s no rhythm / to moving / except the
moving." And "we moved / because we were nowhere / better / than
tomorrow." For many Indian writers, place is vital. For me, it’s been
thought and feeling, an emotional landscape. A landscape of dreams and stories.
It’s been four generations on either side of the family since someone has died
where they were born. We have been rootless for more than one hundred years. And
yet that restlessness, or desperation for something better, has given us a
vitality, a sense of adventure. While I have a Danish husband and my children
can find their roots in many countries of the world, we are Americans in the
special way in which only those who have Indian blood can connect to this land.
Excerpted from the Introduction to Throwing Fire and the Sun, Water at
the Moon (Tuscon: University of Arizona Press, 2000). Copyright ? 2000 by
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