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|Op-Ed - March 2009|
|Written by Maggie Van Ostrand|
By Maggie Van Ostrand
Juanita and the President
It may be time to add one more famous face to the posters hanging on my wall, the ones of Benito Juarez, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. Someone new may be exciting enough to be placed among them. I know because I heard all about it from Juanita, the Mexican cashier who snatched the special Obama issue of Rolling Stone right out of my market basket and pressed it gently to her lips so she could kiss his picture on the cover.
It all started when Rolling Stone, the always-hip magazine that endorsed Obama long before he even got the nomination, published a special Commemorative Edition, including a bonus fold-out of a huge poster of Obama’s face, up close and personal. I’m glad Juanita just went for the cover because if she’d gone for a big kiss on the giant poster inside, the pages might not have come unstuck until Obama’s second term. Where was I? Oh yes, Juanita was kissing the President.
Juanita, newly arrived from Zacatecas, and who has no reason in the world to make things up, admitted to being in love with our new President. With a loving sigh, she held the magazine up cheek to cheek with Obama, then rolled it slightly over to her mouth and kissed his image smack on the lips, explaining that she simply could not resist a one-way lip lock. She said she would never have been so bold, had it been my husband or boyfriend, or anyone standing there in the flesh. Juanita informed me that Obama was for all people, and that she didn’t think she had to become a U.S. citizen to kiss the President’s photograph. I could hardly argue with that and, then and there, I understood fully his appeal, not only to American women, but women worldwide. Had Obama been there in person, Juanita might have tried for a top position in Foreign Affairs.
Why she was so passionate about him? “Because of his Mexican connection!!!” “What connection is that?” I asked. “It is through his father,” she said, and looked at me as though she could not believe I didn’t know that.
“Would you mind explaining this connection between Obama and Mexico?” I asked, expressing no small amount of curiosity about her surprising remark. “Certainly,” she went on, “President Obama’s father, he is from Kenya, no?” “Yes, he is,” I said, both thinking that she was correct so far, and wondering what she would say next.
“And Kenya is in Africa, no?” she asked. “Well, yes, it is,” I said, more curious than ever. Inquiring minds want to know.
“Many years ago, in the time of the Aztecs, Spanish soldiers they brought African slaves to Mexico for work in fields and mines, more Africans than United States had. Pues, one of them could have been ancestor of the Kenya father of President Obama, no?”
“Uh, I don’t know,” I said uncertainly, scratching my head in wonder.
“Who can say that this is or is not so?” she asked. I had to agree and said, “No one.”
“See?” she said, “No one knows. Pues, it could be so and if it could be so, it is so. It is like heaven. We cannot see heaven, but we know it is there.”
The thought that President Obama could be part Mexican (and part heavenly) was so intriguing that I bought her a copy of the magazine in gratitude for her creative logic. I decided that indeed it was possible for the U.S. to have an American, African president, raised in Kansas and Indonesia, who is basically Mexican.
That’s reason enough to hang Barack Obama’s picture with the other greats on my wall.