'Thank God snow is my only problem': Comedian Marito Lopez on his Latinx journey
When I was a new kid in Canada, snow was my biggest dilemma.
With my family, in '91, I immigrated to this unforgiving Tundra. Papi was not prepared for -30 weather, let alone white people! I'm still shook at the sight of cottages.
I was only four years old, but I remember El Salvador vividly. Every day started like the theme song to Arthur. What a wonderful kind of day! The ghetto version, of course.
My mom was studying to be a lawyer. Papa was working at a radio station, which I recently learned was a voice for the poor and revolutionaries. He also studied journalism and took photos of the horrors committed during the Salvadoran Civil War. They were both G's!
My siblings and I were supervised by a maid. Rich kid stuff. Her name was Zolia. She loved us like her own children. But I used to drive her nuts with my adventures. I was a bago. Decades before my alcoholism, I would constantly vanish.
Those wonderful kinds of days.
Neighbours would see me jump on the buses like a poor kid. I'd poke my little head through the windows, I'd bend my thumb back to my wrist, I was double-jointed, and I'd demand payment for the trick: "Peseta, peseta!" I was already a performer and making my loot!
My mom said I had a girlfriend. Pimp! She lived across the street and her name was Mercedita. Or Mercedes. She would join me sometimes, watching the leaves dance under the hot Salvadoran sun, and we would eat almonds, under the almond tree. That's where Zolia would always discover me. And she would beat my ass. My mom's strict orders!
Those were wonderful kinds of days, forever tattooed in my memory. But I had no idea these memories were built on so much pain. There is so much more to me. I understand now why I was born to be a dope comedian. It's because I'm filled with so many Latinx roots and an unbreakable pride for my people.
Great pain creates great artists.
I'm tired of hiding who I am or abusing myself for "jokes." I say Latinx because the x erases colonization, including the current exploitation the United States continues to practice across the world. We are America. You can't make America "great" again because the Greatness died hundreds of years ago and now only lives in the spirit world.
My people were the original inhabitants of this great territory. My father complains when he sees our people hypnotized by our Spanish blood. We are so much more. The Spanish are Europeans. Yes, it is a portion of our making; but, for the most part, we only speak the language; behind the veil, we are Mayas, Aztecs, Incas; we are the true American warriors.
Even up North, here in Canada, our First Nations People are our lost tribes. We are the same. I love y'all. My soul yearns to tell the stories of our ancestors, who were erased and made into dinosaurs or villains in Cowboy films. This is why I'm naming my first comedy album, Beautiful Papi.
I know now why I'm funny.
I understand why I wear slutty blouses and pink Jordans. I dress like a Mayan King. I shine. I used to get upset when people confused me for being Mexican. Not anymore. I embrace my Aztec family. I am more aware of systemic racism and generational trauma. My father never fought in the war but all he knew was death and poverty.
My abuelita made him promise not to fight when we were born. "You can fight with your mind, mi hijo." He risked his life for us. He comes from a family of coffee growers. All he wanted was a chance at freedom and success. He was constantly harassed by the military government for his work with the revolution. He was thrown out of moving tanks, forced to watch tortures in jail, had his camera broken multiple times, and his life was threatened by both sides of the conflict.
My mother lost all her college friends in one summer. They were murdered for being alleged supporters of the guerillas. Young men and women in her town were hung from trees, like strange fruit. No humanity. Imagine their trauma. I know it was never my parents' intention to pass it on. But they taught me: that's life. Always be thankful. It was none of our doing. There is so much to unpack; yet, there is so much to let go of and heal.
I always thought it was my father who didn't like to talk about the war. The truth is, I never asked him. He talked my damn ear off when I finally did. My mom, surprisingly, is the one who got emotional. The people my parents fought for, the Left, ended up turning into the rich and the new Right. They abandoned their people, the people who died for them. With tears in her eyes, while she was mixing a huge patch of pupusas, she cried, it was all for nothing. So much death, for nothing.
From pain comes beauty.
But I don't see it as a loss. I am blessed and grateful to be one of the best Latinx comedians in Canada. They gave me that gift. From pain came beauty. I doubt my career choices would have remained the same had we stayed in El Salvador.
Every time I pick up a mic or a pen, I do it for my family. I do it for the victims of a pointless war, the alcoholics and the addicts who live on the streets, the dead children of my country who were not as lucky as me. I do it for my parents. They sacrificed so much. They had heroes like Che Guevara, Farabuno Martí, Frida Kahlo, Roque Dalton, so much more. I have heroes like Malcolm X, Tecumseh, James Baldwin. I do it for them.
Why? Because, I believe, one day, the little bit of joy we find will be worth it. It is my job to make you laugh. That's joy. To hell with all this madness and violence we commit against each other. One day, maybe, we can finally chill, with peace and love, as one dope family, under the almond trees.
You can fight with your mind, mi hijo. Thank God snow is my only problem.