Brown Pride: A Letter to Cain Velasquez
Dear Brother Cain,
Congratulations on becoming the new UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Heavyweight Champion of the World. I didn’t get to watch you, to see you perform your artistry, to see you live the spirit warrior dance flowing from your heart and mind. I didn’t see the moment when it all came together, the moment that came and went like a flash—blows raining down from the heart of a drum, the pulse of our ancestral rituals—inspired by love and struggle and the spirits of our indigenous ancestors. No, I didn’t see it and I surely didn’t see the years, the countless hours of work you put into training and preparation, embracing your craft, sweating and sacrificing and letting go of fear, standing up and being who you are. I can only dream of the discipline, skill and determination it takes to compete in such a grueling sport. What a great day it is. It means something. “Cain Velasquez…heavyweight champion”. Those words keep echoing in my mind.
While you were in the octagon facing Brock Lesnar (who kept pronouncing your name VELAS-QWEZZ), I was at the home of POOR Magazine reportero Muteado Silencio. Muteado is an indigenous scholar, artist and poet with Prensa Pobre, POOR Magazine—an indigenous newsmaking circle that makes revolutionary media, that is poor people and indigenous people led. Muteado is a powerful voice resisting racism, border fascism and linguistic domination—always there when help is needed, always ready to speak up for migrant Raza and communities of color. It was Muteado’s birthday and friends and family gathered in his small home in Oakland. Cain, you would have loved the gathering. The music was alive with Cumbia, hip hop, salsa, rap—the rhythms of resistance alive, tearing down the walls of confinement with the movement of our bodies and minds. Muteado’s mother was so warm and gracious and giving, her journey of motherhood and struggle swimming across her brown skin. Bowls of chicken, pork and vegetables warmed us. I think one of our reporters, Bruce Allison, ate 6 bowls. Muteado’s mother is a tough lady, mother of 13 beautiful children—even tougher than you, Cain—no joke.
The house was hers and the ancestors are alive, their voices alive in her movement, in her hands, her eyes, her voice—in everything she prepares. I saw an interview you gave where you spoke about your parents and how their struggle inspired you to become a fighter. You spoke of your father crossing the desert 5 times and being sent back before making it across to this country for a better life. You went to school and wrestled for Arizona State, earning honors in that sport while achieving a degree in education. Tell me Cain, is Muteado’s mother like your mother?
Anyway, I wish I could have seen the fight but we didn’t have pay per view at Muteado’s house so we watched the Giants game instead. The Giants won! The room was alive—the Giants on TV, salsa in the speakers, pollo in our bellies and poetry on our lips. What more could we have wanted?
As the evening went on, I got a text message from my brother that read, “Cain beat Lesnar”. I began telling people about your victory. “What?” they asked, the music blaring from the speakers. “Cain Velasquez…he beat Lesnar…he won” I repeated. They didn’t hear it but those words were music and it blended with the salsa coming from the speakers. The whole neighborhood heard it.
Since the night of Muteado’s birthday, I’ve read about the fight and have watched interviews you have given—including one interview where the host asked you about your brown pride tattoo—saying that some people think the tattoo indicates affiliation with a gang. We at POOR Magazine think the tattoo is beautiful. Also beautiful is the way you’ve spoken of and given respect to your father’s struggle as a migrant Raza man—his strength is your strength.
Brother Cain, just want to let you know that when you beat Lesnar, it was us beating the landlord, slumlord, boss. It was the kid that I was, afraid of confrontation, being able to confront fear and put it on its ass. It was our elders long ago and in the present who fought and are fighting for decent housing. It was for the dreamers who dreamed of doing what you did, to be able to stand up and look fear in the eye.
I read once that when Joe Louis was heavyweight champion, after each of his victories, the people in Harlem used to go wild in the streets in celebration. When I think of your victory, I feel those spirits moving from Harlem across the country to Arizona and to Muteado’s house in Oakand. And from there it goes through the desert where your father walked, planting the seeds that would become Brown Pride.