By Bethany Ward, Staff Writer–
Dr. Murillo is a Spanish professor at UTC who recently published his first book on the lives of Hispanic-Americans and the conviction that apathy is the greatest of all sins. He gave an impactful reading of his book on Wednesday, April 3rd at 5pm in an attempt to shed light on the unfortunate fact that that racism is still alive and well in this country.
As the book’s synopsis says, Murillo’s Midnight Vallenato “narrates experiences with racism, police brutality, domestic violence, memory, and the seemingly eternal cultural maladjustment of Hispanic-Americans.”
Murillo began his reading by quoting Elie Wiesel, saying “we must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Murillo believes that the United States suffers from historical amnesia. “Nobody really knows the history of the United States, and a lot of individuals have the luxury of not needing to,” Murillo says. “They have no idea what it is like to walk into a restaurant and have people stop eating because they are staring at you…they don’t live the experience of walking into a store and hearing whispers.”
“I can’t turn a blind eye. I don’t think it would be very patriotic of me,” Murillo said. “I think what you’ll get after reading Midnight Vallenato is that I have sided with the tormented.”
Murillo opened his book, took a breath, and began to read. Like opening a wound, Murillo read stories of pains similar to his own and situations he knew all too well. The audience got lost in the story of a hispanic man chasing a dream who who was mistreated by an employer, and a pen drop could have been heard in the room.
He explained that his book is about an existence in America that not many people know about. As reviewer G. Nelson Bass said, “Murillo’s collection will both inspire and infuriate, but also remind you of moments, places, and people that you have known or at least thought you knew, and occasionally tried to forget. These stories will resonate with anyone who has ever felt out of place.”
Murillo went on to explain that the United States is raised in a fear culture. “Everything we do really revolves around fear,” he stated, using the examples of our predominant military and ingrained fear of being bombed as reasons why fear based racism is still prevalent in our country, and unnecessarily so.
He also spoke about the weaponizing of the word “Mexican” and the ignorant misconception that all Hispanics are Mexican, using the example of Fox News story on Sunday titled “Trump cuts U.S. Aid to 3 Mexican Countries.”
Despite all of this, Murillo thinks that racism both can and must be dealt with. “Luckily, racism is man-made. That means it can be reversed.” said Murillo. “Once our country has admitted its own faults and stops reopening the wounds caused by racism, we can move forward and find healing.”