Q. What was it like growing up in Pharr?
A. Well, I spent just the last two years of high school there. It was just after my father had abandoned the family without a word, and my mother, brothers and I were living in section 8 housing — the projects — and receiving food stamps to survive. It was a really tough time, I can tell you. The violence, drugs and gangs that surrounded us day to day further deepened the darkness in my life. At the same time, however, I found refuge in a very small circle of friends, in music, and above all in the libraries of that small town.
I had previously lived in Corpus until I was five, South Carolina, till I was eleven, and then in McAllen and Weslaco here in the Río Grande Valley of South Texas. Those years were pretty great, growing up part of an ethnically mixed family — my grandmother Garza’s wonderful array of folktales were especially formative of my personality and interests.