By Eva Martinez
Alfonso Texidor was fond of saying what was on his mind; he never shied away from telling someone, “I have personality.”
And he certainly did, right up until the day he died of lung cancer on Dec. 25, 2014.
Alfonso, who was born Aug. 2, 1946 in Puerto Rico, was the fourth of five children of Domingo Texidor and Gregoria Rodriguez.
For three decades Alfonso was an iconic presence in the Mission District. Even people who didn’t know his name recognized the dapper and slim gentleman in the brown fedora who carried a cane. He was even recognizable rolling through the neighborhood on his motorized wheelchair, which he used after a 2011 hit-and-run accident on South Van Ness Avenue.
Alfonso spent his childhood in El Fanguito (The Little Mud Hole), one of the poorest barrios right outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The houses were shacks linked by plank walkways, which hung over seasonal ponds of water.
Some of Alfonso’s earliest memories were of his mother placing him on a blanket on the floor where he could look through the floorboards to see the fish and frogs swimming in the water below. He contracted polio from the fetid water when he was two, and had his first surgery at five, beginning a period of life where he would spend long stretches in the hospital by himself as a young child.
His family moved in 1954 to the Bronx, New York when Alfonso was eight, and he could remember looking through the apartment window in awe of the tall buildings all around him. They lived in the Bronx for eight years until his mother died in 1963, and they went back to Puerto Rico.
In high school, he launched his career in political activism when he joined the Federación Estudiantil Pro Independencia (FEPI), the youth division of the Movimiento Pro-Independencia (MPI), and the national pro-independence movement.
At the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, he continued his independence work with the Federación Universitaria Pro Independencia (FUPI). During this time, Alfonso met several elder nationalists who had begun the movement in the 1930s. In a 2014 interview Alfonso said that one of the greatest honors of his life occurred in 1965 when he was asked to serve as an honor guard during the funeral for Pedro Albizu Campos, Puerto Rico’s independence hero.
Alfonso also joined the Liga Socialista, led by Puerto Rican pro-independence leader Juan Antonio Corretjer, and took part in massive demonstrations against the Vietnam War and fought to remove the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) from the University of Puerto Rico campus. Alfonso saw these issues as directly linked to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.
Protests would often turn violent, with police officers beating and arresting students. Eventually, university authorities expelled 100 FUPI members, including Alfonso.
Feeling burnt out by the violence and intensity of the movement, Alfonso returned to New York in 1967, where he got a night job in a bank. Not content to sit on the sidelines however, Alfonso soon got involved with the Puerto Rican nationalist group Young Lords, working on their campaign to take over a barrio church in lower Manhattan and set up a community clinic.
Next, he joined Up Against the Wall Motherf**kers, an anarchist group mostly comprised of white hippies from New York City’s Lower East Side. They “liberated” storefronts and gave out free clothes and food. Alfonso helped mimeograph and distribute flyers against the Vietnam War and local police brutality. Alfonso said the group often had confrontations with the police that turned into “pitched battles in the street.”
Eventually, the situation in New York became too turbulent for the Motherf**kers, and they moved to a commune in rural Llana, New Mexico led by an activist group called The Hog Farm, whose leader, Hugh Romney, is now known as Wavy Gravy.
A year after the Motherf**kers left New York, Alfonso took a road trip through Vermont, Canada, Chicago and Colorado before arriving in Llano. After staying for six months, Alfonso hitchhiked back to New York where he discovered that the Motherf**kers had become legends.
“We were like rock stars,” he said.
In 1968, with factionalism on the left, ongoing police harassment and the wide drug use Alfonso felt it was time to move on. He soon found himself traveling to the West Coast with three women in a Volkswagen van. They landed in Portland, Oregon, where he stayed for six months before finding his way to San Francisco.
He settled in the Haight-Ashbury and became the coordinator of the Haight-Ashbury Music Workshop program, working with musicians and organizing concerts throughout the city. Alfonso said it was there that his life began to change in a positive way.
Around 1978 he moved to the Mission, and by 1980 his interest and involvement in poetry blossomed. He participated in big poetry readings at The Farm on Potrero Avenue, where he began interpreting poetry in a more musical manner.
It was also during this time that Alfonso became active in community journalism. He began his long stint at El Tecolote in the early 1980s, serving as a translator. He also wrote for the New Mission News until it ceased publishing following the 2002 death of publisher Victor Miller. Alfonso continued his work at El Tecolote, editing the Tecocalendario and translating. He was at the office translating articles for the final El Tecolote of 2014 just eight days before his death.
A memorial for Alfonso is planned for Feb. 8. It will begin at Cafe La Boheme at 12p.m., and move to the Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts at 3 p.m. More information can be found at the Facebook event page.
Story by: Eva Martinez