SAN BENITO — Two different experiences.
One common home.
These are the tales of Al Garcia and Beto Conde who served in the Vietnam War.
The Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center will host a book reading and signing on Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Getsemani Presbyterian Church in San Benito beginning, 6:45 p.m. featuring Garcia, 70, and Conde, 72, two authors from the Valley.
Garcia’s book, titled “Where the Mesquite Tree Grows: Growing up along the Rio Grande – An Anthology,” follows the author’s journey beginning in the cotton fields along the Rio Grande, through the 1960s Cultural Revolution, into the jungles of Vietnam and returns to his roots in the Valley 48 years later.
Garcia said he is most looking forward to having an opportunity to talk about his experiences growing up in the Valley during the 1950s and 60s.
“A different time and place than what we see today. It also allows me to speak about my Vietnam experience, where, as a combat journalist, I experienced war in a way many of my fellow soldiers did not,” Garcia said.
Conde said he decided to write about his experiences in Vietnam because he wanted to share them with somebody.
“After being involved in the war, I’ve realized that human beings should be beyond fighting and killing each other for land, money or whatever,” Conde said. “I had three close friends who died in Vietnam.”
His book, titled “Memories in Green, A Mind’s Fifty Year Journey from Drafted to PTSD: Reflections from Vietnam,” conveys Conde’s fear, anger, grief, exhilaration and defiance that combatants from across the United States experience in Vietnam.
Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Director Rogelio Nunez said the nonprofit has been hosting cultural activities for 27 years.
The idea is to continue providing Mexican-American culture activities through activities such as music, reading, poetry and art.
“I think this cultural work is very important because we do have a lot of veterans in the Valley, but it’s not just about being a veteran in the Valley,” Nunez said. “It’s about being a Mexican-American in the Valley. It’s kind of a whole being born and raised in the Valley, and going through these experiences of school, family and war.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT — Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center Readings and Book Signings
WHEN — Thursday, Feb. 28 beginning at 6:45 p.m.
WHERE — Getsemani Presbyterian Church, 140 Diaz Street, San Benito
TWO AUTHORS — Al Garcia and Beto Conde
TWO BOOKS — “Where the Mesquite Tree Grows: Growing up along the Rio Grande – An Anthology” and “Memories in Green, A Mind’s Fifty Year Journey from Drafted to PTSD: Reflections from Vietnam”