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Marty's 2020 on: identity, remote work, and riding in a cycling gem

Marty (@martymartinho) gives his recap of 2020. While 2020 brought up issues that Marty already felt a long time ago, it also opened opportunities to connect with others despite living across the 'lake.

Photo: William Loyd (@bossmeem)

A Product of our Histories

I moved around a lot as a kid, and this was a constant theme all the way into adulthood. I am a North Carolina/Virginia to Chicago transplant, which I've regarded as “home” since the summer of 1991 (the day after the Bulls won their first of six NBA Championships). Up until then, divorces, deaths, military academies, and dreams of a better life, made moving to a new house a question of “when,” not “if.” Being uprooted as a kid can be extra heavy as well because you are completely helpless in the matter. Fortunately, the gods floated us to a city that builds character, grit, and hustle. When asked where I’m from (many times mistaken for Brazilian), I make it a point to say “Chicago,” not “the USA.” Not long after that, in ’94, my folks shipped me off to a military high school in North Georgia. Mom told me we were going to visit my dad for my birthday, so we flew down to have some QT. Little did I know that they had used my birthday as bait to lure and leave me there. Just like that, on Tuesday I was skating downtown Chicago with my boys and on Wednesday learning how to march, shoot, and salute.

What seemed to be the nightmare scenario ended up fruitful, when my dad introduced me to Tom Jobim and others from the Bossa Nova era Brazilian jazz. That music affected me so much that I went to the University of Illinois to study Portuguese for the sole purpose of understanding the lyrics of the Stoneflower album that pops passed down to me! I had never actually heard the language spoken in real-time. This changed on a Tuesday afternoon when one of the Brazilian grad students came into the lounge to chat with my teacher. The words I heard were music to my soul and they convinced me to sign up to study abroad in Rio de Janeiro that same summer.


After two university exchanges in Rio (’98 and ’01), I encountered some folks who have been dear friends ever since. With an outlet of energy that facilitated relationship making (thank you, skateboarding and rapping), ideal weather for the outdoors, love, and a knack for languages, this city became what I then thought would be “home forever.” On top of this, I was there as a person with a rather nomadic childhood and adolescence. It was the perfect storm that made the idea of conflating life in the US with happiness erode. I became fluent in Portuguese, hustled ESL classes, had a wife/family, had a bank account, and paid rent, just like my peers there. I felt more “at home” there than back “home” in the Windy City.

Chicago and bikes 

My then-wife and I moved from Brazil to Chicago in 2006, because of my thinking that we would be happier there. I ended up staying until 2016 (almost to the same week) until I finally had had enough of the stable-yet-stagnant-life blues. The ingredients that Life was brewing up at that time led to a divorce and a rekindling of my childhood love for bikes. A friend of mine who did a bunch of local races introduced me to an awesome community, road racing, and cyclocross. 

It was between 2012-ish and 2016 when my “2020 moment” (aka forebodings of an imminent apocalyptic future) began, tossing more kindling onto the burn to live abroad again. The "push" factors existed for several reasons, but the main one was the “stable but stagnant” dilemma. Plus, I was sick of the winters. Thoughts of “what am I doing with my life” and “if you don’t make a move soon, you’ll regret it on your deathbed” plagued me daily. A change in scene was needed. Sadly, I fooled myself annually into believing that it would happen the following year when everything was “just right.”

I also left because of the battle between Americans who rely on facts and reasoning and right-wing, conspiracy preaching nitwits (the latter given more mainstream media outlets to spew their hate from). Cops were being filmed and still getting away with cold blooded murder of Black citizens (today I found out that the cops who murdered Tamir Rice in 2014 were acquitted of any wrongdoing. America's centuries-old system of slavery has morphed into our present-day prison industrial complex. Re-normalization of racism in America (a.k.a. MAGA) and widespread willful ignorance led to the symptoms we see in the forms of all-white “militias,” QAnon, and the rise of Trumpism. To top it off, health care is still a debate, and merely being melanated in that country, made it even easier to leave.

The most important “pull” factor that lured me out was being able to ride and race bicycles year-round. Catalunya, Spain fit the bill because of its year-long cycling calendar. Yes, I moved here to be able to ride bikes and to gain fluency in languages. Its strategic location is within two hours of a bunch of major European hubs and North Africa. A buddy of mine from Rio had previously moved to Barcelona and the famed cycling Mecca of Cycling, Girona, had recently been brought to my attention. Plus, I had been saving money for my escape. I then visited the friend to get a feel for the city, told boss that I was quitting, bought airfare, sold stuff, packed my bike, and have been here ever since.

2020 Revealed 

Present times, especially since the turn of the millennium, have been revealing when it comes to the fragility of our existence. Yet, 2020 came with that COVID19 level-up and made it even more clear. It showed people outside of Black communities that half of the nation still thinks that our lives are worth three-fifths of theirs. Much of the world beared witness, despite our outlandish (but unequal) wealth, to Black citizens being murdered in cold blood while playing, shopping, or merely being, while their white killers go unpunished.

2020 did an outstanding job of showing how our relationship with the earth is dire. We need immediate reevaluation and policy changes favoring the long-term survival of life as we know it. Huge agribusiness and factory farms are the primary causes of the precarious state of the physical environment. I read from a handful of sources that the very conditions common in wet markets that brought about COVID19 in the first place are common in many North American industrial farms. One silver lining is that some factory farms have had to close over the year and we have seen growth in demand for plant-based alternatives.

The final thing that this year brought to light was the malicious intent and clear lack of leadership at all governmental levels. Corrupt politicians are nothing new, but they are more on display today than they were before the Internet and social media. Then, politicians knew they had to at least pretend to be on the people’s side. In response to all this what happened? People went out and VOTED in November (and again in Georgia on the 6th of January) and so got Impostor out of the White House.

2020 Illuminated

On top of being the “bearer of our existential truth,” this year has provided some light to guide us into the future. Since COVID19 went ape shit in the Spring, the invention and distribution of vaccines on a global scale in less than a year have shed light on how teamwork makes the dream work. Scientists everywhere collaborated on and shared data in an almost concerted effort to come up with a vaccine and they succeeded. If we see that level of coordination to solve the climate crisis, wealth redistribution then the results will favor everyone.

In addition to many canceled or rescheduled races, there have been a handful of overt examples of how cycling is still very much an elitist realm. Of course, this attitude is disguised as “culture” or “tradition.” The effect is but the same: exclusion. A few more white folks became aware for the first time of dogmatic white silence in the industry in the face of America’s racism. A handful even got so far to realize how they themselves were unwillingly participating in and benefitting from it. We saw that even with a few world tour teams will bring on racist, homo/transphobic racers, vocal dissidence within the community against this practice increased, demanding more pathways for BIPOC and LGBQT representation in the sport. These voices and bodies are creating history for cycling TODAY. Only a handful of companies are genuinely on board with making the industry more inclusive, not a lot but at least a start. If they include more participation of these groups in their boardrooms then this sport could experience much growth. This is a movement I am happy to be a part of moving into the upcoming years.

2020 from Across the Lake

Photo: @gargaphoto

2020 will definitely go down as humanity’s diarhea-with-no-toilet-paper year, but I fear that we'll remember it more for its negativity and chaos than how they present opportunities to reflect on some age-old wisdom, such as:

Life is better with fewer expectations. We learned how to better manage the sudden, unexpected changes that life tends to dish out, which will be a useful skill moving into uncertain times. If you are reading this then you have most likely picked up a few of these survival skills. To adapt is to survive and we cannot thrive if we cannot survive. If you’ve survived 2020 then kudos: you’ve done a great job! But do not ease up: early 2020 was only the beginning of the roller coaster. Remember we still have a climate crisis to face after everything goes back to "normal."

With so many canceled and rescheduled races, some of us got a chance to be less dependent on periodized training plans. Within a few weeks, they were rendered useless. This forced us to make sudden training and travel adjustments. Personally, I was fortunate enough to get a turbo trainer (not easy as many can attest. I ended up having to go to Dutch eBay) and maintain some level of base fitness.

‘Take advantage of the present moment’ is yet another ancient truth bomb that the past twelve months have dropped on us. Despite its sounding cliché, it holds as true today as ever. The context in which I mention this has to do with staying in touch with loved ones. We lost more heroes this year than what seems to be any other in recent times, both familiar and famous. Taking a sec to reach out to someone to catch up is golden because we aren’t promised tomorrow. Do it!

2020 Highlights

Photo: @jeffclarkphotographs

The formation of The Black Foxes is something that makes me smile not only about 2020 but the years to come: in particular, our first in-person reunion in Colorado and the stories that it birthed. Sharing the outdoors with good folks with whom I share ethnic backgrounds, interests, and visions for change was awesome and empowering. Even all the visual documentation of the experience was eloquently done by BIPOC creators. There was a “Black Wall Street’s Heyday” vibration going on that we look forward to replicating and spreading in 2021! Lastly, COVID group restrictions, if anything, were helpful for us because it gave us all a chance to genuinely connect with one another.

Colorado is dope. It’s by far the world’s best place to experience oxygen deprivation. If I had to go back to the States tomorrow, it would be the only place for apartment hunting. Every ride, run, and hike I did in that state is a mental postcard etched into my memory forever. Lastly, CO helped reinforce the realization that I must have easy access to Mother Nature to stay sane.

Girona was also an unexpected gem when the COVID19 reality forced my wife and I to move there from Barcelona. Living at home has a few challenges, but having trails, roads, mountains, and animal filled woods at our doorstep more than makes up for them. When we were in the city, I didn’t truly appreciate it, but now that we are here I wish we would have made the move even before the pandemic!

Working remotely became a reality overnight due to the pandemic, but helped enable travel to the US to meet my family and the Foxes.

My Transfer Case helped to safely get my bike and to and from the States without any special equipment fees. I saved 300 USD on this single trip, which almost pays for the case itself. This in and of itself qualifies for a 2020 highlight! I am not made of money, and saving a few hundred bucks for each round trip flight is always appreciated.

Photo: @the_blackfoxes