Local musician has a condition that makes it difficult to drum – but that doesn’t stop him
Disposition is destiny. And Jesus Guadalupe, street musician, would certainly be excused if he had a foul one. Guadalupe, 20, was born with phocomelia, a rare cogential condition that has left his arms short and malformed. At the age of eighteen, Guadalupe left his home in Georgia on a wide-eyed quest to make it in New York City and become a star. A few weeks later, he found himself homeless and heartbroken in Oklahoma.
Yet rather than wallow in gloom, Guadalupe is the personification of optimism. If you ask him, things are looking up. Now making his money entirely through music performance, the drummer commutes monthly between his family upstate and his work in the city.
“My favorite part of performance is when I’m drumming, and I see all the faces,” Guadalupe said. “And they’re all ‘oh my god, look at him, he’s drumming!’ And the children are like ‘How can he drum if he has no arms?’ And the parents are like ‘Don’t say that, that’s bad!’
“But the way I see it, it’s a teachable moment,” said Guadalupe. “I’m the type of person, if you want to ask, go ahead and ask me. I don’t mind, it’s not being rude. It’s a motivational moment. And everyone gets a kick out of seeing me drum.”
Perhaps not for him. Playing music is natural to Guadalupe, something he’s been doing since he was a young child. When asked about the mechanics of drumming with his condition, or the decision to take up work in a highly competitive field where his handicap sets him at an inherent physical disadvantage, Guadalupe shrugs, saying only that he’s not hardwired to shrink away from challenges. Even the cause of his condition (prenatal drinking) he greets with patience.
“One day, my mom told me in the car, ‘Jesus, you were born like these because I was drinking. I was young, crazy, stupid. Do you hate me for it?’ And I was like ‘No mom, I don’t hate you. I’m glad God gave me the best mother alive.’”
Rather than focus on health, Guadalupe – like most twenty-year-old men – has devoted a lot of his energy to the pursuit of romantic love. After a series of high school romances, Guadalupe connected with a woman online out in Oklahoma. Traveling from Georgia to Oklahoma to meet her, their relationship fell through on the first day and he ended up in a group home.
After finally making his way to New York, the drummer began playing in the streets. Through a friend, he was introduced to Charlene. After a whirlwind three-week courtship, the couple decided to have a child together.
“My doctor told me I would never have kids, because supposedly with my congenital condition, it would prevent me from it. So I just want to tell my doctor, that’s B.S.”
That baby, Adon, is a healthy boy, and turned eight months old on the 25th of June.
On facts alone, Guadalupe’s story has elements of tragedy: the physical malady, the homelessness, the child out of wedlock. But to the man living the experience, life is beautiful and clean. His narrative is centered less on the hardship, and more on the people around him, and to him, it’s obvious to him that these people are inherently good: the women he’s loved, the audiences he’s performed for, the mother who cared for him growing up.
“I try to help people out,” Guadalupe said, when asked what his most admirable trait is. “I’m a good person.”
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