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Technology & Entrepreneurship

Tech Advocate Tackles Mental Health In Newest Book

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Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio

Lorenzo Gomez is not a doctor, nor does he claim to be. The San Antonio tech industry advocate released his second book Tuesday, but it isn't about business or technology — it’s about mental health.

Again, Lorenzo Gomez is not a doctor. He’s often clad in shorts — as he was the day I spoke to him at Gameday Media's studios, where he records the podcasts he produces for his current endeavor Geekdom Media. Before we got to the interview, he rehashed the reasons why improving the city’s nightlife is the key to attracting tech workers. 

His devotion to the city that raised him and the homegrown companies like Rackspace that gave him his first career makes it clear why his first book, The Cilantro Diaries, was about business practices. 

So why did the former Rackspace employer turned foundation head turned Geekdom Media founder, who spends all his time talking up San Antonio's technology industry, want to talk about his feelings? 

"I think Hispanic males — you're sort of told to take the macho approach. And what I want people to know is that’s actually wrong. That's actually not helpful at all, and we need to be talking about these things." 

His new book Tafolla Toro: Three Years of Fear traces his time growing up in the Los Angeles Heights and going to school on San Antonio's West Side in the early 90's. 

The book opens as a young Gomez walks his sister home from school. The two strolling home hand in hand find themselves on a bridge between two large groups of young men looking to pulverize each other. Violence erupts between the two groups in a cinematic description of head to head combat. Suddenly, police squad cars flood the area, and the young men scatter to all quarters, leaping from bridges and escaping the ever present police force.

“As I prepared for middle school, I hoped and prayed that I would never see anything that big and uncontrollable again,” Gomez wrote.

But his time at Tafolla Middle School and in his neighborhood, he witnessed guns in school, drivebys and experienced bullying. Outsiders may not know that San Antonio was sometimes called “Drive-By City” for the number of gang related shootings that occurred. 

The environment left the 12-year old fearful. This undercurrent of fear would follow him his whole life. Problems with personal and business relationships were the result. 

For instance, his fear of confrontation came from the understanding that where he grew up shouting matches or even raised voices often led to violence, so every-day arguments would escalate quickly for him.

"When I would see a spirited discussion, my heart rate would start racing, because my 12-year old self would say 'the violence is coming soon.'"

Each chapter is filled with letters from the now 39-year old to a younger self, hoping to impart the tools he’s used in recent years through therapy on the reader.

He tells himself he wished he hadn’t lied to his mother about his fear. He wished he knew that the fear he felt was normal, and pushing it down would actually be a problem later on.

Gomez admitted that If he had known that he probably wouldn’t have needed the help he has needed, but now that he does, he wants to help  remove the stigma of mental health and asking for help.

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org and on Twitter @paulflahive.