All paths lead to fútbol

Surrounded by Christmas presents including my first soccer ball. 1979.

My father played soccer before I was born. The dusty trophies on a shelf in the basement and a few faded sepia-tinted photographs were all I knew of it. I don’t remember my father ever watching soccer while I was growing up and though I was given a soccer ball for my first Christmas, the game was only played casually in our yard, just another ball that was part of our collection of toys, piled in a box along with cob-webbed baseball bats, tennis rackets, and flat basketballs.

It wasn’t until I started working at a little Italian restaurant that fútbol fever took over. The owner was from Italy, and as any good Italian should, he loved soccer, (“calcio” in Italian.) Business was often slow and he was infamous for working us hard, always reminding us in his thick accent, “If you can’t find something to do, I will find something for you. I am not paying you for nothing.” But during the World Cup, he allowed us to sit with him at the wobbly uneven-legged tables in the dinning room once in awhile to watch the games play on the little TV up in the corner, (though we had to re-fill ketchup bottles and salt shakers while we watched.) Sometimes he even forgot to complain that we were taking advantage of his generous “unlimited fountain drinks for employees” benefit.

It was during this time that I really fell in love with the game, and not just because it offered a momentary respite from scrubbing floor tiles with a toothbrush. The actual game itself is beautiful; there is beauty in the skill in which the men move the ball down the field, but also in the ball itself. Such a humble object, so humble that people have been known to create them out of trash in the most dire circumstances. There is beauty in the fact that the game is accessible to all, and that no matter our differences, for a brief time, it can bring the world together in a common love.

One of the few photos of his childhood. My husband and his father (lower right), with the team. 1978.

My husband’s love of fútbol is a very different story, (as is almost every story which directly compares our childhoods.) Growing up in El Salvador during a bloody civil war, with the sounds of helicopters and gunfire as background noise, he still ran out to kick the ball around with his friends. His father was the coach of a second division team, and my husband was the team mascot. Sometimes they would go to the crowded stadium to watch games, which could often times be dangerous as it was common for passionate, (and sometimes intoxicated) fans, to become violent. The Football War, (La guerra del fútbol), between El Salvador and Honduras happened before my husband’s time, but that just goes to show the passion they have for the game.

Though my husband has told me he wasn’t given toys as a child, and his Christmas present was usually a pair of shoes, (purposefully bought a few sizes too big so they would last), somehow he remembers having the official FIFA World Cup sticker albums. While I collected puffy, sparkly, and scratch-and-sniff stickers like most American children of the 1980’s, my husband collected stickers of futbolistas and it’s one of very few fond childhood memories he has.

So this year, as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa fast approaches, I encouraged my husband to buy the sticker album. He was at first reluctant, saying that there was no one to trade stickers with, but after I found out some friends would be buying the albums, he agreed. It didn’t take long for my husband’s enthusiasm to be re-ignited. When we bought the album at one of the local Latino markets, we bought a few of the sticker packets with it. The next day, he came home from work with more packets in hand, having stopped at the store on the way. Watching him open the packets and sort through them gives me a glimpse of the little boy he used to be.

We began brainwashing our niños at an early age. Our oldest son. 1998.

We also like sharing this experience with our boys. At first it was just to force our love of fútbol on them, but it turns out, the album provides a great opportunity for practicing Spanish. The pages are multi-lingual, listing the names of the countries and other vocabulary in a dozen or so languages.

As for the stickers, so far we’ve got three doubles. We’ve got an extra Sebastian Abreu (Uruguay/Sticker #86.), Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina/Sticker #117), and Hendry Thomas (Honduras/Sticker #612). Who wants to trade? :)

I have a voice and I will not be silenced

The past couple days I have been visiting websites talking about the immigration march I went to in D.C. on Sunday. Some of the blogs I’ve come across are run by ignorant, xenophobic racists.

One of the worst websites I came across was Youth for Western Civilization. After reading William L. Houston’s extremely biased and vile “report” of the immigration march, I was filled with so much sadness for the ignorance that fills his young head.

I tried to comment multiple times. I presented intelligent arguments, and for this, my comments were deleted. I suppose those who run the website are too cowardly and ignorant to respond to factual truth. Meanwhile, they eagerly publish racist ranting comments which are written by people who obviously do not know how to turn off the CAPS lock.

Well, I will not be silenced. So William, and all the rest of you – I’m calling you out on my own blog and you can not delete me here. I will have my say, (even if it is just throwing pearls to swine.) And because you tried to shut me up, I will yell it even louder.

You went to the march/rally with the sole intent of finding “evidence” to jibe with your own misguided beliefs. You took photos of people waving non-U.S. flags just so you could call them unpatriotic. You and I both know, those people were in the minority and that the vast majority of the 200,000+ people proudly waved AMERICAN flags… Besides, even if people showed pride in their roots, how is it wrong? Is it any different than the Republicans who wave Israeli flags, (or worse, Confederate flags), or Caucasians who wear “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” T-shirts?

Second, those with Che Guevara shirts and things of that nature were also few in numbers. I saw ONE person and I was there for several hours. You must have really gotten a lot of exercise walking through the crowd and searching these people out.

In any crowd and at any event, at any gathering of any race or political party, you are going to find people with a different agenda. This rally was full of peaceful, hopeful people and you know it.

You say, “This wasn’t a spontatneous [sic] outburst of American patriotism like you see at the Tea Parties. Rather, it was tens of thousands of people waving small American flags (which the organizers provided them with) … because they want something in return, namely, American citizenship and access to taxpayer subsidized public services.”

You also say, “Some Latino demonstraters [sic] had bigoted, anti- European signs. There were signs at the rally which claimed that North America is a “Bronze Continent” that belongs to Indians and Latinos. There were others which claimed that Europeans were illegal immigrants.”

You are railing against the Latinos at the rally for being bigoted which is the epitome of irony. You also praise Teabaggers for their patriotism. Do I even have to explain how ridiculous that is? So, Latinos are bigots in your mind for suggesting a historically true fact, (that North America was stolen from the Indigenous people), yet Teabaggers, who are absolutely vile racists who most recently shouted “N*gg*r” and spit on a Black Congressman, are cool with you? … You are so far down the wrong path that even a top-of-the-line GPS couldn’t help you find your way back to reality.

Lastly, about that video you shot of people unintentionally walking over a little U.S. flag on the ground… You say:

“As we were leaving, we noticed Latino demonstrators walking over a discarded American flag on the sidewalk. We shot some video of those patriotic Americans which we will share on YouTube.”

Did you ever consider that perhaps the little flag slipped out of someone’s hand, (perhaps a child’s), accidentally, and it was totally unbeknownst to the person who dropped it? The people who are walking over it are not stomping on it, they simply fail to notice it is there. How does that make them unpatriotic? … You, on the other hand, saw your beloved flag on the ground being trampled. Not only did you leave it there, but you watched, and you took the time to video tape it. What does that make you?

What do we want? Immigration Reform! When do we want it? NOW!

Mr. López and I, (and your favorite third wheel, my Suegra), went to the immigration march in Washington D.C. yesterday. (Photo of me at left.  Hee hee.)

We dropped the kids off with my parents first, and I’m glad we did. I had enough difficulty looking out for myself,  and I didn’t need the kids saying, “I’m hot. I’m hungry. How long is this going to be?”… I had Suegra saying, “Puchica, esta caliente… Tengo hambre… ¿Cuánto tiempo más?”

Riding the METRO was insane. They were having delays since one of the tracks was not in use for maintenance or something. Also, we were packed in there like sardines, but I’m pleased to say, everyone was in good spirits for the most part, and we all remembered to wear our deodorant.

I did get stared at quite a bit, which was a bit unnerving. I don’t know where the other white people were, but most of the time, I was the only one in the general vicinity. People photographing the event kept taking pictures of me and my husband, as if we were some sort of shining example of racial harmony, (They should see how we fight at home!) – which was uncomfortable at best.

I’m proud that we went to support the cause and it was exciting. The actual event itself though, in all honesty, could have been organized a little better. (I say this without taking away from all the hard work people put into this, because, as is obvious from the turnout, it was a success. I just say this in the spirit of making things even better next time.)

My main “complaint” would be that they had way too many guests make use of the microphone, many of whom were not gifted public speakers. This caused the event to go on too long and I could tell much of the crowd was becoming restless, (we stayed from 2 pm to 5 pm, and they were still going when we left.) … Remember, this is 200,000+ people, (the largest number to assemble on the National Mall since President Obama’s inauguration), standing in the hot sun, many with young children, (or annoying suegras.)

Next time they would do best to condense the program and make sure everyone is on the same page. The message seemed to get somewhat lost some of the time. One speaker kept saying “health care reform” instead of “immigration reform.” She looked baffled as to why the crowd was not responding, and no one corrected her. A couple others  I felt almost crossed the line as far as disrespecting the President. (People, he’s on our side with this issue!) … And a few times speakers mentioned César Chávez as a source of inspiration. I’m shocked that so many Latino leaders have obviously not done their homework. César Chávez may have been a champion for the working class, but he was no amigo to the undocumented immigrants. His focus was his union, and anything that undermined those efforts, such as undocumented workers who would come in and work for less pay when he had his workers striking, was not something he tolerated. Chávez even went as far as to organize a group much like today’s “Minute men” to patrol the border, and he would also report undocumented immigrants to immigration.

History lessons aside, I’m excited about the momentum this has created. (And if you were in the crowd, you know that despite what was going on up on stage, the energy of the people was something tangible. The power is with the pueblo, as it should be!)

I hope you will please consider taking un momentico to sign your name and send a free fax in support of the Schumer-Graham bill for comprehensive immigration reform. Reforming immigration isn’t just necessary for bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so their families don’t live day-to-day in fear of being torn apart, but giving them a path to legalization means they can contribute to their communities, and our economy more fully, which benefits us all. Other issues that will be discussed as part of the bill are border security and modernizing our currently outdated immigration system so we don’t find ourselves sorting out this kind of mess again. A bipartisan bill is possible and this should be a concern of every person living in the United States, no matter your race, status, or political party affiliation.

Click here to be taken to the Reform Immigration for America site to send a free fax to elected leaders

The 2010 Census and the race question

I received my 2010 Census yesterday and decided to fill it out right away before it got lost in the basketful of junk mail.

I was stumped immediately on Question #1 regarding how many people live in the home. I had not intended to count Suegra… but the Census clearly states that you should count anyone under your roof on the date of April 1st, 2010, even if you don’t consider them a permanent family member.

So, even though we are a family of 4, I had to write a number 5 in that box. There it is…

Well, it turned out that this question was pan comido compared to the race questions.

Question #5 asks Hispanic origin. According to the Census, “Hispanic” and “Latino” are not considered a race – they are an ethnicity, since Latinos can be of different races, (take for instance, Sammy Sosa, George Lopez, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and Enrique Iglesias. They are all Latino but they are all different racially – and that is just a very small taste of the variety found in Latin America.)

Yet, aren’t Anglos just as racially diverse? I am part Russian, Irish, Native American and a number of other things. My neighbor could be French and Danish, yet we are both thrown into the “White” category.

I’m always baffled as to why Latinos are singled out. Nevertheless, this was an easy enough question to answer on the Census. I marked “No” for myself and “Yes” for my husband, our children and Suegra, (writing in “Salvadoran” to specify in the provided boxes.)

Question #6 was the real problem. This one is asking about Race. If my husband, Suegra and children can’t identify as “Latino” (half “Latino” in my kids case), what are they?

The options are:

White
Black, African Am., or Negro
American Indian or Alaska Native (with space to fill in the tribe.)
Asian Indian
Chinese
Filipino
Japanese
Korean
Vietnamese
Native Hawaiian
Guamanian or Chamorro
Samoan
Other Pacific Islander (such as Fijan or Tongan, etc. with a box to fill in which one)
Other Asian (Pakistani, Hmong, Thai, etc. with a box to fill in which one)
Some Other Race (and a box to fill in which one)

For myself I marked “White”, but I was baffled as to what to do for everyone else in the family. Racially they are “ladino” (mestizo), which in El Salvador means an Indigenous person mixed with Spanish blood who has adopted the Spanish language and culture, (mostly leaving behind the Indigenous language and culture.)

The problem is, my husband’s family doesn’t know where their Indigenous roots come from. Are they Pipil? Lenca? Aztec? Mayan? They have no idea. I’m sure this is the case with many people from Latin America. With the way the Spaniards arrived and began converting everyone to Catholicism, forcing them to speak Spanish and adopt European ways, (not to mention massacring the uncooperative among them) – it became a shameful, or even dangerous thing to be Indigenous. It is a similar history to the way the Native Americans were treated here in the United States. Even in modern day Latin America, if a person acts in a uncouth manner, they are called a stupid “Indio” as an insult. And so, one’s indigenous roots is not something most families would have wanted to keep records of. Perhaps they considered it something best forgotten, and so now generations later, it has been.

So here I am with this Census, wondering how I am supposed to fill it out. I decided to search the internet to see if anyone else was struggling with this problem and found this article. Apparently I am not the only one scratching my head.


“El Paso – Anthropologists and Latino residents of El Paso have called into question recent statements made by a social activist that advise Hispanics to register their race as “white” when it comes time to fill out the census form this month.

Speaking to the El Paso Times this past week, Jessie Acosta, chairman of the El Paso Complete Count Committee, estimated that 98 percent of the Hispanics living in El Paso are technically white. His comments have generated much controversy and confusion in the community.

Academics and citizens agree that census officials have committed a “racial inaccuracy” by not offering Hispanics the opportunity to register themselves as “mixed,” given that the vast majority of Latinos are of mixed descent, with Spanish and indigenous American ancestors.

Margarita Rendón, a Mexican woman living in El Paso who regards herself as trigueña [a lighter-skinned Latina], stated that there exists enormous confusion over the race sections on these types of questionnaires. She stated that she is neither black nor white, and for this reason she always marks the box labeled “Other” to answer these questions.

“I always thought that the gringos were the white ones,” she said, a bit confused.”

-Héctor Manuel Castro – El Diario de El Paso
March 10, 2010

I think it’s laughable that the Census wants Latinos to mark “White”. Since when do they get to be included in the exclusive club? I’ll mark my husband as “White” when he gets treated as “White”.

Besides, how many Black people have just as much “White” blood as the majority of “Latinos”, yet they are expected to select “Black”.

I wrestled with how to fill out this Census for over an hour, and then I finally decided I would just mark “White” AND “Other”, not just for my kids, but for my husband and Suegra, too. In the “Other” box, I wrote “Latino”, but also considered “Mestizo”, “Ladino”, “Indigenous”, and any number of Central American tribes. I wrote it in pencil just in case I change my mind. I’m wondering how other Latinos across the country are answering this question. Please leave a comment!

Rick Sanchez on Anglicizing

anglo A couple weeks ago, while discussing the hotel manager who tried to force his Latino employees to change their names, (to make them easier to pronounce for non-Spanish speaking customers), CNN’s Rick Sanchez weighed in – and what he said shocked many. Dissenting from his fellow Latino colleagues, Sanchez defended the New Mexico hotel owner, Larry Whitten.

In part, Sanchez said:

“My real name is Ricardo Leon Sanchez de Reinaldo. I don’t use it because I want to be respectful of this wonderful country that allowed us as Hispanics to come here, and I think it’s easier if someone’s able to understand me by Anglicizing my name.”

I usually like Rick Sanchez but I thought this statement was incredibly ignorant. Perhaps Rick, as a recent Cuban immigrant, is thankful that he was “allowed…to come” to “this wonderful country”, but what he failed to realize is that not all Latinos are Cuban. Not all Latinos feel the need to pay respect for being “allowed” in because the fact of the matter is, their people were here FIRST – Before the Anglos. The Mexican people in New Mexico and in much of the Southwest are living on their own ancestral land.

If a person chooses to change their name, as Rick Sanchez did, because they feel it gives them a competitive edge, will help them become more successful, or for any reason at all, that is their prerogative, but no one ever, for any reason whatsoever should be forced to change their name.

We live in a country full of diverse people and diverse names and that is something that makes us special. In the list of “Most Common 1,000 Surnames in the United States”, we have:

#18. GARCIA
#19. MARTINEZ
#22. RODRIGUEZ
#29. HERNANDEZ
#32. LOPEZ
#38. GONZALEZ
#42. PEREZ
#52. SANCHEZ
#61. RIVERA
#67. TORRES
#70. RAMIREZ
#89. FLORES
#94. GONZALES
#99. DIAZ

These are just in the top 100. If you go further you continue to get an impressive mix of Latino and Anglo names. Eventually we get:

#229. NGUYEN (Vietnamese)
#281. O’BRIEN (Irish)
#363. COHEN (Jewish)
#459. WONG (Chinese)
#461. PARK (Korean)
#591. PATEL (Indian)
#683. LEBLANC (French)
#687. CHANG (Chinese)
#753. RUSSO (Italian)

My point, this is a nation of immigrants, get used to it. It won’t kill a white person to learn how to say Martín [Mar-teen] instead of Martin.

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names” ~ Chinese Proverb