Los Americans

I really want to watch this new web show on PIC.tv. It starts tomorrow (May 26) … Check it out:

Show description:

Los Americans is the story of a modern, affluent, suburban Mexican-American family living in the United States. The Valenzuela family is totally assimilated in U.S. American culture, and that’s the way the patriarch, Leandro Valenzuela, or “Lee” as Leandro prefers to be called, likes it. He’s moved on from speaking Spanish and the ways of the old country. As he proudly says, “We’re not Mexicans. Mexicans live in Mexico. We’re Americans.”

Lee is right in that he and his family will face many of the problems and challenges all Americans face, that all human beings face – unemployment, homelessness, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, abortion, immigration, childhood obesity and others. But Lee will also face another problem in that he has forgotten his native language and moved away from his culture, ultimately losing part of who he is and where he comes from, and he will learn that maybe this is not such a good thing. Welcome to a story about real Americans… Los Americans.

The cast of Los Americans

What do you think?

Links:

Watch the show online and find out more at PIC.Tv/LosAmericans
Los Americans on Twitter

Gringa Invasion

While she passes most of her time in Chalatenango proper where her family lives, and Soyapango where Carlos’s childhood home is – Suegra sometimes goes to visit her childhood home which is in a town in the mountains of Chalatenango called San Luis del Carmen.

I visited there one afternoon when we went to El Salvador. Against all my gringa instincts which screamed that I needed a seat belt, I rode in the back of a Tío’s pickup truck with my then one year old baby. They threw cushions from the sofa in to make the ride more comfortable. We rode up, up, up, stopped for some bony looking cattle to cross the road, and then up, up, up some more. San Luis del Carmen was very quiet. There was a pretty white church, typical Salvadoran-style cement block homes lining the road, the ever present chuchos aguacateros (street dogs), and a small store selling soda en bolsas and snacks.

A typical Salvadoran-style house. “DIOS ES AMOR” means & “God is love”

chucho aguacatero (street dog) that followed us

A little store selling snacks, etc.

Carlos enjoying a bag of orange soda and a snack.

Suegra’s modest childhood home has been kept in good repair despite being over 50 years old, though no one inhabits it. The home sits on a fair amount of land – the trees in the backyard are heavy with coffee beans.

That is how I remember San Luis del Carmen, so I was surprised when Suegra told me there are a lot of gringas there now – “jovenes, chelitas, americanas – como vos!” she says, though I imagine they are younger than me – maybe Peace Corp. volunteers or missionaries. She says they are pairing up with young Salvadoran men, (she emphasizes that they are dark-skinned country boys – “pero puro del campo!” she says, as if this made it more shocking, which to me it isn’t. Country boys have their charm though I married a city boy.)

Suegra went to San Luis during the feast day in December. During the festival, the town traditionally picks a “reina” (queen) … This year, the reina was one of the gringas.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I’m fascinated by the idea of an entire village that ten years from now may be made up of families that resemble my own. Part of me wonders if these girls know what they’re getting into. It’s one thing to marry a Salvadoran who has immigrated here – but quite another to marry a Salvadoran in El Salvador. My mind swirls with the compromises, sacrifices, and struggles they will face. Culture shock. Language barriers. Machismo. They are on his turf. They are on their suegra’s turf. As romantic as it appears on the outside, the situation raises many concerns.

Honestly, I do laugh a little imaging the phone calls home. The parents expect information about when to pick their precious daughters up at the airport now that their volunteer assignment has come to an end. Instead, their daughter’s voice sounding farther away than ever says, “Mom, Dad, I met someone here. I’m staying in El Salvador and getting married!” … Those poor gringo parents! …And then imagine when the parents go to El Salvador for the wedding. Will there be tears of joy or tears of sheer terror for what their daughter has done? (Oh wait, I’m just having flashbacks to my own wedding…jiji…)

But what about the relationships that don’t work out? What if they love each other but the girl desperately wishes to return home? It isn’t easy to adjust to a drastically different culture and way of life. It also isn’t that easy to bring your new novio with you thanks to immigration law which splits us all up into these man-made parcels called countries. Will the girls go home with broken hearts or will it be the muchachos who are left con el corazón en pedazos? (Either way, one must make the sacrifice of being away from their own family and culture.) If the girls stay in El Salvador, get married, start a family and then for whatever reason, end up divorcing, what happens with the children?

How do the Salvadoran women of San Luis del Carmen feel about this “invasion” of gringas? Do they feel animosity towards the gringas for “stealing” the men? Was it fair for an outsider to be chosen as the “queen” of the town?

If I were a sociologist, I know where I’d be buying a plane ticket to right now.

The Wall

If you’re educated on the issue of immigration, the documentary, “The Wall,” will give you some of the same information you already know. That being said, the film is very well made and worth watching providing dozens of insightful interviews with those who work directly or indirectly in industries affected by immigration, residents of border towns, and with those who are trying to cross.

“The Wall,” winner of “Best Documentary” at SF Latino Film Festival, and “Best Feature” at Tulipanes Film Festival, covers the issue from all perspectives – civil and human rights, theft of land – (as the government forcibly builds the wall on private property), quality of life issues, financial waste, politics, xenophobia, environmental impact, and security.

I hope that our congress people and President will see this film and be moved to finally fix our broken immigration system instead of placing band-aids on it that only cause more problems. Finding the solution to our complex immigration issues isn’t easy, but I promise you that a wall isn’t the answer.

Find out more about the film which is now available on DVD at TheWallDocumentary.com

“You show me a 50 foot wall – I’ll show you a 51 foot ladder.”
- Governor Napolitano

Disclosure: This film was made available for me to view. All opinions are my own.

Now Arriving

Last night we made our way to the airport to pick up Suegra. Thanks to taking the wrong toll road, we were running a little late. We finally got turned around in the right direction and the swooping roof of Dulles came into view. Leaving the car in the parking lot, we ran through the freezing cold, into the airport and down the corridor to International Arrivals. As it turned out, Suegra was still in customs, and would be for another hour and a half.

Carlos sighed and resigned himself to wait, but I wasn’t bothered by the delay. I think I could spend all day people watching – and international arrivals is even more magical than any other place to people watch. I like to invent stories about the people in my mind – stories about where they’ve been and where they’re going. Sometimes, if you watch and listen, you can find out what their real story is – at least some of it.

I never got to see who this man was waiting to greet. At first I thought it must be a novia. Qué romantico! He had a bouquet of pink roses and no less than three balloons, one shaped like a heart… but then I remembered, él es un hombre Latino, so those sweet gifts may be for his madre. ¿Quién sabe?

Everyone watched the two big doors to see who would come out next. One little boy ran out the door from customs and yelled “Papi!!!” – A man swept him up in his arms and carried him away with the biggest smile on his face. A hundred hearts melted right there.

Minutes later, a man came out the door from customs. A little boy ran to him and patted the suitcase asking, “¿Qué me trajiste?” This time we all laughed.

A frail but proud old woman was wheeled out of customs in a wheel chair. A group of teenagers exploded in shouts of “Abu!” and ran to greet her. One of the boys hugged her and shouted to his siblings who still hadn’t caught up, “I touched her first!” which made me wonder if they simply had a little competition going between them… A man next to me who probably didn’t speak English said, “Qué amor tienen por su abuela, va?”

A woman stood on my other side and she seemed more nervous than anyone else. I found out why when two little kids, a boy and a girl, came through the customs doors escorted by a flight attendant. The woman ran to her children and hugged them, then held them away from her as if to see if they were really real. She handed the boy the balloon she held in her hands. “¿Qué dice?” she said. The boy pulled the string downwards so he could read the balloon… “Welcome” he said in accented English. The mother nodded, “Bien.” As she zipped them into coats I heard her explain that in a few years, their father would join them and they’d be together as a family again.

Finally Suegra came through the doors. It was everyone else’s turn to watch us, to try to figure out our story, maybe listen in and see if they could capture a word or two to understand where we’d been and where we’re going.

Modern Day Pilgrims

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.” – Jon Stewart

The history of Thanksgiving we’ve come to know growing up in American public schools is little more than a fairy tale. The true history is muddled in uncertainty, contradiction, controversy and outright lies.

While I’m certainly not a historian and therefore not qualified to delve into this with any voice of authority, I can say one thing for certain – If it weren’t for the kindness and generosity of the Native Americans to the new immigrants to this land, they would not have survived.

Many tribes reached out to these new people and taught them how to fertilize, grow, harvest and preserve crops. They showed them which foods were safe to eat, instructed them on methods of hunting and fishing, and gave them many gifts.

What did they receive in return? Lies. Broken promises. Treaties that could never be trusted. Being forced into small parcels of land. Loss of their freedom, culture, language, way of life… Death.

Even today the indigenous people who cared for this land, in a way we do not today, are suffering the consequences of past generations.

This isn’t a guilt trip for white people, or others who were born here in the United States. Is it your fault? Did you personally steal, rape and pillage? No. And I don’t think we can hold people accountable for the sins of their ancestors. We’re all individuals responsible for our own behavior. But there is a lesson to be learned.

What we can do, is to live in harmony with those around us and teach our children to do the same – To be thankful for what we have and to share with others, including new immigrants from all over the world that come here to the U.S. – To live the example of those tribes who reached out to a people from an entirely different culture, race and language – To be thankful for what we have, and when we have an abundance, give to those who are not as fortunate.

After all, today’s “undocumented immigrants” are just modern day Pilgrims.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“Great spirit, grant me vision
that I may not go wrong
and find myself in prison
of things I have not done

Teach me the secret
that I might see
fill my heart with compassion
to love my enemy.”

-Robby Romero/Prayer Song

(image source)

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Latinaish.com Thanksgiving post 2009

Panes con Pavos (recipe)

The Other Side of Immigration

Whether one believes in compassionate comprehensive immigration reform which brings undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and allows them to fully become a part of their community, or an overhaul of our entire system with a focus on enforcement – we all agree that something must be done… but what?

The Other Side of Immigration is a documentary about what has caused our current immigration problems and what can be done about it – from the other side of the border. The honest, thought-provoking interviews with Mexican people discuss many aspects of the immigration debate which many Americans have never even considered. Elders of Mexican towns talk about how things used to be in their once thriving communities when one could make a living off the land. Former immigrants who have been to the United States talk about what drove them to go, and why they returned to Mexico. Wives and children who are left behind, talk about what it’s like to have the family broken in pieces – a necessary evil to survive.

This is the best documentary I’ve seen this year. I wish this film was mandatory viewing for every member of Congress.

Disclosure: This film provided to Latinaish.com for review.

Push Carros

On the border between Guatemala and El Salvador, people use push carts on tracks to travel back and forth. A resident interviewed by Univision who uses the “push carros” says, “Para nosotros, no hay frontera. [Somos] iguales.” (Translation: “For us, there is no border. We are equals.”) … What a beautiful thought.

Click the image below to go to the video on Univision.com: