Category Archives: Issues
Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!
A veces veo una película o un documental, que me deja sin palabras – Aquí y Allá es una de ellas. Es difícil decir lo que pienso o siento por esta película. Es devastador, inquietantemente bella, me dolía el alma. Siendo muy honesta, la noche que vi la película, yo lloré hasta que me quede dormida, pensando en ella.
Aquí y Allá es parte ficción, parte realidad. Es la historia de inmigración contada desde el otro lado, cuando un mexicano regresa a México, a su familia. Pedro de los Santos, la estrella de la película, interpreta a sí mismo, y muchas de las cosas que le pasaron a él, fueron reales. La mujer que interpreta a su esposa, es en realidad su esposa. La música que canta, es música que él escribió. (Y aparte de la película, su música, su voz, son realmente muy hermosas.)
Siento que mis palabras no pueden hacer justicia a esta película. Sólo mírala, si tienes la oportunidad. (Averigüe dónde puede verla aquí.)
Sometimes I see a film or a documentary that leaves me without words – Aquí y Allá is one of them. It’s hard to say what I think or feel about this film. It’s devastating, hauntingly beautiful, it hurt my soul. To be perfectly honest, I cried myself to sleep thinking of the film the night that I saw it.
Aquí y Allá is part fiction, part reality. It’s the immigration story told from the other side, when a Mexican returns to Mexico, to his family. Pedro de los Santos, the star of the movie, plays himself, and many of the things that happen to him, happened for real. The woman who plays his wife, is actually his wife. The music he sings, is music that he wrote. (And apart from the film, his music, his voice, are really very beautiful.)
I feel that my words can not do justice to this film. Just watch it, if you get the chance. (Find out where you can see it here.)
The Boston marathon bombings – I didn’t think I would be writing about this, but here I am. Like most of you, I’ve been watching way too much TV, reading too many articles on the internet, and when torn away from those, listening to the radio in my car. Like most of you, I’ve had a lot of feelings the past few days on many different angles of this tragedy.
Tonight, the second suspect has been captured and it’s “over” … and yet it isn’t. I hear my fellow Americans chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” … and it seems somehow inappropriate. I understand relief. I understand pride in our first responders. I understand feeling some sense of justice or closure – but the all-out celebration, taking to the streets like revelers on New Year’s Eve? I can’t connect with it.
Those who died, are still dead; those who are mourning, are still mourning; those who are injured, are still injured. Those innocent people who were mistakenly caught up in the investigation, are still dealing with the resulting emotional damage. The young suspect in custody, if he survives, will face a long trial, all of which we will once again watch as if it’s some sort of sick reality show/telenovela hybrid.
After everything is said and done, we are left with scars – and some of those scars were inflicted on our society by the media, by irresponsible journalists. The use of racial profiling and the xenophobic language exhibited by journalists of networks I once respected, has disgusted me. It’s as if the journalists salivated at the idea that the suspects might be Muslim, as if that explains everything, when that fact alone explains nothing. That is why I’m writing this – It’s why I created a video – because at first, I couldn’t find words.
Maybe you’re not Muslim – most people who read my blog are not. Maybe you’re saying, “What does this have to do with me?” – Believe me, it has everything to do with all of us. The sentiments stirred up by the media, intentionally or unintentionally, are not only anti-Muslim, they are anti-”foreigner”, anti-brown person, anti-accent, anti-bilingualism, anti-immigrant. They are sentiments that divide and quite frankly, we’re better than this as a people, as a nation, and we deserve better than this from our news agencies.
If you agree with me, please consider sharing this video far and wide.
Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!
¿Cómo afecta tu cultura a tu sentido del olfato y las cosas que crees que huelen bien y las cosas que crees que huelen mal?
En un artículo que leí, hacen el argumento que aprendemos nuestras preferencias olfativas. ¿Qué interesante, no?
Unos ejemplos puedo dar de mi vida: A mi, me gusta el olor de zorrillo y también el olor de gasolina. Yo sé que son olores muy ofensivos para mucha gente, pero estos olores están ligados a buenos recuerdos de mi niñez.
También, olores que normalmente se consideran agradable en una cultura, pueden convertir en ser ofensivos para otros. Por ejemplo, el olor que llamamos “cherry” (cereza, pero cereza artificial como usan en paletas y chapstick), me encanta. Tengo bastantes buenos recuerdos con el olor “cherry” – pero mi suegra odia el olor y el sabor de “cherry” americano. (Digo “cherry americano” porque ella le gusta cerezas naturales.)
Siempre cuando hice una jarra de jugo sabor “cherry”, mi suegra empezó a quejarse de “el tufo.”
“Hiede a sapuyulo!” ella me decía.
Yo no sabía lo que era sapuyulo pero es una fruta, también conocido por el nombre “zapote” o “mamey” en algunos países. Mi suegra me explicó que cuando era niña, tuvo que tomar sapuyulo por un remedio casero o usar lo en forma de jabón, no recuerdo exactamente pero de cualquier manera no le gustó – y por eso el olor de “cherry” le molestaba mucho.
¿Y tú? Cuáles son tus experiencias entre olores y cultura? Cuáles olores te gustan? Cuáles olores no te gustan? Y cómo afectan tus buenos o malos recuerdos a los olores que te gustan o no te gustan?
Nota: Mil gracias a mi amiga Claudia quién me dijo como deletrear “sapuyulo.”
How does your culture affect your sense of smell and the things you think smell good and the things you think smell bad?
In an article I read, the argument is made that our olfactory preferences are learned. Interesting, right?
Some examples I can give from my life: I like the smell of skunk and the smell of gasoline. I know these are very offensive odors for many people, but these scents are tied to fond memories from my childhood.
Also, scents normally considered to be nice in one culture may be offensive in others. For example, the scent we call “cherry” (cherry, as in the artificial cherry scent used in popsicles and chapstick), I love very much. I have many fond memories of the “cherry” scent – but my mother-in-law hates the smell and taste of American “cherry.” (I say “American cherry” because she likes natural cherries.)
Whenever I used to make a pitcher of cherry-flavored juice, my mother-in-law would start complaining of “the bad smell.”
“That stinks like sapuyulo!” she’d say.
I didn’t know what sapuyulo was but it turns out it’s a fruit, also known by the name “sapote” or “mamey” in some countries. My mother-in-law explained to me that when she was a child she had to take a home remedy made of sapuyulo or that she had to use it as a soap, I can’t remember exactly how it was, but either way she hated it – and that’s why the smell of “cherry” bothered her so much.
And you? What are your experiences with smells and culture? Which scents do you like? Which scents do you dislike? How do your good or bad memories affect the scents you like or dislike?
Note: Many thanks to my friend Claudia who told me how to spell “sapuyulo.”
For the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes. Life is too short and there are way too many ways to be offended by things that aren’t politically correct. It’s difficult to say why one thing doesn’t bother me, but something else gets under my skin.
For example, the whole Mexican Barbie thing? If I were a little girl, I’d love to have that Barbie, and if I had a daughter, I’d buy it for her. I think it’s awesome that she has a passport, and all the dolls in the collection do. Her dark wavy hair is so pretty and being a brunette myself, I always favored dark-haired Barbies over the blondes. The ballet folklorico dress is nice although it could be more detailed, and the Chihuahua, well, I think that may have been a lazy decision, (isn’t the Xoloitzcuintli the national dog of Mexico?) – but all that being said, I’m not offended by the doll.
Really, my only major problem with Mattel’s Dolls of the World collection, (besides my usual complaints about Barbies contributing to unrealistic body ideals), is that they stuck with many of the same countries that are already represented in these types of toy lines. When will we teach kids about lesser known countries? Ask any kid in the United States to name a country that speaks Spanish and you’re almost guaranteed they’ll say “Mexico.” … In other words, when will we see a Salvadoran Barbie? (Or Honduran, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican, Panamanian… you get the idea.)
If Mattel needs help designing the Salvadoran Barbie, I’m available. Imagine the colorful dress, the leather chancletas, maybe a cántaro or a bouquet of Flor de Izote. You could have a cachiporra version with a bastón, and a vendedora version in a delantal that comes with a comal full of pupusas. How about a Salvadoran version of the Ken doll? He could wear traditional dress with a scapular and a cowboy hat – he could carry a capirucho or maybe a modern version sporting una camiseta de La Selecta and holding a Pilsener. (Okay, maybe not.)
Speaking of beer, Cinco de Mayo is fast upon us which means every Mexican beer, tortilla chip, and salsa company is gearing up to bring in the pesos. Here is a display for Corona which I spotted at a Wal-Mart.
As I was saying, for the most part I’m not the kind of person to be easily offended by stereotypes, (they’re somewhat necessary to understanding the world we live in), and this doesn’t really offend me as much as it makes me roll my eyes. However, this stereotype of Mexicans – sombrero, sarape or poncho, and burro, (although I guess Corona decided to get “creative” and use a horse?) is getting a little old, isn’t it? Besides, they totally forgot the big mustache and the cactus for nap time after the fiesta is over.
In 2006, ahead of nationwide Immigration Reform rallies, a Spanish version of The Star-Spangled Banner was released by Wyclef Jean, Olga Tañon, Pitbull, Ivy Queen, Gloria Trevi, Aventura, Tito “El Bambino”, and Carlos Ponce. There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the song called “Nuestro Himno” and I, like many others, mistakenly thought that this was the first time the national anthem of the United States had been translated to Spanish.
I learned on a recent trip to The National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., that The Star-Spangled Banner was actually translated by Peruvian immigrant, Clotilde Arias in 1946, commissioned by the U.S. government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” – an effort to win allies in Latin America after World War II. The original manuscript for “El Pendón Estrellado” is featured in the museum along with the fascinating life history of Arias.
As I walked throughout the exhibit, I just kept thinking, how interesting it is that we choose role models from our limited knowledge of people both living and dead, when in reality there are so many amazing but little known people in history like Clotilde Arias who we can relate to and be inspired by.
Here I’ll share some of the exhibit but for those who live in the D.C. area, I encourage you to make a visit in person – there is plenty more to see.
Clotilde Arias was born in Iquitos, Peru in 1901, but it’s her life in the United States which I related to, (and I think many other women will, too.) Here is an excerpt of text which I read on the wall of the exhibit.
“Clotilde Arias arrived in New York City in 1923…Arias intended to study music. In 1929 she married José Anduaga, a Peruvian artist and designer from Iquitos whom she met in New York and with whom she had a son, Roger. They lived in 267 Park Street in Brooklyn. In many of her personal papers she described how difficult life was and how she had to abandon her studies to help support the family.
Arias mastered multitasking at a time when women commonly did not work outside the home. Throughout her life she wore many hats: translator, composer, musician, journalist, copywriter, activist, educator, and of course, mother. She was sometimes all of them at the same time.” – National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
I must have stood there and read that at least three times. Clotilde felt so real in that moment because juggling all these hats is a frequent topic of discussion among women today. I really felt like you could take Clotilde Arias out of history and plunk her down in the social circles I run in, amongst my group of Latina bloguera friends especially, and she would fit right in.
Am I the only one who wants to try the Quesadilla con Camarones recipe? … Arias did all kinds of work for different brands including writing jingles and copy. As a bilingual person with music and writing skills, she was in high demand even during The Great Depression. Some of the brands she worked with included Ford Motor Co., IBM, Coca-Cola, Alka-Seltzer, and Campbell’s Soup.
Carlos and I were really surprised by how unchanged the Naturalization Certificate is to this day. Carlos’s certificate looks very similar.
Clotilde Arias and these other women were so incredibly ahead of their time. According to the museum exhibit, “Arias was well-known not only for her professional work, but also for her activism and membership in organizations such as the Red Cross, Inter-American Association of Musicians (which she founded), and American Association of Teachers of Spanish. Language became an important ideological vehicle to express the sense of American unity. Arias and other members of the Union of South American Women advocated for making Spanish a required subject in all U.S. schools.” … And yet bilingualism still isn’t given the priority it deserves in our education system. The debate goes on and our children, as well as our nation, fall behind.
What did you find most fascinating about this exhibit and the life of Clotilde Arias? Could you relate to her, too?
An Immigrant’s Star-Spangled Banner en Español – NPR.org
Not Lost in Translation: The Life of Clotilde Arias – Si.edu
“Every 14 days a language dies. By 2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth—many of them not yet recorded—may disappear.” – National Geographic/Enduring Voices Project
Members of La Mara Salvatrucha (also known as MS13), have been instructed by gang leaders to learn Nahuat and other indigenous languages of the Central American country; languages which are highly endangered or almost extinct, and some of which have less than 100 native speakers currently living, according to the report.
Unfortunately, the gang’s purpose of learning these languages isn’t at all altruistic and they have no intention of learning the languages fluently. Gang members have been instructed to learn enough vocabulary to create an indecipherable code which will make it more difficult for law enforcement to intercept their messages.
This is disappointing, of course, although maybe not surprising. We’re left then with the same question linguists always face: How can Nahuat and other endangered languages be saved? Is it enough to merely preserve records of the languages, (such as the video below), or should efforts be made to keep languages alive by encouraging native speakers to pass it on? What sort of encouragement or programs would be successful? Is it a losing battle? What do you think?
When I first saw the trailer for The Girl, I knew immediately that I wanted to see the film – and then I found out that it opens on March 8th in New York and on March 15th in Los Angeles, (two locations I’m nowhere near.) Thankfully I not only got the opportunity to screen the film online, but to interview the director, David Riker.
I think you’ll be able to sense how much I loved this film from my interview questions (below), but if it isn’t clear enough, I’ll tell you – I loved it and recommend that anyone who is able to see it – go see it. I’ve watched a lot of films with immigration and border themes – this one is different thanks to the fact that it’s told through the eyes of a gringa who is already struggling with her own issues. The Girl will make you think, and then think twice about border issues and what defines a good life.
From David Riker, the director of La Ciudad, and Paul Mezey, the producer of Oscar-nominated films Maria Full of Grace and Beasts of the Southern Wild, comes a new film The Girl.
Abbie Cornish plays Ashley, a young single mom struggling with the loss of her child to Social Services, unwilling to accept the consequences of her actions and trapped in the quicksand of her south Texas life.
When Ashley’s path collides with Rosa (Maritza Santiago Hernandez), a strong-minded girl who has lost her mother while crossing the Rio Grande, she unwittingly begins a journey that will change her life forever.
Starting in a big box store in Texas and ending in a small village in southern Mexico, The Girl turns the immigrant story upside down, questioning the myth of the American Dream and asks that we consider the possibility of a better life – south of the border.
Interview with Director, David Riker
Latinaish: I understand you also wrote the script for this film? What was your inspiration?
DR: My inspiration to write the script has its roots in my debut feature, called ‘La Ciudad’ which was filmed over the course of five years in New York’s Latin American immigrant community. Listening to so many stories of sacrifice in crossing the border, I decided to travel there and see with my own eyes. What I saw was deeply upsetting, but also surprising, and after traveling back and forth through the borderlands I came to realize that my own preconceptions of the border were false — as is the central myth that hope is in the north. That realization led me to consider a story in which the logic of the border were turned upside down — and to ask the question, what might happen if an Anglo crossed the border — south.
Latinaish: The cinematography of this film was really breathtaking, particularly scenes that took place in Oaxaca, Mexico. Was this shot on location? Can you tell us about that?
DR: Yes, almost all of the film was shot in Mexico, but due to the violence in Tamaulipas (including Nuevo Laredo) we were not able to film along the border. This was a major creative setback as I had spent several years developing close relationships with people in the border city and had every location scouted. In the end we filmed all of the Mexico portion of the story in the state of Oaxaca — much of it in the Istmo, though some in the capital, in addition to the village at the end which is in the Sierra Norte. ‘Re-creating the border’ became the central creative challenge we faced, affecting every department from production design, casting, and wardrobe. The cinematographer is one of the stars of Mexico’s new generation, known for his lyrical work in El Violin.
Latinaish: Which scene was most difficult to capture, either emotionally or physically, and why? What challenges did you face on set?
DR: The most difficult scene… An interesting question. From an emotional standpoint, without a doubt the scene when Rosa realizes her mother has died. From a logistical standpoint, perhaps the nighttime river crossing which I intentionally wanted to film as a baptismal event. Every scene is a challenge, and every challenge is different. More than anything you are battling the lack of time and limited resources, and desperately fighting against compromise. But the Mexican crew and the actors were like a family and we all fought the battle each day together.
Latinaish: I love that the “gringa” in this film, “Ashley”, played by actress Abbie Cornish, spoke Spanish so much of the time, but there was no explanation in the plot as to how the character learned to speak it so well – Can we assume she learned it just by living in southern Texas or from her co-workers? Did the actress, Abbie, already speak Spanish before the film?
DR: You are right, Ashley’s character was a composite of many people I’ve known, and a number of characters I met along the borderlands. Ashley speaks spanish because she has grown up in a Spanish-speaking world in South Texas. But Abbie Cornish didn’t speak a word. I think it’s a great testament to Abbie’s talent and force of character that she was undaunted by the challenge and threw herself into it with total commitment. As she said the first day we met to talk about the project, she didn’t simply want to learn her Spanish dialogues by heart, she wanted to understand the language.
Latinaish: The character “Rosa” played by Maritza Santiago Hernández had a fantastically stubborn personality in the film and I really fell in love with her. Was this her first film? Are there any other projects we can look for her in any time soon?
DR: I too fell in love with Maritza. She is an amazing girl, and yes, this is her first film role. I spent a great deal of time ‘searching for Rosa’ and saw thousands of young girls in communities all over Oaxaca. The casting took more than a year of full time work. I was not looking for a girl who could ‘play’ Rosa — I was looking for Rosa. And when I finally found Maritza I knew I had found her. She needed to be small but very strong, or tough or as you put it ‘stubborn.’ She needed to be full of life and light, but also depth. She needed to be naughty but also thoughtful. And of course she needed to have the indigenous features of the zapotec people in Oaxaca. After the film’s Mexico premiere at the Morelia Film Festival many journalists asked if she wanted to have an acting career. Her answer: ‘first she’ll finish school and become a teacher.’
Latinaish: What do you hope to accomplish with this film? What do you want the audience to take away?
I appreciate the question, as hope is the thing that sustains every storyteller. I hope that the film helps to generate dialogue about what it means to be an American, what it means to be an immigrant today, uprooted and far from home. I hope it helps to re-frame these questions in such a way that real understanding can begin — not through the limited lens of political debate – but in the broadest sense — what is our common humanity? What is it that divides us, and what do we share in common? Of course I know that it is after all only a film, so the goal must be modest. If people enjoy the story, are happy to meet young Maritza and to travel the journey with Ashley, I’m already a happy man.
This past week I wrote my weekly column for Fox News Latino about the tradition of Christmas Eve fireworks in El Salvador, and the injuries it causes each year.
While doing research for the article I came across several videos which, despite the serious subject matter I was writing about, I found really amusing. It’s funny when people have a good time with fireworks and don’t get hurt, so I can definitely see why people continue to buy them and set them off.
I myself have never handled anything more serious than sparklers and since I didn’t grow up with fireworks being set off right in front of me as Carlos did, I have a healthy fear/respect of them. That being said, I know some of you will be setting off some pretty impressive cuetes tomorrow night, so I just wanted to take a moment to remind everyone to be careful and to keep small children at a safe distance while you’re celebrating. If you talk to your family in El Salvador on the phone, remind them too. Christmas is not as fun at the hospital. Have fun, pero con cuidado!
In response to the New York Times article regarding the lack of Latino authors and books for children, Latina bloggers have launched the “Latinas for Latino Literature” campaign which works to identify the problems in today’s publishing world that contribute to this lack of diversity so that we can provide ideas for changing the situation to the benefit of not only Latino readers and writers, but to the benefit of the industry itself as they tap into this growing demographic. Look out for forthcoming Google hangouts, Twitter parties, and follow-up posts as this coordinated effort to bring quality books to an emerging group of readers continues.
I kneeled on the coarse, crimson carpet at the library, the third library I had visited that week, trying to find something, anything, on the shelves about El Salvador – the native country of my new husband. I often left libraries and bookstores defeated, with a stack of novels about Mexico, Mexicans, migrant workers – stories that I ended up loving, and still love – but what I really wanted was a book with Salvadoran characters, and I couldn’t find any. Any book I did manage to find about El Salvador would be non-fiction, and usually about the civil war.
When I became a mother of two boys, two Salvadoran-American boys, I wanted desperately to buy them books and read them stories with characters they could relate to. Again, visits to the library and bookstore turned up books featuring Mexican and Mexican-American characters, when we were lucky.
These days, the library selection has gotten better, and the online selection is a dream come true compared to what I faced when my boys were younger. I’ve read books about Cubans and Puerto Ricans, Argentinians, Venezuelans, Guatemalans and Paraguayans, and thanks to Sandra Benitez, an amazing book called “Bitter Grounds” with a diverse Salvadoran cast. I stayed up late turning the pages, almost not believing that after so many years, I was finally reading a book with Salvadoran characters.
Why am I writing this? – Because I want the publishing industry to know that I am here – an avid reader, hungry for these books for myself, for my husband, for our boys, and for the children out there whose parents won’t go to the trouble I’ve gone to – the children who are at the mercy of whatever their school librarian decides to put on the shelves.
I want it to be known that I hunger for even more diversity, for Latin American characters and characters of Latin American descent from all walks of life. Don’t stop telling the story of the migrant worker, the immigrant, of Mexicans – but let us hear other voices too. We want to hear from characters who are rich, who are poor, and everything in between. We want characters who are white collar workers, and blue collar workers. We want characters who are beautiful, ugly, inspirational, relatable, flawed, ordinary, outrageous, wise, hilarious, serious, complex – in other words, we want all the diversity of voices that are available in the general market. Please, keep seeking out fresh authors and publishing their stories – We are here waiting for them, (and in some cases, some of us are here writing them, too.)
Do you feel there’s enough diversity in the books commonly available in bookstores and libraries? Which Latino/a author or book most influenced you and why?
Chécalo: Other “Latinas for Latino Literature“
#101HispanicWaysToDie was a trending topic on social network Twitter today.
The range of responses to the hashtag was interesting. The vast majority, including myself, had fun with the hashtag – just some light-hearted joking around. Others became nostalgic for childhood, even when it meant remembering being smacked with a chancla. Some people expressed disgust at the hashtag, possibly assuming the worst, and not actually checking it out. Then there were the racists who couldn’t resist jumping in and talking about illegal border crossing – decidedly NOT funny.
One Latina tweeted “say [to your parents] you’re going out with a moreno” – It was unclear whether the person who wrote it meant it seriously, as an honest commentary on their reality, or if they were trying to be humorous. This unfunny tweet which points out the racist tendencies of some parents, was re-tweeted 301 times and favorited 119 times at last count and there were other similar tweets which, perhaps reflect a sad reality that deserves more discussion en la comunidad latina.
Whenever there’s a trending hashtag on Twitter, you’re going to get this diverse mix of funny, honest and offensive. I jumped in and tried to keep my tweets light and funny. Here they are re-purposed for this blog post. Feel free to add your own in comments!
13 Latino Ways to Die
1. Suffocation after too much Vicks Vapo-Rub has been put up your nostrils.
2. Pine-Sol and bleach fumes after your mother cleans the house.
3. Setting off illegal fireworks.
4. Third degree cheese burns from not allowing the pupusa to cool before attempting to consume.
5. Laughing with your siblings during misa.
6. Accidentally telling your Mom that you’re “embarazada” when you actually mean to say you’re embarrassed.
7. Parents use a lesson from the old country. You respond “But we’re not in El Salvador! We’re in the United States!”
9. Riding in the back of a pickup truck.
10. Laughing when your parent translates a Spanish idiom to English but it makes no sense.
11. Rooting for the U.S. team when they play your parent’s home country in soccer.
12. Kicked in the nalgas by a bota picuda.
13. Making too much noise in the room when your abuela is trying to hear her horoscope from Walter Mercado.
Update! Related Link: #101HispanicWaysToDie Shows True Colors on ModernMami.com