Ethics and Morality – Lost in Translation

Quite on accident I stumbled upon photos from my blog which had been stolen. I was looking at the images in a Facebook album owned by a Salvadoran pride community only to see a photo that looked familiar – “Wait a minute,” I thought, “that’s my photo!”

I clicked to enlarge it and not only had it been used without permission, but my name and my blog were not mentioned at all. Looking through the album I found almost a dozen of my photos. Soon I would find my stolen photos in the Facebook photo albums of two other similar communities owned by people in El Salvador.

I accused one of the people of theft and left comments on every single one of my photos demanding that the photos be removed. This person removed the photos quickly and apologized saying the theft had been unintentional. (He claims that the photos were submitted to him and he didn’t know where they had come from. I accepted his apology and moved on.)

In the second case it was a very large community and the guy who owned it had the nerve to watermark my photos with his name and even made comments on the photos as if he had taken them. Angry, I decided to take care of things through the Facebook complaint form for copyright violations. It was a little tedious, but Facebook acted within hours and removed the photos without me having to engage the owner of the page in conversation.

In the third case, I determined that the owner of the Facebook community was a female and decided, out of some sort of sympathy and sisterhood, to give her a chance to remove the photos herself instead of reporting her to Facebook. I told her that the photos were mine and that I was giving her one hour to remove them. If she failed to remove the photos, I would be forced to report the violation to Facebook.

She did not respond well to my ultimatum and began to insult me. I explained to her that I was being kind in giving her this chance and that others in my position could potentially take her to court. Her response?

“tu estas loca hija aqui no vengas con pendejadas saves q me vale berda lo q tu quieras hacer”

Wow. I was a little shocked but I composed myself long enough to reply:

“Qué es ‘berda’? … La palabra es VERGA. Si vas a ser maleducada, por lo menos, aprenda a deletrear, cipota.”

In the end, I reported the copyright violation to Facebook and Facebook removed the photos from her album, but I was left wondering about a lot of things. I related this whole story to Carlos and he seemed unimpressed. The look on his face said to me, “What did you expect?”

“People in El Salvador don’t respect copyrights – you should know that,” he said.

And he was right, I should know that. In El Salvador, pirated DVDs and CDs are sold out in the open. Stores in the mall carry knock-off T-shirts printed with every cartoon character and American rock band imaginable. My suegra, who’s a seamstress, buys bags of clothing labels at the market – The clothing labels are for sewing onto the clothing she makes and sells. She sews in tags that say Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Liz Claiborne.

And it isn’t just individuals who do this – Even businesses in El Salvador get in on the action. I’ve mentioned before, that one day we were traveling back from Chalatenango to the city and we were starving. We saw a sign for Wendy’s – exactly like the Wendy’s sign you all know and love with the same red background, same white lettering, same instantly recognizable font. We go inside the Wendy’s only to find out it’s a little comedor selling bistec y arroz, quesadilla, and all kinds of Salvadoran food. No burgers and fries were to be found – this was not a real Wendy’s.

I think that many (not all) people in El Salvador are so used to literally being surrounded by copyright violations on a daily basis that the concept of intellectual property becomes impossible to understand. In the minds of the people who stole my images, they feel they’ve done nothing wrong. When confronted by accusations of “theft”, in their minds I was being irrational, selfish, crazy. After all, they didn’t literally steal a physical object from me – I still have my photo, they just have it too. What’s the big deal?

As I dealt with the copyright violations, Carlos told me more than once that I was wasting my time. “That’s a losing battle,” he said, “they’ll do it again, and if not them, some other Salvadoran will.” Although I wasn’t able to be at peace with that for a few days, I do agree with him.

I want to be clear here – I don’t believe this difference in ethics is due to American culture, American belief systems or Americans themselves being any way superior to Salvadoran culture, Salvadoran belief systems or Salvadorans themselves. I don’t believe that Salvadorans are less moral, less civilized or less anything. What I do believe is that this difference in ethics is an example of ethical relativism in action – In other words, my “right and wrong” are not necessarily the same as your average Salvadoran’s “right and wrong.”

It’s a controversial and complex philosophy, but it makes sense to me. What do you think? Are morals & ethics non-negotiable or are they dependent on one’s culture? What differences have you observed in ethics across cultures?

Related Reading:

Ethical Issues Across Cultures (PDF)
Ethical Relativism
Morality is a Culturally Conditioned Response
Tim’s El Salvador Blog – (the discussion in comments on this post about piracy is really interesting.)

Healthy Pupusas?

It’s a constant battle. One day I’ll try to be more active and make healthier choices, other days I give in to every craving that pops into my mind – this weekend was no different. Despite watching the Olympics and feeling guilty that I can’t even manage a consistent 20 minutes of activity each day while athletes are capable of so much more, I was hit by an intense yearning for pupusas … and horchata … and tamales fritos.

I have learned a lot in life, but I have yet to fully overcome my hedonistic nature – this manifests itself in various ways but most notably through what I eat. Suegra used to laugh at me when we’d go to the Latino market because I would come out of the store with various kinds of candy instead of normal groceries like other adults. “Sos como una niña” – You’re like a little girl, she would say to me, shaking her head.

So this weekend, this niña had Carlos take me to a pupusería to fulfill my latest craving.

Pupusas de queso con curtido y salsa, a tamal de elote frito, platanos with crema y frijoles, and horchata to drink. (I actually gave most of the platanos to Carlos and my older son and only had a few bites of the beans but it’s still more food than any one person should be eating, and also not the healthiest food either.)

I went for a walk after that meal, to put a small dent in the damage at least, but sometimes I wish I would crave healthier food. My suegra used to crave mangoes and would enjoy them, slurping the sticky juices with her eyes closed, declaring them to be perfectly ripe and delicious to anyone who would listen. I, on the other hand, don’t ever crave fruit and while I do make sure I eat it on a daily basis, I don’t feel passionate about it, (unless chocobananos count, which I don’t believe they do.)

So today when I read “Can the Latin Diet be Healthy?” by fellow contributor, Chelsea, on SpanglishBaby, and “Don’t Let the Olympics Make You Feel Fat” by fellow contributor Elizabeth on Mamiverse, I was reminded of my own thoughts this past weekend, and of a neat link a friend gave me months ago.

Zhu of Correr es mi Destino, E-mailed me a link to a PDF provided by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The nearly 60 page bilingual PDF document is a cookbook of popular Latin American foods, made healthier. Platillos Latinos includes recipes for yucca (baked in the oven instead of fried), lomo saltado, Mexican pozole, arroz con pollo, and even pupusas revueltas using ground chicken and low-fat cheese.

I’m a fan of making small changes to eat healthier since drastic changes don’t last long for me. Others say “everything in moderation” – but moderation is something I still can’t get the hang of. Obsessively passionate or completely disinterested tend to be the two settings I run on regarding everything in life and I’m not so sure I can be re-wired. So I will choose to have my Tres Leches and eat it, too – but perhaps it woudn’t hurt to use fat-free sweetened condensed milk.

Comedy + Undocumented Immigration: Do they mix?

Scene from film short, La Línea

When I received an E-mail from a man named Evan about a film described as “An indie feature comedy about undocumented immigration” – I was intrigued but also wary. “How can undocumented immigration be funny?” I asked myself.

I continued to read Evan’s E-mail, giving him the benefit of the doubt and followed the link he gave me to a Kickstarter campaign where I could find out more. (Kickstarter is a website where one is able to raise funds for projects.) The project, Sun Belt Express, is a film he wants to produce – and, well, I’ll let him tell you about it.

Even after viewing this video and sensing real sincerity from this guy, I was still a little skeptical. Mixing comedy with such a sensitive topic wouldn’t be easy, and if done without care, could do a lot of harm. I didn’t want to endorse something I wasn’t totally certain about so I asked if I could see the full length version of the film short, La Línea, to get a sense of what he’s up to. After watching it, I was sold. I can see why La Línea received the recognition that it did at film festivals and I can’t wait to see more from Evan and his team. What they’re working on is something special – something that deserves to be made.

The more I think about it, what could be more representative of Latinos than the ability to find humor in even the most difficult of situations? It’s one of the things I identify with and admire most about the culture.

I started to think about Carlos’s journey to the United States and some of the stories he’s told me – and yes, there are some funny ones – Maybe I’ll share them here one day, but for now, if you want to know more about Sun Belt Express, click over to their Kickstarter campaign, support them with a donation, and spread the word so they can get funded before the fast approaching deadline.

We Women Warriors

Today I want to share a really inspiring film with you. We Women Warriors is “an independent documentary feature that follows three native women who are caught in the crossfire of Colombia’s warfare and who use non-violent resistance to defend their people’s survival.” Check out the trailer and if you feel moved, see below for ways you can view the full film and help their cause.

This August you can see screenings of this film in New York and Los Angeles. Tickets are now available. Don’t live in NY or LA? You can still support We Women Warriors – visit the Take Action page of their website to find out how.

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Related link: Colombian Youth Choose Soccer over Violence

Heelys! (Zapatos con ruedas)

Heelys (the shoes with wheels), have a new line of shoes coming out this fall – and many of them are designed for women! I was offered a pair for review but, as much as I wanted to try them, I opted to get a pair for my 10 year old instead. (Honestamente, my roller skating and ice skating skills aren’t so bueno, so I don’t know if I’d be able to get the hang of Heelys.)

Heelys can be worn with or without the wheels, (we will have to take the wheels off if he wears them to school), but most people don’t know they come in adult sizes. In addition to the adult sizes, Heelys is introducing three brand new lines – an athletic shoe which will be lighter in weight, shoes made specifically for girls and women with more fashion forward colors and styles, and a street shoe with improved outsoles. (Ahora falta botas picudas con ruedas. Can you imagine? Now that would be chévere!)

For more information you can find Heelys on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, in addition to their regular website.

My 10 year old was super feliz to finally get a pair of Heelys. These are the “Element” style Heelys in Youth size 3. The wheels were easy to install and are easy to take out, too.

It took my son about 30 minutes to get the hang of them. The trick is positioning your feet just so.

Once he knew how to use the Heelys, he didn’t want to stop. Here’s a little video to give you a taste of the fun.

Now he wants to learn how to do tricks with the Heelys. I’m happy he’s found another activity to get him outside and away from the video games.

Disclosure: A pair of Heelys was provided for review. All opinions are my own.

Team USA! (Made in China)

Controversy broke out when it was discovered that the 2012 Olympics uniforms for Team USA were made in China. (Read more on CNN.com.) There was so much outrage regarding Team USA’s uniforms that the sponsor (Ralph Lauren), has now promised that they’ll “manufacture uniforms domestically for the 2014 games.”

The timing of this story couldn’t be more perfect. Just the other day I spotted the clearance rack of Independence Day shirts at Wal-Mart. Carlos and I noticed a couple years ago that they were made in El Salvador – (for some reason this always amuses us.) So I went to check this year’s stock of American flag shirts, and sure enough – “HECHO EN EL SALVADOR.”

Celebrate U.S. Independence Day with a shirt made in El Salvador

What do you think about items with the American flag, (or American flags themselves), as well as the Team USA Olympics uniforms being made in other countries?

If our economy was running well and the jobs weren’t needed, would your opinion change? Why or why not?

Will You Cut My Grass?

Image source: CC Brand

The other day my 13 year old son was out in the front yard pulling weeds, which is a weekly occurrence in the summer. He’s a good kid and took on the responsibility of cutting the grass, weed-whacking, trimming bushes and doing other yard maintenance. Carlos appreciates his help since he’s physically tired from work and our son does a good job.

So, the other day while our son was pulling weeds where the lawn meets the street, I didn’t think anything of it until I checked on him and found him engaged in a conversation with an elderly man who had stopped his car in the middle of the road. The man talked to him out of his rolled down window, my son stood with a hand on his hip, the other arm he pulled across his forehead to wipe off the sweat that rolled into his eyes. I figured the old man was asking for directions.

“Guess what?” my son said, coming into the house, the screen door slamming unintentionally behind him.

“That guy offered me a job cutting grass and pulling weeds at his house. He lives on the other side of the neighborhood.”

I was happy that my son had the potential to earn some spending money since he’s been bothering me lately about letting him get a job when he turns fourteen next month. (Carlos says it’s out of the question because he wants him to focus on his studies – but that’s a discussion for another day.)

While I was happy for our son, I couldn’t help but wonder if the elderly Caucasian gentleman would have stopped to ask the blond-haired white boy down the street to cut his grass if he’d seen him out pulling weeds. I’m not offended that the man asked, but I can’t pretend the question didn’t enter my mind. You could say I’m being too sensitive or too paranoid, except that last year when Carlos was out cutting the grass, another Caucasian neighbor stopped their car and called out to him.

“Excuse me!” he said, waving his arms to flag Carlos down.

Carlos shut off the mower and walked over to the car.

“Excuse me,” the man repeated, “Do you cut grass?”

Carlos took a moment to understand what this guy was thinking.

“I cut my own grass,” Carlos said, “This is my yard.”

“Oh,” the man said, “…Would you want to cut my grass? I’ve been looking for someone.”

“I’m sorry,” Carlos said, “I have enough work doing my own yard.”

“Okay, I understand,” the man said, “…Do you know anybody who would want to cut my grass? Do you have any friends that might want to?”

“No,” Carlos said, becoming annoyed.

“Oh, okay,” the man replied before driving away, “Thanks anyway.”

Would these Caucasian men have asked another random white person to come cut their grass? There’s really no way to know, but somehow I doubt it.

Let America Be America Again

On Independence Day I always think of the Langston Hughes poem, “Let America Be America Again.” Hughes is one of my favorite poets – a visionary writer who was ahead of his time and created works that still resonate more than 50 years later.

This poem is often controversial and has been called unpatriotic by some – but I think that it reflects reality, told in an unapologetic, honest way. We are a nation that values chest thumping patriotism and fosters an attitude of superiority – a belief that we are the favored children of God and our nation is uniquely blessed as a result. I don’t subscribe to that school of thought. I believe that we can love the United States and be thankful for the freedoms we have while being truthful and vocal about its imperfections at the same time.

On this day I am thankful to live in a country that allows me to say this without fear of repercussions and I am hopeful that we will continue to create high expectations for ourselves, as individual citizens, and as a nation. May we all do our part to live up to the dream.

Image source: Brittney Bollay

Let America Be America Again

by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Please refrain from throwing tortas at Chicharito

I didn’t think I’d be making a public service announcement today regarding the El Salvador vs. Mexico game, but a conversation with a friend this morning made me realize there are some issues that should be discussed, and if this helps change the behavior of even one person, pues, vale la pena.

Okay, guanacos, you know I love you all con todo mi corazón, right? You know I’m cheering for La Selecta in tonight’s game against Mexico, even though I also cheer for El Tri when they don’t play El Salvador. I’m aware that you guys have issues with each other and that Mexico can be equally disrespectful when El Salvador plays on their turf, (yes, I remember las abejas en la porteria), but where does it end, hermanos?

If Salvadorans are disrespectful to the Mexican team and Mexicans are disrespectful to the Salvadoran team, the cycle will continue to repeat itself. Look, I know it’s difficult. I have two sisters and when we’d get into a slap fight, we would keep slapping each other back and forth – always wanting to be the one to get the last slap in. Usually at some point I would slap my sister and run off until she forgot to slap me back later… (“Haha! Got you last!”) – But this situation is a little different. Someone has to have the maturity and self-discipline to let the other have the last slap.

Didn’t your abuela tell you, “Ojo por ojo y el mundo quedará ciego”? … Wait.. maybe that was Gandhi that said that. Gandhi would have made a good abuela. Anyway… Okay, your Nana probably told you, “Eh! Vos! Pórtate bien, cipote!… Qué bicho más malcriado, hijueputa…” – That’s not as inspirational, but good enough.

Last night Salvadorans stayed up all night making noise outside the Hotel Real Intercontinental in San Salvador where El Tri is staying. The intention was to disrupt the Mexican team’s sleep – but can I tell you something? I stayed at that hotel last summer and I can almost guarantee that the Mexican team didn’t hear a peep. The windows are really thick and I couldn’t hear anything down on the street below when we were there. Besides, even if it was loud enough to be heard, the Mexican team is already hip to this trick. Don’t you think that by now they’ve invested in some nice noise cancelling headphones? El Tri probably slept very comfortably, meanwhile, the Salvadorans down on the street missed a whole night’s sleep. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

If these kinds of “pep rallies” were all that went on, then I would say está bien, it’s harmless, but things can get a lot more disrespectful and even violent. Apparently someone threw a torta at Chicharito. It sounds funny but come on, let’s talk about this seriously for a moment. Gente decente no se hace eso. First of all, Chicharito is a person with feelings. This was just incredibly rude. Second, this stupid act by one person reflects badly on all Salvadorans. Third, this happened when El Tri got off the bus in front of the Real Intercontinental. I have walked down that street, (Boulevard de Los Heroes) and I can promise you that there were at least three hungry people begging within a half block of that torta hitting the pavement. As my suegra would say, “Qué pecado” … Shame on you for wasting food like that.

This is a beautiful game. Use your passion to support your team in a positive way – not on negativity. Whose with me?

Chicharito image source: Ed Schipul

Fruit For All! Fruta Para Todos!

One of the great things about having a blog is that sometimes opportunities come along to use that blog to do good – this is one of those times. I have an amazing project to share with you today, and then after that, a really unique giveaway.

First, the project – Nestlé Juicy Juice and Feeding America are working together to literally put fresh fruit into the hands of children who otherwise wouldn’t have it, and there are a lot of ways you can help make that happen.

Ways to contribute to the Fruit For All Project

• Now through August 31st 2012, when you buy Juicy Juice products, Nestlé will donate fruit to Feeding America.

• Now through August 31st 2012, you can complete “challenges” such as sharing a photo on Juicy Juice’s Fruit for All website, in return Nestlé will donate fruit to Feeding America.

Ready to help out? Here are the websites in English and Spanish:

Juicy Juice – Fruit For All Project – English

Juicy Juice – Proyecto Fruta Para Todos – Español

The Giveaway

Okay, now for the giveaway – I hope you believed me when I said this is unique. The prize in this giveaway is a donation of 400 meals to a food bank in your community! What an amazing gift to be able to give!

How to Enter

All you need to do to enter is just leave a comment below telling me your favorite fruit!
(Please read official rules below.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age or older to enter. You must be living in the United States. Your information will only be shared with the company in charge of prize fulfillment. One entry per household. Make sure that you enter a valid E-mail address in the E-mail address field so you can be contacted if you win. Winner will be selected at random. Winner has 48 hours to respond. After 48 hours, a new winner will be selected at random. Giveaway entries are being accepted between June 8th, 2012 through August 1st, 2012. Entries received after August 1st, 2012 at 11:59 pm ET, will not be considered. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. If you win, by accepting the prize, you are agreeing that Latinaish.com assumes no liability for damages of any kind. By entering your name below you are agreeing to these Official Rules. Void where prohibited by law.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored or paid post. The only compensation I received was the offer to donate 400 meals to my local food bank. All opinions are my own.