Category Archives: Issues

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.

Fun for Niños at McDonald’s Fútbol Clinic

Yesterday we were invited to take part in a soccer clinic organized by McDonald’s which took place at Soccerdome in Landover, Maryland. At the soccer clinic, the kids were given a free uniform and tickets for the US vs. Brazil game later this evening at FedEx field. Chévere, right?

El Zol 107.9 FM was there playing music and getting the kids hyped up and they also introduced special guest, Ronald McDonald, the clown. This freaked me out and I made sure to keep my distance, (es nada personal against Ronald – all payasos make me uncomfortable)- however the niños seemed to have fun with him.

At some point, Carlos and I, as well as our 10 year old, were interviewed by Telemundo. I have no idea when and where they’ll use the videos, if they choose to use them. I say “if they choose to use them” because the questions were in Spanish, por supuesto, and I’m sure el chiquito and I made more than a couple grammatical mistakes, besides just being very self-conscious in front of the camera. Carlos was more comfortable than us but even he got a little nervous. Anyway, it was further confirmation that I’m a writer for a reason.

As for the actual clinic – it was a lot of fun. For several hours the kids played fútbol and other games, did drills and were instructed on how to improve their technique by friendly coaches. McDonald’s is often the target of criticism from health advocates and while I don’t disagree with a lot of common discussion on the topic, I think that when a company does something good, that should be recognized. McDonald’s does a lot of good things, the most well-known being Ronald McDonald House Charities – but these sports clinics are also really great healthy initiatives that should be praised. It was fantastic to see all the kids running around getting exercise and I noted that McDonald’s provided the kids with 100% juice rather than soda.

The best part of the event was that 22 of the children were chosen as escorts to walk players of the National US Soccer Team onto the field and stand with them during the anthems at tonight’s game – My 10 year old is going to be one of those kids and I’m sure this will be an experience he’ll never forget.

Disclosure: This is not a paid or sponsored post. We were invited by McDonald’s to the soccer clinic and given tickets to the game. No compensation was received in exchange for this post and as always all opinions are my own.

Latinaish.com at the White House – The Issues

On May 21st I attended the LATISM Top Bloguera Retreat in Washington, D.C. and part of that event included a White House briefing on issues affecting the Latino community. Today I want to share my experience and some of the things I learned which I think are worth passing on.

The main issues discussed were Health and Education, however, that didn’t stop Meagan Ortiz of Vivir Latino from kicking things off with a very good question regarding immigration. Of course the answer to the question was less than satisfying to anyone who has long supported comprehensive immigration reform, but perhaps that was to be expected.

(Check out Meagan’s thoughts on her experience here.)

Meagan’s question seemed to ignite others. Passionate blogueras lined up and asked very brave and difficult questions. I was proud to be in a room full of women who weren’t afraid to stand up and speak their minds.

Roxana Soto of SpanglishBaby asked about bilingual education and the possibility of more dual immersion schools – again, the answer she/we were given, didn’t satisfy me, but I still feel that our voices were heard, and that’s a start.

(Check out Roxana’s thoughts on her experience here.)

While the blogueras were given plenty of time to ask questions, the White House also had plenty of talking points and messages they wanted to get out to us and to the Latino community as well. Here is video I took, highlighting some of the parts I found most informative.

Here are some links to learn more about the programs mentioned in the video:

FNS.USDA.gov (Nutrition Assistance Programs)
La Mesa Completa
Let’s Move!
Let’s Move! – Spanish version/español
Choose My Plate
Choose My Plate/Mi Plato – Spanish version/español

_______

What information did you find most useful or surprising? What question would you have asked?

Latinaish.com at the White House

As you all know, I attended the LATISM “Top Bloguera” Retreat in Washington, D.C. Since coming back home I’ve had a lot to catch up on with work, my family, the household, and on top of that, we’ve been having some suegra drama so I haven’t had the luxury of sorting out my thoughts on the event, (let alone my videos and all my photos!)

I did write a recap for Latina Bloggers Connect though, and here is what I said, in part:

“Me personally, I’m still processing it all. I’m the type that needs a few days to think before I can say for certain what conclusion I’ve come to, but I can say with certainty that the event did the following for me:

The Top Bloguera Retreat encouraged me to re-think what I put my energy into and to consider whether I need to re-focus or re-distribute that energy in a different way for more satisfying payoffs, (emotional as well as financial.) – Now you know why I have a lot of thinking to do!”

(Read the rest at: Latina Bloggers Connect.)

The White House briefing was really informative. The Obama Administration has done a lot of things that benefit not just the Latino community, but all communities, and I’m hoping to bring you the highlights of what I learned in an upcoming post.

For now, check out the White House blog: #LatismAtTheWH – Latinos Active in Social Media Visit the White House.

Latinos in Social Media (LATISM) Latina Blogger Retreat in DC

Image source: Brian Talbot

LATISM (Latinos in Social Media), is hosting their first ever “Latina Blogger Retreat” which is scheduled for May 20th to May 22nd, 2012 in Washington, DC. The event is by invitation only, and I was selected to be one of the bloggers in attendance! (Gracias to LATISM’s Ana Roca, Elianne Ramos, and Elma Placeres Dieppa, as well as Latina Bloggers Connect, Las Blogueras, Blogs de Mamas and New Latina.)

The program includes “sessions ranging from blog and business best practices, leadership skills, and social good”, mentoring from top executives in various industries that match each blogger’s interests, and a briefing at the White House, “where Administration officials will discuss the top issues affecting our Latino community: Education, Health and Jobs.”

[More information HERE, HERE, and HERE.]

I’m hoping that outside the obvious awesomeness of being able to see all my bloguera friends, that this will be a learning experience. I would like to learn at least one new solid skill or piece of information that I can apply to my life and/or my writing. I’m also happy that I’ll have the opportunity to discuss the social causes I’m passionate about and that I will potentially learn ways I can better champion those causes.

Want to follow this event and see what I’m up to? I’ll be tweeting using the hashtag #TopBlogueras over the next few days and will also be writing a recap post with photos and possibly video on Latina Bloggers Connect next week. Stay tuned!

¡Obama!

The bilingual Latinos For Obama website has launched and I have to say, it’s pretty chévere.

From the slogan/logo:

To some of the merchandise:

To the way President Obama pronounces the word “Latino”:

Es obvio que the Obama campaign knows what gente like.

When Pandilleros Attend Mass and Other Life Lessons

I went to ElSalvador.com to check out photos of El Salvador’s momentous win last night against the U.S., but as is my habit, I became distracted by something else.

A still image in the sidebar of a tattooed marero (gang member), taking communion, made me pause. The story title: Pandilleros piden una oportunidad. I clicked through to the video and found it too moving not to share.

I don’t consider myself religious, but something about this video touched me. Looking at those faces, behind the tattoos, I see young men who were once little boys, and for whatever reason, they made mistakes that led them to where they are. Many of them come from poverty or abusive homes. Neglected by parents or orphaned by war, they sought to “belong” and that is a big attraction to gang life – it’s the family one never had.

“Siempre han dicho que nosotros somos la escoria y lo peor del mundo. Nosotros crecimos en un época de conflicto y en ese época tapamos nuestros valores con cosas negativas, pero estamos dispuestos a cambiar, si nos ayudan.” – source

["They've always said that we're the scum and the worst of the world. We grew up in an era of conflict and in that time we covered our values ​​with negative things, but we are willing to change, if you help us."]

“Nosotros estamos de buena fe, queremos seguir adelantes. Estamos consciente de que les hemos fallado a Dios, y a la sociedad, y aquí en nombre de toda mi pandilla, la MS13, quiero pedirle perdón, a la sociedad, y que nos dé una oportunidad de poder cambiar… nosotros también somos salvadoreños, nosotros también somos seres humanos.” – source: MS13 gang member in the video

["We are of good faith, we want to move on. We are aware that we have failed God, and society, and here, on behalf of my gang, MS13, I apologize, I want to ask for forgiveness, from society, and ask that you give us an opportunity to change ... we too are Salvadorans, we too are human beings."]

What would happen if we always believed the best about others, rather than the worst?…Maybe people live up to expectations.

Image source: Both images are screen captures from the video by ElSalvador.com
More images worth seeing: Informador.com

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