We Need Diverse Books!

Image created by:  Icey Design

Image created by: Icey Design

The past couple days, I have had the immense pleasure of helping organize #WeNeedDiverseBooks with some amazing people – (You may have seen me tweeting already from my @Latinaish account as well as my personal @TracyDeLopez account.) The campaign is described in detail below, but it is basically a call for more diversity in books – something many of us have been talking about for a long time. I remember when Latinas for Latino Lit launched with this same mission, and through that I had the opportunity to express my views on the topic, as well as host authors René Colato Laínez and Meg Medina here on my blog. So I am really excited to see so many people coming together, from la comunidad Latina and beyond – to hopefully bring about some real change in the publishing industry. I hope you’ll join us! – Tracy López

A Joint Message From The Organizers of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, And Details On How You Can Get Involved:

Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets like these two pieces in the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.

Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:

May 1st at 1pm (EST) – There will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. [People are already using it, so join us!] We want people to use Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blogs, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.

You can also support #WeNeedDiverseBooks by taking a photo holding a sign that says:

“We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.

The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs. However you want to do it, we want to share it! We will host all the photos at WeNeedDiverseBooks.Tumblr, so please submit your photos by May 1st to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.

At 1:00PM EST the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.

The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a non-stop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.

The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.

May 2nd – The second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm EST using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.

May 3rd – At 2pm EST, the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! (More details and giveaway entry HERE!)

We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.

Onions and Unintentional Racism

The onion I wanted to throw at a clueless woman's head.

The onion I wanted to throw at a clueless woman’s head.

I know, it’s a strange title, but I wasn’t sure how else to sum up our visit to the grocery store today.

Carlos and I walked through the produce section as I checked my list.

“I need onions,” I said.

Carlos steered the cart and followed me to the onions.

“Whoa!” I said, when I came to the onions, because they were the biggest onions I’d ever seen.

“Those are huge,” Carlos said.

“Do you think they’re like, genetically modified onions or something?” I joked, picking one up.

“I don’t know. One onion is enough for a whole week.”

“Hey, quick, take a picture of it,” I said, holding it up.

Carlos obliged without question because he’s become accustomed to my odd photo requests over the years. Carlos snapped the photo and then that’s when everything went downhill.

A middle-aged blond woman standing nearby smiled at us. Her blond child sat in the cart and several more stood behind her.

“Where are you from?” the woman asked, turning her attention to Carlos, still smiling.

I glared at her while setting the onion down. Carlos shuffled uncomfortably as he put his cellphone back in his pocket.

“El Salvador,” he answered.

“You must not have onions that big there, huh?” the woman said in a voice that reminded me of a Kindergarten teacher speaking to one of her 5 year old students. She wasn’t trying to be insulting… She wasn’t trying to be.

“Um, no, not really,” Carlos said, shifting his eyes to make eye contact with me ever so briefly. Carlos and I didn’t need words, didn’t need to speak, to know we were thinking the same thing.

I bit my tongue, resisted the urge to ask the woman where she was from. I wanted to tell her that Carlos had lived in the United States for 15 years now, that he’s an American Citizen, not some onion-photographing foreign tourist. I wanted to lob one of the onions at her head but she was oblivious to her white privilege, her unintentional racism, how she had made Carlos feel “other” … She didn’t realize that if another white person had been taking a photo in the grocery store she would not have asked or even wondered where they are from.

“We just went to Thailand. We love anything international!” the woman exclaimed.

The awkwardness was unbearable.

I wondered in my head how she would have reacted if I blurted out something equally as random. “Tea and crumpets are amazing!” is what I wanted to say. I bit my tongue harder.

“That’s nice?” Carlos said, unsure, as was I, what she expected us to respond.

I looped my arm through Carlos’s, forced myself to smile at the woman and we walked away. I kept quiet because I still don’t know how to explain white privilege to other white people.

What would you have done? How would you have responded?

Xenophobia and The Boston Bombings

foreigner_latinaish

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.

#101HispanicWaysToDie

#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!”

8. Empacho

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

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.

Ice Cream Cone + Taco = Love

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!

El año pasado compartí una foto de una camisa chistosa que encontré en una tienda que se llama “Five Below.” Five Below es una tienda que lleva un montón de cosas para jovenes y todo cuesta cinco dólares o menos, (de ahí, el nombre “Five Below.”)

Bueno, la semana pasada tuve que visitar esa tienda porque mi hijo mayor necesitaba un regalito para una amiga que estaba cumpliendo años y lo invitó a su fiesta.

Mientras estabamos buscando un regalito para la amiga, econtré otra camisa.

Como puedes ver, representado en esta camisa tenemos un cono de sorbete, (parece que es sabor de vainilla) – y un taco. Los dos están agarrados de las manos y el cono, (que es hembra con pestañas largas y un listón) – está diciendo, “It’s complicated.” (En español: “Es complicado.”)

Suponemos que ella está hablando sobre su relación con el taco. La camisa es super interesante. No sé si estoy analizandolo demasiado pero creo que la camisa está simbolizando una pareja intercultural – especificamente, una gringa blanca con un latino. O sea, soy un cono sabor a vainilla y Carlos es un taco.

No sé si es divertida la camisa o un poco ofensiva. ¿Qué crees tú?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Last year I shared a photo of a funny shirt found at a store called “Five Below.” Five Below is a store that has tons of things for young people and everything costs five dollars or less, (hence the name, “Five Below.”)

Well, last week I had to visit this store because my older son needed a birthday gift for a friend’s party he was attending. While looking for the gift for his friend, I found this shirt.

As you can see, depicted on this shirt we have an ice cream cone, (it looks like vanilla-flavored), and a taco. Both are holding hands and the cone, (which is a girl with long eyelashes and a bow) – is saying, “It’s complicated.”

We assume she’s talking about her relationship with the taco. The shirt is really interesting. I don’t know if I’m over-analyzing it but the shirt seems to symbolize an intercultural couple – specifically a white gringa and a Latino. In other words, I’m a vanilla-flavored ice cream cone and Carlos is a taco.

I don’t know if the shirt is funny or offensive. What do you think?

Mexicans vs. Salvadorans

mexico-versus-el-salvador

Last week the United States lost to Mexico in the final Gold Cup game. My husband and I were both rooting for the U.S. team. We had even bet money – which was my unfortunate idea. Carlos has Mexican co-workers who give him a hard time for being the only Salvadoran amongst them – so I thought this would be a good way to get a little revenge and make some cash at the same time… well, it would have been if our team had won – instead, it lead to us being $40 poorer and some marital discord.

You see, while I was disappointed by the loss, Carlos, a Salvadoran by birth, was more than disappointed – he was angry, and it wasn’t about the money – it was about the Mexicans teasing him, the Mexicans who had beat our team, and, apparently, the entire country of Mexico itself.

When I told him to calm down he said, “You don’t understand! You don’t know how they are! I’m going to have to put up with that shit all day!”

“Don’t let it get to you,” I advised. “They just want to see you get upset. If you pretend it doesn’t bother you, they’ll stop,” I told him, repeating the same advice my mother had given me a million times when my sister’s teasing had gotten on my nerves as a kid.

“You don’t know how it is,” Carlos said. At that moment, his cellphone buzzed with a text message. Carlos cursed then held the screen to my face. “See?!”

The text message was from a Mexican co-worker. It read:

Ey pupusa, ganó México. Mañana tienes que llevar el dinero! jajajajaja!

I tried not to smile because Carlos was obviously really upset, but even their nickname for him, (“pupusa”) – I found funny, cute, and totally harmless. It was just guys being guys – but Carlos didn’t see it that way.

The thing is, I know Carlos doesn’t hate Mexicans. We have Mexican friends – people he really likes very much. He listens to Mexican music right along with me, without complaint, (usually), and likes Mexican food. When I cook Salvadoran dishes he puts Valentina hot sauce on it, (authentic Salvadoran food is not traditionally spicy, but Carlos likes everything picante.) He loves Pedro Infante, Cantinflas, El Chavo del Ocho, India Maria. As a proud Salvadoran, he even confessed that he knows a few bars of the Himno Nacional Mexicano and sang it for me! (Although he only learned it so he could pass as Mexican if stopped while immigrating through Mexico on his way to the United States.)

Even while I try to convince Carlos that he really does love Mexicans after all, I know animosity between Mexicans and Salvadorans isn’t imaginary – it’s real, and there are real reasons for it. If you ask a Mexican or Salvadoran why they don’t like each other, they may give you one of the following reasons, or they may offer no compelling reason at all. Here is what I found – (The content below is quoted from various sources. Sources are included. Latinaish.com does not necessarily agree with or endorse the opinions below.)

IMMIGRATION

“El problema con los mexicanos es [que] quieren tener de menos a los salvadoreños y centroamericanos, nos subestiman… cual crees [que] es el mayor desafio para un salvadoreño o centroamericano al emigrar a USA, es el temor a ser asesinado, secuestrado, mutilado o violado por mexicanos, se aprobechan de los emigrantes centroamericanos cuando ellos tambien tienen la misma necesidad de nosotros de emigrar hacia USA…” – Salvadoreño, Yahoo Answers

“Yo vivo al norte de méxico y el otro día viendo las noticias comentabamos mi mamá y yo como era posible la discriminación de razas sobre todo al sur del país con los salvadoreños ó guatemaltecos que cruzan la frontera, siendo que el presiedente de méxico va cada rato a USA a pedir que no traten mal a sus indocumentados, yo viví en USA una temporada y ví como en USA no los tratan tan mal como dicen los de la “migra” a los mexicanos indocumentados, y me pregunto yo ¿con que cara los méxicanos tratan mal a los salvadoreños ó guatemaltecos que cruzan la frontera?, vi en una entrevista al presidente de guatemala diciendo que había ido con el presidente de mexico para pedir por sus indocumentados y le comentó este que el acababa de llegar de USA por lo mismo y cuando llegó de ahi tenía una llamada del presindente de belice para lo mismo y cuando llego a su pais el presidente de guatemala le esperaba una llamada del presidente de el salvador y era para pedirle por sus indocumentados. Imaginate dijo todos estamos abogando por lo mismo….y me dio una pena ajena con la gente del sur de mi país enterarme que los tratan tan mal y que todavía se quejen que en USA los tratan mal con que cara piden respeto si no repetan… todavía recuerdo un día que llegarona ala casa unos salvadoreños pidiendo comida eran una pareja con dos niños como llegaron hasta sonora solo dios sabe, les dimos todo lo que pudimos y les dimos la bendición cuando se fueron. No todos odian a los salvadoreños aqui hay gente que es del salvador viviendo y los tratamos muy bien saben porque? porque al norte no se vive como al sur del pais, es triste pero cierto.” – Mexicana/Yahoo Answers

HISTORY

“Shortly after Central America gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico tried to swallow the region into its burgeoning empire. The fiercest opposition? El Salvador. Eventually, republic-minded Mexicans stopped their country’s ambitions and allowed El Salvador and the other Central American provinces to create the United Provinces of Central America. That lasted into the 1830s, by which time Mexico was too busy dealing with another imperial power to care much about recouping its former holdings. And if you know anything about Mexico, it’s que we don’t take thefts of our lands lightly.” – Gustavo Arellano/Ask A Mexican

GANGS

“The Mara Salvatrucha gang originated in Los Angeles, set up in the 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants in the city’s Pico-Union neighborhood who immigrated to the United States after the Central American civil wars of the 1980s…Originally, the gang’s main purpose was to protect Salvadoran immigrants from other, more established gangs of Los Angeles, who were predominantly composed of Mexicans and African-Americans.” – Wikipedia

JEALOUSY: TPS (TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS)

El Salvador became a “temporary protected status” (TPS) country in 2001, following two earthquakes that killed 1,000 people and destroyed more than 200,000 homes.

After intense lobbying by the Salvadoran government, the TPS was just extended for another 12 months. That means Salvadorans who were living in the United States in 2001 – many of them illegally – can stay and work for another year. TPS comes up for renewal or termination every 12 to 18 months.

TPS is designed to aid countries reeling from a natural disaster, civil war or other destabilizing situation.

…Some of the seven TPS-designated countries get extensions though their disasters happened long ago. Christopher Bentley of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says “assessments” and “studies” help decide whether to extend TPS and whether holders can return safely home.

Jose Romero, a 31-year-old Charlotte construction worker [now] earns three times what he did in his native El Salvador.

He got TPS five years ago after living in the U.S. illegally for five years.

Romero told his fellow construction workers, most of them Mexican, about his TPS. They were happy for him, but jealous.

“They’re never going to give us anything,” he said the Mexicans told him.

- Article by Tim Funk and Danica Coto / McClatchy Newspapers

RESENTMENT: CULTURAL DOMINANCE AND TRYING TO FIT IN

“Juan Carlos Rivera knew that if he wanted to get a dishwashing job at the MacArthur Park hamburger stand, he would have to pretend to be Mexican. But the thought of lying made the Salvadoran anxious.

He paced outside the restaurant, worried that his melodic Spanish accent, his use of the Central American vos, instead of the Mexican tu, would give him away.

…In his best Mexican Spanish, the Salvadoran asked: ¿Tienen trabajo? (Do you have work?)

When asked where he was born, he swallowed his pride and answered: Puebla, Mexico.

The job was his. For three days, Rivera scrubbed plates in conspicuous silence. He knew the Mexican cooks were onto him. Especially the one from Puebla.

…Juan Carlos Rivera struggled to keep up his ruse even when the suspicious cook began to quiz him on popular Pueblan food, including Puebla’s specialty, the cemita.

“How do you like it?” the cook asked.

“With pineapple,” Rivera said. Little did he know that what Salvadorans knew as caramelized sweet bread, Pueblans knew as a meat and avocado sandwich.

“I knew you weren’t Mexican,” the cook said smugly before running off to tell the manager.

- Article by Esmeralda Bermudez/Los Angeles Times

__

“It’s always Mexico, Mexico, Mexico,” said Jorge Mendoza, a 42-year-old painter, one of a group of Salvadoran men who gathered recently at MacArthur Park. “I turn on the radio and all I hear is Mexican music. If I want to watch a soccer game, I have to watch a Mexican team play.”

- Article by Esmeralda Bermudez/Los Angeles Times

PRIDE

“Salvadorans don’t hate Mexicans as much as Mexicans hate Salvadorans…This isn’t a generalization of all Mexicans, but many of them do this. Mexicans are the majority in most places where Salvadorans live, like San Fran, L.A., and Houston. In Long Island and Miami Salvadorans get along with the Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans fine. The problem is that Mexicans always usually display an arrogance that rubs all Latinos the wrong way. Not the Argentine, snotty type arrogance. The fist pumping, I’m a Mexican! arrogance. They insult us b/c of our accents, and feel they are superior. They don’t understand our history but we have to understand theirs.” – Enrique/Topix.com

FÚTBOL

“Pues supuestamente todo fue por culpa de un partido de futbol. En las eliminatorias para un mundial El Salvador le gano a México y lo descalifico para llegar al mundial. Esa es una explicacion ya que El Salvador nunca a tenido un buen equipo y a los mexicanos les dolió que un equipo como El Salvador los descalificaran…si no me equivoco fue en 1976.” – Salvadoreño/Yahoo Answers

PUPUSAS vs. GORDITAS

(Okay, not seriously, but while we’re arguing, I thought I’d throw it in there for fun.)

(Thanks to Juan for letting me use his video here to bring a little levity to a heavy topic.)

WORDS OF WISDOM

“Esto no es mas que pelear por tonterias … todos somos humanos, somos de la misma especie y los único que nos hace “diferentes” es una simple ubicación geográfica …somos humanos no somos ni mas ni menos, todos iguales … me parece bastante inmaduro pelear solo porque vivimos en distintos lugares del mundo … por cierto soy salvadoreño y ya dejen de pelear por tonterias.” – Salvadoreño/Yahoo Answers

NOTE: As always, comments are welcome below, but comments containing violent threats or hate speech will not be published. (This message is for both Salvadorans and Mexicans equally.) Please feel free to share your thoughts or experiences on the topic in a thoughtful, intelligent manner that avoids name-calling or inflaming tensions. This post is not intended to stir up resentment but rather to point out the problems so they can be put aside.