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!

Feminine Strength vs. Machismo

Image source: Ray Larabie

In high school we would have one week of gym class that we spent in the weight lifting room. It was in a dark, windowless room down a forgotten hallway. Students were allowed access to it after school but it was often forgotten, except by the jocks. The girls stood in a corner talking, watching the boys, examining their nails and refusing to do anything other than a minute on the rowing machine – preferring to take a zero for the day. I, however, loved our week in the weight lifting room.

Already known for challenging boys to arm wrestling contests at lunch time, (and sometimes winning), my reputation was further sealed by my behavior in the weight lifting room. The boys gathered around to see how much I could bench press, taking bets that I wouldn’t be able to do it each time the peg was moved lower and the weight got heavier. I fed on their pessimism. I loved being underestimated. I took a deep breath, felt the muscles ripping but pushed, pushed, pushed, my lips closed tight, my nostrils flaring. I heard them say knowingly to each other, “She can’t lift it” – as I struggled. My arms shook and I pushed harder still until I would feel the weight give way and my arms straightened above me in victory.

I didn’t care that I wasn’t the kind of girl you ask to the prom, but instead the kind of girl you ask to help push the car when it breaks down. I come from a family of strong women. My mother is well-known for re-decorating while my father is at work – sometimes moving heavy furniture up and down two flights of stairs by herself.

I associated femininity with weakness and wanted no part of it, but I realized how simplistic this point of view was when I gave birth to my first child. Giving birth is an act that is simultaneously the height of femininity and strength. Now, as the mother of two boys, the lone female in a household full of males, I value my feminine side more than I did growing up. Being married to Carlos though, has made me examine my femininity from a cultural perspective. It hasn’t been easy to sort out.

I will try to open a jar of pickles. Carlos will offer to help, reach his hand out for the jar, and I’ll turn away with the jar, stubbornly determined to do it myself. This is when Carlos will tell me I’m like my mother or say, “Why do you have to be so American?!” … to which I’d reply, “Why is it an insult to your manhood for me to open the pickles myself?!”

Over the years, I’ve learned to (usually), hand over the jar of pickles. It makes Carlos feel good to do it for me. I never pretend I can’t do anything, but if it’s difficult, why not give him the satisfaction of feeling that he takes care of me?

I thought that over the years, Carlos and I had mostly ironed out this one cultural wrinkle. We both have made compromises. I let him open jars of pickles that are difficult for me to open, (damn you, carpal tunnel) – and he doesn’t expect me to act completely helpless – fair enough… but at the grocery store while I was unloading the cart at the cash register, I retrieved the case of bottled water from the bottom of the cart and hefted it up and onto the conveyor belt. I thought nothing of it but Carlos whispered through clenched teeth, “Hey, you should have asked me to do it. You’re embarrassing me.”

Embarrassing Carlos was not my intention or even something I had considered – I just wanted to get the groceries checked out so we could go home, (and for the record, the cashier seemed completely unaware of the battle going on right in front of her.) I guess the lesson here is that Carlos and I will always have cultural issues to work on – nothing is ever resolved so completely that it won’t pop up again, so ingrained are the traits we bring from our two different backgrounds.


What is your take and your experiences on the topic of feminine strength vs. machismo?

JLo backs it up like a Tonka Truck for Pitbull

Last night my 13 year old interrupted my very impassioned rendition of Yertle the Turtle, which I was reading to his little brother before bedtime.

“Mommy! Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull just performed on the American Music Awards and it was nasty!”

“What do you mean nasty?”

“Jennifer Lopez was barely wearing anything, first of all.”

“Okay, not shocking.”

“No, but she like put her butt near Pitbull’s… you-know, and Pitbull looked like, all happy, of course.”

(The 10 year old giggles.)

I answered my 13 year old with something like, “Yeah? Well, you know how Pitbull is, honey,” and I went back to the story. I mean, it’s JLo and Pitbull. It’s the American Music Awards… what did he expect? We have these conversations often enough. I’ve told him, sex sells. I’ve told him that at some point very soon (if not already), he will find performances and images like these to be spectacular rather than “nasty.” I’ve told him that no matter how strong certain urges may be and despite what the culture says is appropriate – he should always treat women with respect.

Then this morning I came across a photo from the performance which he had described to me and it made me think.

(I can’t use the photo here since it’s owned by Getty Images. Click the link above to see the original. Here are some screenshots I took from video.)

J.Lo and Pitbull perform at the American Music Awards.Image is a screenshot taken from video.

J.Lo and Pitbull perform at the American Music Awards.Image is a screenshot taken from video

What can be said about these photos? I’ll admit that my first reaction was to laugh – (partly because it appears that Pitbull’s pants aren’t flat in the front and partly because I imagine Marc Anthony watching this from the sidelines.)

Look, total honesty here – I love both JLo and Pitbull. I listen to their music and think they are both talented individuals and exceptional entertainers. Pitbull is one of the very few artists that I’m willing to actually buy the album from, because I love every song and know I can dance through the entire CD from beginning to end. As a woman, I get kind of disgusted with the constant objectification of women in his music – but as a music lover, I can’t get enough. It’s a moral contradiction that I’m totally aware of.

After that initial amused reaction though, the photo also made me kind of sad. Here is JLo, one of the most successful Latinas in the world, bending over for Pitbull like an endless number of women have happily done for him before being tossed aside like used Kleenex.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a meaningless performance meant to entertain and nothing should be read into it. I know it was just a choreographed dance, a music awards moment that lasted for no more than 10 seconds and will ultimately be forgotten – but it just seems symbolic of how women, (Latina and otherwise), are viewed and consequently treated.

The cultural message: No matter how smart, how successful, how kind or talented you are, in the end, chicas, this is what you’re good for.

A peso for your thoughts, gente.

Related Link:

Latinaish.com – Autoestima

Belleza en Grande

Telemundo is beginning a special series aimed at plus-sized women to air during their show “Al Rojo Vivo.” The series, “Belleza en Grande” seeks to promote acceptance of all body shapes and sizes while providing helpful fashion advice.

Spanish-language television isn’t exactly known for promoting acceptance of anything but perfect bodies, (and English-language television isn’t much better), so I’m really pleased to see Telemundo taking this step in the right direction.

For more information on the series, including when to tune in, check out the press release:

MIAMI – July 8 2011– Telemundo’s “Al Rojo Vivo” will air “Belleza en Grande,” a series of special reports starting Monday, July 11 at 5pm ET/ 4C. María Celeste Arrarás, will present a sneak preview of this series during her appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” on Saturday, July 9, as part of the ongoing collaboration between the two networks.

Conducted by fashion expert Quique Usales, “Belleza en Grande” celebrates female beauty in all shapes and sizes. Changing the belief that fashion is designed only for skinny women, Maria Celeste, along with Quique, will present daily reports that will transform the way people see the plus-size woman.

Ranging from how to pick the right underwear, how to dress for the office, and how to select the basic pieces for a wardrobe, to how to choose the perfect lingerie for seduction as well as the right hairstyle to accentuate her best features, this series will not only offer beauty and fashion tips to women who are not a size zero, but will also give them the tools -and the inspiration- to have the right attitude to look beautiful, whatever their size.

Viewers will be able to see these and other special reports on http://www.Telemundo.com/alrojovivo.

What do you think?

¡Que vivan las panzas!

Most people have at least heard of The Vagina Monologues, even if they haven’t seen it. The Vagina Monologues was a one-woman show which told stories about the vagina – with the intention of celebrating the vagina and empowering women.

Now we celebrate the panza with The Panza Monologues. (“Panza” is Spanish for “belly”.) Written by Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga, performed by Ms. Grise, these stories told in Spanglish, are not only diverse and at times hilarious – they are emotionally stirring and empowering.

It’s probably amazing to see Vicki (Virginia), perform live, but I was at least lucky enough to watch her powerful performance on The Panza Monologues DVD. I loved it so much that I wanted to share one of my favorite parts with you. Vicki gave me permission to post the written scene. If you love it as much as I did, please, check her out, buy her DVD, and if you’re able, go see her live.

Links:
Panza Power blog
About the show: The Panza Monologues
Buy the DVD

___

FROM CHA-CHA TO PANZA

[Lights rise.]

(seductively) I wasn’t always big. I use to be cha-cha thin, tall and skinny like my gringo daddy. I would wear tacones – black with straps that reached across my ankles, boots that stopped short of my knees, diamonds across my feet. Tacones – upper leather, suede, alligator, snake, all leather and in different colors- brown, red, cork, biege, gold, green, black, blue even. Tacones that matched the dresses I wore, dresses that always fit my body, showed shape, whether they were long with slit on the side, in the front, in the back / separating my piernas, or short, showing my thighs. Me and my tacones.

[Vicki stands, pulls the tacones [high heeled shoes]
out of the shopping bag.
Holds them up for the audience to admire.]

And they weren’t puta shoes / girl, they were classy. Tacones made me feel taller. Somehow tacones made me feel stronger, more sure of myself. Not submissive or anti-feminist but like the virgen in a Yolanda Lopez painting, karate kicking out of her blue veil with gold stars, stepping on the head of an angel with her tacones. Pues yo tambien. I throw punches for my raza and I can do it with my tacones on too just like the old school cholas use to do.

[Vicki places one foot on the stool
and begins to put her tacones on.]

And the men, the men were scared of me when I walked into the cantina made up / hair swept, red lipstick and tacones. You see, men like fuckin but they don’t like bein fucked and when I walked in I wuz the one doin the choosin. I didn’t sit back in dark corners waitin for someone to ask me to dance. I asked you. Locked eyes and said “You will dance this polka with me,” sometimes without even sayin nuthin.

Other times I’d say, “Fuck all of ya’ll” and take the dance floor at Daddy’Os all by myself

[Music erupts into full blown conjunto.
Vicki dances across the stage, swirls, turns.
Music lowers, Vicki remains standing.]

They all watched / old school vatos, young cholos, graduate students trying to remember their hometown barrios in a bar east of the freeway, forgetting in between too many beers. Hell even the cholas were lookin. Some worried I’d take away their man. Others, shit others just wanted to dance wid me. Be free. Be free like me.

They say a bar is a man’s space but I owned that motha fucker. I walked in with my own go-go juice in blue bottle cuz my dad once told me, “Beer makes you fat Virginia,” so I drank vodka on the rocks, learned how to play pool “Call your shots. I’m not fuckin around.” And I learned more about community politics/who owns who, who runs what than I could of ever learned workin at a cultural center.

I claimed power through my pussy, and I didn’t even have to let any one in. I just had to let em all know I knew I had one and that I controlled my own cho-cho. Ya, I owned that motha / fuckin bar / ‘till the city tore it down after li’l Danny got cut.

[Vicki sits.]

I use to be cha-cha thin. Proud of my calves, well-defined. Calves that did not look like my mother’s calves. My mom’s calves were more like tree trunks. Her whole body was like one huge bloque. My mother gave us everything, everything but I never remember her having anything. Instead of tacones, she wore chanclas. She use to threaten us with her chancla and it didn’t matter if she were big and old, she could still bend over, take off her chancla, grab us by the arm, and meternos un chingaso, real quick like/good ol’ fashion chancla discipline. My mother use to say that my father wanted boys. We were three girls. My mother never said what it was she wanted. That was her way I guess. I’m not sure if my mom ever loved my dad but I grew up thinkin that women that fell in love were weak.

I never thought my mom was pretty, even when she was younger and I never wanted to look like her but slowly the image of my mother crept into my own body. Slowly after too many two o’clock after closin time tacos, candy bars and coke for breakfast. They startin callin me dis—short for gordis—instead of la vicki. Cha-cha became panza and not little panzita even. The whole body grew and you know, it’s not easy balancin this much woman on an ity, bitty heel. I no longer walked real straight and tall. Hell, I looked more like a weeble, wobble. All my weight on a heel as wide as my pointing finger with my foot arched in the middle. I feel the weight of my panza all the way in the ball of my foot. When your panza gets bigger so do your feet and those thin sexy straps that use to hold your feet well they aint that sexy no more. You’ve got these little lonjitas hangin off the side of your shoe and it causes your feet to swell. It’s like they’re chokin, pulsatin, gaspin for air as they struggle to balance all of you on a tacon. And to tell you the truth, I don’t really feel so strong, so sure of myself anymore. Shit I’m scared I’ll fall when I’m dancin and the people that are lookin at me now are starin because they’re scared if I go too low I might not be able to get back up. They’re worried I’ll hurt someone out there.

There’s somethin classy about cha-cha/medias and tacones but when cha-cha becomes panza and you think you can still pull the same shit you could when you were 21, you just look kinda silly. You loose your tacon super powers and your magic slippers really are just puta shoes. Your dress clings tightly to lonjas and you can’t lock eyes with anyone anymore and talk to them without speaking cuz now they only look at your huge chi-chis and well chi-chis just aren’t as powerful as cho-cho. I don’t know why. Who makes these rules?

[Seductive music rises. Lights dim.]

[During the transition, Vicki sits on the edge of the altar, takes off her tacones and replaces them in the shopping bag on the altar. Vicki remains seated.]

© 2004 Virginia Grise and Irma Mayorga
No part of this script may be reproduced, published, or performed without express written consent of the authors.

Disclosure: The Panza Monologues was provided to me for review at my request. All opinions are my own.

If you say you love fútbol, I hope you’re watching the Women’s World Cup

I am out $40 thanks to the U.S. Men’s team. Hopes were high in the beginning with a two goal lead but Mexico proved too fast and the U.S. team, too disorganized. A sampling of my tweets from last night:

• USA! USA! USA! … Don’t let me down. I’ve got $40 on this game. lol #goldcup #copadeoro

• gooooooooooool USA!

• claro – que viva mexico… pero que gane los EEUU jajaja ;) RT @soonerclone viva mexico!!

• Gooooool #2 USA & Donovan does the chicken dance in celebration lol #copaoro #goldcup

• Now 2-1 US leads MX. Goal by Barrera. #copaoro #goldcup

• Mexico ties it up. 2-2 Chicharito smartly steps over the ball to avoid offsides #goldcup #copaoro

• Mexico takes the lead 3-2 #copaoro #goldcup

• Ayyyysh! stupid porteria!

• Dempsey shouldn’t have done that. Beating up on cute little Chicharito looks bad lol

• Noooooooo :( U.S. COME ON! ergh.

• @UcCaliChic25 LOL… this is difficult to watch. Like a lion slowly eating a gazelle on NatGeo #goldcup

• Felicidades Mexico. Team USA, I’m out $40 because of you. I am disappoint #goldcup

• Carlos is unhappy. Mexican co-workers are texting him to gloat lol …He turned his phone off.

___

Okay, I wanted to get a photo of the text Carlos received but he is really, really sore about it. He doesn’t find it funny at all. (For one thing, they address him as “Pupusa” – that’s his nickname as the only Salvadoran at work.) … Anyway, he is so far from amused that I actually need a separate post to talk about it – so that has to wait until más tarde.

As for the game, I’m really disappointed but I kind of don’t understand why some people are such sore losers. I’m not just saying this because I like El Tri. I really wanted the U.S. to win, (like I said, I lost money betting on them!) – but in the end, it’s just a game, isn’t it? Look, I get totally passionate about fútbol, but I promise you, it really is just people kicking around a round object. When you think about how insignificant each human is in this universe, it seems rather silly that the inability of a handful of men to kick a ball into a net, should ruin your day.

Besides, there are other things to move on to, like the Women’s World Cup now taking place in Berlin, Germany.

Unfortunately, (*cough* due to gender inequality *cough*) – it’s not as easy to find the Women’s World Cup games on television as it is to find men’s games (of any kind.) … It frustrates me but I also find it strange to think about. The women’s team is not getting the same treatment just based on what is, (or isn’t), in their gym shorts. It’s really baffling when you look at it like that.

Ni modo, here is where you can follow the games if you can’t find them on T.V.

FIFA
ESPN 3
USSoccer.com
AOL.SportingNews.com

Other interesting links:

FIFA treats women’s game as a burden – FOX sports/JENNIFER DOYLE

Fun fact:

“Until World War I, women players had to keep their hair under a cap or bonnet and hide their legs inside voluminous bloomers. In the 1910’s, when many men were away at war, crowds flocked to see women’s exhibition games. This wider acceptance of ladies’ soccer enabled women’s teams to start wearing soccer outfits that were similar to those worn by men and more suitable for the game.” – pg. 29 / Eyewitness Books: Soccer

…two steps forward, one step back…

“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?” – Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, 2004 (source)

“How good does a female athlete have to be before we just call her an athlete?” – Author Unknown