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

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

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

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?

¡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

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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.

Gringa Invasion

While she passes most of her time in Chalatenango proper where her family lives, and Soyapango where Carlos’s childhood home is – Suegra sometimes goes to visit her childhood home which is in a town in the mountains of Chalatenango called San Luis del Carmen.

I visited there one afternoon when we went to El Salvador. Against all my gringa instincts which screamed that I needed a seat belt, I rode in the back of a Tío’s pickup truck with my then one year old baby. They threw cushions from the sofa in to make the ride more comfortable. We rode up, up, up, stopped for some bony looking cattle to cross the road, and then up, up, up some more. San Luis del Carmen was very quiet. There was a pretty white church, typical Salvadoran-style cement block homes lining the road, the ever present chuchos aguacateros (street dogs), and a small store selling soda en bolsas and snacks.

A typical Salvadoran-style house. “DIOS ES AMOR” means & “God is love”

chucho aguacatero (street dog) that followed us

A little store selling snacks, etc.

Carlos enjoying a bag of orange soda and a snack.

Suegra’s modest childhood home has been kept in good repair despite being over 50 years old, though no one inhabits it. The home sits on a fair amount of land – the trees in the backyard are heavy with coffee beans.

That is how I remember San Luis del Carmen, so I was surprised when Suegra told me there are a lot of gringas there now – “jovenes, chelitas, americanas – como vos!” she says, though I imagine they are younger than me – maybe Peace Corp. volunteers or missionaries. She says they are pairing up with young Salvadoran men, (she emphasizes that they are dark-skinned country boys – “pero puro del campo!” she says, as if this made it more shocking, which to me it isn’t. Country boys have their charm though I married a city boy.)

Suegra went to San Luis during the feast day in December. During the festival, the town traditionally picks a “reina” (queen) … This year, the reina was one of the gringas.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I’m fascinated by the idea of an entire village that ten years from now may be made up of families that resemble my own. Part of me wonders if these girls know what they’re getting into. It’s one thing to marry a Salvadoran who has immigrated here – but quite another to marry a Salvadoran in El Salvador. My mind swirls with the compromises, sacrifices, and struggles they will face. Culture shock. Language barriers. Machismo. They are on his turf. They are on their suegra’s turf. As romantic as it appears on the outside, the situation raises many concerns.

Honestly, I do laugh a little imaging the phone calls home. The parents expect information about when to pick their precious daughters up at the airport now that their volunteer assignment has come to an end. Instead, their daughter’s voice sounding farther away than ever says, “Mom, Dad, I met someone here. I’m staying in El Salvador and getting married!” … Those poor gringo parents! …And then imagine when the parents go to El Salvador for the wedding. Will there be tears of joy or tears of sheer terror for what their daughter has done? (Oh wait, I’m just having flashbacks to my own wedding…jiji…)

But what about the relationships that don’t work out? What if they love each other but the girl desperately wishes to return home? It isn’t easy to adjust to a drastically different culture and way of life. It also isn’t that easy to bring your new novio with you thanks to immigration law which splits us all up into these man-made parcels called countries. Will the girls go home with broken hearts or will it be the muchachos who are left con el corazón en pedazos? (Either way, one must make the sacrifice of being away from their own family and culture.) If the girls stay in El Salvador, get married, start a family and then for whatever reason, end up divorcing, what happens with the children?

How do the Salvadoran women of San Luis del Carmen feel about this “invasion” of gringas? Do they feel animosity towards the gringas for “stealing” the men? Was it fair for an outsider to be chosen as the “queen” of the town?

If I were a sociologist, I know where I’d be buying a plane ticket to right now.

Interview with Eva Linares, female fútbol commentator

Over the weekend I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing Eva Linares, the only female soccer commentator in El Salvador, (probably the only female soccer commentator in Latin America, possibly even the world.) Our interview was in Spanish, but I’ve translated my questions and her answers to English as well so no one is left out of the fun!

Durante el fin de semana tuve el placer y honor de entrevisar a Eva Linars, la única comentadora de fútbol en El Salvador, (probalemente la única comentadora de fútbol en América Latina, posiblemente la única en el mundo.) Nuestra entrevista fue en español, pero he traducido mis preguntas y sus repuestas a inglés para que nadie quede fuera de la diversión.

Interview with Eva Linars
Entrevista con Eva Linares

Latinaish.com: Mi primer pregunta es cómo fue que metiste en el mundo de fútbol? Cúando supiste que tú querías ser una comentadora?

Eva Linares: En el 2000 cuando tenía 18 años de edad ingrese a Radio Milenio 92.1 fm (emisora comunitaria que transmite en Santa Ana), comencé siendo presentadora de noticias y en el 2001 el Director de la radio, Julio César González (quien es periodista deportivo y narrador de fútbol de MILENIO y de CADENA MONUMENTAL 101.3 FM) fue quien planteo la opción de involucrarme en los deportes, en un principio era sólo reportera y Julio me propuso enseñarme a narrar, comenzamos las clases, hasta que hice mi primera narración en el 2001. Siempre me ha gustado hacer cosas diferentes, aprender y superarme, gracias a Dios que en mi camino han aparecido personas importantes que han compartido sus conocimientos.

Latinaish.com: My first question is, how is it that you got involved in the world of soccer? When did you realize that you wanted to be a commentator?

Eva Linares: In the year 2000, when I was 18 years old, I started at Radio Milenio 92.1 FM, (community radio station broadcasting from Santa Ana.) I started out as a news reporter and in 2001 the Director of the radio, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, (who is a sports journalist and football commentator from Milenio and Cadena Monumental 101.3 FM), was the one who brought up the option to involve me in sports. At first I was only a reporter but Julio proposed the idea of teaching me to commentate, I started the classes, until I did my first commentating in 2001. I’ve always liked doing different things, learning and overcoming. Thanks to God, important people always appeared in my path and those people share their knowledge with me.

Latinaish.com: ¿Qué ha sido lo más difícil y cómo lo has superado?

Eva Linares: Lo más difícil ha sido superar en mí temores, temores al qué dirán, ¿se me escuchará bien? – Tantas cuestionantes que surgen cuando emprendemos algo nuevo, esas incertidumbres las he ido superando preparando, haciendo mi trabajo con pasión y con la ayuda de amigos y amigas, de mi esposo, mi familia que siempre me empujan a seguir.

Latinaish.com: What has been the most difficult and how did you overcome?

Eva Linares: The hardest thing has been overcoming fears, fears that say, ‘can they hear me well?’ So many questions arise when we try something new, these insecurities have been overcome by preparing, doing my job with passion and with the help of friends, my husband, and my family always pushing me forward.

Latinaish.com: ¿Tienes algún memoria favorita de fútbol?

Eva Linares: En primer partido tenía muchos nervios, me preocupaba si podría gritar el gol, práctique mucho, llego el partido y los primeros 15 a 20 minutos de mi narración fue un desastre, me enrede, confundí nombres, totalmente UN DESASTRE, termino el partido y el marcador fue 0 x 0 , en el primer partido NO HUBO GOLES, así que mi tensión por cantarlos tuvo que aguantarse hasta el siguiente partido donde sí cante mi primer gol.

Latinaish.com: Do you have a favorite soccer memory?

Eva Linares: The first game I was so nervous – I worried if I could yell “goal!” – I had practiced a lot, and then the day of the game came. The first 15-20 minutes, my commentating was a disaster – I got tongue tied, I confused names, It was a complete DISASTER. I finished the game and the score was 0 to 0 – in that first game there were no goals, so my tension to yell that first “goal” had to wait until the next game, where I got to do it.

Latinaish.com: ¿Tienes un equipo o jugador favorito?

Eva Linares: “La Selecta” , Club Deportivo FAS y por solidaridad con mi esposo (Alexis Triviño), quien es chileno “La Roja” y “Colo Colo”.

Latinaish.com: Do you have a favorite team or player?

Eva Linares: La Selecta, Club Deportivo FAS [Salvadoran teams], and for solidarity with my husband, (Alexis Triviño, who is Chilean), “La Roja” and “Colo Colo”.

Latinaish.com: Si tú podría dar algunos consejos a las niñas de El Salvador, o en realidad, las niñas de todo el mundo, ¿cuáles serían? ¿Qué deben hacer si quieren ser o hacer algo que tradicionalmente las mujeres no lo hacen?

Eva Linares: Creer , creer amigas en ustedes mismas, somos maravillosas, tenemos tantos talentos y habilidades que tenemos la obligación de explotarlos al máximo, venzan sus propios temores, los pretextos sobran para no hacer las cosas pero son más las razones por las cuales debemos lanzarnos, ponganle mucho amor a sus sueños y piensen ahora en lo que desean y vivanlo como parte de la realidad. Bendiciones a tod@s!!!!!

Latinaish.com: If you could give some advice to the girls of El Salvador, or really, all the girls in the world, what would they be? What should they do if they want to be or do something that traditionally women do not do?

Eva Linares: Believe, believe friends that you are amazing – we have so many talents and abilities and we have the obligation to use them to the maximum. Defeat your own fears. There are too many excuses for not doing things but there are more reasons why we should go for it. Put a lot of love into your dreams and think now what you want then live it as part of reality. Blessings to all!!!

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Muchísimas gracias, Eva. Fue un placer y un honor. Espero que eres una inspiración a niñas y mujeres en todas partes. Ya has demostrado que nada es imposible. ¡Muy buena suerte!

Much thanks to you, Eva. It was a pleasure and an honor. I hope that you’re an inspiration to girls and women everywhere. You have already demonstrated that nothing is impossible. Wishing you lots of luck!

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(Images provided by Eva Linares. Interview and images not to be reprinted without permission. Thank you.)

(Imágenes proporcionadas por Eva Linares. La entrevista y las fotos no deben ser utilizados sin permiso. Gracias.)

Galletada

"Tamalada" - Artist: Carmen Lomas Garza

This has always been one of my favorite paintings by one of my favorite artists. “Tamalda” by Carmen Lomas Garza depicts the Latina tradición Navideña of tamal-making as a family.

Every year as I make tamales by myself, I think wistfully what it would be like to be surrounded by generations of women, each of us with our own task, but sharing laughter and conversation, working together to make tamales and memories.

Growing up in an Anglo household means my grandmothers, my mother, aunts and sisters do not know how to make tamales. This is not a family tradition from my side of the family that I am continuing, rather it is one that I’m trying to start for my own children – although they are boys. Maybe I will teach their wives, or their daughters some day – but when they think of Navidad, I want them to close their eyes and taste tamales – I want them to have that connection to their roots.

I’ve been asked why I don’t making tamales with my Suegra, which is logical since Suegra has certainly participated in many “tamaldas” with her sisters – but she goes back to El Salvador each year for the winter, so it isn’t something I share with her and it’s not something I learned from her. Our recipes are very different; Suegra favors the green banana leaves for wrapping her mild-flavored tamales, and I prefer corn husks to wrap my spicy tamales. Like many things between us, making tamales together probably wouldn’t work out.

I’m not as saddened about making tamales by myself anymore though, because this past weekend, my mother, sisters and nephew came to my house for our annual cookie-baking. As I watched my mother alternate between rolling out the dough and moving galletas in and out of the oven, while my sisters and the boys sat around the table decorating the trays of cut out sugar cookies she provided, I remembered the Carmen Lomas Garza painting.

Maybe an annual “tamalada” is not possible, but our “galletada” is close enough.