People’s Republic of Berkeley

I'm in this building right now For everyone who suggested I take a quick vacation and leave LA, I’d like to inform you that I have left town.

I’m a whole 400 miles north on the UC Berkeley campus. Sure, it’s not like being in Guanajuato, but the weather is nicer and actually pretty cold by the marina.

I used to come up to the Bay all the time, but in the past year or so the only time I’d hop on the 5 freeway was to go south. However, thanks to being elected, I’ll be doing a lot more travelling this year so that I can fulfill responsibilities as the vice president of external affairs for the Graduate Students Association.

A few things I’d like to note. I know the campus is prettier than the parts where I’m at right now. Still, I can’t help but think that UCLA is the prettier campus and that being one of the reasons I chose UCLA over Berkeley when I made that decision as a high school senior.

Also, I’ve been spending most of my time with the undergrads. There’s one UCLA undergrad here who was one of my counselees when I first started at MEChA Calmecac. He’ll be graduating next June and that worries me a little. They make me feel old.


Flying high Chismosas Cindylandia y fans Universidad de Guanajuato

“August / August of last year / Before the leaves disappeared / Told me you were not the one.” — Rilo Kiley, August

A few weeks ago, the power went out in my office. I had to go to the computer lab in order to get some work. For some reason, I began to check the travel websites. I entered León, Guanajuato as my destination and Los Angeles as my starting point. I didn’t designate a date, but just put before October. The resulting prices from my search seemed pretty affordable and in a few minutes I was on the phone with my mom asking her if she wanted to go to Guanajuato some time in September.

She didn’t. Or rather, she couldn’t. Neither could my sister or brothers. They have school. Most of my best friends have work, or school. Going alone was an option, but I just let the desire pass and decided to save my pennies for December when I will go with the parents and the little brother to our neighbor’s quinceañera in Zacatecas and then spend Christmas in Guanajuato.

I really do miss Guanajuato. Right now, I miss the crazy thunderstorms. I really would like to go back to August of last year. I’d like to fly again in Mazatlán and just relax in the really warm waters. I’d like to eat chilaquiles that don’t cost $17 dollars. I’d like to explore more of DF. I want to play with the little cousins who called me Cindylandia.

In some ways, going back to Mexico for a few weeks would just be escapist. I’ve been going through some tough times lately. I’ve realized not everyone likes me and I’ve found myself struggling with some relationships. I’m about to start the intense year of engagement in my program and I’d just like a vacation. I need the time to clear my head, but also keep me grounded.

Those 23 days renewed me. Perhaps I just miss that feeling.

Miguel Hidalgo's birthplace Larger than life El tri on the hill Getting a good laugh on the way down

Soy Chicana

“Said it ain’t where ya from, it’s where ya at.” — Mos Def, Habitat

A year ago, I took my first trip to Mexico (not including Baja California) in about 13 years. There were plenty of reasons I had not gone back to Zacatecas or Guanajuato, but the primary one is that there wasn’t a great need to since most of my family on both sides of the family is here.

I took the trip by myself, but I was with family in each location I visited. I was never really alone. Prior to leaving, I didn’t feel too connected to Mexico. I also did not feel comfortable calling myself a Mexican. For at least 5 years before — or my entire adult life — I was just a Chicana, but that’s changed a bit.

Gustavo articulated what I feel in the comments on his post The Undesirables which was an extension of Elenamary’s post entitled I don’t like Chicanos.

Mexicanos that are raised here in the states live a completely different existence than those that live in the mother country. I have pride in my culture and to be honest with you I tend to call myself Chicano most of the time… I could care less what they think of me because no matter how much I claim to be Mexican I was not born there, I was not raised there… I have not lived the same experiences as those that live over there. I visit often but that doesn’t all of a sudden make me a Mexicano. That is why I consider myself Chicano because no matter what you have been influenced in your social/political outlook by living in the U.S. and being of Mexican descent.

My nationalism shines through Like Gustavo, I find it tough to identify as a Mexicana (despite the t-shirts) and prefer to call myself a Chicana.

A primary reason for this is that I’ve spent all my life in Los Angeles County. I was born in Monterey Park and from when my parents brought me home from the hospital to when I left for college I lived in a house in Hacienda Heights. When I moved out, I was still nearby, just in Los Angeles.

I never lived in Mexico nor did I spend more than a few weeks there. My family has never been one of those families that go back annually. My parents immigrated as children with their immediate families. All of my mom and dad’s siblings (minus one tía) live in the United States. Although my mom has a lot of cousins living in Southern California, most of my dad’s cousins lived in Guanajuato. Even though we wouldn’t go back to Guanajuato, we’d still see that side of the family fairly often because my aunts and uncles travel here frequently (I think it’s easier for them to get visas because my tía abuela Tomasa is a US citizen).

I speak Spanish, but always feel self-conscious about it when I’m around my tías y tíos and cousins who only speak Spanish. I don’t mind being called a pocha or even tripping up over words every once in a while.

I never deny my roots. I’m proud and well aware of where my parents are from and the struggles my grandparents went through to get their families here. Yet despite all of this, I still feel more comfortable answering Hacienda Heights or LA when people ask me where I’m from. I feel much more strongly connected to this area than to the places where my parents and grandparents were born and lived.

Growing up in the states makes me different and offers me some advantages that set me apart from my cousins back in Salamanca. I don’t have to worry about crossing the border because I’m a US Citizen. I don’t have to worry whether or not I’ll be able to go to college because I’m not a legal permanent resident or citizen. I don’t really have to think about leaving my family and country primarily for employment, nor do I have to put my life in danger by doing so. Some Mexicanos and Mexicanas go through that, I don’t.

If my family would have stayed in Mexico, I’m sure our lives would be different. I wouldn’t exist since I doubt my parents would have met each other being hundreds of miles apart. My father probably would not have had a white collar job. I doubt we would have been poor since both sides were middle class and owned land.

I love my culture. I’ve taken plenty of opportunities to learn more both formally and informally. Like Gustavo, I took Mexican literature and history courses in college. I took many more courses on Chicanos and other Latinos in the US than on issues in the motherland. And yes, Mexico is my motherland. I feel more strongly connected after being there last summer. I wrote the following a few weeks afterward. Though the feeling has subsided, I still can’t wait to go back in December.

Los Angeles has always been my home. I feel connected to it. My family is here, most of my friends are here. Most of the areas are familiar to me.

But, since I’ve returned from Mexico (19 days ago… damn!) I’ve felt distant from my city. I don’t know if this is where I belong or if this is where I want to be. I miss Mexico a lot more than I missed LA. I miss almost everything about it except the super crowded metro, the honking and the smog.

I’ve never felt so comfortable in a place that is supposed to be so foreign. I want to go back. Tomorrow, in October, whenever. I don’t want to wait another 13 years before I make such a trip. Twenty-three days won’t be sufficient. Maybe I’ll need 23 months or 23 weeks.

I want to feel like I’m home. Right now, I’m in the only house I’ve ever lived in. That’s more than 24 years (well, I stay more at my apartment these days). Still, I feel like something is missing, and I don’t know how to get it back.

Now I’m more apt to say I’m a Chicana with roots in Mexico since to me being a Chicana/o doesn’t necessarily mean I have Mexican origins. Mexico is still the motherland for me. I know that’s where I came from. I felt at home there, loved it, and missed it. I know part of that feeling must come from my family’s connection to it. However, I’m much more connected to LA.

My home is here. I’m from LA. Soy Chicana, ¿y qué?

Never Left Behind

I went shopping for birthday cards today. August is a month of a lot of birthdays of people who are rather important to me. It’s not just because my birthday is this month (if you don’t know the day, you might not be too intelligent. Hint: look to Flickr).

I bought my Dad a card with the following message:

(and Dad said) “If I have to turn around one more time — we’re going to drop you all off at the next rest stop and go on without you.” (his bark was always bigger than his bite).

Happy birthday, Dad
(and thanks for never leaving me behind.)

Even though the kids on the card are a bunch of gueros, I still bought it, because I could hear in my head my dad saying the exact same thing. However, most of the time we weren’t even far from home.

I don’t know how my Dad (and Mom) didn’t ever really lose his patience with us. With four kids all about 6 years in age difference, it was like a guarantee that we’d always be whining about something especially if we were crammed into a car.

There was one time when he got really pissed off at me. I was like 4 and I don’t remember it at all, but my Mom loves recounting the story.

We were on our way back from Mass one Sunday. Back then I got dressed up for Mass. I wore one of my many ruffly dresses, socks (or medias depending on if it was cold or not), ruffly chonis and shiny patent leather shoes. Neither I, my Mom, or my Dad have any idea about what why my Dad was mad at me or why I was mad at him. That’s irrelevent more than 20 years later. What does matter is that I was throwing a tantrum.

My parents didn’t hit me (I’m sure Gustavo would be glad to know), at least then. Instead, they took some advice from my Mom’s best friend and our neighbor, Mary Parra, a German-Filipina women married to a white man. Mary told them, when they throw tantrums, just stick them in the shower with cold water. Fully clothed, of course.

My Dad did just that.

And guess what? I screamed and yelled, “mi vestidoooo!” Dad got so pissed he just left the house for a few hours.

Father/daughter bonding When I learned of that, I was pretty proud of myself. I’m sure my Dad expected me to be a handful, but the truth is I’ve been the non-squeaky wheel of the family. I just didn’t start off that way.

Dad never left us behind even after he stopped the car, instead, he just got back to driving because we always had somewhere to go and he wasn’t going to let his 4 whiny brats stop him and my mom from being there.

My Dad will be 52 tomorrow. ¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

Comments and Images

I’ve enabled gravatars like Oso, Elenamary, Gustavo and several other bloggers.

The concept is simple as explained by Oso

Enter gravatars … or “globally recognized avatars.” You have to go sign up for one, but it’s quick and painless, I promise. Then once you do, the same avatar (photo) will follow you around whenever you comment on a blog or forum with avatars enabled…

If you don’t register for a gravatar, then it is up to me how you are represented.

Keeping with the theme, non-registered commenters will get a random Lotería card image to represent them. If you don’t want to be represented by La Sirena, then it’s up to you to upload your own image. (Oh yeah, make sure you’re consistent with the email address you use when you comment to ensure that the same image comes up.)

La Marcha de Zacatecas

Chepe looks good in blue On Saturday at Papá Chepe’s 85th birthday party, I gave him eight kisses and then proceeded to dance la Marcha de Zacatecas with him as the tamborazo Zacatecano (required at my family’s big parties) played.

I wish you could hear what la Marcha sounds like (I found a clip, click on “play song clip”). Someone told me once that it’s the second national anthem of Mexico, sort of like Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever is the official march of the US. I played both marches when I was in band during high school, but I’ve always preferred la Marcha de Zacatecas. If you’ve heard both, if part (or all) of your family is from Zacatecas, and you’re really close to a proud Zacatecano, you would understand why.

There’s something really nice to me about dancing with my grandfather. It makes me feel comfortable, at home, and closer to him.

Papá Chepe and Angelina When I was a kid, my mom would talk about her own maternal grandfather lovingly. Papayito passed away in her late teens and she missed him a lot. I learned the value of dancing with my grandfather from my mom who used to dance a lot with her Papayito. Growing up, I saw her dancing with Papá Chepe more often than she danced with my dad. I supposed it was because my dad was often playing in the band at the party, or maybe because he just wasn’t feeling the tamborazo music as much.

I wish I could dance la Marcha de Zacatecas at every big family party in the future with Papá Chepe, but I know that’s impossible. He’s a little slower in his step now, he dances a little bit less and sits out more songs. Still, I’m glad to even have the opportunity to dance with Papá Chepe because I’ve learned a lot more than just dancing from him.