It’s been a long time

Hola. If you can believe it, dysentery this is my first time online in over a week. Weird, yes, I know.

This trip to Mexico is different. My immediate family is here, I’m with my octogenerian grandparents who tend to treat me like a little kid. I’ve been writing a lot (I had a lot of time to myself from Sunday to Saturday) and taking lots of pictures too. My grandparents go to sleep at about 8 pm, so after that I get to just chill in my room in their house in Tijuana or el Cargadero, Zacatecas, and watch lots of Gilmore Girls season 5, write and make playlists for CDs.

Um, highlights thus far?

Well, going back to Jeréz and el Cargadero for the first time since I was about 10 years old have been weird. Jeréz is a lively city a few miles away from el Cargadero, the pueblo where my grandparents and their families have lived for years. Last time I came, the place looked smaller, but there was much more going on. I played with kids in the main plaza (now called Plaza Civica del Migrante) when I came as a kid. I had friends and there was all kinds of things for me to explore. I only missed my parents and cartoons in English. Now, when I asked Papa Chepe about the population of el Cargadero, he told me the place “está muerto,” the town is dead. There are few people left, he says 3/4ths of the houses are empty and only get filled in October for last fiestas de San Rafael.

Everyone está en el Norte, including my grandparents. It makes me wonder what the migration does to a little town like el Cargadero. Everyone has family in Anaheim, Chicago, North Carolina, etc. Closer to Christmas, I saw more cars driving in with California plates. They were easy to identify, and not because of the license plates. They were newer, shiny SUVs and pick-up trucks.

My parents and tía Martha’s family arrived on Saturday evening. It’s good to have them here. I think in a few years I’ll look back at how bratty I was to think of the time with my grandparents as boring. Well, it’s just slow-paced. Ten of us (grandparents, mom, dad, tía Martha’s family) packed into my tío Pancho’s truck and drove to Salamanca, Guanajuato. I know this place, I really like this place, even with the smell of the refinería de Pemex.

Right now, I should go back to my cousin Tere’s wedding. She looks beautiful as all brides do. Her dad and mom, the ones I stayed with when I came to the Rancho last August, look proud. And her many brothers are decked out in the finest trajes, al estilo Lupillo Rivera.

It’s a good place to be, but I miss home, my siblings, VR (the puppy), el Venado, my roommate, and of course interacting with all you fabulous blogeros.

Feliz Navidad (if you celebrate it, I’m sure you said less Hail Mary’s than I did), Happy Holidays, y Prospero Año Nuevo.

Los extraño!

Vacation time

I leave to Mexico today. After a crazy family Christmas party last night (60 people!) I packed and am pretty much ready to go.

I’ll go from Hacienda Heights to Tijuana today with my grandparents, site Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni. On Tuesday afternoon, ask I’ll leave from the Tijuana to Zacatecas. I’ll spend a few days in Zacatecas before leaving for a wedding in Guanajuato. Then it’s back to Zacatecas for a quinceañera. And after that big party, thumb I’ll be heading back in my Tío Pancho’s truck with my tía Marta, cousins Nancy, Vanny and Valerie, and my mom and dad.

I’ll check in with you and provide pictures if possible, but I don’t know about free wi-fi in Zacatecas or Guanajuato.

Take care!

A challenge to AB 540

For those of you who know, sanitary access to higher education for undocumented immigrant students is one of my main research interests. I’ve written a couple of papers on the topic and done a a lot of reading on the issue, pharmacy especially from the law angle. I also have a vested interest in this because of my experience working with undocumented students as a counselor and student activism during my last undergraduate year at UCLA (2001-2002). I remember making signs like “No human being is illegal” and marching up to the UC Regents meeting to encourage them to apply Assembly Bill 540 to the UC (when it passed in the state legislature, diabetes and pregnancy it only applied to the community colleges and California State University system).

So, as you might assume, I’m deeply concerned and rather pissed about the latest news on a class-action lawsuit challenging a California’s AB 540. In short, AB 540 allows undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition whereas before they were considered non-residents even if they had lived here their entire lives (US citizens and others who are here “legally” have access to AB 540 too).

The big stink is that if you’re not a California resident, public higher education is a lot more costly. The University of California — the most expensive segment — charges non-resident students more than triple what California residents pay. At UCLA, undergraduate residents pay $7,062 and non-residents pay $24,882. The students who filed the California lawsuit (and similiar lawsuits in Kansas, Texas and New York) contend that it it is illegal for undocumented immigrants to have the right to in-state tuition, while as US citizens from another state, they have to pay more. An often cited federal law in these cases is Section 505 of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Individual Responsibility Act.

When section 505 of IIRIRA was passed, Congress wanted to ensure that undocumented immigrants would not receive benefits denied to US citizens. Section 505 limited states from deciding postsecondary education benefits. As a result some states, such as New York, reformed their policies to bar undocumented students from paying in-state tuition. But starting in 2001, states found a way to comply with Section 505 while still not limiting access for undocumented students. Currently, there are nine states — Texas, California, Utah, Washington, New York, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, and New Mexico — that allow undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements to pay in-state tuition, but most do not allow students to qualify for financial aid.

The rationale for the legality of the in-state tuition bills is that immigration status is not used to define residence for tuition purposes. Instead, in-state high school graduation and attendance are the main requirements to qualify for in-state tuition. California’s AB 540 uses the following qualifications to determine who is eligble for in-state tuition:

  1. Attended a California high school for three or more years.
  2. Graduated from a California high school or earned the equivalent (GED).
  3. Registered or enrolled at an accredited public institution in California.
  4. Signed an affidavit with the University stating that he or she will apply for legal residency.

For the record, I am STRONGLY in favor of in-state tuition bills and the latest iteration of the DREAM Act in the US Senate. The main reason I feel laws like AB 540 are important is because these students have not done ANYTHING wrong. In fact, they’ve done things right! It is unfair to punish students by making this “educational glass ceiling” for something their parents did. You tell me if you’re going to stay behind in your country when your mom or dad says, “Vamos al Norte” or when you overstay a visa.

I have a lot more thoughts on this, but I really hope this lawsuit is dismissed like the Kansas lawsuit. In that case, a federal district judge said that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they did not demonstrate that they were personally harmed the by a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented students. Whether or not the law was in place, out-of-state students would have still paid higher fees.

AB 540 and other laws like it still fall short, and that’s where the DREAM Act picks up. Once these students graduate they might not have adjusted their status meaning they can’t get a good job, or the job they get is a low-paying under the table job. In addition, undocumented students in California DO NOT qualify for any kind of state or federal aid, even loans. They have access to some scholarships, but only those that do not require students to be citizens or permanent residents (MALDEF has a great PDF list of such scholarships).

Finally, the following quote shows just how opponents of in-state tuition bills frame the issue.

But Aaron Dallek, a UC Berkeley senior from Chicago who is one of the named plaintiffs in the case, called the policy unfair. “I would understand if the university needed out-of-state tuition to fund education, but I don’t feel it’s right that illegal immigrants have more rights in the state of California than I do,” said the 21-year-old business major. (LA Times)

Wait, did I read that right? This kid really thinks undocumented students have more rights than he does as a US citizen? You gotta be kidding.

La vida loca or a simple kind of life?

Dear Gwen, here

I’ve written an open letter to you before. That was all about your music and I wasn’t annoyed or offended by any of your creative work. I’m generally against censorship, but this situation makes me want to bend the rules of the First Amendment. I can’t make you do anything, but I can suggest it. I’ll just put it simply:

Stop! I’ve had it up to here.

I rarely watch videos, partly because I don’t have cable TV and mainly because I just don’t care. I probably would have missed your “Luxurious (remix)” video if I hadn’t stopped by Mujerista’s blog last night. I almost clicked the stop button to keep the video from playing and listening to music I didn’t want to hear. It’s a good thing I let it play because I’ve been running out of things to post at my blog and recycling old posts feels like cheating.

As you may have inferred, I have several problems with your video.

Cultural appropriation? First, in the words of Isa, my wise roommate, “What the hell?! NO! Horrible. You don’t RIP la Virgen in half. You can make her embrace the naked Sirena… you can put a calaca in place of her face… you can make her a Zapatista… but you can’t rip her in half!!” Chispa, another good friend, said “no she didn’t with la Virgen!” Sadly, yes you did.

Gwen, I know you’ve been around Mexicans and Chicanas/os. You grew up in Anaheim and anyone who knows that area and it’s neighboring Santa Ana know that there are a lot of Mexicanos in the area. In fact, Santa Ana is the most Mexican city in the US, as your fellow Anaheiman (is that a word?), Gustavo Arellano, loves to point out. Merely based on your OC roots, I can be fairly sure that you’ve seen the murals, hats, tattoos, medallions, and everything else devotees can manage to decorate with the image of la Virgen Morena. I thought you might have an inkling of an idea regarding her significance as a religious and cultural symbol. I guess not. Instead you commit a huge affront to the very cultural you’re foolishly trying to imitate.

We Mexicans take our Virgen de Guadalupe seriously. Many of us can accept her in more modern renditions, yet we will not tolerate destroying her just so you can show off your toned abs and breasts. I know I sound like a Puritan here, but I’ve just finished celebrating la Virgen de Guadalupe’s feast day and thinking about what She means to me, my family and Raza. If you walked out in those tiny shorts and ripped shirt anywhere in Southern California, you’d get dirty looks, maybe a few abuelitas yelling at you, and a possible beat down.

Second, stop with the Frida Kahlo look. Just don’t do it. I mean, Chicanas (and some Chicanos) dress like her all the time and have her image/paintings plastered all over their bedrooms. She’s sandwiched between la Virgen de Guadalupe and Morrissey when it comes to most popular figures among Chicanas. Only Raza can be that obsessed. Keep the flowers and braids with ribbon out of your hair. It’s not like you’re dancing folklórico, plus they don’t go too well with the blonde hair.

Third, I know you’ve been trying to do the chola thing since the ’90s. It was funny then, but it seemed you got tired of us. You pimped Indian culture and more recently hired Japanese Harajuku girls to follow you around. You even named them. What do you have against using your own Italian, Scottish and Irish roots or even just using your white suburban culture? To be fair, I have seen you rock plaid. The Japanese and Indian things were weird, but I didn’t feel like you were intruding on my culture, so it bugged less.

Now, your new image baffles me even more, especially when you take the three dots that represent “mi vida loca” and put them on your face. I’m no chola, I like having fuller eyebrows, personally hate wearing lipliner and lipstick, and can’t make my hair as big as it needs to be. Aside from the aesthetics, I’m also a kid from the suburbs and wasn’t in to the gang lifestlye for various reasons, the biggest being that my parents would kick my ass. Still, I feel I have the moral authority to speak for them (hi Oso!). So, Gwen, quit it with the chola thing, okay? You’re a multimillionaire pop star who just wants (wanted?) a simple kind of life. How crazy can it really be?

Fourth and final gripe: if you’re going to break a piñata in your video, you might as well do it during the tardeada/barbeque scene. I know you’re aware that piñatas are a party thing, so it makes absolutely no sense why you would do it all by yourself. Who’s going to get the candy? Oh wait, that’s what you get to lay in at the beginning of the video.

All in all, Gwen, I think you’re just trying too hard. I mean, what’s wrong with being a white chick from Anaheim? Well, I guess it might be boring. I would have just ignored this video and gone back to listening to Tragic Kingdom if it wasn’t for the Virgen shirt. Everything else was minor compared to that.

You did get something right. The lips and hair are on point. Everyone knows cholas want to be blonde.


Mil palabras: little sister

Hacienda Heights (September, capsule 2004)

When Lori was in high school some boy (one of many, health many young men) confessed his love for her. I think his name was Chaz. Anyway, drugs he said something about her “natural beauty” and I laughed. I only laughed because Lori’s smile cost her a few thousand dollars, she spends a good deal of time applying her face, and she spends a good deal of money getting her hair colored. Of course, she doesn’t need all of that… she’s got the good genes.

I wrote the paragraph above on her 21st birthday, January 15th. I tend to essentialize her for her beauty and ability to do things I find incredibly difficult (like comb my hair). Lori has many other talents besides making you look good. She is the photographer of the family, but rarely touches her camera these days. It’s a shame, because her photos (including this self-portrait) are just like her, smart, creative, and of course beautiful.

La Virgen Morena

Nuestra Virgencita Since Friday I’ve been writing about la Virgen de Guadalupe. Most of it is over at and is largely devoid of my own personal feelins on la Virgencita. That’s the tougher part to write.

I really wanted to name one of these “the 474 year old Virgen, visit this ” but felt that being reverent was more important than being funny. Excertps from the series.

The Ubiquitous Virgen de Guadalupe (12.10.05)
I know you’ve seen her. She’s on candles, clinic murals, taco trucks, and flickr. She’s in private homes and in public spaces. She has her own alcove in ornate churches and graces humble shrines. She’s even on a steering wheel cover in Wal-Mart.

Celebrating la Virgen de Guadalupe (12.11.05)
My parents and grandparents woke up this morning at 4 something a.m. I ignored them and went back to sleep. As much as I try, I can’t match my elders’ devotion to la Virgen de Guadalupe. They left to church to begin the festivities for el Día de la Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. December 12 is a major holiday in Mexico and is celebrated the Mexican way: with a big party.

From Tepeyac to East LA (12.12.05)
Recently, I gave my brother a black t-shirt emblazoned with a white stencil of la Virgen de Guadalupe. She wasn’t the same Virgen my mom has placed throughout our home. This Virgen’s demure face was covered with a handkerchief and rather than hold her hands in prayer, she held a rifle. A ribbon below her feet showed the well-known mantra of the 1910 Mexican Revolution and 1994 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, “Tierra y libertad!”

Tacos de papa

The elevator opened up on the third floor and I ran into Eric and another student. “Hi, buy viagra ” I said, malady caught a little offguard.

“Hey, urologist ” Eric responded. A long time ago, he was a mocoso first year fresh out of high school. Now he’s still mocoso, but he’s in his fourth year and will be graduating soon. “Whoa, you look like you didn’t sleep.”

“I didn’t,” I said. I had actually just left campus an hour earlier to go home, shower and change and return without even taking a short nap in time for a meeting and my last class.

That’s what last week was like. I stayed up all night, and all day. I saw more of my laptop than my roommate (she thinks I’m moving out or something). I even wrote while I was sitting in traffic and el Venado drove. The week sucked, but I let it get like that so I can’t blame anyone by myself.

By Friday around 6:30, I was done with everything. The paper and research proposal were in, I had presented each in class, and had attended the final meetings for the quarter of my Research Apprenticeship Courses (RACs). The official finals week had yet to begin and I was done. It felt nice.

I spent some time with el Venado on Friday evening and the next day I went home to Hacienda Heights. My Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni were the only ones there. They had just returned from visiting one of my aunts and were wondering about the rest of the missing familia. Dad, Danny and Adrian were out golfing. Lori was at work. Mom was shopping in preparation for the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities. I lef the quiet and nicely decorated house and took VR for a walk. I left again to go get my eyebrow and upper lip waxed but not without first telling my grandfather where I was going.

“Papá Chepe, ahorita regreso. Voy a quitarme las cejas,” I told him. (I’ll be right back. I’m going to go get my eyebrows waxed.)

“No, no te las quites. Te van a dejar muy pelona, te ves bien,” he told me. (No, don’t take them out. They’re going to leave them too bald, you look fine.)

I gotta love my Papá Chepe. I didn’t listen anyway, and instead went through the semi-torturous experience of getting my upper lip and eyebrows waxed (ow, ow, ow!). I returned to the house with puffy eyebrows and returned to my draft and began working on a piece on la Virgen de Guadalupe (see Soon after the house filled up with people again and my mom began cooking tacos de papa for Danny’s birthday. She pulled me away from my writing and conversation with el Venado.

“Se te van a enfriar los tacos” she reminded me for the third time. (Your tacos are going to get cold).

“Okay, I’m going, I’m going,” I yelled for the third time, but with more sincerity.

“Hey, I need to go eat,” I told el Venado. “We’re having tacos de papa for Danny’s birthday.”

“Oh no! You cut up poor VR [also known as Papas] to make tacos?!” he asked incredulously.

“No, dork.”

I swear, he’s usually not that corny.

Tata at 27

I used to follow Danny around all the timeHi Danny (Tata), healthful

You know, information pills I don’t really remember what it was like when it was just you and me. I know the stories ’cause Mom tells them over and over. There’s the one where you knocked me out of my crib and then there’s the other one where you yanked my bonnet with braids off my bald little head in the grocery store. I remember a few, but they were all post-Lori. I know some day I’ll be telling your kids about the war of the billiards balls. Mom and dad got rid of the pool table a tad too late and after discovering that their skinny first born was Mr. Destructo.

To tell you the truth, I never really learned my lesson. Looking back at those mid-1980s years I can see why I didn’t understand that hanging out with you was bound to be trouble. Perhaps getting hit in the head with one of the billiards balls had some lasting effects on my ability to make rational choices. But even with the potential physical harm that came with being your little sister, I still didn’t ever want to keep my distance. I tagged along like no other little sister could. I joined your Little Leagure team. We both joined a folklórico dance group. I was in choir, you were there. I chose to play trombone because you played. I went on band trips because you were going. I became an altar server because I saw you doing it. There are dozens of other examples.

He was trying to play some Beatles tune I know why I became your shadow and didn’t mind being known as “Danny’s sister.” You were (and continue to be) fun. And your friends were cool (and cute). From kindergarten through the present, you never seemed to lose any friends, you just gained more and more friends. They were hardly the superficial type too, they were people you truly cared about, and vice versa. Some were your age and some were older. You even added a few surrogate parents and grandparents. Everyone else loves you so much and I can see why.

I didn’t always follow your example. I was a little smarter. Rather than be an hocicona and talk back to Mom and Dad, I kept my mouth shut. Sometimes you didn’t know which arguments were worth letting go and which were worth fighting ’til you could win in a battle of attrition. But even then, I admired you. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t talk back to my parents even when I knew they were wrong or being unfair. Eventually, I developed that ability and become almost as hocicona as you. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but finding my own voice and becoming more assertive is definitely good.

I’ve learned a lot more from you even when I thought there was nothing you could teach me. Thanks.

¡Feliz cumpleaños!

Mil palabras: cuando caliente el sol aquí en la playa

Playa en Mazatlán
Mazatlán, adiposity Sinaloa (August, ailment 2004)

I have a paper and research proposal, plus accompanying presentations for each of those to complete by the end of this week. Yes, it is my favorite week in December, finals. Needless to say, there are many places I’d rather be right now and many things I’d rather be doing. Swimming in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and strolling along the beach in Mazatlán are just two of them.

Stuff you can’t learn in books

I’ve been reading a lot about immigration from Mexico. It’s all very macro or “big picture.” There are no stories of individuals. It’s just numbers and policy and public opinion. Sure, decease it’s useful (especially for the paper I should be working on right now), viagra but I would be missing out on the whole picture regarding immigration if that was all I considered.

The best lesson about immigration was the experience of spending a few weeks with my father’s side of the family in Guanajuato last year. Below is a piece I wrote just after returning from a day-trip to visit my Tía Abuela Jesús in Morelia.

Great aunts Life altering experiences
August 24, 2004

I feel emotionally drained.

When I said that this trip could possibly be life altering, I really didn’t know how. On the way to Guanajuato from Mazatlán, I had this weird feeling in my stomach.

Today, I started to cry as my tía Jesús started talking about my Grandpa Bartolo, her big brother with such reverence. It shouldn’t surprise me that someone would love a sibling so much, but it just overwhelmed me. After awhile, I couldn’t even look up because the tears were coming and I didn’t want my aunts and uncles to get concerned.

On the way back from Morelia, a big city in Michoacán about an hour and half away from Salamanca, I figured it out.

I pretend to know all sorts of things about immigration and my family, but the truth is that I didn’t know much, especially from my father’s side of the family.

As a kid, I never realized how emigrating to another country really disrupts things. Even as an adult, I took for granted that my immediate/nuclear family was all in LA and almost of all of my extended family on both sides was in LA and Southern California. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as second cousins and that my parents had cousins and aunts who loved them as much as my own primos hermanos and tíos y tías love me.

So, I cried because I felt cheated, and I feel like my father was even more cheated. I wonder what it was like to live in LA when all his uncles and cousins lived in Guanajuato. And I feel sad that I probably won’t get to see all these really wonderful second cousins, aunts, uncles, and tía abuelas (great aunts) for years.

I really do know myself better.

I’ve seen the factory where my Grandpa used to work. I know that my thick lips come from the M (Grandpa) side of the family, and I know that my love of music and love of learning are distinct B (Grandma) side of the family characteristics.

I don’t know why it took me so long to make this trip. What was wrong with me?

At least I’m going back in two weeks. And now, back to finals.