Un día sin una hija/nieta de inmigrantes

Tío Sabas, Mamá Toni & baby Tía Chilo, and Tía Josefa A few days ago, I still had not made a decision on whether I’d be staying home from work and school on Monday, May 1st. The decision didn’t come easily despite years of activism around immigrants’ rights and an academic interest in immigrant students.

I realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Isa, my roommate and a teacher at a LAUSD high school hadn’t decided when we spoke about the topic on Thursday night. She was unsure about skipping out on the first day of classes when she returns for B track (she’s on a year-round schedule). I didn’t want to skip work after a short week at my new job. We also both knew that our jobs — positions that require advanced degrees — are not the types where most immigrants from Mexico are concentrated. It’s easy to go a day without spending, but not teaching or working with students didn’t come easy. I’ve read other Latina/o bloggers who are also conflicted (Jenn, Xoloitzquintle, and MsABCMom). They are all educators and feel that the education of their students will also contribute to the boycott and overall goal of empowering Latinas/os.

Although I respect decisions to go to work, I know that I had to change my mind. I thought of my grandparents who came here with several children in hopes of a better life. Although my parents and their families did not come as undocumented immigrants, I know well that I have a number of extended family members and good friends who do not have that privilege. I considered the day I walked along campus observing a display of crosses set up in remembrance of men and women how had died crossing the US-Mexico border. It all seemed rather abstract considering most of the people close to me are not immigrants and have not had to sneak across the border. Well, it was abstract until I read a cross with “____ Mosqueda, Guanajuato, Mexico.” I can’t remember the first name. I know it was a common name, probably José, Jesús or Juan. But the last name and state of origin struck me. This man (or boy?) who shared my name and home state in Mexico had died in the harsh territory separating the country my family came from and the country in which I live.

My privilege as the daughter of immigrants, graduate student, and US citizen became incredibly clear that afternoon. It’s something I know other young Chicanas/os and Latinas/os also identify with, including César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández (el not-so-dailyTexican’s hermanito) who wrote at alternet

I will join the boycott because my privilege demands it. I am a citizen of this country, a well-educated man with a love of justice. I must speak now because the people who clean my classrooms might not be able to, because the people who prepare the restaurant dinners I eat might not be able to, because the people about whose lives Congress is debating cannot talk back except through the power of protest.

I will stand with my immigrant sisters and brothers because I recognize and value their contribution to our country. I will join the nationwide boycott because their work makes my privilege possible. I will join because, as the book of Leviticus teaches: “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and you shall love him as thyself.” (Lev. 19:34).

Now… for how to figure out how to get to the marches in LA without having to drive (’cause I’ll surely be charged for parking) or getting some kind of pass for public transportation.


In the photo, Mamá Toni holds her eldest daughter, Chilo, on her lap. Beside her stand her siblings Sabás and Josefa. When this photo was taken, my Papá Chepe had already left to work as a bracero in the US.

Chicana on the Edge has also written on the topic. Ktrion wrote about the concerns of potential little felons (if HR 4437 becomes law). Finally, I found a great piece ¿Qué onda Aztlán? by Oso Raro in response to the earlier protests and how the current activism around immigrants’ rights links to the Chicano Movement (thanks to Chicana on the Edge.

Lotería de la Mujer

La Quinceañera It was my third time going to T’s office. The first time I went, I dropped off my cover letter and resumé and asked a few questions about the job. The second time, I left my coat before heading to a conference room for an interview. The third time was three days after I had been offered the position and a day after I accepted.

I had never paid attention to anything on the walls and only looked out at the drab construction scene outside of T’s window.

But this time, I looked around and noticed 12 postcards in plastic cases mounted in three perfect rows.

The cards were like the lotería cards I have all over this page with “la _____”, a picture and a number assigned to the bright card. Instead of roosters, devils and hearts, the cards featured women in all stages of womanhood.

In the traditional Lotería game, most of the cards depict objects or animals rather than people. The women who are depicted are the one in La Chalupa, La Sirena, and La Dama. I thought the paintings in Lotería de la Mujer were rather cool because it showed that women could be everything from “la vaga” to “la abuela.”

I asked T about the cards and she explained that one of her first students, Nuvia Crisol Guerra, had painted the cards. I was surprised to see that a scientist could have such cool paintings, but as T informed me, most scientists are rather artistic. Nuvia now sells Lotería de la Mujer as a game, package of postcards, and greeting cards online and at local bookstores and shops.

Who wants to play?

Look mom!

Front page news

I made the front page of the Daily Bruin… what a surprise.

Last year’s elections process was about ten times more stressful than this process. I suppose it was because all four positions were contested, and there was personal beef between candidates. That wasn’t necessarily absent this year, but there was only one contested position and I knew I’d be re-elected a few hours after I submitted my petition for candidacy.

I’m glad my friend, Monica, won the presidency. I got to know her last spring and then a lot more this year. She’s also in education and we’ve had a class together all year. The other two students who won, Mac and Janet, were people I’ve been getting to know in the past year or so. I’ve worked with Mac all year and haven’t always agreed with him, but that’s to be expected.

Here’s to another year of travelling all over California for meetings, working with some great graduate students, and just plain being busy.

mil palabras: siempre cantando

El músico (Pomona, California)

When I was about 6 years old, my dad got out his guitar and made me learn a Mexican song with him. He translated the words and explained their meanings. All I wanted to do was play, but wasn’t as resistant as little Selena in the movie. I thought it was cool that my dad was teaching me something and that I’d be singing in a talent show.

The show came and went. I sang in front of a big audience in a white dress with blue trim. I looked muy Mexicana. I sang some Ramón Ayala song. I think it was Bonita Finca de Adobe… o Vestida de Color de Rosa. Danny, my older brother, sang in a brown traje de charro. I don’t know what he sang, but it was probably a ranchera. It was the start of several years of enjoying being in front of a crowd to entertain.

I have an affinity for people with musical talents. They remind me of the people I love the most, my family, and of countless memories where the only thing I can remember is the song we were singing, playing or dancing to.

Tiempo libre

Of all the things that feel different after a break up, the one that sticks out to me most (at least right now) is time.

Suddenly, I don’t feel the need to have to call him. I don’t have dinner dates set up or plans for the weekend that involve him. I’m not fighting my way through LA traffic just so I can hang out at his apartment. I don’t stop by his office before leaving campus or go over there to have lunch.

I have all this “free” time on my hands. I guess I should study.

Camino de Guanajuato

Cantando corridos Listening to about 40 cousins and uncles sing “la vida no vale nada,” the opening line of José Alfredo Jimenez’s “Camino de Guanajuato,” while on a ranch in the middle of the beautiful state of Guanajuato can be about as cliché as a sports team playing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” after an important victory.

But it’s not. In fact, it’s incredibly beautiful and warm and touching and all that good stuff. It was the perfect way to end a day which I spent most of feeling grumpy, tired and a bit annoyed.

I didn’t really care much to go up to la Montaña del Cristo Rey. I know it’s a famous monument, but the trip up and down the mountain is long. Plus, once you get there, it’s even crazier. The whole way up in the back of the truck with all kinds of sun shining in, all I saw was dry hills, a road made of stone, and kids covered in dirt trying to run with the trucks to get some monedas. Some of the kids would run down the mountain with the trucks for several yards and would only stop when the people in the car showed some pity and threw un peso or something.

El Cristo de la Montaña and las Momias are tourist traps… and that’s all we got to do today. We barely ate, we were dehydrated (no doubt from all that drinking last night and sugary drinks), we didn’t get much sleep and too much sun. It’s a wonder we didn’t all snap.

I can’t complain too much though. Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni wanted to see el Cristo de la Montaña and they wanted to see las momias. Dude, I’ve seen las momias and they’re not that exciting. At least when I came with Diana, Paola, and her boyfriend (el Chucho) in August 2004, no one was around. That wasn’t the case this time. It’s right after the holidays. There are all kinds of people in town visiting family from all over the place. And everyone seemed to be going to see las momias and el Cristo.

I’m glad I came before and saw other stuff, because it doesn’t seem like we’ll be going back to Guanajuato on this trip. I’ve realized I don’t like taking vacations with tons of people. It’s too hard to please everyone.

My dad didn't let his sore throat stop him from singing The good thing about being with lots of people — and there is one — is what happened tonight at el Rancho los Laureles where four of my tíos live. We had enchiladas, took a little tour of the area where they have los puercos and then all sang. The tíos made my dad play tío Melchor’s guitar, and we started off with Feliz Navidad. At that time, it was maybe two dozen people, and mainly men out in the area where they have the tractors and all the trucks. Dad got the idea to go sing to my tía abuela Epifania, llevarle serenata. So, we all went back to the room outside of my sickly tía’s house. That’s when the group grew. We sang a few out there, one of which was “Dos Arbolitos,” a song my Grandpa and tío Lucio (his brother) really liked.

The party moved back out to the tractor area. Tequila, sidral de manzana, and cacahuates accompanied us. And we sang lots more songs. Tío Melchor and dad passed the guitar back and forth as they sang some corridos (El del Camaro Rojo and another about why Mexicans go north, but still keep the Mexicanness) and more rancheras (Tú, solo tú, Hay unos ojos, La sauza y la palma).

The family over in el Rancho really know how to entertain. For some reason, you think you’re going to be bored and the lack of things like wi-fi will make it unbearable, but not at all. It’s wonderful, really.

Unsent letter

Cows still roam the main thoroughfare of El Cargadero
If you haven’t noticed, I’m posting things I wrote when I was in Mexico last December. I’m still in somewhat of a rut when it comes to writing and the only meaningful thing I’ve pposted in a few weeks was a private password-protected entry. If interested in reading that, let me know.

December 21, 2005

Dear Ralph,

This place is just like I remember, except with less life, dirt, cows and more boredom. In fact, I don’t ever remember el Cargadero being boring.

The first time I remember coming I was eight. My mom and dad sent Danny and I to spend a good chunk of the summer with Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni. One of my aunts, tía Chepina, came with us so we wouldn’t have to fly alone. Danny and I loved it here. We played all day with the kids in the plaza and watched Rosa Salvaje at night. Danny can make friends with anyone. Even though I was all snobby ’cause I was coming from LA, and considered myself better than these small town kids I still made a friend or two. Well, I think I mainly played with the kids who were related to me.

As a kid, I didn’t think that my friends would be destined to leave el Cargadero and cross the border (con o sin papeles) once they reached working age. Of course, I didn’t know all that then. For all I know, those kids knew their fate.

Seventeen years ago, Chepe and Mamá Toni still had the energy to take us places. Then we went to Zacatecas and visited the minas there. They were cold, but incredibly cool. We went to Jeréz, a ten-minute drive away, often enough. We visited the home where Papá Chepe lived, picked tunas from the nopales, rode donkeys on the trails in the cerros, and bathed in the presa.

I returned that summer with a tan, speaking more Spanish than ever and singing “Rosa, salvaje soy yoooo.”

Now el Cargadero is just quiet. You say that all the people left Zacatecas. It doesn’t look like that in Jeréz, but as soon as you come to el Pueblo del Cargadero, it’s different.

Miss you,

Quejas en el Cargadero

Early afternoon on a Wednesday El Cargadero, Zacatecas

I’m not a nap person. I find it difficult to go to sleep with light streaming through the windows. My whole anti-nap policy flew out the window today. Well, there is really no window. The room where I’m staying is incredibly dark and cold. I wrapped myself in a blanket and slept until darkness fell.

The other thing that had never attracted me about naps is that I just wasn’t sleepy in the early afternoon. That’s different today too. I’m dealing with a time change coupled with a new level of boredom I am not used to.

I know I’m being selfish and bratty and all the things I often accuse Lori of, but I’m really starting to regret spending $300 just to be out of LA six days earlier. I should have just waited for my parents. At least then I wouldn’t be stuck all the time with Mamá Toni and Papá Chepe. I know someday I’ll value this time with them, but not as a 25 year-old who wants to see things quickly and be on her own, even in a place she doesn’t know too well.

It’s this, my need for control of myself, that bugs me about being with them all the time. They treat me like a 4 year-old.

Oh… and el Cargadero seems like a ghost town during the day. Few cars pass by the central plaza, maybe a cow or tractor. Few young men and women are around. I see baby boomer men and a few kids. But at night, the youth come out to play volleyball in the central plaza. That looks cool.

I know now why my mom told me not to come here during my August 2004 trip. There’s not much for me here. I have very little family here and then my grandparents are not up for showing me around.

I miss Ralph a lot too. I really just want to tell him I’m thinking of him, a lot.

I have another 10 days of this, but at least mom, dad, tío Pancho and tía Martha and the girls will be here by Saturday. That should be good.

Oh yeah, I think I’m getting sick, or maybe it’s the internet withdrawal.