Monthly Archives: May 2006

Mil palabras: boda (por el civil)

Juana Barrón
Juana Barrón (Guanajuato, 1944)

Bartolo Mosqueda
Bartolo Mosqueda (Guanajuato, 1944)

My cousin Beatriz sent me these photos about two weeks ago. They popped up in my gmail inbox without warning. I had no idea that these photos existed or that my cousin Juan had scanned and retouched them.

Soy chillona. And photos of my grandparents in 1944 at age 19 (Grandma) and 21 (Grandpa) get those tears going. I immediately thanked Beatriz. She emailed back that according to our Tía Paty, these photos were taken on their wedding day during the civil ceremony.

Fifty years later, I celebrated my grandparents’ wedding anniversary with the rest of my family.

Spreading the good news

ryc logo

On Saturday, I attended a bit of the 13th annual MEChA de UCLA Raza Youth Conference. I’m used to spending some of my Memorial Day Weekend on campus due to RYC and the UCLA JazzReggae Festival on Sunday and Monday. As I mentioned earlier, I presented a workshop entitled Blogotitlán: Using the Internet for more than MySpace.

The workshop went better than expected. Frankly, I was quite unprepared to talk about Blogotitlán and found myself in a dim room of the Math Sciences building hurriedly eating my cold pollo bowl (a tradition when it comes to RYC) and working on a quick outline for the workshop. I went out Friday night and slept in Saturday morning. Still, you think that I would have worked on a handout or something for the high school and middle school kids in time for my 3 pm workshop. Wrong. All I had was an idea in my head and a laptop.

I scribbled out an outline in the copy of the program I was given when I checked in and then wrote it up on the chalk board.

It looked something like this.

  1. Introductions
    • Students: name, school, and grade
    • Me: educational background, experience as a blogger
  2. What is Blogotitlán?
    • Explanation of the term; weblog; “tlán”
    • How is Blogotitlán different than the Blogosphere?
    • Issues important to us; community; bilingual; similar politics (most of the time)
  3. Why blog?
    • Youth need to offer alternative voice about what they really think on issues important to us, rather than let so-called experts speak (e.g. walkouts, immigration, exit exam)
    • You don’t have to wait for corporate-owned media to cover something you find important, do it yourself
    • It’s a great way to improve your writing skills
  4. How to get started
    • Choose a free blogging service; advantages and disadvantage
    • Content: what will you write about? What interests you?
    • Posting photos; free photo hosting sites
    • Podcasts
  5. Privacy
    • What to share (email address)
    • What not to share (phone number, full name, address, etc)
    • Blogging under a pseudonym
    • Unless your blog is password protected, anything you write is public
  6. Publicizing
    • Link to blogs you are genuinely interested in
    • Leave comments on blogs you like
    • Write frequently

Looking back at the outline, it doesn’t look so bad. In fact, it looks pretty good. However, I didn’t expect a few things. First, I didn’t think ahead and tried to get a projector nor did I make a presentation and make handouts. However, I thought the workshop would be rather small and I could just show students the websites I was talking about on my own laptop. Wrong. Despite the Math Sciences Building have wi-fi, I wasn’t able to connect.

Second, there were more kids than I expected… and they were not all fluent English speakers. I had a group of about 18 or so students. About a third of those were in middle school and looked so small! Another third were ESL students and preferred for me to give the workshop in Spanish. The last clique was too cool for the workshop. Even though I had more students than expected, I was glad to have that problem.

Third, the fact that many RYC attendees are ESL students never entered my mind. I gave the workshop in English and Spanish because the most interested students preferred Spanish. I’m extremely self conscious when I speak in Spanish and kept forgetting simple words. Luckily, a teacher sat in on the workshop and translated some of the more technical terms I couldn’t remember.

Fourth, I didn’t realize that students who do not pay attention can be so distracting. I had about 4 high school students who preferred to listen to their iPods. Truthfully, it didn’t bug me, but they kept talking to their friends who were more engaged in the workshop. I knew I couldn’t send them out because the students must attend a workshop. However, the teacher backed me up and asked them to be quiet.

Finally, I didn’t think I’d have students who knew my friends. Two students claimed that my good friend, Jonathan, was their adopted dad. Of course, they were joking, but it was cool that they knew Mr. M.

At the end of the workshop, I was asked if they could see my blog. I wrote up the URL on the board. If anyone is checking this out after RYC, welcome.

All in all, I was satisfied. The workshop helped me to think about my own intentions on keeping up this blog and really using the voice I’ve quieted lately. Como El Gran Silencio canta, “la voz también es un arma.”

Mil palabras: danza

Margarita y the copal
Margarita at UCLA (October, 2005)

I’ve been going consistently to danza ensayos (practices) consistently for about 10 months now with a hiatus in the fall because of class. In the winter quarter, I used the practices and workshops the group held for my qualitative methods course. I took notes and really didn’t dance, but did participate in other aspects.

One of the main things that I noticed while taking fieldnotes was that families were a central part of the group. It’s the same with many other danza groups in and around LA. I don’t dance with my parents, siblings or brothers, but did start going after a long time friend (Ralph) invited me last summer. Even though my family isn’t there at danza with me, I still feel that sense of familia with the members who regularly attend.

The actual physical activity of dancing may bring its own rewards and personal fulfillment, but the people keep me going back.

Mis ganas (still missing)

While I was waiting for Chispa’s graduation to start on Saturday, a thought came to mind.

My parents weren’t at my graduation last year. They didn’t see me walk across the stage or hear the dean actually pronounce my last name correctly. There are no pictures of me in a cap and gown flashing a huge smile between my mom and dad. There’s not even a picture of me and my sister. Danny and Adrian, my brothers, were the only ones who could attend. (To be fair, I decided at the last minute that I’d be participating in the ceremony.)

I decided on Saturday afternoon that I want my parents to see me graduate again. Maybe that will help me get back on track with this thing called school.

what’s really going on?

I told Oso yesterday that I went up to San Francisco for Chispa’s graduation. He was surprised, “why are you so secretive?” he asked. I don’t know, but I’ll try to change things and let people know what’s going on with me these days. Honestly, I avoid questions about how I’m doing with school and life in general because I don’t know what to say.

Mom and her baby Family

Family is one of those areas I don’t need to improve much on, things are good. I took a trip with my sister Lori and her boyfriend, Mikey, this weekend to San Francisco. We got along for most of the trip, which is great. My dad’s been helping me out whether it’s checking in with me and offering to take me to the doctor after getting horrible pains in my abdomen or helping me take care of some problems with my car. I spent Mother’s Day with my mom and several other family members. She wants me to take a short vacation with her in mid-June in San Diego. I’m not so sure I can because of school. The siblings are okay, but the relationships are strained (no surprise). Danny sends me text messages updating me on the scores of Dodger games, well when it’s good. Adrian works a lot, but when we hang out it’s fun.

Home is generally a place where I relax. There’s nothing like sitting in the rocking swing or laying in a hammock beneath the shady mulberry tree on a spring afternoon. When I go home, I tend to stay there as long as I can. It’s not just because I’m doing laundry or because I want to play with VR.

Moore Hall (I kinda avoid this place now too) School

I’m in the last few weeks of the spring quarter. Last week all my classes were cancelled and I acted like I had a second spring break. Yup. I didn’t get much done, but that’s not new. I’ve been generally very unmotivated in my studies since the year started. This is something that goes beyond just being bored with my classes. I’m working on it and have talked to my advisor about my problems. It felt really good to let her know what’s going on with me. Prior to a couple of weeks ago, she had no clue and I just avoided her.

I’m not only disconnected with my advisor or with the other research assistants at HERI (where I worked last year, volunteer this year). I feel isolated as I don’t really have classes with the remaining members of my cohort (4 of them graduated last year). Whenever they see me, they ask how I’m doing and say something like, “wow, I never see you. How are you? You must be busy.” I don’t really tell them how I’m doing either, but felt myself telling Ross, the “boy” in our cohort last year how I was feeling after a group of us went out last Saturday.

I’m working on getting back on track. I just need to make sure others now I’m totally missing mis ganas and not being so secretive about my issues with school.

Amigos

I used to think I had a lot of friends, but then I realized that a lot of those people were just acquaintances. Yeah, I worked with them through MEChA, but never really connected. Instead, I found that I had a small but tight group of friends. In the past year, I’ve grown closer to those people and for known/unknown reasons not talking to two others. I still have a group of people I can count on and find that I’m now closer to my family. I’ve also made some new friends through school (there are people here I’m more open with) and Blogotitlán. It’s good to know that you can count on people for good music, a concert date or tips on how to deal with difficult situations.

I’m glad I went to Chispa’s graduation in San Francisco, but a little sad that it was awkward for me to sit at the same table with people I’ve known since 1998. Oh well, there are some things I’m not going to prioritize right now. Those relationships (which were never really strong and real to begin with) are not my priority. I have other things to deal with and I’ll concentrate on those friendships and people where I feel like the relationships is reciprocally beneficial and fulfilling.

I missed danza yesterday because I got sick Danza

I look forward to Thursday evening primarily because I get to make the trip out to East LA to ensayo (practice) with el grupo Danza Tenochtitlán. I started practicing with them last summer when Ralph invited me, but had to stop once school started because I had to take a class that conflicted with the practice. I missed it so much, but started going again and getting involved with the group in January. I studied the group for my qualitative research methods course and started dancing regularly again in March. Dancing makes me happy, not only for the physical activity but also because I really like the people in the group. It’s one of a handful of things that I still enjoy.

Some new science building (I think it's called CNSI Court of Sciences Building) Work

I started a new job about a month ago with a program called PEERS. So far, so good. Really. I like what I’m doing, and the directors of the program seem to love me because I’m doing everything they want me to be doing. Still, since I’m new here I’m still getting to know people and sort of miss spending more time at HERI. I also found it cool that since I work here, I had the chance to run into into an old friend from high school who is now a grad student in neuroscience.

I also recently applied to be a TA in Chicana/o Studies introductory courses. I know that will be a lot for me to take on next year, but hey it will be something I enjoy.

La abogada

Way before the JD and the PhD
Chispa and I (December, 1999)

I don’t remember when I met Elizabeth/Liz/Chispa, but I remember singing Happy Birthday to her in the Hedrick dining hall a day after our orientation. Her roommate, Cheryl, asked other Freshman Summer Program (FSP) kids to join in and wish her a happy birthday. I think it may have been her first birthday away from home. I sang and later got to know her better. She lived down the hall from me on Sproul Hall 3 North. We were “warriors.”

Chispa and I developed a strong friendship beginning that August. Since then we’ve shared dozens of inside jokes, wordy emails full of chisme and drama, countless heart-to-hearts, and many tears.

For the past three years, she’s lived and gone to school in San Francisco at Hastings College of the Law. I remember thinking it was so cool that she’d be going to school in SF because then that would mean I’d have one more good friend to visit on my frequent trips. A few weeks after she started classes, I visited her for the afternoon in her studio apartment on the 13th floor of the Hastings Tower. She had a wonderful view, but I doubt she spent much time looking out the window with all the studying she had to do during her tough first year.

Chispa graduates today. She told me a few days ago that she didn’t know what she would say for her short speech. I told her she better not cry, “crying is for suckers.”

You know, I’m a sucker.

Mil palabras: ojo

Eye stairwell from the ground
Stairwell at UCLA Molecular Sciences Building

I only have three classes that meet weekly. This week, they’ve all been cancelled for one reason or another. Two of my professors are presenting at conferences out of town. The other class, that I have from 9-11 am on Wednesday was cancelled at the last minute. I’m glad I checked my email before going to campus.

So… what should I do with all my free time?

I should probably write that damn paper, chapter and do a bunch of reading. Meh.

taking it to the students

Raza Youth Conferece Planning Committee

Every year, MEChA de UCLA hosts a youth conference for students from local middle schools and high schools. I’ve been part of it since I got to UCLA way back in 1998. True, I may have been just one year out of high school, but helping to plan the conference really helped get me invested in MEChA. In one day, we were able to bring out over 1,000 students and parents to UCLA for a day of workshops, inspirational speakers, local entertainment, a college fair, and a chance to meet youth from around Southern California.

Raza Youth Conference is now the same age as some of the kids participating. I was invited to hold a workshop during the second session. C, the workshop coordinator, asked me to present on the educational pipeline for Chicana/o and Latina/o students when she first called me. I scrunched my nose at the idea. The pipeline is depressing, even for someone who has heard it many times and is a graduate student in education. I don’t want to tell a room full of high school students that based on the statistics about roughly half of them will not complete high school, less will go on to college, and only one kid will get a BA. Wouldn’t that depresse you?

Instead, I proposed doing something about the legislative and electoral system and how youth can get involved despite not being of voting age. I figured I could use some of the knowledge I’ve gained this past year working on statewide campaigns. But the idea still bored me. I told Ralph about it and he came up with a better idea.

“You should have a workshop on Blogotitlán!” he exclaimed excitedly.

“Hey, I could do that. I could call it ‘Blogotitlán: More than MySpace'” I responded, feeling pretty thankful that despite the breakup, I could still count of Ralph for some pretty good ideas.

I’m working on my blurb for the conference program. I think this needs a little help… I definitely want students to come to the workshop.

Blogotitlán: Using the Internet for More than MySpace

Blogs (short for weblogs) are quickly becoming a popular way for youth and others to express their voices on the Internet. Learn about how to set up a free weblog, post photos, personalize your space, and publicize your writings on life, school, politics, or whatever you choose. Don’t let others speak on what youth believe and how you feel.

If you have any tips for this workshop, let me know!

(Photo of Raza Youth Conference 2000 planning committee.)

Haiku on Mexico

They hang children in Jerez Haiku from the first half of my trip to Mexico last year.

12.18
At the borderlands
I make my last call to Ralph
I’m gonna miss him

12.19
“Smells like Tijuana”
We’d say when fumes mixed with trash
Stale odor remains

12.20
Return to small town
Looks different than memory
Feels much colder too

12.21
The Jerez jardín
Filled with dominoes players
And resting grandma

12.22
This pueblo is dead
There’s no one home in houses
Until October

12.23
Aunt receives photo
Begins to tear up at sight
Of smiley uncles

I wasn’t quite as disciplined as when I went to Mexico in 2004, nor as insprired. Oh well, I’m working on writing again.

Cindyitis

anatomy of a fallThis re-post (most of it was written in March 2002) was inspired by my cousin, Nancy, and her accident on Adrian’s skateboard.

***

You may not know it simply by seeing me, but I have a horrible illness. It affects everything I do, and rears its ugly little head at the most inappropriate times. There is no cure for it and it may be contagious.

Symptoms include: unusual difficulty doing simple things like walking in a straight line (sober and without chewing gum), distorted depth perception, general clumsiness, and last any of the above symptoms in the presence of large amounts of people.

Cindyitis was one of the lasting changes brought on by puberty, besides the breasts and hips. I don’t remember being such an accident-prone kid. I played sports, danced, had good hand-eye coordination as a result of plenty of sessions of Mario Brothers and Tetris. Maybe when I got my period, I didn’t become the gracious women I was supposed to be.

I first noticed it the summer before high school. As I walked along a curb in my band uniform, I tripped over it and scraped my black wool-blend pants. The curb must have moved and jumped in my way, I swear. Maybe it was the shiny patent leather band shoes.

Later, I tried to walk off a stage by stepping onto bales of hay covered with sheets. I didn’t want to jump because I knew I might fall. I should have known that even in Australia I could be struck with Cindyitis. I fell flat on my face in front of 50 people, including my crush at the time. For the record, that was the second time I had exited the stage in an unorthodox way.

I learned quickly from that accident and others early on how to deal with the effects of Cindyitis. Although there is no medication, there are other effective ways to mitigate the embarrassment of falling in front of dozens of people.

First, you have to be able to deal with people laughing at you. Laugh with them, if it doesn’t cause you pain. If I saw myself fall, I know I’d have to suppress a giggle or two. I’m not a cruel person, it’s just a reflex.

Second, use those tear ducts. It’s amazing how nice people become when you cry. Sometimes you’ll do this naturally, but other times, you’ll need to fake it a little. You’ll get sympathy and helpt rather than laughter. It’s great if you’re a person who enjoys or craves attention.

Third, be prepared. I don’t mean carry crutches in your trunk. Just make sure you own a basic first aid kit to deal with those pesky cuts and bruises. At least if your ego is bruised, you can still take some care of your body.

Last, be creative with the details of your accident. If you fell down the stairs and have bruises on your face, don’t give the boring truth. Make up a “story” of how you tried to protect a helpless old lady from a purse-snatcher. As you caught up to him, you tackled him and grabbed the purse back, but not before he swung at you with the purse. It’s a white lie, it doesn’t really hurt anyone, and we all need to use our imaginations more. If you feel bad about it, you can always clear things up right after your explanation with a quick “just kidding” and the truth.

Cindyitis is not quite in remission these days (we all know about my accidents last fall), but I’m improving…