Monthly Archives: June 2007

Mil palabras: Chichén Itzá

Los ocho en Chichén Itzá

Mil gracias a Alex, nuestro guía por el día. He met us bright and early at the ferry in Playa del Carmen, volunteered his car, drove 3 hours each way, showed us around Yucatán, answered our many questions, and (most importantly!) kept his cool even when the out of town visitors were getting grouchy and tired. Alex is also a great photographer and took the standard tourist shot above and about 4 others like it with the other cameras in the group.

Alex also informed us that Chichén Itzá is up for a vote to become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World:

Here you have a picture of the main building in the Mayan ceremonial center of Chichen Itza, it is known as El Castillo.

Dominating the center of Chichen is the Temple of Kukulcan (the Maya name for Quetzalcoatl), often referred to as “El Castillo” (the castle). This step pyramid with a ground plan of square terraces with stairways up each of the 4 sides to the temple on top. On the Spring and Fall equinox, at the rising and setting of the sun, the corner of the structure casts a shadow in the shape of a plumed serpent – Kukulcan, or Quetzalcoatl – along the side of the North staircase. On these two days, the shadows from the corner tiers slither down the northern side of the pyramid with the sun’s movement.

Remember to vote for Chichen Itza to become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Here you have the link: vote.

The results are going to be given on July 7th, so hurry up, we have little over one week to make sure that this Mayan marvel is among the chosen ones.

Yesterday was tiring, but it was definitely great. It’s good to know that this little community of bloggers I’ve come to know over the past three or so years can go from words and photos online to great hospitality and interaction in person.

Live and direct from Cozumel

My sister looked at me like I was weird for packing my laptop.

“You’re going to take it? Why?”

“Well, I can add photos to it as we go and charge my iPod.” I added something else that might have made sense to someone else besides me, but I didn’t say that I was hoping the hotel would have free wi-fi or that I could easily find it somewhere in Cozumel. That would make me seem like an internet addict. Which I’m not. I swear.

It was actually a pleasant surprise after having a not-so-great welcome to el Caribe Mexicano. Don’t get me wrong, the people were nice and helpful, but that didn’t matter when they were dealing with 8 hungry, cranky and hot people who had been traveling since 8 p.m. the evening before (check the itinerary here).

However, once we all showered, ate and napped we got back to enjoying our vacation in Cozumel. So far, we’ve been pretty low key. The guys went out and partied while my parents, Lori and I stayed in and just enjoyed the warm water in the pool. Today, we had breakfast in el centro, shopped a little, my dad rented a scooter and we took some rides with him. Later, I watched the final of the Gold Cup game with my brothers, Cain and Mike at Margaritaville. We were all cheering for Mexico (except Mike). Adrian really did look that excited when Mexico scored its first and only goal, but he didn’t get to make that face during the game. Instead his face looked more like one of those looks fans make when their team gets close to scoring and barely misses. I hate when Mexico loses to the US, but I think it sucks even more when you’re in Mexico.

Later in the day, we had a family meeting to plan out our week, went snorkeling and had yummy tacos.

I should be packing

Without fail, the days leading up to vacations are always the most stressful.

I’ll try to check in while in Cozumel next week. (I miss my blog when I’m away. I’m a nerd. I know).

Hopefully I’ll have some good stories of family bonding and drama, exciting adventures exploring the Yucatán and the beautiful island of Cozumel, and some great pictures to share.

¡Cuidanse!

Antonio Aguilar (1919-2007)

I was still half asleep when I got VivirLatino’s notice about Antonio Aguilar passing away last night after being in grave condition and battling pneumonia for a couple of weeks.

I didn’t cry then, but now as I read through Spanish-language newspapers online and search for YouTube videos, the tears are coming. Friends on MySpace are offering up bulletins sharing memories of seeing Antonio Aguilar perform at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena. Now the realization that Mexico and Mexicans everywhere have lost one of their greatest talents is really setting in. But I’m not crying about losing the singer and actor and charro. Sure, I grew up hearing his music and watching him on TV, but that sort of stuff is captured through technology.

Instead, Antonio Aguilar’s passing is affecting me because it makes me think of my grandfather, one of his big fans. The men have things in common too. Antonio Aguilar was born in 1919, Papá Chepe was born a year later. Both men are from Zacatecas. While Aguilar is a skilled charro, Papá Chepe just loves watching the rodeos. He gets upset if his doctors advise him not to travel to Zacatecas for the Fiestas de Abril.

I guess Antonio Aguilar’s death makes me think of my grandparents’ own mortality, and that hurts even more than losing a great entertainer.

Que descanse en paz.

More on Antonio Aguilar’s death:
La Jornada
Univision
La Opinión
ABC News (AP story)
LA Times

Question of the week: Family vacations

The other side of the beach I honestly can’t remeber the last time all 6 members of my family went on a vacation together. I know the last time we all went to Mexico together was when I was about 10 years old. I know for sure that we haven’t done anything as a nuclear family since we’ve all become adults.

That’s all changing in a few days. My parents, three siblings, and two plus ones (Lori’s boyfriend and Adrian’s best friend) will be heading to Cancun and Cozumel.

I’m a little worried about the trip. There are 8 different people to please. I’ve become accustomed to going places alone and getting to do everything I want.

We haven’t even left yet and there was already drama when my siblings and I learned that our hotel was not in Cancun, but in Cozumel. My dad booked the hotel in Cozumel, where we have our timeshare, without realizing that it is an island. It’s not far from the Cancun airport and is a nice vacation spot. He considered changing hotels, but that would have been pricier. So, we’re staying in Cozumel, which means my siblings won’t get to party in Cancun as much. I don’t really mind the change of location or taking a ferry ride from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen to enjoy activities and sightseeing on the mainland.

Las Preguntas: When was the last time you vacationed or took a trip with your family? Was it stressful and do you have any advice?

Patience is a virtue

Patience isn’t easy. I don’t like waiting in long lines or sitting in traffic.

I also struggle with patience when it comes to music and my favorite band, Café Tacuba. They haven’t released a new album since 2003. I haven’t seen them play live since 2005. Last year I bumped in to three of the band members at a concert and they told me they were working on a new album. I hope it comes out soon. I need it. For now, I’ll just listen to this untitled new song they played at the Festival Vive Latino in Mexico City last month.

And yeah, this song is definitely part of my summer 2007 mixtape.

Celebrating family at Raza Grad

I attended Raza Grad yesterday. While there, I didn’t once think that the event was separatist or that it was making UCLA virtual Balkan peninsula in June. Raza Grad was the third graduation I attended over the weekend, and the second at UCLA. It was different than the first I attended, a schoolwide graduation at Mt. San Antonio College and the Psychology Department graduation at UCLA.

Instead, I just felt proud because I knew several of the graduates. They were all students I had seen grow throughout their four of five years at UCLA. It made me glad that I decided to stay here for graduate school because I didn’t have to sever my relationship with these students after I left MEChA Calmecac. I went from being their counselor to being a friend.

After reading the article and post linked above, I felt annoyed. Those guys don’t get it, but I don’t expect them to. After all, they didn’t attend a university where they initially felt lost. They don’t know what it’s like to transition from a high school where most student share your ethnic background. They don’t know what it’s like to be the only brown face in a class of 100 or more students. True, there are a lot of Latinos at UCLA, but no where near as many as the communities a lot us come from.

In response to the post at MayorSam, I offered my informed opinion, unlike a lot of the other commenters who had no idea what they were talking about.

I participated in UCLA’s Raza Grad five years ago. I also participated in a departmental graduation. I did not participate in the large 3,000 student graduation typically held on Friday afternoon.

I chose to do this for the following reasons:

  • All of my friends were doing Raza Grad
  • I was highly invested in MEChA, the organization that coordinated the planning and fundraising for the graduation*. I’d attended the ceremony before and knew I wanted to be part of it when the time came for me to graduate.
  • The ceremony is fun and less dry than most graduation ceremonies. Danzantes lead the procession of graduates and following the keynote speaker, a band plays during the middle of the ceremony and students dance with their friends and faculty alike. For my graduation the band was Very Be Careful.
  • I could invite as many people as I wanted unlike the larger graduation which limits the number of attendees a graduate can bring.

The fact that the ceremony is in English and Spanish was less important since the 18 family members who attended were all fluent in English, but I know this is not the case for many Latino students at UCLA.

Separatism and segregation did not come to mind when I decided to participate in Raza Grad. Instead it was about community. Raza Grad celebrated our accomplishments, but did so in the context of our families. You can see this as you flip through the dedications. Everyone thanks their parents. You don’t get anything like that at the larger graduation.

As I was leaving Pauley Pavilion, I bumped into an education professor. He had all the Raza Grad logos from the many years he has participated in the ceremony sewn on to a single stole. He asked, “will I see you here next year?”

“No,” I replied. “But I’ll be here in two years.”

*There’s a separate committee that does a lot of the work. A lot of those students in the committee are not in MEChA, but many are.

Nurturing my inner rock star

My Guitar Hero He said it too quickly for me to even understand what he was saying, “Do you want to play Guitar Hero?”

“Huh?”

I rubbed my eyes.

Adrian repeated himself and this time I understood.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I’ll play a song, and then you could try if you want.” He started off by playing Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son.” I watched as he skillfully played the hard version of the song and followed the notes appearing on the television screen. It was like karaoke, but instead of following a bouncing ball or words lighting up, you were following different color notes and playing them on a plastic guitar.

Adrian set up me in practice mode. I started off by butchering “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” It wasn’t really my fault. My hand-eye coordination sucks since I hardly ever play video games and it took me a few tries to get used to the guitar/controller. By the end of my practice session, I felt confident enough to try the song on the easy level.

I was hooked. Adrian and I played for a few hours until we had to leave to attend my cousin Rene’s graduation party.

Since then, I’ve been itching to drive all the way back to Hacienda Heights to play again… but papers, work and other more important things kept me from going home.

I had the chance to play Guitar Hero again this weekend while I was home for Mamá Toni’s birthday dinner and Father’s Day. Adrian and I played again, this time together since he bought a second guitar. With two players, you can compete on the same song or collaborate so one person plays the bass line and the other plays the guitar part. He’s also reserved his copy of the next version of the game which features 80s music. I think the Guitar Hero songs are definitely going to be part of my summertime soundtrack.

Question of the week: Summertime soundtrack

Rueda de fortuna There’s something inherent to the summer season that requires different music to go along with it. It might be the fact that the warm weather lends itself to lots of open air concerts and festivals. Maybe it’s the cliché summer flings or some overplayed song you hear everywhere on your vacation abroad that keeps taking you back to that time. I don’t know, but I like the idea of summer being different. It’s calmer, I don’t have classes to deal with, the days are longer and there’s more time to go to baseball games and concerts.

Last summer was tough for a whole bunch of reasons and music helped me through it. I listened to Limón y Sal by Julieta Venegas more times than I care to admit. I also got more familiar with new-to-me music like Chetes, los Bunkers, Instituto Mexicano del Sonido and Maneja Beto. Some of the individual songs that come to mind from last summer are:

  • “Canto Funebre” by Maneja Beto
  • “First of the Gang to Die” by Morrissey
  • “Happy” by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins
  • “Se Fue el Dolor” by Chetes
  • “Un Pato” by Natalia y la Forquetina
  • “Cumbia de Mole” by Lila Downs

I’m not sure if any of those fit the summer music prototype, but they worked for me and that’s all that matters.

La pregunta: What songs will be playing on your summer soundtrack?

Synergy notes

So I showed up at my favorite cafe early this morning to finish writing a paper. The coffee shop is just outside the LA city limits in Culver City, but within a 5-mile radius of at least two big studios. Right now, it’s pretty empty, calm and quiet. The indie-music the baristas play in the evenings has been replaced with some radio station playing 1970s era music.

The college students studying for finals and writing papers have been replaced with older adults. I’ve already noticed two who are writing screenplays (at least that’s what it looks like).

Ah… sometimes I feel so LA. You know, in the stereotypical and white-washed Hollywood sense.

[P.S. I have no clue why the background and header images won’t show up, I’m trying to fix that, but this paper needs to get done, like yesterday! Seriously.]