Category Archives: Cultura

Baby’s first racist encounter

In just four days Xavi will complete his first year of life. There will be tears (mine, no doubt) and clichés (where did the past 12 months go? Can you believe he’s one?), a (Hulk, naturally) smash cake and lots of family and friends. There will be reminiscing over a year full of firsts and reaching milestones. And we’ll look forward to ones we’ve yet to reach (without trying to rush the natural developmental process).

Most of those firsts have been pleasant, awesome even. They’re captured in pictures and text messages filled with lots of exclamation points. Occasionally there will be one without formal record. Just memories that will become the kind of story that ends with “so that happened.”

This is that kind of story.

Hanging out on campus

Normally, Sean, Xavi and I go to Sunday mass at 5 pm. It gives us time to lounge around in the morning and not interrupt Xavi’s late morning nap. During the academic year it coincided with the service for confirmation year 1 students. (I volunteered to be a catechist last summer.) Finally, I like the music played at that service. This Sunday I had to work from 4-6 so we opted for the latest morning service at 11.

We arrived at church and took our usual seats in the crying room, 3rd mini pew, second from the back. I’m new to crying rooms since I never sat in there as a kid. SJV didn’t have one, but this church does. We’ve been using the room for the past 6 months or so and have become familiar with the regulars. While it’s nice to attend mass and not worry about the baby getting too loud and fussy since the room is soundproof, it’s also worrisome for it provides a glimpse of the toddler years.

This Sunday the room was pretty sparse and we were joined by only two or three other families. The family in the pew in front of us consisted of three boys, Larry (~9), Moe (~7) and Curly (~6)*, their father and grandmother.

Shortly into the service, the children were invited to leave the sanctuary to attend a specialized kids service. Moe and Curly joined the group, but Larry didn’t want to go even when his dad and brothers encouraged him. While his brothers were gone, Xavi dropped one of his teething rings in the aisle by Larry. The boy kindly picked it up but seemed disgusted when he found it was wet with drool. Fair enough.

Halfway through the service the kids came back. The boys got out their toys. Xavi watched with curiosity and leaned forward trying to touch the toys. Rather than turn around and ignore Xavi, Moe and Curly showed Xavi their toys. Moe, the middle brother, even let him hold a Batcopter. Larry didn’t like that.

“No, don’t let him play with it. He’s a brown baby! We only like Jonathan.*”

Moe and Curly looked at Larry like “what’s wrong with you?” and ignored his plea. Larry whined to his dad, but he didn’t do anything.

Sean and I didn’t say anything, but for the rest of the service I tried to keep Xavi from touching the boys’ toys even when they offered because they weren’t baby appropriate and I didn’t want Larry scowling at us or his brothers. Xavi did get in a couple spins of the Batcopter propeller and Tumbler wheels. [Aside: Sean helped me with the proper terms.]

The mass ended and we walked out to the car.

“Did you hear what the boy said?”

“I think I did. What did you hear?”

Sean repeated what I thought I’d heard and confirmed that I didn’t hear wrong. He was sitting closer to Larry so he could hear better.

“That doesn’t even make sense. Those boys are the same color as Xavi! They’re probably Filipino too.”

“And who is Jonathan? We gotta warn that kid.”

“Well, I guess that’s another first. Baby’s first racist encounter.”

So that happened...

So, that happened…

32 Books: Reflections on the A-Z Challenge

At the beginning of the year I committed to three main goals:
1. More reading. In particular, I committed to the A-Z challenge.
2. More running. Hah.
3. More writing. Ugh.

I haven’t done so well on 2 and 3 which might explain why I finished the challenge in the first half of the year. Below are my reflections, stats (ooooh, pie charts! pretty!) and the list of books I’ve read this year. I don’t generally write reviews, but I do rate them on Goodreads.

THE LIST

Alarcón, Daniel: Lost City Radio
Allende, Isabel: Of Love and Other Shadows
Bolaño, Roberto: The Savage Detectives: A Novel
Cisneros, Sandra: Have You Seen Marie?
Corpi, Lucha: Black Widow’s Wardrobe
Danticat, Edwidge: Breath, Eyes, Memory
Eggers, Dave: What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel
Eugenides, Jeffrey: The Virgin Suicides
Flynn, Gillian: Gone Girl
Gilb, Dagoberto: Before the End, After the Beginning: Stories
Green, John: The Fault in Our Stars
Hayasaki, Erika: The Death Class: A True Story About Life
Ishiguro, Kazuo: Never Let Me Go
July, Miranda: No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories
Kozol, Jonathan: Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools
Lahiri, Jhumpa: The Lowland
Marra, Anthony: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Novak, B.J.: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
Ondaatje, Michael: Anil’s Ghost
Ozeki, Ruth: A Tale for the Time Being
Palacio, Melinda: Ocotillo Dreams
Quick, Matthew: The Good Luck of Right Now
Rodriguez, Luis J: Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.
Senior, Jennifer: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
Tobar, Hector: The Barbarian Nurseries
Urrea, Luis Alberto: Into the Beautiful North
Vowell, Sarah: Unfamiliar Fishes
Wiehl, Lis: Snapshot
Wolitzer, Meg: The Interestings
X, Sulayman: Bilal’s Bread
Yañez, Richard: Cross Over Water
Zambrano, Mario Alberto: Lotería

REFLECTIONS

I’m glad I committed to this challenge and would be up for a second round. Thanks to the challenge, I found several new-to-me writers, rediscovered my love for reading, found a new-ish hobby to do in my “me time” and passed the time on my bus commute.

Naturally, the best part of the challenge was finding new writers and branching out. I mainly read fiction but I tried to mix it up with the familiar and the new. Most of the books below (75%) were written by new-to-me writers. I found some books by just scanning the bookshelves at the library and others through blogs or message boards. Melissa, la Feminist Texican, indirectly contributed to the list with her reviews. I picked a quarter of my reads after reading her reviews. I added other novels such as The Fault in Our Stars and Gone Girl since they’re currently bestsellers and I wanted to see what all the hype was about.

I found a number of new-to-me writers I’ll keep on my radar. Namely: Anthony Marra, Ruth Ozeki, Mario Alberto Zambrano and Meg Wolitzer. I’ve already found a couple of Ozeki and Wolitzer’s other novels at the library and added them to my reading list. Marra doesn’t have other novels published but I added novels that influenced him which is how I ended up reading a few novels about wartorn countries, torture and disappearances (see: Anil’s Ghost and Lost City Radio).

As with anything called a “challenge,” there are downsides. First, I slogged through at least one book I would’ve put down much earlier if I didn’t need that letter (looking at you, Bolaño). The silly thing is that some of the books I liked least were letters I didn’t even need. I either forgot that or was stubborn. Second, I put off reading books on my list because I didn’t need that particular letter.

STATS AND STUFF

Stats1

Favorite book overall: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Books that made me cry:
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
The Death Class: A True Story About Life
Never Let Me Go
A Tale for the Time Being
The Interestings (maybe, I forgot now)

Toughest letter to find: I. Surprisingly, letters like Q, X and Z weren’t tough to find. I found my X author by just scanning books on the shelf when I went to get Richard Yañez’s Cross Over Water at the library. I checked out Feminist Texican’s A-Z archive for I authors and found Kazuo Ishiguro.

Type: Mainly novels and fiction. At least one book straddled the technical line between fiction and nonfiction. What is the What reads like a memoir but “novel” is in the title.

I read the most books in the late spring/early summer. I think this was because I wanted to finish by the start of July and I stopped picking longer books.

Average number of pages: 304. Longest: The Savage Detectives at 577 pages. Shortest was Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros at 101 pages, which reads like an illustrated poem. I added Black Widow’s Wardrobe by Lucha Corpi since I felt like a picture book didn’t really count and I still needed a C.

Format: 21 books (15 borrowed from library), 10 e-books, 1 read in both formats

Most disturbing: Bilal’s Bread. This needs all the trigger warnings. It’s also the most niche book being about Kurdish immigrants, Muslims, and gay teens. Runner up: What is the What. Can’t Valentino Achak Deng catch a break?!

Funniest: One More Thing. I laughed out loud at some of the questions for discussion that Novak includes at the end.

Most enlightening: All Joy and No Fun. So much of the chapters on being a new parent rang true.

The boy is mine

wrap

When I was on maternity leave one of my favorite things to do was take Xavi for walks around 5 pm. We’d wander the neighborhood and then meet up with Sean on his walk home from the train station.

I’d text him: I’m the one walking the stroller.

When we encountered each other on the sidewalk, he’d smile and say “Hi family.”

Once I returned to work, I stopped taking those short walks since it was often feeding time when I got home. Plus, by the time I got Xavi ready to go out, it’d be dark and cool. I missed it.

The week before Christmas was different. I got home a little earlier and it was hardly even cold out. On that Tuesday, I put Xavi in a sweater and texted Sean about his expected arrival at the train station. Since he would be 20 minutes later than usual, I decided to meander through the neighborhood checking out Christmas lights.

With Xavi in the Baby Bjorn, we walked up and down the block and surrounding streets. I pointed out lawn decorations like inflatable Santas, reindeer and snowmen. I tried to get Xavi interested in the lights, but he didn’t seem impressed probably because he couldn’t touch them or put them in his mouth. Two streets over, we stood on the sidewalk in front of one of the more elaborately decorated homes on the block. I showed Xavi the mini Christmas trees lighting the walkway and the other decorations.

Behind us, an older man and his granddaughter parked on the street and got out of their car.

“Look, sweetie, they’re admiring our Christmas lights.”

“They’re nice! I wanted to show him the lights in the neighborhood.” I responded.

The little girl just looked at us, but the man came closer and began asking about Xavi.

“Oh, he’s so small. How old?”

“Four and half months.”

He talked to Xavi and made him giggle.

bjornwtf

“Is he yours?”

“Yes,” I replied feeling uneasy and wondering all sorts of things. “I gotta get going. Merry Christmas!”

I walked away and toward the usual meeting-up place with Sean thinking about the comment and what I had read from other women who have mixed race kids.

A week later, I got the same question. This time, Xavi was asleep in the stroller and we were out for a late morning walk. Two elderly women stepped to the side to let me through over a busted up section of the sidewalk.

“What do we have here?” the first one said in that high-pitched ‘it’s a baby!!!’ voice.

I stopped so she could look at Xavi. They started asking questions and commenting on his appearance. How old? His name? Oh, he’s sleeping. Oh my, so much hair! He’s adorable. As they spoke, Xavi stirred and opened up his eyes.

Oh no, they’re gonna wake him up, I thought.

“Is he yours?”

“Yes,” I said while my face screamed “of course he’s mine, you nosy dimwit!” I imagine my face gave away my feelings.

“Oh, he does look like mom,” she said to her friend.

“Have a good day,” I said ready to keep moving.

leafs

I walked the rest of the way trying to figure out why I’d been asked the question twice. There were two obvious reasons:

1. They think I’m the nanny because I’m Chicana and there are lot of families in the area who employ Latina caretakers for their kids — self included. If you go to the local park, most of the adults there on a late weekday morning will be Latinas in their 30s and 40s looking after mainly white toddlers and babies. Plus, the neighborhood I was walking through is wealthy and predominantly white. The Latinos I see there are often working in construction, landscaping and childcare. (I live a 10 minute walk away, but am used to running/walking through the area because I get in some hill work. Definitely not rich.)

2. They don’t think Xavi looks like me because he’s mixed race and thus has browner skin and curly hair.

The second explanation seems more plausible in both instances. In the first, I was carrying Xavi in the Baby Bjorn and in my limited experience baby carrying seems like the domain of a mother or father. It was also evening. Second, one woman even brought up the resemblance seemingly to put me at ease and address the faux pas of asking the question in the first place.

I know mothers and fathers of mixed race children get this question. I’ve heard of moms making t-shirts saying “I’m not the nanny” and stories from parents who get scolded by judgmental strangers for speaking Spanish or another native language with kids at the playground in a “I don’t think the child’s parents would appreciate that” sense. I even thought I’d hear the questions or get the looks at one point, but didn’t think it would happen just five months in to motherhood.

I love that Xavi is a mix of our racial and ethnic backgrounds. He’ll grow up knowing he has roots in Mexico and Jamaica, southern California and New York. He’ll know rancheras and reggae, curry goat and birria de chivo, the beaches of Montego Bay and Mazatlán. He’ll cheer for Jamaican sprinters in the summer Olympics and el Tricolor in the World Cup. He’ll hear the lilting Jamaican accent of his grandparents Kenton and Eula and Spanish and Spanglish from his abuelitos Luz and Carlos. He may even roll his eyes when I say that he is Jamexican finding it corny and preferring Blaxican.

I hope he never feels the pit in his stomach when someone questions if I’m his mom or Sean’s his dad because we’re a lighter or darker shade of brown.

Getting trained early in the fine art of giving a proper side-eye.

And if he does, I hope that he brings his grade A side-eye and WTF face along with a polite, “Yes, she’s my mom…” followed by an under the breath, “y que te importa?”

Nap time reading

While the baby naps in my arms, I typically go through some form of social media and check out interesting news and stories. Or I binge watch The West Wing. Recent favorite reads:

Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite writers

The Poem That Made Sherman Alexie Want to ‘Drop Everything and Be a Poet’ [The Atlantic]

I have no shame in admitting that I’m an Alexie fangirl. I was so disappointed when I heard he was in LA recently for a book signing and I didn’t find out until a week later. (He doesn’t advertise his readings on Twitter, but his feed is very entertaining.) Anyway, this piece for The Atlantic’s “By the Heart” series was enlightening and inspirational. I’m grateful his poetry professor gave him the book that included the life altering poem.

At the same time, I’d never seen myself in a work of literature. I loved books, always, but I didn’t know Indians wrote books or poems. And then to see myself so fully understood in one line of a poem, as though that one line of a poem written by someone else was my autobiography … It was like understanding human language for the first time. It was like hearing the first words ever spoken by a human being, and understanding for the first time the immense communicative power of language.

I had never intellectualized this feeling that I’d had my entire life. And then, to hear the thing aloud. To see it in print. These are the kind of emotions that nobody puts words to, at least not where I’m from. So an intellectual and emotional awakening were fused in this one line. They came together and slapped me upside the head.

Gibson In ’88: ‘It’s A Good Story’ [ESPN]

Tuesday, October 15th marked the 25th anniversary of the most dramatic, amazing, awesome walk-off home run in Dodger history. I don’t remember seeing it live, but do remember those playoffs and being excited that my dad caught a ball at one of the NLDS games against the Mets. I have seen Kirk Gibson’s home run dozens of times as it’s played on the Dodger jumbo screen all the time, but didn’t know everything going on behind the scenes. And there was a lot!

Arash Markazi interviewed players from the ’88 Dodgers, A’s, coaches and management to fill in the story.

One of my favorite parts was reading Vin Scully’s role in motivating the very injured Gibson to stop icing, suit-up, take some practice swings with the bat boy and tell Tommy Lasorda he could pinch hit in a close game.

Vin Scully (Dodgers announcer 1950-present, NBC announcer 1983-89): In the middle of the ninth inning of that game, we were in commercial, and I had told the producer and director, ‘When we come out of commercial, follow me.’ You don’t do that very often, but, in this instance, I felt it was important, so, when we came out of commercial, there was a shot from the blimp of Dodger Stadium and I said, ‘If you’re in the ballpark with binoculars, your first thought would be, late in the game, Is Kirk Gibson in the Dodgers’ dugout? The answer would appear to be no.’ They did a slow pan from one end of the dugout to the other, and I basically said Kirk Gibson will not play tonight.

Gibson: I was sitting there, and, when Vin said that, I stood up and said, ‘My a–!’ It was time to go get dressed. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have gotten dressed if he hadn’t said it, but he did say it, and I was vocal about it with whoever who was around me at the time.

Today we don't have the Dodger blues. Right after I got the hoodie on, AJ Ellis hit a home run.

The playoffs have been stress inducing lately. Xavi and I are crossing our fingers in hopes of celebrating another improbable, impossible victory.

This game is a nail-biter. #dodgers #nlcs

Go Dodgers!

Jaclyn Day

I’ve been following Jaclyn Day’s blog for a couple of years, but never really paid attention to anything aside her affordable fashion posts. I was missing out, but perhaps it’s good that I’m just finding some of these posts months later when I’m at the beginning of my own parenting experience and can relate to her fretting over the cost of childcare or dealing with her post-pregnancy body image issues.

These posts hit home:

The things about parenting we don’t talk about — on maternity leave, childcare and the privileges some parents have/don’t have

No easy answer — sharing photos and videos of our children on social media

Lindas Canciones

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I was 7 or 8 when Mary came over and excitedly shared a must-listen new tape, Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de mi Padre. I’d never heard of Linda Ronstadt and was a little confused by her name. Ronstadt didn’t sound Mexican. I soon came to learn that she was US-born and didn’t speak much Spanish. My parents didn’t care. Linda could sing the hell out of some rancheras and soon they were playing the tape constantly.

The music was as beautiful as the woman on the cover of the tape and I loved it. I already had been introduced to rancheras through José Alfredo Jiménez classics like “Volver, volver”, “El Rey,” and “Caminos de Guanajuato” thanks to my Guanajuato-born father. While Linda Ronstadt was not my introduction to mariachis or rancheras, she was the first woman I’d heard sing backed up by a mariachi. It would be many years until I found out about singers like Lola Beltrán or Chavela Vargas. Until then, Linda was the pinnacle of female rancheras songs in my eyes.

serenata

I wasn’t strong enough a singer to emulate her as a kid — or even as an adult — but Danny gave it a shot. He learned to sing “Y ándale”, a song about not caring that your fianceé´s parents will see you as a drunk when you come over to see he. Danny practiced with dad and gave his big performance at tía Nelly’s wedding backed by a full mariachi. His performance was a hit. Ironically, dad quit drinking soon after.

In college, I bought my own copy of Canciones on CD and listened to it countless times. I’ve learned the songs since then and sing along… or try to. Five years ago, I went to a concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall by Linda Ronstadt and Mariachi de Nati Cano on the bill. I was so excited to hear live versions of the songs I grew up listening to with my dad, but came away feeling confused and let down. Linda didn’t sound like the woman on the albums I’d come to love. It didn’t make sense how her voice could have changed so much as she aged.

Mexicanitos al grito de guerra

Now I understand that at the time she was already dealing with the onset of Parkinson’s, a disease her grandmother suffered from as well.

As the Parkinson’s news broke out last month, I realized I couldn’t name any of Ronstadt’s hits in English. All I knew was Canciones which I still sing on the regular. In fact, all I could think about was the songs I loved on the first album and the follow-up, Más Canciones.

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I sing Hay Unos Ojos frequently to Xavier. I hold in my arms and sing as we walk around the apartment. He stares up at me with eyes that seem to get brighter and wider. When I got pregnant, I was a little sad that I never took the time to learn how to play the guitar. I wanted to be like my dad who would entertain us for hours with the guitar and a short list of pop and children’s songs. I may not have the guitar (for now), but I do have my voice and a love for singing. Hopefully Xavier will remember the songs I sing for him with the same fondness I think of songs like Cri Cri’s “Los Tres Cochinitos” or the Cascades’ “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain.”

If I had to list 10 albums that changed my life, Canciones would definitely be on it. I’m grateful Mary introduced my parents to Linda Ronstadt. They played the album and actively sang along. I don’t think dad ever expected that 25 years later I’d follow his example and would sing the same songs to my son.

Recent reads: The A list

Sometime late last year Lotería Chicana became all baby all the time — or at least when I updated every month or so. I didn’t intend for that, but pregnancy was the only new thing I felt like writing about. Everything else — even newlywed life — felt familiar. I actually wish I’d been writing more over the past 9 months even if just for myself. I’ll never get to experience this for the first time again.

Anyway, I could’ve blogged about other topics. First up: my recent reads.

I have a list in Google Drive with books I’d like to read. Some have been on there a long time and others were just added. Now that I can read without worrying that I may get motion sickness on the bus, I’ve been making some progress on my list. I also have the feeling that I won’t get much of a chance to read for fun in the near future. Recent reads:

A Wedding in Haiti by Julia Alvarez
Part travelogue and part essay on visiting Haiti after the earthquake. It’s saddening but leaves you with a sense of hope. I also like that it continues her theme of exploring immigrant life and borders.

Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez
YA fiction. It bugged me that she never mentioned the country Milly and Pablo are from, but I understand why she left it out.

Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite writers

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie
Alexie has been one of my favorites since I read Ten Little Indians about ten years ago. I was geeked out to meet him after a reading in San Francisco in 2009. Even his Twitter feed is entertaining. Anyway, I was a little disappointed that most of the stories in this collection had been published in previous collections. Still, I remembered them well and found myself highlighting (read the e-book version) the same passages that originally struck me many years ago. There were a couple of new stories that really shook me.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Achebe’s classic had been on my bookshelf for a while. Unknowingly, it would start a mini-Nigerian contemporary fiction kick.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I heard about Americanah from friends, but didn’t know anything about the story or the author until my friend Gene posted a photo of a page. Gene was rightfully excited to see the blog he started PostBourgie and worked on with friends (including yours truly — I’ve cross posted a few times) mentioned in the novel. In it the protagonist, Ifemelu, mentions PostBourgie as one of her favorite blogs. Sean — also part of the PostBourgie family — bought the book that afternoon. A week later, I was at the Central Library downtown for AloudLA where Adichie read from the novel and discussed the various themes (race, taking on a black American identity, relationships, immigrant experience, hair) with Faith Adiele.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
When I really like a writer, I tend to binge on her work. Adichie is no exception. Purple Hibiscus didn’t have me laughing like Americanah, but I was still touched, saddened and disturbed.

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I didn’t read this short story collection with the same eagerness as the previous two novels, but still enjoyed it. I found myself thinking of characters in the short stories as characters from the other novels.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
No, I didn’t intend to read books by “A” writers. It just happened that way. I really liked this novel and was a little upset with myself for taking so long to take it off my bookshelf and actually start reading it. I don’t know why I delayed. I probably wanted to read it in Spanish, but that always slows me down a lot. The final third of the novel reminded me of what I’d learn in my contemporary Chilean film and literature course in college. I no longer felt like I was reading fiction as the novel covered the Salvador Allende presidency, the military coup and the repression and torture under the Pinochet dictatorship — without ever mentioning any names.

Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez by Richard Rodriguez
I’ve never been drawn to Rodriguez. When I was younger, I knew little about him and simplistically just thought of him as the sell-out against affirmative action and bilingual education. However, I grew more interested when others recommended him as a strong essayist and memoirist. I can’t say I liked it mainly because I never could relate to Rodriguez even when he talked about growing up devoutly Catholic (he remembers pre-Vatican II days). I do intend to read his more recent memoirs.

Morning becomes offensive

The first present for blackface Christmas — what my play cousins at PostBourgie call the season shortly before Halloween and through Thanksgiving — comes from KCRW’s Instagram account.

Not cool, KCRW

I voiced my disappointment via Twitter and on Instagram.

I checked back a little later to find a flippant response from the person behind the Instagram account.

Not cool, KCRW

Oh right, I should just chill since it’s Halloween. I forgot that makes it okay. Not really.

Earlier this week I receive a mailer asking me to resubscribe to KCRW. Over the past ten years I’ve subscribed on and off as I enjoy the music and news programming. I was likely going to renew my subscription, but now am reconsidering.

I follow KCRW’s social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram. I was extremely disappointed, offended and saddened to see one of my favorite cultural institutions in Los Angeles feature one of it’s deejays (Anne Litt) in a Native American costume during the Masquerade Ball (10/27/12). While I respect an individual’s First Amendment right to wear what he/she wants, I do not support institutions that feature a prominent member in what is the Native American equivalent of blackface. I also do not appreciate the belittling response: “Hey y’all. No disrespect .. It’s Halloween. !!” (Screenshots can be found here: [link] and [link])

Dismissing valid concerns is not a suitable response for a public radio station.

Sincerely,

Cindy Mosqueda

For those not in LA, KCRW is a public radio station based out of Santa Monica College. They carry NPR as well as locally produced programming. Their music programming is highly regarded. I’ve always enjoyed the diversity on Morning Becomes Eclectic, especially when Nic Harcourt was at the helm. Harcourt featured some of the best bands in Latin America even though the primary audience is not Spanish speaking. I first subscribed in 2002 after starting my first full-time job. I subscribe on and off, mainly because I’m lazy about renewing my subscription or funds were tight in grad school.

Pocho studies

Spanglish

Thanks to Daily Chicana’s recent post on how two Chicanas in the same family can be very different, I’ve become really interested in why my younger siblings, Lori and Adrian, are a lot less fluent in Spanish than Danny and me. I’ve seen this in other families and wonder if my family is the norm, exception, or somewhere in between.

A little about my family:

My parents both immigrated as children and completed all of their school in the US. They’re fluent in both English and Spanish as are most of their siblings. I grew up speaking Spanish almost exclusively with both sets of grandparents although they understand and speak a little. All of my first cousins are fluent in English.

In our home, my family spoke English and Spanish but it was hardly equal. I’d say it was 80/20 with a lot of code-switching and Spanglish. Now that Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni live with my parents full time, it’s less lopsided. However, our home is still English dominant.

With the exception of my grandparents, we didn’t watch much Spanish TV in our home. My mom wasn’t a novelera, but as we got older she did get in to a few series. My first novela experience was Rosa Salvaje. I started watching when I stayed at Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni’s house in Zacatecas for a few weeks one summer.

While we didn’t watch much Univision or Telemundo, we attended church services primarily in Spanish. Danny and I sang with the kids’ Spanish choir and were involved in other cultural activities like ballet folkórico. We spoke Spanish at choir practice, but mainly spoke English at dance practice and with our friends there.

Glory days

As for the four kids, we’re all pochos (in the language sense) but to a different degree. I’m bilingual and biliterate, but know I’m not as strong as my friends who grew up speaking Spanish almost exclusively at home. I also get super self conscious when I spend time with my cousins in Mexico. I fear they’ll laugh when I trip over words. They don’t, they’re all very kind and some have actually complimented me on my Spanish. I studied Spanish grammar and literature in high school and minored in Spanish in college. As an adult, I’ve spent a lot more time visiting family in Mexico. My siblings haven’t been to Guanajuato or Zacatecas since they were kids. I also listen to a lot of music from Mexico and South America.

Danny was more fluent and confident in Spanish until we got to high school and I started taking Spanish classes. The least fluent are the younger two. Lori and Adrian speak and understand Spanish, but it’s what many would call “pocho” (literally incomplete, partially formed; colloquially it refers to US-born Mexican kids with less than perfect Spanish skills).

serenata

I’m not 100% sure why, but I bet Danny and I are part of the reason. With Danny and I speaking English most of the time, Lori and Adrian heard a lot less Spanish at home. When Danny and I were younger, we heard our parents speak both languages and spent more time at my grandparents’ home.

I’ve seen this with my cousins too. The elder children are fluent/almost fluent while the younger ones barely speak — or don’t want to speak — Spanish.

Adrian and Lori

I was curious about this last week and asked friends on Twitter and FB. Some people related to my experience while others said all their siblings were equally fluent. Some had confounding factors. Like me, they studied their heritage language or spent time studying abroad during college. Some had families where elder children were born in the native country while the younger ones were born here. It was interesting to read the variety of experiences as well as the thoughts of parents with young children who are trying to raise their children bilingual (or trilingual in one case). It made me think more about raising a bilingual child when my partner is not a Spanish speaker.

It’s fascinating to me how the children in one family — only 7 years apart from eldest to youngest — could be so different in language acquisition.

Frida on my mind

Glad I caught the In Wonderland show before it ended

A month ago, Sean and I checked out In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States show at LACMA. Despite seeing the banners all over the city featuring Frida Kahlo’s “Autorretrato con Collar de Espinas” (Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird), I waited until a few days before the show closed to check it out. I’m really glad I saw the show.

My older cousin, Bibi, introduced me to Frida’s art when I was in 6th grade. Thanks to Bibi, I knew about Diego Rivera’s philandering ways, the horrible bus accident and the monkeys.

I liked Frida and her art, but didn’t love it like some of my friends. I even prided myself on the fact that I wasn’t that kind of Chicana. I made a banner advertising that fact in my early blogging days. (And yes, I know there’s not one way to be a Chicana.)

Las Dos Fridas

Something stirred in me when I finally saw In Wonderland. Frida Kahlo was just one of about 50 artists featured. Most of her paintings were in in the section on self portraits. Despite being familiar with a couple of the paintings in the show (Las Dos Fridas, Autorretrato Con Collar de Espinas, Frida y Diego wedding portrait from 1931), I still had to stop and look at them for a bit. I stood in front of Las Dos Fridas amazed at the detail. Up close, I found new details I’d never noticed in prints, books or even a tableau vivant Halloween costume. I did the same with the wedding portrait. I’d always just thought of that one as an example of her small stature compared to el elefante, Diego Rivera. But this time I got the chance to read the text and imagine how she felt on her first wedding day.

I had no clue Las Dos Fridas was such a large painting

I went through the show once and then walked back to find a crowd around Las Dos Fridas. I couldn’t blame them for stopping to stare and take it all in.

It may have taken twenty years to find my inner Frida fangirl, but she was there all along. I just needed to see the real thing to realize it.

It’s all fun and games…

Cake time!

I spent Sunday afternoon in Ontario at a last minute birthday BBQ to celebrate Nancy’s birthday. As usual, hanging out with the cousins was filled with a lot of laughs, games, and an accident or two*.

Thoughtful Minel

Early in the afternoon, I played four square with the cousins and catch with the nephews. The nephews were a lot less competitive, but that’s probably because they’re toddlers and still getting the hang of throwing and catching.

Family vs piñata

Later, we had cake and strung up the piñata. After some swings by the few kids present, the adults took over. I got a couple of good hits, but mainly missed.

Calaca piñata pre and post

Even though I missed a lot, the guys didn’t. The piñata lost an eye.

Cause and effect

After Adrian beat up the piñata, tío Pancho threw candy from the roof. As I shot the photo, I thought the situation looked sketchy and backed up a little. Those candy scrambles are always risky, especially when the goodies are thrown from higher up.

Unfortunately, I was right. Adrian left the melee with more than some Snickers. Ouch.

Lesson: piñatas can be dangerous for adults too.

*The accidents don’t happen often. We’re not that reckless or clumsy.