The food drop

After reading a couple of articles, I heard my dad’s Jeep pull into the driveway around 10 pm. I went out to find him and my mom unloading a box and a couple of bags. They also brought the puppy, VR. While I played with VR, my parents unloaded fruit (apples, bananas, pears, lemon, jicama), bolillo, queso, aguacate, tamales, tacos al pastor, burritos de steak picado, burritos de chorizo con huevo, brownies, instant oatmeal packets, deli-sliced turkey, Fritos, and about four tupperware containers with ready-to-eat meals like ravioli and meatballs. Everything was labeled and showed that the whole family had pitched in. Lori made the brownies. Adrian made the burritos. Mamá Toni made the rice. My madrina Chilo made the tamales. My mom made stuff too, but she didn’t label it. Oh, and there was Adrian’s little note (accio, burrito!) which was silly and sweet.

Their visit was quick, no longer than 10 minutes. I was left with a table full of food and VR’s hair all over my sweater. I took pictures of the goodies I’d eat over the next few days as I finished up my preparation and started the arduous process of taking my exam. I put everything away, and ate a brownie.

Then I got back to work. I read one article and while looking through my files for an article on determinants of Chicano students’ retention in college, I found Gándara’s article instead.

The passage below jumped out at me.

In fact, it was interesting to note that while Chicanos tended to credit their own inner strength and abilities for their educational success, Chicanas most often attributed their accomplishments to the support of their families.

Gándara, P. (1982). Passing through the eye of the needle: High-achieving Chicanas. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 4 (2), 167-179.

I’m not quite the high-achieving Chicana Gándara interviewed. I may not have that PhD, but I do have the family support (and love!). I’ve always had it. The food drop tonight was just one more thing to add to this list of the tangible things they’ve done for me. The intangibles are far greater.

Dr. Patricia Gándara’s dissertation focused on 45 Chicanos from low income backgrounds who had earned a JD, MD or PhD. Her sample was all relatively young (<40 yrs of age) and from working class families. This particular article focused on the differences between the 17 high-achieving women and their male counterparts.

La Brea & Willoughby

On the way home from the Rodrigo y Gabriela show, my friend* was pulled over by an LA County Sheriff’s Officer.

The officer asked for his license.

My friend gave it to him.

Then the officer asked for registration and proof of insurance.

My friend reached for the glove box and opened it.

The officer then said, “you don’t have a hand grenade in there, do you?”

My friend calmly said, “that’s an odd question… Did I do something wrong?”

The officer then mentioned the broken headlight and that he didn’t know if my friend had a weapon in the glove box. The officer then returned to his car with my friend’s documents.

The officer returned and said, “Mr. ___, you’re clean as a whistle.” He advised my friend to get the headlight fixed and sent us home without giving my friend a fix-it ticket.

We talked about the incident the whole way home. And laughed.

*My friend is an Indian man in his 20s. He’s also Muslim and has a full-grown beard.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Go ahead and yell at me for being here and not reading some article about Latino students retention in college, but I have to gush about Rodrigo y Gabriela’s awesome performance last night at the Henry Fonda Theater.

I discovered their music in February (I think) and immediately loved them. I kept missing their LA shows because I was traveling out of the state or country. When I heard about their two LA shows, I immediately bought tickets ignoring the fact that the date was pretty close to my exam.

The show was pretty awesome. Rodrigo y Gabriela played a long set (I think the better part of two hours) consisting of songs off their self-titled album. They took requests and admitted to being bored of setlists after touring for nearly a year. They played some new songs too, including one Rodrigo titled “Fuck the US Visa Department” as well as covers of Pink Floyd, Metallica and Van Halen songs. Gabriela shouted out her Mexico City roots by yelling “¡arriba los chilangos!” but admitted to denying her Chilanga-ness and pretening to be from Guadalajara because the people in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo don’t like Chilangos. When she yelled out “¡Viva México cabrones!” only a few folks in the audience responded, which surprised me because I’m used to a roar of affirmation from the crowd whenever musicians yell out that phrase.

Rodrigo y Gabriela have an excellent stage presence, which makes them even more attractive and likable. They dedicated the show to their hardworking crew and joked about having visa issues. They also encouraged the crowd — pretty mixed ethnically and age wise (my friend thought there were a lot of “old” people in attendance — to clap along and sing during the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”

My only gripes were that the show felt a little long and I struggled to see them through most of the show because of all the tall(er) people. I hate being short. The show wasn’t long, but we waited a while for them to begin and it usually takes me a few days to adjust to the end of Daylight Savings Time.

I tried to find a clip of them performing “Ixtapa,” my favorite of their original songs, but didn’t have any luck. In the YouTube clip below they peform “Diablo Rojo.” You can get a sense of just how incredible they are from the clip, but it really doesn’t do them justice. I mean, Rodrigo y Gabriela are so much more amazing (and good looking*) live.

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November spawned a monster

I really, really want to blog but there’s little on my mind these days beside quals. I even spent Halloween night writing rather than partaking in the festivities. For now, here are some notes and updates since I know you all miss me.

I celebrated on Saturday night with X, the boy I’m seeing, and his friends at a club in Santa Monica. I spent the day making my costume. I didn’t use any of my ideas mainly because (a) I’d done them before and (b) they’re too common for me. I like original costumes. My costume was kinda abstract and original, few people actually got it and when I told friends about the costume they asked, “how are you going to do that?” I had a little help from my mom in making part of the costume. My sister also helped. They rock.

Quals? Huh?
Quals, short for qualifying exam, is an exam PhD students take after completing coursework. In order to advance to dissertation stage, you must pass the exam. Exams are structure differently depending on your department and program. Mine is held over a three day weekend and consists of three ten-page (max) papers. The first questions is on a general higher education topic and tests our knowledge of the breadth of issues. The second is a critique of an article published in a peer-reviewed journal. This question focuses on our knowledge of methods and the research process. Finally, the third question focuses on your specific research area. My exam is scheduled for November 16th-19th.

My friend Arshad called me gangster. Not gangster as in chola gangster or Tony Soprano gangster, but gangster as in I’ll pass my qualifying exam despite my lack of preparation and my tendency to procrastinate. I value Arshad’s opinion, he knows me well and we’ve been in school together for years. However, I was annoyed with his support. Yes, annoyed. I wanted him to echo the voice in my head. I want him to tell me I’m not prepared, I’ve wasted too much time and when it comes time to take the exam in two weeks (exactly!) I’m gonna have a difficult time. Arshad isn’t the only person being supportive. Everyone is supportive. They all think I’ll do fine. Even my advisor, one of the faculty members who grades the exam and wrote my particular question, thinks I’ll do fine.

Día de los Muertos
I tried writing about Paco García, the first person I know to die when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Paco was probably in his mid to late 50s when he died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a prominent member of my church as both a co-director of the Spanish-language choir and artist for the weekly bulletin. Everyone loved Paco and his wife, Alba.

When he passed away, I remember being told not to wear black for his funeral Mass. Instead, I was supposed to wear bright colors. My mom may have worn a red dress. I was a little puzzled by this. On television, people wore black for funerals, so why did we look like we were going to Easter Sunday Mass?

If I had a photo of Paco, I’d add it to my mini-altar. After all, it was the death of Paco, a Cuban immigrant and devout Catholic, that helped me to see death as something more than tragic. It prepared me pretty well when I started to learn about Mexican traditions my family didn’t practice, such Día de los Muertos.

Something Wicked This Way Comes
I loved last night’s episode of Ugly Betty. Yeah, I know I need to study, but I have to take a break. Below are some of my favorite quotes:

Ignacio: You need to be with your family and food.

Christina: He’s your donut.
Betty: Yes, he’s delicious and I can’t tell anyone.

Christina: But you’ve got to take that donut and you’ve got to bite it. Dunk it in your coffee and get it hot and warm and wet…

Wilhelmina: What do we want?
Mark: Integrated chocolates!
Wilhelmina: When do we want them?
Mark: Now!

Gio: Oh yeah! Egg salad on white, sexy!

Betty: You’re about to hear a cough. That’s me saying hello.
Henry: You’re about to hear a sneeze. That’s me saying hello.
Gio: You’re about to hear gagging. That’s me gagging.

Mark: She doesn’t give dinner breaks. Wilhelmina treats all white people like slaves, something about payback.

Amanda: Not your type? It’s like he ate your type.

Hilda: I’m romantic, not crazy.

Halloween on a budget: Vendedor de Flores

One of my favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls, at least aesthetically, is the episode where the whole town takes part in the Festival of Living Art. In the episode, the town characters portray famous paintings like “The Last Supper” in full costume, but must stand perfectly still.

This episode, along with the requisite Diego Rivera print or two hanging in my apartment inspired another low-budget costume.

Vendedor de Flores

There are two different paintings you could use for inspiration (see above): “Vendedor de Alcatraces” and “Cargador de Flores.”

Here’s how you do it:

  • For a women: long white huipil
  • For a man: white shirt, white loose pants (for best effect shirt and pants made of manta)
  • Small straw hat (for the male version)
  • Long rebozo or solid fabric to tie the basket to your back
  • Large round basket
  • Lots of lillies or other flowers
  • Huaraches (sandals)

The only downsides of this costume is that you may have to be on your knees a lot for the full effect or the basket of flowers might get annoying.

Bonus: You can use the flowers to flirt with a cute guy or girl at a party.

Another DREAM doused


The Senate on Wednesday rejected a bill [the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act] offering the children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they serve in the military or complete two years of higher education. The defeat of the measure, which had attracted bipartisan support, underscored the difficulty of enacting even a narrowly tailored proposal in the polarizing atmosphere surrounding immigration reform.

The vote on the proposal was 52 to 44, short of the 60-vote margin needed to prevent a filibuster and begin debate. It was one small piece of a comprehensive immigration bill that collapsed in the Senate earlier this year, and it sparked a brief but heated debate.

Opponents called the bill a form of amnesty and argued that it would create incentives for illegal immigrants to cross the border with their children. But Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who supported the measure, said that “to turn on these children and treat them as criminals is an indication of the level of emotion and, in some cases, bigotry and hatred that is involved in this debate.”

LA Times story

I like the closing quote from Senator Durbin (D-Illinois):

“Don’t turn around and tell me tomorrow you need H-1B immigration visas to bring in talented people to America because we don’t have enough,” Durbin said. “Don’t take your anger on illegal immigration out on children who have nothing to say about this. They were brought to this country…. They’ve beaten the odds. We need them.”

I haven’t written much about the federal DREAM Act lately. Half of me supports it, and the other half of me feels the bills is rather weak. I don’t like the military service provision, which has been in previous iterations of the bill, but was more strongly stressed this time around. Second, undocumented students would still be ineligble for in-state tuition unless they were in a state like California or Texas which have laws which grant undocumented students in-state residency for tuition purposes. Third, students in college would not be eligible for federal grants, but would be able to get loans and work-study. On the positive side, the DREAM Act would regularize the status of those undocumented students who defy the odds and go through college or serve in the military. They’d actually be able to get jobs now.

Despite my ambivalence, I didn’t want to see the DREAM Act die. Arguably, it’s probably the most widely attractive immigration reform bill and it still couldn’t go anywhere. It’s another blow to the immigrant rights movement. If Congress doesn’t give a break to kids who had no choice but to follow their parents or guardians, then who will get a break?

One last question, why the hell was Barbara Boxer (D-California) not there?

Question of the week: Muertos and Halloween

Pimping it

It’s that time of the year again (as if you hadn’t already figured out by my recent series on low-budget and low-effort Halloween costumes)…

I’ll be dressing up for Halloween and catching at least one of the many Día de los Muertos events around town. On a more personal note, I’ll be sprucing up my mini-altar which currently has pictures of my grandparents, José Luis Vásquez and Cindy Rabuy (a fellow UCLA student who died in 2003).

La pregunta: How are you celebrating Halloween and/or Día de los Muertos?

If you’re having a party can I come? I like candy, pan dulce and ponche.

Halloween on a budget: Oscar de la Hoya

“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”
– Cady in Mean Girls

While checking out the recent launch of Machochip (go read it, Alex is one of the editors!), I was reminded about a costume rooted in escándalo I’ve yet to blog about: Oscar “Golden Boy” de la Hoya.

Earlier this fall, photos of the golden boy surfaced all over the gossip blogs. They were a bit embarrassing. I mean, if you consider wearing women’s lingerie and posing like a boxer embarrassing. Still, they’re hilarious, and a great Halloween costume for the man eager for an excuse to dress in drag, the straight guy comfortable with his sexuality and who can walk in stilettos, or the woman who just wants to dress “like a total slut.”

Oscar de la Hoya

  • Skimpy lingerie
  • Fishnet stockings
  • Stilettos
  • Boxing gloves (maybe add some medals or a belt for added effect)

If you’re worried about getting cold, get a boxing robe.

For some inspiration… go here, but not while you’re at work!