Latina in Suburbia

2 May

I have been a New York City native all my life. Was born, raised and lived in Queens the last 26 years. Recently married, I relocated with my husband to Suffolk County. He was born, raised and lived there all HIS life. The two of us brought two worlds together in one home and continue exploring and living out our life as a modern day couple — heavy metal-meets-reggaeton; Ceviche-meets-Corned Beef; Futbol-meets-Drag Racing; Novelas-meet -Reality Shows…and boy can we go on! A new world and representation of how times have changed…or have they?

Living in Suffolk County has opened my eyes that New York City and what it stands for, is only a small part of New York State let alone our entire nation. And suburbia most certainly consists of a different culture.  Reading, listening and watching local media sources and people’s ways of interaction has simply opened my eyes to a silent ignorance resonating throughout a suburban community. Filled with stereotypes and general misinterpretation of different cultures has led to a clear division within this county. While I have had the pleasure of meeting very open-minded individuals whom are simply curious as to who I am, I have also have met individuals who have clearly shown a non-welcoming attitude if I dare say uncomfortable mannerisms once this elephant comes into the room (yes, I shall refer myself as the elephant).

While this can be irritating, I choose to channel it through an education filter…and how do I do this?  Pretty much educating ignorance. Yes, I have had individuals initially attempt to treat me as an analphabet however they are proven wrong once we verbally interact on whatever the issue may be. I have also have had the pleasure of being able to teach at the local college in Suffolk. At the beginning of the semester, many students had misconceptions of the Latino community based on stereotypes but as the semester has progressed these same students have shown me that all individuals need is to be educated. And I don’t mean this in a Higher Education sort of way because realistically we cannot send all of Suburbia back to school but government can certainly provide an alternative method. Instead of having our local representatives, such as Steve Levy (Suffolk’s County Executive) use the “anchor baby” reference and criminalizing immigrants providing local residents only this perception of a community, government-formed commissions or forces should be formed instead. These entities should educate residents on the misuse of stereotypes and provide culture insight on our community. Insights into a diverse community full of Entrepreneurs, Public Servants, customs, art, music, food…simply a diverse culture within a culture.

Until this ideas dawns upon local government, I will continue eliminating stereotypes on an individual level and hopefully government will catch up.

 

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A Fairytale Wedding…

29 Apr

Many of us cherish our sleep so much that we are willing to press on that “Snooze” buttom five hundred times until the last minute when we literally have to RUN out of our houses/apts. to start our days. We may skip breakfast or a good morning work-out to start off our day because we are soooo busy and time is key. However, many of the people falling within this category  have been up since 4am this morning!  Why?! Well if you can’t answer this question then you simply haven’t been watching the news! Its the Royal Wedding!

William & Kate Middleton have just wed and its all many people talk about! From hosting Wedding parties in the city to buying memorabilia, this wedding has become another event thanks to our strong pop culture within our society.  However, this is another event that in my opinion represents our social and political hypocrisy…much which many choose to ignore.

Social hypocrisy — mostly because its a wedding between two strangers which most of us have absolutely no personal connection. A wedding between what some media sources have called a wedding between a “commoner” and a Prince. A wedding representing what many women dream of! However, its only a binding social contract in which from the first day of their courtship consisted of obligations and responsibilities mostly on her part. A contract which dictates how she will smile, how she’ll be referred to, what she will wear, what she can or cannot do PERIOD! Less we not forget another Royal Wedding in which many women dreamed to be in that other woman’s place, William’s mother, the late Diana. A fairytale wedding in which many women dreamed of (and continue dreaming of as we’ve witnessed in bridal shows and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent just for a few hours by future marital couples). But many will not mention the fairytale turned nightmare of the years following Diana. A nightmare in which is part of a reality in which many choose to ignore; consisting of adultery, bulimia, attempted suicide, depression along with all the other obligations she was forced to conform to once married. That is why I find it funny many so-called feminists or women who like to use the word “Independent” countless times would actually sit in front of a television at 4am, travel to Buckingham palace, or  purchase memorabilia…simply being part of this hype, salivating over an event such as this.

Political Hypocrisy — The definition of a monarchy: “is a form of government in which all political power is passed down to an individual (usually hereditary) known as a monarch (“single ruler”). In a time where even democratically voted in leaders are labeled dictators, monarchies are sole examples of dictatorships. They were initially forms of governments which claimed they had a divine right to rule over people and most ruled over many…RUTHLESSLY! Both British and Spanish monarchies will and are going down in history as ruthless forms of governments which colonized (and in Britain’s situation continues to colonize) many countries. The American Revolution, the Bolivarian Revolution are two grande examples of the result of colonization. As many of us have learned in our elementary, middle, secondary and higher education classes monarchies go down in history as bearers of plagues, genocide, diseases and rape among social diseases as well. So my question is why do they continue to exist? While the British monarchy is not an official form of government, it continues to be influential in its current one as well as its society. And while we attack other countries for holding what many believe are dictatorships or symbols of such, the symbol of who colonized the United States is admired?

So as many watch and continue to follow this event, not only will I refuse to refer to any of those figures as Prince/Princess/Queen; nor will I dress up to go out to a wedding party/reception (I boycotted the idea even on MY wedding day). Instead I will be productive with myself and relax for tomorrow’s Drag Race Event in Maryland 😀

 

No Hablo Spanish!?

15 Mar

Growing up in a Latino immigrant home, I learned the importance of Spanish and English in the United States. Spanish is my first language and English my second. My parents figured they’d take this approach as being a Latina-American, I would be exposed to English everywhere else. My physical features clearly depicts where I am from, sometimes so much people are taken back when words come out of my mouth.

My parents were my only link to Latin America and where I came from — and they made sure this link was a steel chain…a chain that has become a strong part of my identity today. History, Literature, Politics, Values were all part of a foundation strengthening my identity. My eyes embraced poetry by Cesar Davila Andrade & Pablo Neruda; Literature by Gabriel Garcia Marquez — particularly his book, “El General en su Laberinto/The General in his Labyrinth”, a story surrounding itself upon a historical and important figure in South America, Simon Bolivar. I would sit attentively as my dad told me of the Gran Colombia and what became of this once ideal South American Country and what it was present day. I would watch and read news on current events in Latin America…I lived in Latin America all the while living in the United States.

I spoke, learned, thought, read and wrote Spanish but as years passed and as I integrated myself in a predominantly English-Speaking country I rapidly moved away from my little Latin America. I was always my family’s interpreter. But as I made friends and attended school, English took over as my first language. Eventually Pop culture took its toll on my life and I fell into a world of hanging out, wanting sleepovers or become part of the Girl Scouts and thinking friends were family. Next thing you know, my parents were at a fervent struggle, with me in the middle and Anglo-America on the other side tugging.

However, there was one thing that kept me from losing my identity…one thing my parents never forgot to remind me by doing this one thing….and that is Speaking Spanish. A language in which constantly reminded me where I came from, enforcing all I was taught through that language. And so I ask myself one perplexing question….why are so many families…as I have witnessed…within our own community so reluctant to pass this on to their first generation Latino-American children?

Walking down the street of NYC or riding its trains and buses I sometimes listen to Latino immigrant parents speaking to their children in English and sometimes when their children attempt to speak Spanish they would correct them. I have also met young Latinos who would not speak a word of Spanish nor associate themselves with their culture. Instead they seemed very removed from this part of their identity.

Throughout my Graduate studies I found an answer to this question and much of it has to do with living in a country in which constantly promotes xenophobia. This country was established by immigrants and there has always been an influx of different ethnicities throughout our history. When Irish immigrants migrated to this country, similar animosity was expressed by alleged true Americans in the U.S. They were socio-economically set aside. At one point they co-habited positively with African Americans a group also set aside by American society. Seneca Village and Five Points were two historically recognized neighborhoods in which Irish and African Americans co-habited. However, the Irish had one benefit working to their advantage, their color. Soon, Americans were not able to bear the idea of a white group living with a group of color. They rapidly integrated themselves to American society all the while leaving their culture in an attempt to portray what an American was implied to be.

As many of us have watched documentaries or tuned in to the daily news we see, hear and read about “real Americans” and their anger towards Latino immigrants — “We’re in America, in this country we speak English”…”Why can’t they learn English?!”. Rejection, repugnance, disgust are all expressed through crimes and even policy making on behalf of state governments.

Many immigrant parents feel and see this animosity and thus naturally feel the need to protect their children from hate and anger simply because of where they come from. Many then feel they need to inculcate their children the American way in order to be accepted by society, not realizing they were aiding in burying an important part of their identity.

Seventy-Five Percent of the world does not speaking English. That means English is only a small part of humanity. Everything else is composed of different colors, languages, food, history, politics, religion, etc. And the United States should represent what this country truly is…a country of Immigrants. An example of how humanity can live in harmony regardless of differences.

And as Latinos, we should be a little stronger than that and strengthen our identities through language because it is nevertheless our only enduring door to our rich and beautiful culture that many of us still take pride in.

 

The Pilgrims did not knock at this Latina’s door….

24 Nov

Instead this day will be another day of  thanking an all-mightier power for all that my family and I have been blessed with. And acknowledging the struggles/obstacles that each one of us have gone through and OUR ancestors have gone through, so we could be where we are today.   It is a day of reflection – a day in which many have a pre-concieved notion honoring pilgrims and idolizing a capitalized image of an American Thanksgiving.

In school, we cut out turkeys and read a few paragraphs in our textbooks on how the pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower; met with this country’s Native’s and as they founded a friendship, they sat together and ate in harmony.  Its a nice fairy tale the academic system likes to brainwash us with as children but as an adult, growing up in a “non-American” household, daughter of Latino immigrants you learn to accept reality in your life very early in life.  Our school textbooks did not touch upon biological plagues colonists brought to Natives or violence that was inflicted upon them resulting in a mass genocide and segregation of Native Americans in this country by these so-called friendly foreigners.  Instead, many parents choose a fictitious and fairy tale method of teaching, establishing an invisible blind-fold on their children’s eyes perpetuating a vicious cycle of traditions founded upon lies.

Married with an American man has brought this day in a whole new light this year as we prepare to share Thanksgiving as a family.  A new family has been established with two completely different worlds but somehow that is the reason why I have accepted this day but in a different manner.  I will not honor this day to give thanks to those so-called happy go lucky pilgrims–whom for most part brought diseases and violence to the Indigenous Natives of this country.  In respect to this day, it will be honored as a day of reflection as to the sacrifices my ancestors, throughout my family’s history have made on all levels because if it was not for them, I would not be where I am today. While I’ll be making Candied Sweet Potatoes, my mother in law the stuffing and my mom the turkey — we will be sitting down reflecting and thanking for literally bringing two completely different worlds together and finding an alternate and new ritual to us Giving Thanks…..

 

The Vicious Cycle of Anti-Immigrant Policies

10 Sep

“RESTRICT ALL IMMIGRATION PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN AGAINST RUINOUS LABOR AND BUSINESS COMPETITION THROUGH UNRESTRICTED IMMIGRATION”

Based on the language of above-mentioned quote, one can link it to today’s current issues in our country but if one would inquire where it came from, this was written in a newspaper article in the early twentieth century–now blown up as a large poster board in one of Ellis Island’s exhibits, describing the xenophobic sentiments and policies generated and promoted throughout that time.  Individuals from Irish, Italian, Polish and Scandinavian descent were cast aside and fell victims to violence, harassment and persecution simply because of their migratory status.

Towards the late nineteenth century, President Wilson’s Immigration Act of 1882 restricted the influx of immigrants, denying uneducated immigrants to this country and specifically denying Chinese immigrants the right to migrate to the U.S.  The Temporary Quota Act of 1921 during President Hoover’s administration monitored the amount of immigrants coming into this country from Europe.  The National Origins Act of 1924 opened doors for massive Irish migration unlike the massive restriction of Italian migration to this country (65,700 Irish immigrants compared to 5,000 Italian immigrants coming into the U.S. ‘Data based on Erickson-Coble’s study).

Prior information is only a minute explanation of this country’s vicious cycle of anti-immigrant sentiment which creates a paradox since this IS the only country established by immigrants. Today we are faced with the Arizona law SB1070. Rhode Island, Florida, Massachusetts and New Mexico are some of the states in this country who have begun proposing anti-immigrant policies within their states. These policies proposed by individuals which if we were to take it upon ourselves to research are more than likely, unless they are 100% Native American, descendants of immigrants.  However, the argument to a comment such as the one I just mentioned would be that their descendants arrived here under legal conditions but this too can be questioned.

This country was found through blood-shed and war, internally and externally.  The history that is neglected by much of academia from grades K-12 is the mass genocide of real natives by settlers who are now ancestors of many of these anti-immigrant politicians and individuals.  Under basic human law, the morality of how this country came to be founded, can be considered illegal thus deeming all of us, with the exception of Native Americans, illegals.  So how can the pot call the kettle black?

These anti-immigrant policies promote violence, xenophobia and racism within a society that is not fully educated within the field and importance of immigration.  We have slowly witnessed the increase of violence towards the Latino community.  Just as anti-immigrant policies are being promoted and increasing, so are hate crimes.  The murder of an Ecuadorian immigrant in Long Island, a group of Guatemalan immigrants in Brooklyn, Mexican immigrants in Staten Island are some of the cases we see on the 6pm or 11pm news.  What we do not see is a discrete and social impact these policies have amongst us.  This I can attest to…

As many New Yorkers can relate, we constantly witness or are part of confrontations during our travels.  And I myself have heard or seen a shift in some of these confrontations.  In a city full of diversity and modernity one cannot imagine racism would exist but it does.  If one is brown, the usual stereotype these days is that we are illegal or we do not speak Spanish.  Ignorance + Anti-Immigrant Policies= Hate…this formula has viciously transcended into our daily lives.  I myself have been witness to comments such as, “GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY, YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!!!”, “THIS IS AMERICA, LEARN TO SPEAK ENGLISH”, “SPIC!”  Words that are freely used by a individuals young/old and who consider themselves, “American”.  But I ask myself what is American?  Latinos are American, all of us by birth, for we come from only a different part of America.  And English is not a native language, for it is a language brought forth by European immigrants who in some shape or form forcefully established themselves in a country already inhabited by Native Americans all whom have been in some form been cast aside from asserting what can be considered an illegal immigrant.

Every country has every right to control their own borders, to that extent I can agree.  However, immigration reform policy is urgently needed.  Current policies only repeat the mistakes of administration’s pasts and ignite the same hate Western European immigrants had for Eastern European immigrants in the late nineteenth century or Protestant immigrants had for Catholic Immigrants in the early twentieth century. Today, Latinos are the second largest consumers in the USA and hold important roles within the labor market, illegal or legal.  Our community and influence is embedded within the market therefore in a highly globalized country we are essential to this country’s past, present and future.

What is a Wedding?

20 Aug

According to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, the divorce rate is up at 41% in the United States for first marriages, 60% for second and 74% for third marriages.  Thanks to pop-culture, weddings have their own channels and shows such as Bridezilla, Girl Meets Gown, My Fair Wedding…amongst many others.  Many women wait for “The One” to go down in one knee and ask those magic words…”Will You Marry Me?”  As one tears, cries, screams, jumps or expresses any form of positive emotion of happiness, “YES!!” is more than likely the answer or any other synonym with the same definition.  At that moment family and friends are notified and thus begins a joyous event, Planning for the BIG DAY!! And as months pass by—usually six months to a year– everything becomes “ALL ABOUT THE BRIDE”.  This pattern tirelessly resonates through various sources of media enforcing a Twilight Zone Version of what I would like to call “Zombie Queens”.

Simone De Beauvoir’s Second Sex, explores in a perplexive manner how women have always managed to remain as the Other, individuals inferior to men in all aspects.  And at one point explores women and their significance to their role of inferiority in society.  The refusal to denounce and reject certain aspects they deem as comfort while rejecting others does not entirely eliminate the superior-inferior relationship men and women have in society.  This is clearly evident in American culture.  As boyfriend and girlfriend, women claim independence, yet many expect men to pay for dinner or take them out.  When one is engaged, their female peers anxiously await the sight of the ring, so it could be valued. (Didn’t know Love had value?).  The story of how he proposed is another method of measuring the love and respect a man has for the woman that is to be his wife.  And finally, a wedding is defined by the amount of guests, invitations, dress, cake, and whatever else will lead to debt and headaches….all to make a woman feel like a Queen??  I don’t think so….

As a Latina, weddings are the Happily Ever After in all novelas.  Family and friends together in a church…the bride all in white, saying “Si, Te Amo” to the man of her dreams after so much drama and struggle for the last six months airing in Telemundo or Univision.  The concept is similar all over the world, but how it is done or percieved is very different…trust me, I’ve lived in two worlds my whole life.  Now, as my turn approaches, the wedding spotlight has turned to my partner and I.  And how WE have chosen to do it, results in criticism as we do not abide by the conventional notions of what a wedding or two people getting married looks like.

My rejection of “All About the Bride”, “Queen for A Day” or my reluctance to constantly babble about my wedding to whomever I talk to has led individuals to believe or question the emotion, called love and my individuality as a woman…or atleast what is perceived as independence within our society.  Most of all my behavior apparently resonates how a man typically perceives a wedding to be….just another thing in life.  Yet my rejection for conventional notions of a wedding is my rejection to being, Simone De Beauvoir’s, the Other.

As a little girl, I did not grow up thinking I was a Princess nor did I dream of my wedding day to be my day.  A wedding is a union of two people in love, who both decide to come together to share their life as equals.  It is a part of life, nothing more.  The anticipation of a wedding has become more crucial than the question whether two people can remain together and respect each other as equals.   The question of what is to come after the BIG DAY?, has been lost in translation somewhere in the question of when and how the wedding will be?  Many women absorb themselves in the hype.  All the same questions are asked by many brides…the napkins, the hall, the church, the dress, the make-up, the gifts…and so on. In result, as people who have gone to more than one wedding can attest to they all end up the same, just different styles, locations, colors and dates.  And when the BIG DAY turns into yesterday,and there are bills to pay, the inability to pay rent or a mortgage or another type of loan, or your partner gets “boring” — more than likely that QUEEN, turns into another statistic.

The unity between two beings–regardless of sex or gender, should be the union of equals.  Notions of respect and equality should resonate.  And that is what should be present as two people approach just another event in their lives.  The how a wedding was celebrated question and expectation resonated by many women only objectifies us and sustains our status of inferiority in society.  The question of how a wife or partner should be treated in a marriage should be of importance instead…not an over-commercialized, overrated notion of what a wedding should be.

Marcelo Lucero – You are remembered…

6 Nov

As a Latina but most of all an Ecuadorean American, Marcelo Lucero will always share a part of my identity.  On November 8, 2008, this Ecuadorian immigrant was beaten and stabbed to his death by seven teenagers in Patchogue, Long Island.  As Mr. Lucero was walking to a friend’s house, these teenagers who were “Beaner-Hopping” confused him as a Mexican, beat him and with a stab in the chest, killed him.  Regardless of the assumption made by Suffolk County’s Executive Steve Levy, his death was not a “One Day Story”.  Instead it has opened a Pandora’s Box which can no longer be ignored.

Post World War II, Long Island attracted manufacturing jobs.  But in the ‘90’s the decrease of the industry made room for private sector jobs.  As the industry expanded so did residents’ incomes and so did their need for low-wage labor. Service industries within restaurants, landscaping, construction and domestic work aided Long Island’s economy but enforced an informal labor market consisting of predominantly Latino immigrants.

Latinos compose 12% of the Long Island population, pronouncing itself the largest minority.  Most of them low-wage workers, endure long hours, unsafe working conditions, low wages and no job security.  Individuals such as Marcelo Lucero were a part of this community.  Latino immigrants have forged an essential role within Suffolk County, but their “status” marginalizes them from the rest of society thus conceding to a sense of vulnerability.  The lack of proper immigration reform has permitted hate crimes and exploitative practices towards our community.  And has forcibly silenced many.

This “silence” is no conundrum.  Their “illegal” status silences them out of fear.  Fear not only of the people around them but of politicians.  Politicians who have and are adding fuel to the fire.  Politicians who stereotype and avidly express anti-immigrant sentiment and support for legislation promoting such, teach their followers the same.  The only difference is that through ignorance; hate, xenophobia, racism or whatever one chooses to call it will reflect through violence.  And if politicians are against the community, then “silence” is the best option.  But this should not be their, our only choice or even a choice at all.

The term “illegal” should not be used as a way of setting a community aside and placing them in the shadows of silence.  The lack of legality in this country should not dehumanize them.  Everyone is entitled to the right to life.  Regardless of color, race, sex, gender, status…we are all human beings and have a place in this world.  Marcelo Lucero had one as well as many of the Marcelo Luceros in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York State…the United States.  We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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