Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Project Run-awry

On project runway this season, two contestants stood out for very different reasons. Mondo emerged as a season favorite, with his quirky designs and impeccable design work while Micheal Costello was bullied and looked down upon due to his lack of technical knowledge, despite making it to the final four. But aside from the world of design, the two castmates had some similar personal stories to share. Mondo revealed, in a touching episode about personal memories, that he was HIV positive and had been carrying that secret with him for a while. He discussed that he hid his status from his parents because he didn’t want to hurt or burden them with the knowledge and then shared his upbringing. He spoke of how, as a child, his parents had tried to make him more ‘machismo.’ I thought this was interesting, not simply because it was discussed in class, but because of the seemingly pervasiveness of this notion. In a society where we glorify and explicitly distinguish between masculine and female effects, any individual attempting to cross the peripheries of such boundaries faces confusion and even non-acceptance into society. The idea of ‘machismo’ is not simply a Mexican or Latino concept; rather, this idea of ‘machismo’ and playing up masculine (or feminine) traits extends to all societies to an extent and one of the largest barriers for homosexuals and individuals alike. Mondo continued and said how growing up in a Mexican Catholic family led to “different expectations” and how, as a teen, his parents tried to make him play baseball instead of piano. I can understand how culture- any culture, not simply Mexican, or Mexican-Catholic- can foster this sense of identity that excludes the idea of homosexuality or the notion of being different. Mondo ends with “You might doubt if you draw or paint, it might take a little while. But I’m happy.” It was comforting to see that despite personal turmoil, or perhaps due to that, Mondo was able to arrive at a place of comfort, acceptance and peace.

Likewise, Micheal Costello relates a similar story, speaking of unsupportive parents, how him being gay and working in the fashion industry has alienated his parents but in spite of that, he’s very proud of what he has achieved and how far he has come. Both their stories have a common thread of fear and lack of acceptance which stem from a variety of reasons- being gay, working in the fashion industry, HIV- but ultimately celebrate the very basic and universal idea of overcoming obstacles and loving oneself. The insecurities and fears both men revealed were abated and even celebrated when they were able to challenge normalcy and embody greatness.

Desperate for Culture

Recently on desperate housewives, Mexican american family Gabby and Carlos Solis discovered that their child Juanita was actually mistakenly switched at birth and their true biological child had been placed with another Mexican family. This story line has been one of the most interesting to me, not simply because of the sheer emotion and drama the situation has induced but also how it brings to light some interesting sides to the Solis family. The contrast between Gabby and Carlos Solis and Hector and his wife are striking; the new couple highlights the Mexican culture for the Solis family and the extent of its importance. In once scene, Gabby brings home groceries for a ‘Mexican’ oriented Thanksgiving dinner for Hector’s family and hers. The exchange between Gabby and her husband is worth noting.

Gabby: (rummaging through her grocieries) : tamales, frijoles, chorizo stuffing, jalepeno cornbread,...

Carlos asks : where are the cranberries sauce and yams?

Gabby: I wanted to make some of their favorite foods and since they’re used to their mexican dishes..

Carlos: That was very nice of you!

Gabby: I know...Now get to cooking!

Carlos: What??

Gabby: You’re the one who knows about mexican stuff! You roll your r’s, you call soccer “futbol”

Carlos: your mocking me because im proud of culture

Gabby: no im celebrating it..theres two bags of your culture right there! get cooking!

and later in the episode:

gabby: i made margaritas!

Carlos: she is very proud of her culture

This episode, among others, highlights Gabby’s disconnect with her Mexican heritage. This is contrasted with another Mexican couple, who appear to be very in tune with their Mexican background. I wonder, does culture become distilled with wealth? As people move into the higher, upper echelons of 'white' encrusted society, do the roots of culture become less visible and important? I don’t think so- the wealth and luxury of living clearly hasn’t effected Carlos’s attachment to his heritage. I believe that Gabby’s distance from her Mexican heritage has a lot to do with her heritage itself; in past seasons, we’ve learned that she came from a poorer family and that shes always dreamed of ‘making it big’ and escaping her situation; she wanted to very much be a part of that society where jewels, fame,wealth and grandeur were commonplace and jimmy choos were the token of exchange, not tamales. The distance with her culture that is visible on screen, i think, is rooted in personal and emotional conflict and it is that very turmoil she sees manifested in her biological child- a beautiful young girl, stuck in a poorer family, who longs for finer things. Gabby’s detachment from her culture is not necessarily a distaste for her Mexican upbringing but rather, a separation from her past and all things associated with it. It is for this reason that I don’t find her aloof superficiality or nonchalant generalizations about Mexican Culture offensive or demoralizing; rather, I find it a product of her own personal journey. When she very poignantly gives Grace an expensive necklace, it’s not materialism or a disregard for hollow and meaningless she is promoting; rather, it is a tangible part of her that she is giving without words. I just hope that through the course of the season, she can come more to terms with her heritage and past in ways that extend beyond Chanel and Prada.

Clandestine drafting of Arizona immigration law

A couple of weeks ago I found an investigation npr did not the Arizona immigration law that was passed through its state legislature in April of 2010. SB 1070 allows police authorities to stop and request at random, citizenship information/identification from anyone in public. The law encourages racial profiling and targets people of color specifically. If caught without proper paperwork of legal residency in the US, a person is liable to get arrested and be deported. This law raised quite a bit of controversy in the US. Recently, npr did an investigation and found that the private prison industry played a major role in the drafting and initiation of this bill. When I first read this article, I wondered what prisons might have to do with the bill. Apparently, Glenn Nichols, the city manager of a small town in Arizona was approached by two men from the private prison industry. They were selling a prison for immigrant/illegal women and children. They argued that per woman or child imprisoned, the town would be making a lot of money. Npr found that prison companies devised this plan to lock up illegal immigrants so they could make consistent profit off the prisoners. This plan was drafted into a bill and passed as a law. It was backed by many of the state’s officials who supported it on the grounds that it was a safety measure. The notion that a state can derive revenue from locking up illegal immigrants is not only racist but also sexist. Not only are all immigrant women, children and men threatened with deportation, they are also subject to serious racial profiling in public spaces. The private prison system is of course shady because it aims to make money off of prisoners. Its newest design is manipulative and interestingly, relies on illegal immigrants. While national dominant rhetoric often implicates illegal immigrants for plaguing the country, private prisons use the animosity towards immigrants to make money. Under the pretense of ‘safe neighborhood’ act, the bill passed through the Arizona legislature. What is extremely interesting is the profit motive behind locking innocent people up. The infringement of basic human right to privacy is evident because anyone of color is liable to be an illegal immigrant. That the private prison system and the state profit from the ‘safe neighborhood act’ is strengthened by the evidence npr collected.

Check out the story http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741
Also, check out the article http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741&sc=emaf

ANTM: Latina

I was watching TV when a commercial for "Next Top Model Latina" came on the screen. I decided to look it up to view a few of the auditions--now of course there are actual episodes. This is actually the tamest of the auditions I found.

The judges were rather harsh and focused much more on the racial appearance than the judges on the original ANTM. The judge in the middle was outright rude, telling some girls they overtweezed their eyebrows or their make up was too heavy (alluding to the "excess" theme we talked about in class). She even told one girl that she needed to wear a better bra and hinted that perhaps her butt was a little too big.

It seems interesting to me that this was one of the only girl's auditions shown in which the judges actually liked the candidate. Coincidentally, she was the one who seemed the least "Latina." As we read about in the American Images article, this girl had an olive complexion and a generic face that could pass as Latina or be ambiguous. She was also wearing the least showy clothing out of the other candidates, as most of them wore tight skirts and cleavage bearing shirts.

This show really reminded me of the article and what works for advertising, especially if you want to appeal to both the Latina and Anglo groups.

Empowerment Through Film: Maria Felix plays Juana Gallo

Maria Felix was a Mexican Film Actress and also one of the icons that came out of the Golden Age of Cinema in Mexico that lasted from 1935 to 1959. Although she never claimed to be a feminist she did a lot to empower women and to be idolized by feminists in Mexico and also Gay men. Many of her roles consisted of her being "La Doña"/The Boss and she rarely every played a part in which she was under the domination of any man. I loooooove Maria Felix! One of my favorite movies by her is Juana Gallo. Juana Gallo is about a legendary woman who played a big part in the Mexican Revolution. She was a strong fighter and led a group of men during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. This was significant because during this time, up until the 1930's there were laws that prohibited women from even moving out of their homes unless they married or turned 30 or so. This movie sends empowerment through film to women especially because of the fact that Juana Gallo's agency is clearly exercised when she decides to take a big part in the Mexican Revolution. When discussing disidentifications with Ivan a few weeks ago I thought of Juana Gallo and how she would fit into that whole picture. I think that many gay mexicans, aside from myself, can disidentify with Juana Gallo in the sense that the movie was probably not intended to attract gay men. But, none the less, gay men embraced the film because it completely goes against the norm that women are subservient to "macho" dominant men. I'm not sure if anyone would agree with me that this character, Juana Gallo, can be an icon that the gay mexican can disidentify with but I think it does.

Representations of Undocumented Immigrants: Sharon Angle vs. Under The Same Moon

Sharon Angle ran for Senate during these past November 2nd elections. Thankfully, she LOST. She followed a very common pattern of scapegoating, if you will, during a time of economic crisis when all resources seem to be "taken up" by undocumented immigrants who don't pay taxes. In a video she approved/sponsored undocumented mexican immigrants are villainized while a white couple and white children are victimized. The white characters in the ad are said to be "forced to live in fear" due to the presence of undocumented immigrants who "cross our borders to join gangs." The video is extremely problematic and it became even more so when Sharon Angle was confronted by a group of Mexican students at a school in Nevada, the state she was running for Senate in. When asked about the undocumented immigrants crossing the US-Mexico Border she said that she didn't even know if the people crossing the border in the commercial were Mexican. She claimed to not even know what Mexicans looked like. There is not one standard way to identify what a mexican "looks like" but the people depicted in the ad were for sure Latinos. All of the images of undocumented immigrants were of Men. I think this has to do with the fact that its more difficult to see a woman breaking the law, or of projecting an evil image while showing women. In this sense the commercial is gendered in such a way that more fear is supposed to be translated through the campaign ad. In my 2nd paper that I wrote for this class I discuss how these images of undocumented immigrants dehumanize those being portrayed because they show them in an extremely negative light. Under the Same Moon on the other hand, a movie released in 2008 about an undocumented mother and her child, does the exact opposite. It shows a more realistic view of what undocumented immigrants experience while living in the United States. What I found interesting about the film Under the Same Moon was that all of the white characters were "bad guys." This is exactly what critics pointed out in all the reviews that I read. They were extremely disturbed by it. It may be exaggerated but none the less its the same type of strategy that is used by the anti-immigrant community to make latino immigrants look like the "Bad guys." There is a ton of information out there that easily dismantles this so-called "Latino threat" by the undocumented community but these negative portrayals of undocumented immigrants are still taken in as truths.

Rupaul's Drag Race and Latin@ Queens

RuPaul's Drag Race, which airs on LOGO and logoonline.com is a combination of America's Next Top Model and Project Runway with contestants who are drag queens and female illusionists. I love this show. (As problematic as any beauty contest may be) So far there have been 2 seasons of this show and I could not help but notice something extremely disturbing about it. The ways in which the Puerto Rican Latinas have been treated because of their so-called "language skills."

For the finale of season 1, Nina Flowers and Bebe Zahara Benet were the two finalists. Both Bebe and Nina had accents but on was a French accent and the other was a Puerto Rican accent. Not once on the show was Bebe looked down upon because of her accent, yet that seemed to be the central focus when it came to Nina Flowers' air time and it is almost the main reason as to why she did not win the contest. According to Rupaul, "She would not be able to communicate well enough with her fan base." Her prediction was so weak and so wrong.

When the public was given the opportunity to use for their favorite Drag Queen, Nina Flowers won. Obviously, Nina's "language problem" was not really seen as an issue for the audience of the show. Nina Flowers lost the title becauuse she was not fluent in English. Spanish was her primary language. To keep this short, Jessica Wild in season 2 was also eliminated during episode 7 due to her "language skills." When Jessica Wild proposed her new book to be titled, "Dreams of a Golden Child" the cast members and judges laughed and asked if she was saying "golden shower" because they could not understand what she was saying. WTF. That is so not cool. That moment really upset me. Could they not see that they were humiliating one of the sweetest contestants on the show when she was not laughing at their comment. Poor Jessica Wild didn't even know what a Golden Shower was.

My point is this, as progressive and transgressive as Rupaul may claim to be, she is still perpetuating the notion of America being and "English Only" nation. She is the one in charge of picking the cast and season 3 (which will air this January 2011) has a contestant by the name of Yara Sofia. Yara Sofia is from Puerto Rico and has been part of the same dance club (club krash) where Jessica Wild and Nina Flowers came from. Given what has happened with both Jessica Wild and Nina Flowers it is very disappointing to already know that Yara Sofia will not win because she, just as Nina and Jessica, is not fluent in English. Why must Rupaul knowingly allow these girls to compete if she will not give them a chance to win? Many argue that at least Rupaul helps them in gaining exposure and thus leading to more successful drag careers. I beg to differ. To be content with exposure, while being denied an opportunity to win is almost like saying "Well, at least they're being represented, that should be more than enough." That is not right, its not fair, and its really disappointing to hear Rupaul, one of my great idols, to say these things.


I'm a big Rent fan, I watched the movies and have gone to see the broadway play. It's such a great musical, but never realized how stereotypical it could be. Take the character Mimi Marquez, she's a stripper, goes to clubs and dances for money, she is also a druggie, she needs her coke. She is a hyper-sexualized character who falls in love with Roger, the rockstar. And did I mention she's latino.

In the play she does a strip tease, and even tries to serenade Roger, who resists. He is angered for the fact that she broke into his place and claims to not wanting to be bothered. She's love sick for Roger and just wants to be his.

When she runs away the voice play call says, "Mimi chica, Donde Estas?, Tu Mama, ..." and repeats itself. We were never told that she was latino, nor the fact that she could speak spanish. But why does she have to play the stripper/druggie? Why couldn't it have been Maureen or Joanne?

Sofia Vergara through the years


For some reason, I thought that Sofia Vergara was part of a show called "Lente Loco" I remembered watching her on T.V and I could have sworn that she was in that show. However, after I tried to look her up, I wasn't getting anything under that show, it was then that I discovered that the show that she was actually in was called "Fuera de Serie". I managed to find of video of Sofia Vergara as a reporter. In that show she was the side kick of the main reporter who now does "Republica Deportiva", Fernando Fiori. Although this clip mostly deals with El Salvador, you can kind of see Vergara's role in the show. Although she does do the interviews indeed and it is her voice that you hear when she's describing the country of El Salvador, she manages to prank her co star by feeding him extremely spicy food. While he actually does much of the interview.

It is also interesting to note her appearance. Although she is still wearing somewhat tight clothes, he hair is actually blonde. Even though she has an accent because she is indeed from Colombia, her voice is soft and smooth unlike the picture we see now in Modern Family. The fact that he hair was blonde actually reminded me of an early class discussion that we had during the semester when we talked about how Latinas have to dye their hair dark brown in order to live up to the "sexy Latina" image. Clearly there is a huge difference between the image that Sofia Vergara had then to the image that we see now in Modern Family.

Buzz Lightyear's gone Spanish

Has anyone watched Toy Story 3? When Woody comes back to the day care to save the day, the toy's run into one big problem. Buzz has been programed under the control of the evil toys, so Woody and his pals try to reset Buzz back to normal. Little did they know, Rex put his finger in the reset button for too long and put Buzz in Spanish mode.


How racist was the fact that Buzz could change so much? Not only did he speak Spanish, but all of his mannerisms changed. He became "suave". He started dancing and doing flamboyant poses. Talk about being over the top? Right when he finds out that Woody is a friend not foe, he gives Woody a kiss on each cheek. Also the music they play in the background every time Buzz did a dance move was latinized. He also becomes romanticized, falling in love with his friend Jesse, the cow girl.

Just because he's Spanish they turn him into an overly dramatic character that turns every move into a dance. Of course they had to add some Latin flare.

Baseball and the Fernandomania of the 80's


After our discussion in class about Latinos in Baseball, I decided to write my second essay on the role of Latinos in modern day baseball. One of my examples was that of Fernando Valenzuela and the Dodgers organization. Although in this clip, they are mainly talking about near the end of his career after his amazing season in '81, the clip sheds some light on the controversial decision by the Dodgers organization in '89 to let him go after they had used him a lot. More than anything this clip shows the sense of betrayal from Latino commentators, after all...if you actually watch the entire show (there are 4 clips), you get a sense that Valenzuela's success was felt throughout a nation. Fernando, pitched his first major league game in '80 when he was only 19 years old. Born and raised in Mexico, people really looked up to him, and during the '82-'83 seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers had the highest attendance because everyone wanted to see the rookie pitch. Yet, as the clip shows, throughout the years there has been a lot of controversy surrounding whether Fernando Valenzuela was over worked. It was because of constant use that his arm finally gives out in '89 and which leads to the Dodgers releasing him that year. Now, my argument here lies in the fact that because Fernando Valenzuela was Latino, he didn't get the same treatment as other pitchers, and although he created what became to be known in Dodgers history as "Fernandomania", Fernando Valenzuela did not get enough votes to earn a spot in the hall of fame.

After their decision in '89, it wasn't until 2003 that the Dodgers offered Valenzuela a permanent job as a Spanish broadcaster. In my opinion the job came very late, as I have a feeling that he deserved a lot more recognition for his extraordinary performance. Valenzuela in a way led the way for other Mexican pitchers who would later enter the game, and he had an nice and clean image in front of his people. Valenzuela is still characterized by his level of humility and down to earth character. Last season, I went to a Dodger game with my dad and as we were walking out, Fernando Valenzuela was also leaving the stadium. My dad was wearing his jersey and Fernando stopped to autograph his jersey. It is nice that after all these years, he still takes time to stay and sign autographs because people still remember his legacy, especially the Latino community

Las Mujeres Mandan

People love her. People hate her. Paquita la del Barrio can be considered a controversial singer in Spanish music for her biting lyrics that lashes out at her past lovers ripping them apart piece by piece until they are completely destroyed. Her music was what I grew up listening as my mother is a die-hard fan. I had an extreme dislike toward my mother’s music, until recently as I started to understand what she is listening to. I’ve developed a new appreciation and in further researching Paquita she speaks with a voice that has been unheard of.

Paquita’s most recent release includes a song called “Las Mujeres Mandan” which is also the title of her CD. I came across the following video for the song:

Paquita stands as a voice for women, encouraging them to take charge against the abuses of men. In several scenes you see women doing this by picketing, kneeing men to the groin and pushing them down after they call ‘cat call’ them. Paquita is seen as a leadership figure in the video rallying the women. She is on the cover of a magazine, holding a press conference, and sitting behind a desk delegating. Within rancheras, she is a leader in her genre of music breaking grounds for women to speak out. I found the video interesting as in a sense it reflects that.

Hierarchies within Race

The other day in lecture, someone brought up the idea of hierarchies within race due to their skin color. Latinos that are lighter-skinned are more readily accepted into the white culture because in a sense they blend in more. This also made me think of the first day of class where we attempted to define ‘Latin@’ and the discussion of census categories arose. Latinos can be classified as “white,” however this is not how the group is treated. Latinos are marginalized in treated in a discriminatory manner, not one of white status. However, then another issue is of how “light” is still not white thus yielding a question of authenticity and all of the discriminatory notions that permeates within society.

In a research paper I did for another class I came across Ilan Stavans’ article “Living in Another Language” who discusses from his personal experience people’s reactions to being a white- skinned Hispanic. He states how “society in the Americas has been structured by class. And class is often defined by degrees of foreignness. Thus, as a white-skinned Hispanic, I was automatically awarded a higher status, and among the Latino community in New York, that status again - attached to my Jewishness - opened doors to me” (Stavans 166). In my personal experience, I am a light-skinned Latina with a white name. People argue with me and state that I am not in fact Latina and of another ethnicity. But really, what does it matter and whose business is it anyway? Unfortunately, as Stavans indicates it does matter because of society’s perception and the importance placed on appearance.

Reference to: Stavans, Ilan. “Living in Another Language.” New England Review Vol. 22, No. 3 (Summer, 2001), pp. 168-172

Untitled (Perfect Lovers)

Untitled (Perfect Lovers)

Felix Gonzalez-Torres was a Cuban-American artist who's many ephemeral pieces were a tribute to his dead partner (Ross Laycock) and a commemoration of the many who succumbed to AIDS. In this piece, two clocks are side by side and both begin with the same time. However, as time goes by, they fall out of sync, representing the ways in which relationships change and transform over time (i.e., two individuals can start out in the "same" place but because of life, circumstance and chance, positionality and the dynamic of the relationship can shift and transform).

I think that this sends a really profound and important message. Because life is liminal and everyone will eventually die, an exhibit like this forces a person to consider their own mortality. Also, the perception that a relationship is supposed to last forever with two people growing closer together seems to be some sort of social ideal deeply inscribed into our consciousness. This, however, is not very realistic. Through time people change and are transformed by experience. There is nothing tragic or sad about this, it is just a fact of life for many of us. Though it may be a difficult issue to approach for some, this exhibit, in a sense, legitimizes relationships that are not permanent and that do end. Just because something does not last forever does not mean that it was not valid, legitimate or sincere during it's lifespan.

Works like this yield a certain legitimacy to love, even when it is ephemeral, but also death. They allow us to consider love and relationships in different ways, as well as life and living. Often as "natural" human processes, this exhibit also reminds us that the way we understand love and death and life and living are because of socially constructed mores and values, not because of some innate or intrinsic hard wiring.

Chocolate Cake

Gabriel Iglesias Clip

I’m sure most of you have heard of Gabriel Iglesias. He’s a comedian well known on YouTube, he’s also from the bay area. He can also get pretty racy. Well, I posted one of his performance on chocolate cake, but wanted to focus of the ending of his performance. To be honest I laughed the whole way through.

My freshman year I used to watch YouTube comedies with my roommate. I’m Asian and she’s Mexican, doesn’t seem to matter but we would mainly watch stereotypical clips making fun of Asians and Mexicans, and thing’s wouldn’t be awkward between us.

I just thought it was funny how he imitated a hard accented voice, to a white voice trying to speak Spanish. While he spoke in a high pitched voice really fast, and the women’s voice was slow, and he didn’t pr enunciate the words correctly, making it sound white. I thought it was funny, how about everyone else?

Chi Chi Rodriguez, the Sword Dancer


If you haven’t heard of Chi Chi, I won’t be too offended. His real name is Juan Flores, nicknamed after the famous baseball player, Chi Chi Flores. But in the golf world, he continues to be known as Chi Chi Rodriguez. He is most famous for his “sword dance”. Chi Chi was born in Puerto Rico, he has had 8 victories on the PGA tour and 22 victories on the Champions Tour. He has had many accomplishments, such as member on the World Golf Hall of Fame, as well as a member of the World Humanitarian Sports Hall of Fame.

He not only was a great golfer but a great entertainer. It’s hard to say whether people watch him for his skill, or for his jokes and dances. I thought that this instance was funny, "Chi Chi, you didn't do your sword dance." I said, "Ma'am, that putt was for a double bogey." People must know, to make the monkey dance, you must first give him a banana.” I wonder if he get’s angry that people solely watch or regard him as the golfer who does the sword dance, or if that was his intention to start with? Golf's already boring to watch to start with, so maybe he was trying to "spice" things up.

Immigration Overload?


It is really hard for me to believe that people have such strong feelings against illegal immigrants. I thought that this was America? “Land of the free?” I wonder if this person understands how hard it is to become a legal immigrant. The chances of becoming legal, are not even that great, there are so many regulations to begin with. I come from an immigrant family, but honestly, who in America has not? When did they make legal become illegal? This guy must have really celebrated when Arizona passed their law. I was appalled by this message, because of his hatred for our nation to grow.

My parent’s immigrated from Korea. They came after they married because they wanted their children to have a better future. My mom was a nurse and my dad was an engineer, so they were well off to start. But aren’t most of our motives to move from country to country for the better of the future? It’s not like people are immigrating because they want to destroy other people’s countries. Everything comes at a cost, such as over population. We aren’t even that bad, shouldn’t we be caring more about how much in debt we are for handing out money we don’t have to other countries in need?

Consuela in Family Guy

I am sure many of you are familiar with the show Family Guy, and know that the show is shameless and not shy about playing with stereotypes. Of course, this is no different for the Hispanic character, and in fact, Consuela is the only Hispanic character I can think of that has ever made reoccurring appearances on the shows. Not to say that one isn’t enough, because she represents every single stereotype I can think of, and on top of that, the other characters constantly make racial statements around her.

To begin with, she is the maid. She doesn’t speak English properly and she is not very intelligent. When Louis introduces her to the family she responds, “Hello Misser Peter, hello miser children.” At one point, Stewie complains that he is missing some “play” money, which Consuela admits to stealing. Not only is she the typical stealing maid, but she is stupid enough to steal fake money. She is also portrayed as very rude and inconsiderate, for example when she plays her radio and television loudly, she brings her nephew to work without the family’s permission, she makes herself at home by elongating her stay even after she is fired, etc. They even make a "Are you smarter than a Hispanic maid?" parody of the show "Are you smarter than a fifth grader?" There are a few other instances where her family is mentioned, and in one of them we learn that her her nephew has been molested and then committed suicide, and another is when she goes visit her son in prison.


This blog entry is a response to a very old topic from Chicana Art. It has to do with fashion and making do with what you have. The essay speaks to the use of fashion/self-expression to "survive the adverse conditions of the urban environment... Fashion is the metaphor for the temporal nature of what it is to be 'normal'"(p81). Around the same time we read this essay I stumbled across this photo on a fashion blog and thought it was a cool snapshot of the congruity of fashion across class and culture. The grey stilettos are hot, but it is really the guy in the blue bandana who steals the shot.

Also, uniforms are meant to signify conformity, but the royal blue bandana wrapped around this guys head shows off his own unique style. I saw this as a form of breaking away from what may be considered 'normal' on his job, as you see the guy he's next to has on a white cap, which appears more conventional (not exactly extreme countercultural production, but he definitely stands out as an individual).

Lack of Representation

"The New Princess on the Block" blog really got me thinking about Disney. I am a fan of Disney and its shows and movies. But I after talking to my roommate about Disney, we realized that there is a lack of ethnic representation in Disney's current original programs. Shows include Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, Sonny with a Chance, The Suite Life on Deck, Phineas and Ferb, and such. I would think that after making several ethnic movies involving other races besides the predominant Anglo race, such as Mulan, Pocahontas, or Jasmin in Aladdin that more minorities would appear in Disney shows.
There are non-white characters in several Disney shows; however, they do not portray their culture, instead thsoe characters do not behave or represent their culture. Take London Tipton (Brenda Song) in The Suite Life on Deck for example. She is of an Asian background but her character reveals anything but Asian. What I mean by that is that we do not see any portrayal of an Asian culture. London Tipton is the daughter of a wealthy man who owns a hotel. Her mother, who is of Thai origin is never mentioned while her father, who is British is mentioned once or twice in the show. This illustrates the dominance of the Anglo culture because London's father, who is white is mentioned, whereas her mother, of Asian background is never mentioned.
Alex Russo (Selena Gomez) and her mother in Wizards of Waverly Place are Latinos as mentioned in one episode. In that episode, Alex's mother urges Alex to learn Spanish because she would like Alex to get in touch with her roots. It is evident that Alex struggles to learn Spanish, suggesting that she is drifting from her Latino roots and acculturating to the American culture.
It is clear that most Disney characters are white in shows such as Hannah Montana, Sonny with a Chance, etc. Even though there are a few that are non-white, their characters do not display any cultural traditions. So I wonder, as the United States become more and more diverse, why aren't the shows depicting that?

Excessive Sex Appeal in Commercials

It’s a well-known fact that sex appeal is widely used in commercials to entice viewers. As a result of our discussions on the sexual nature of Latina women and the masculine/sex appeal of Latino men one would stereotype that hyper-sexuality would be a common trend in Latin@ commercials. However, as the majority of society is blatantly aware, stereotypes are often not true, which is what I assumed would be true of most Latin@ commercials until I saw the one below.


It is an advertisement for voting and seems to be encouraging women to vote in the upcoming elections in Spain. It’s basically saying that you (women) can orgasm, just like the woman in the commercial, if you vote. I completely understand the reasoning behind the sexuality aspect and how usually it can be enticing to buyers/customers. However, in the context of voting this just seemed completely unnecessary and playing into the stereotypes of sexual Latin@ women. The weird thing about this commercial was that although the stereotypes of excessively sexual Latina women was maintained, if the commercial was in English you wouldn’t have been able to tell that they were Latin. Essentially the mixing of stereotypes in this commercial was interesting to me. Thinking about this commercial I was reminded of another stereotype ridden commercial, in terms of sexuality, that I’ve seen. I’ll post it too because it’s the comparison of the male version of selling Latin@ sexuality (primarily in the last scene), catering to both male and female audiences, in a way that is actually successful (although it also appeals to hyper-masculine ideals).


Ask a Chola

A few weeks ago, I noticed my friend posted a link to an article that talked about a recent online scandal between the infamous YouTube "Ask a Chola" comedian and a concerned viewer...as battle between the two unfolded, the concerned viewer told online audiences everywhere that the "chola" in the videos was not in fact a "chola," not even an ethnic-Mexican person...she outed the "chola" as actually being a young white woman named Chloe, living in a gentrified section of Santa Ana, a city in Orange County largely made up Mexican peoples. Aura, the woman who accused "Ask a Chola" of being an impostor and for ridiculing Chicana culture, sent a heated message on Facebook to all of the people who followed "Ask a Chola," asking of them to contact "Chloe" and tell her the damage she is doing to our communities...

After watching a few of the "Ask a Chola" videos, along with writings on the battle between Aura and Chloe, I began to wonder how people impersonate the Chola archetype within the media...Debra Wilson and Nicole Sullivan of Mad TV have done hilarious renditions of the chola image as Lida and Melina...Even though Debra is African American and Nicole is white, their representation of the chola did not seem to garner as much negative attention as other people in the past who have attempted to do the same, such as Gwen Stefani's "Luxurious" music video in which she dresses as a chola, with thick red lipstick, large hoops, and over-defined eyebrows...

My question would be, who is a chola? How does a chola act, dress, talk, etc.? But most importantly, who has the right to be a chola?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Illegal Baby Aliens

I recently read an article by CNN reporter, Rose Marie Arce, that discussed the issue of children who enter the U.S. illegally and are detained. The article's title gets straight to the point: "Detained immigrant children face legal maze in U.S." Arce discusses the problem that many detained children face upon crossing illegal: the legal battle that will decide where said children will end up. Most of these children do not have lawyers and must represent themselves in court; because of this arrangement many easily lose the battle and are sent back to where they came from. Unfortunately, many of these kids have crossed the border illegally to rejoin parents who have already done so and to escape from impoverished homes where a healthy future is not a likely scenario. Organization--like Kids in Need of Defense--exist to provide these kids with the representation they need to have a fair trial in which lawyers can clearly present the inadequacy of their homes and thus achieve an agreement which would allow such children to stay. Sadly, such groups are low on funding and, therefore, fail to provide these generous services to more than a few kids.

I found the article to be interesting because I feel that children are commonly overlooked when discussing the issue of illegal immigration.

Racialized depictions in Weeds

The television series Weeds, featured on Showtime, is a "dark comedy" depicting the life of Nancy Botwin and the choices she has made to support her family since her husband's untimely death. To make do, she decides to start selling drugs. Through various mishaps, she winds up moving to a fictional community near the San Ysidro border crossing to México where she ultimately becomes involved with a cartel kingpin who is also a prominent Mexican politician. She becomes increasingly exposed to violence and her own family is often at risk because of her decisions and associations. The Mexican characters on the show are depicted as corrupt and immoral, willing to do anything to further the drug trade. The insinuation of inherent corruptness and dysfunction proliferates much of the show, particularly when the privileged white characters constantly make racist comments about the Mexicans or "speak" in broken and offensive Spanish (e.g., adding o's to the end of English words to suggest that that somehow makes the word resemble Spanish).

This is quite problematic. The intention of the show may not be to reinforce negative or racist stereotypes but that is definitely one of the consequences. Though Mexicans as a group are not singled out (i.e., prejudicial comments are extended to nearly all marginalized social groups), it is still a bit excessive at times. Not everyone who is going to be consuming the show is aware of the ways in which certain statements or depictions may be incredibly problematic. Also, this type of humor has the tendency to codify and disseminate certain negative ideas that are not necessarily true. For instance, many people may not know much about México, but upon screening this series the idea that corruption proliferates all aspects of the governmental structure in ways which cannot even be compared to the United States is clearly articulated.

The point is that even when something seems funny, it can have very profound, negative effects and impacts. Humor can be used as a tool to tackle controversial or otherwise difficult to approach topics, but it can also (inadvertently) reinforce negative ideas and assumptions and diminish the possibility for individuals to exert their agency in productive ways (i.e., it becomes difficult to have to work against the negative stereotypes ingrained in the social imaginary when you belong to such a group).

SB 1070 . The Arizona Law

Throughout history immigration waves have altered. In the recent decades the Latino immigration waves have raised immensely. Although rhetorically the law is constitutional, in practice it is racial profiling. Recently, in my ethnic studies class we discussed what classified people as illegal aliens and a good percentage of my classmates responded by saying that the accent we,as Latinos, carry. I disagree with such assumption because my grandparent living here for five years still have an accent and they are soon to be United State citizens. I believe that SB1070 is an attack against Latinos, and after reading an article it made me begin to question who looked like a bigger fool, the government or the Latinos.http://www.examiner.com/immigration-reform-in-national/sb1070-has-resulted-mass-self-deportation-of-illegal-aliens-makes-critics-look-foolish The article explains different way that "illegal aliens" out did the government before being deported. School drop out have increased drastically in the state of Arizona.
I believe that is where one of the problem begins, the lack of education and understanding. Although it is clear "illegal aliens" came to the United States in illegal ways, it is important to remember why that occurred. Education and lack of opportunities in our home countries are the reason migrate here is for the same freedom that the Europeans conquered this land over 200 years ago.

Utah Vigilante Group

I remember reading a couple of articles a few months ago about a vigilante group in Utah that sent law enforcement officials and local media a list of 1300 "illegal immigrants." I remember being shocked about the amount of information the list is accredited with having. According to various articles, this list included the full names of people believed to be illegally in the country--including children--in some cases their social security numbers, telephone numbers, date of birth, and even identifies pregnant women along with expected due dates! The letter is signed by "Concerned Citizens of the United States" and demands the immediate deportation of those listed. Along with the list, the group provided an ominous note that confessed to voyeuristic methods of obtaining the given information. The group also stated that they have "infiltrated" these social networks via the help of "Mexican nationals." It must also be noted that after following a few of these leads it has been discovered that more than a few of those listed are in fact legal citizens.

I found this news to be not only horrifying but disgusting. The idea that this growing fear of illegal immigrants is quickly snowballing into a blatant violation of privacy is terrifying. I can only imagine the fear of being noticeably Latino/a and living in a state where the issue of immigration is quickly being seen as a severe threat and putting individuals seemingly at risk of being assaulted.

Diversity is Awesome!

When I was in high school in South East LA, I worked with a youth group called Youth for Environmental Justice. Unfortunately my hometown is more known for high school drop outs than high school graduates accepted into institutions of higher education. With this in mind, the group headed up to the bay area for the very first college trip sponsored by the group. Today they arrived in Berkeley and they asked me to give them a tour. Since I know the organization well I knew that I had to show the youth a different side of the university. I tried to emphasize the fact that life in college isn't always easy for students of color while still encouraging them to apply and attend. We spent a lot of time talking about diversity and what it means on a college campus especially after the end of affirmative action. They offered me a ride home to LA so I rolled with them on the rest of the tour.

We visited Santa Clara University, which is known for supporting undocumented students. This was an important stop for the group because a large number of folks are undocumented. Their contact at the university was a 3rd year student who received full funding as an undocumented student. The organizers expected a great tour which would emphasize some of the same points I did in Berkeley. Instead he focused a lot on pointing out how great the Missions of California are, since there is one located on campus. He also felt really uncomfortable when folks asked him about "racial tensions" on campus. This was a surprise to a lot of us since he said he was the cochair of MEChA on campus. The majority of the folks on the tour are Latin@ and working class, but they are also conscious youngsters who are not afraid to call out a college student on his blind spots. We also stopped by Stanford where a random guy told us that diversity on that campus was AWESOME!

This tour really made me think about identity politics and the power of institutions to force people of color to assimilate in an attempt to increase their social mobility.

Nationality and Race

Check out two of my favorite models: Arlenis Sosa and Sessilee Lopez (click to watch video). First, there is Arlenis, the very Dominican girl, accent and all; and then there's Sessilee, homegirl from Philly. Both of these models have mixed roots, with Arlenis from the DR and Sessilee from the states, but of Domincan, African-American, and Portuguese descent. These two models are noticeably dark-skinned revealing their African descent. I chose to share the two videos above for two reasons; the first being, the differences in the ways in which these two models are marketed (one as a Latina and the other as African-American), and the second is the presence or absence of an accent (or fluency in Spanish) that qualifies or disqualifies an Afro-Latina woman from being viewed and accepted as Latina.

At the beginning of the semester we were all engaged in a game of describing what it means to be Latin@. We came up with several qualifications, one of which being Spanish-speaking. Since Arlenis is fluent in Spanish and Sessilee is not one might question whether or not Sessilee is Laina, whereas Arlenis's latinidad is obvious the moment she begins to speak. Latin America, just like the U.S. has become typified and so have the people who reside in these places. When people think of the U.S. an all-American image comes to mind that does not include and represent the wide range of cultures and ethnicities that exist here. The same goes for Latin America; earlier in the course we discussed the preferred images of Latin Americans in the media, which are typically light-skinned with European features. All this does is render everyone who isn't white unimportant and invisible, and leaves the rest of the world to believe that Black Americas don't exist, Black Latin@s don't exist, Black Europeans don't exist, so on and so forth.

Another aspect of Afro-latinidad that I find interesting is the fine line between nationality and culture and race. In a place like the U.S. where race matters Afro-Latin@s are criticized for not looking Latin@. It seems though that Latin@ is a culture comprised of different races. To say someone doesn't look Latin@ is like saying someone doesn't look American, which sounds pretty ridiculous. Check out an article by another Afro-Latin@ on this topic.

Happy Thanks-Taking

In the recent political ads, the issue of illegal immigration is a hot-button issue that creates tense divisions among and within parties. Yet, we often get so caught up in the debate, that most of us, especially conservatives, forget the history of this nation was founded on people trying enter a land through illicit means. Instead, we see this event as a celebration – Thanksgiving. Why do we not scapegoat and criminalize this group of illegal immigrants (Pilgrims) but continue to terrorize others? It all comes down to who writes our history books.

In fourth grade, I remember how we spent Thanksgiving week making construction paper costumes of pilgrims and Indians. At the end of the week, we all donned our feathers and helmets and recreated the thanksgiving feast of goodwill and solidarity. My teacher always stressed how it was through working together that our “founding” fathers to this nation were able to survive. I never knew why we picked Nov. 25th as the official Thanksgiving holiday, but after some reading I found out that Nov. 25th goes much further back in time than when the Pilgrims landed by Plymouth Rock. It was during the late 15th century when Spain, on Nov. 25 1491, defeated the last Muslim country. On this day, the Pope declared this day to be forever a day of Thanksgiving for all European Christians.

Rap artist Rass Kass in “Nature of the Threat” speaks of this alternative history of Thanksgiving in his song “Nature of Threat:”

“On November 25th, 1491
Santiago defeats the last Muslim stronghold, Grenada
King Ferdinand gave thanks to God for victory
And the Pope of Rome and declared this date to forever be
A day of "Thanksgiving" for all European Christians

.. Now listen, when you celebrate "Thanksgiving"

What you are actually celebratin
is the proclamation of the Pope of Rome
Who later, in league with Queen Isabella
sent Cardinal Ximenos to Spain
to murder any blacks that resisted Christianity
These Moors, these black men and women
were from Baghdad, Turkey
And today, you eat the turkey, for your "Thanksgiving" day
as the European Powers destroyed the Turkeys
Who were the forefathers of your mothers and fathers
Now fight the power…”

Through this spoken word, Ras Kass reclaims part of our nation’s history that is portrayed in an often fairytale, and biased way in our history books. It frustrates me to have to re-learn so many parts of my social studies lessons when I come to Cal. Why can’t my teachers and history books present history through a more critical and honest approach instead of glorifying the “battles” won by our founding fathers? It leads to tense situations now, where most citizens do not realize their role in history and allow events such as colonialism, illegal immigration to repeat.

The roots of America’s Thanksgiving focus on 1637 when 700 men, women, and children of the Pequot Tribe, gathered for their “Annual Green Corn Dance” in what is now known as Connecticut. In the early morning, they were surrounded and attacked by English and Dutch mercenaries, resulting in the deaths of 700 Pequot men, women and children. The next day, the Governor of Massachusetts declared a day of Thanksgiving for the “battle” being won. Today, we hardly hear/see any press coverage that recognizes the solemnity of the day from a human rights perspective. Instead, it’s mostly about Black Friday Shopping sales and massive amounts of Turkey, at least for those with power and those who can afford it. So this Thanksgiving, how will you “celebrate?” I suggest attending or tuning into the sunrise ceremony, organized by the International Indian Treaty Council on Alcatraz Island. Isn't it time to give that turkey a break?

References: Unamuno, Ralph. "Thanksgiving or Thanks-taking: Understanding the roots behind Turkey Day." 26 November 2003. http://laprensa-sandiego.org.

So...where are you really from?

Whenever I meet people, I often get asked the question: so where are you originally from? The exchange is usually something like this:

A: So where are you from?
Me: Los Altos. It’s a small town in California.
A (showing total disinterest): No, I mean, where do you come from?
Me: Los Altos?
A (impatiently): No, I mean, where are you originally from?

Oh, how frustrating! Does it really matter that my great-grandfather was a chain-store owner whose warehouses were bombed by the Japanese in World War II? But this, rather than my stories about the sleepy Californian town of Los Altos, is what seems to interest most people that ask me the Question. It's never enough to be from the Bay Area, or California - I always have to dig deeply into my roots and expose them in order to pacify the curious individuals that ask me the Question. This is probably a common experience for many people on this blog, especially those that physically appear “ethnic” and therefore somehow less “American”.

A couple days ago, I came across Michele Serros’s “How to be a chicana role model”, where she describes an incident in which she, tired of being asked the question “Where are you really from?” over and over again, actually turns the tables and persistently questions a Caucasian stranger about his origins in the following exchange:

“Me: And where are you from?
El Other: From here.
Me: Oh…the Midwest?
El Other: No, I’m from here. You know.
Me: What do you mean, here?
El Other: I mean, I’m from here, here.
Me: Oh, I just meant originally. You look like…I don’t know – different?
El Other: What?
Me: Oh, never mind.
El Other: Different? Different as in how? That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard! No one has ever said I looked like I was from somewhere else! I’m American – American, from here, here!”

It’s interesting that El Other in Serros’s text becomes perplexed and deeply upset when Serros snubs him in such a manner; his reaction reflects the obvious racism embedded in the common greeting: So where are you really from? I’m assuming that many people don’t realize the racism in such a question – after all, I don’t think they’d ask that question so readily and frequently if they realized its inherent racism. But the offense that El Other, an unaccented Caucasian, takes to Serros’s question reveals the double racial standards that are associated with that question.

This is my opinion: It might seem perfectly normal, even expected, for someone who is unaccented and lacking any particular ethnic physical features, that is someone who appears physically and generically “American” to ask and individual from a minority group this question after all, this is the expected social order, no? However, when a person of color asks this questions in return, it’s as if their actions have usurped the acceptable social order – that individuals is seen an outsider/visitor/intruder is daring to question the origins of a “true American”. What do you all think?

Working within our own communities

In class, we’ve discussed how generally outsiders create “imagined communities” of Latin@s sharing identical experiences around the world. In my work, I have the opportunity to assist and watch Chican@ and Latin@ students subvert the idea of creating an “imagined” community with “identical” experiences. Instead, these mostly first and second year students, who are led by a team of advisors, go on to create a collective community that fosters a safe and respectful environment through a sense of connectedness. As a program assistant for the Casa Magadalena Mora Theme Program, a familia of students exploring Mexica@/Chican@ and Latin@ culture, it is one of my responsibilities to not only promote community building within this network, but also find ways to connect the broader Unit 3 student population to this group of residents.

The Casistas all enroll in an academic seminar that has an interdisciplinary focus that integrates language, history, politics, economics, art, music, and literature. During these weekly seminars, students take a more critical look at the multi-dimensions of their identities and how they are represented on campus. They are also able to understand their place in history, society, and the world. Based on my observations and interactions, I’ve found that these students who come from different backgrounds and ethnicities, still form the closest bond as a community than any other formal living group that I work with. Why is that? Is it because of this “imagined” community that ties them to a set of shared collective ideas, attitudes, and dreams? I believe it is much more. I believe that since Casistas are willing to engage in an open, critical dialogue, they gain a shared intellectual foundation that facilitates a greater understanding of Chican@/Latin@ experience, which creates stronger ties to their own community.

Yet, while we have this strong sense of familia going on for people who live on this floor community, it creates different reactions and sentiments to people who are outside of this community – the students who live on different floors. These past few weeks, we experienced a string of hate incidents where racist remarks were written in our common areas. In the past, Casa Mora has been the target of racists language. Most of the vandalism views the Casa community as a singular group (i.e. Mexicans) – which creates nothing more than an “imagined” identity. So I am constantly working on ways to integrate the Casa community with the broader Unit 3 community, without putting Casa on an ethnic pedestal or dismissing the unique diversity that every floor brings to the residence hall community. It’s a teetering balance, but one that I believe we can strengthen and solidify if we all participated in more open, critical dialogue on understanding our place in history, society, and the world.