It’s been a long time

Hola. If you can believe it, this is my first time online in over a week. Weird, yes, I know.

This trip to Mexico is different. My immediate family is here, I’m with my octogenerian grandparents who tend to treat me like a little kid. I’ve been writing a lot (I had a lot of time to myself from Sunday to Saturday) and taking lots of pictures too. My grandparents go to sleep at about 8 pm, so after that I get to just chill in my room in their house in Tijuana or el Cargadero, Zacatecas, and watch lots of Gilmore Girls season 5, write and make playlists for CDs.

Um, highlights thus far?

Well, going back to Jeréz and el Cargadero for the first time since I was about 10 years old have been weird. Jeréz is a lively city a few miles away from el Cargadero, the pueblo where my grandparents and their families have lived for years. Last time I came, the place looked smaller, but there was much more going on. I played with kids in the main plaza (now called Plaza Civica del Migrante) when I came as a kid. I had friends and there was all kinds of things for me to explore. I only missed my parents and cartoons in English. Now, when I asked Papa Chepe about the population of el Cargadero, he told me the place “está muerto,” the town is dead. There are few people left, he says 3/4ths of the houses are empty and only get filled in October for last fiestas de San Rafael.

Everyone está en el Norte, including my grandparents. It makes me wonder what the migration does to a little town like el Cargadero. Everyone has family in Anaheim, Chicago, North Carolina, etc. Closer to Christmas, I saw more cars driving in with California plates. They were easy to identify, and not because of the license plates. They were newer, shiny SUVs and pick-up trucks.

My parents and tía Martha’s family arrived on Saturday evening. It’s good to have them here. I think in a few years I’ll look back at how bratty I was to think of the time with my grandparents as boring. Well, it’s just slow-paced. Ten of us (grandparents, mom, dad, tía Martha’s family) packed into my tío Pancho’s truck and drove to Salamanca, Guanajuato. I know this place, I really like this place, even with the smell of the refinería de Pemex.

Right now, I should go back to my cousin Tere’s wedding. She looks beautiful as all brides do. Her dad and mom, the ones I stayed with when I came to the Rancho last August, look proud. And her many brothers are decked out in the finest trajes, al estilo Lupillo Rivera.

It’s a good place to be, but I miss home, my siblings, VR (the puppy), el Venado, my roommate, and of course interacting with all you fabulous blogeros.

Feliz Navidad (if you celebrate it, I’m sure you said less Hail Mary’s than I did), Happy Holidays, y Prospero Año Nuevo.

Los extraño!


Vacation time

I leave to Mexico today. After a crazy family Christmas party last night (60 people!) I packed and am pretty much ready to go.

I’ll go from Hacienda Heights to Tijuana today with my grandparents, Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni. On Tuesday afternoon, I’ll leave from the Tijuana to Zacatecas. I’ll spend a few days in Zacatecas before leaving for a wedding in Guanajuato. Then it’s back to Zacatecas for a quinceañera. And after that big party, I’ll be heading back in my Tío Pancho’s truck with my tía Marta, cousins Nancy, Vanny and Valerie, and my mom and dad.

I’ll check in with you and provide pictures if possible, but I don’t know about free wi-fi in Zacatecas or Guanajuato.

Take care!


A challenge to AB 540

For those of you who know, access to higher education for undocumented immigrant students is one of my main research interests. I’ve written a couple of papers on the topic and done a a lot of reading on the issue, especially from the law angle. I also have a vested interest in this because of my experience working with undocumented students as a counselor and student activism during my last undergraduate year at UCLA (2001-2002). I remember making signs like “No human being is illegal” and marching up to the UC Regents meeting to encourage them to apply Assembly Bill 540 to the UC (when it passed in the state legislature, it only applied to the community colleges and California State University system).

So, as you might assume, I’m deeply concerned and rather pissed about the latest news on a class-action lawsuit challenging a California’s AB 540. In short, AB 540 allows undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition whereas before they were considered non-residents even if they had lived here their entire lives (US citizens and others who are here “legally” have access to AB 540 too).

The big stink is that if you’re not a California resident, public higher education is a lot more costly. The University of California — the most expensive segment — charges non-resident students more than triple what California residents pay. At UCLA, undergraduate residents pay $7,062 and non-residents pay $24,882. The students who filed the California lawsuit (and similiar lawsuits in Kansas, Texas and New York) contend that it it is illegal for undocumented immigrants to have the right to in-state tuition, while as US citizens from another state, they have to pay more. An often cited federal law in these cases is Section 505 of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Individual Responsibility Act.

When section 505 of IIRIRA was passed, Congress wanted to ensure that undocumented immigrants would not receive benefits denied to US citizens. Section 505 limited states from deciding postsecondary education benefits. As a result some states, such as New York, reformed their policies to bar undocumented students from paying in-state tuition. But starting in 2001, states found a way to comply with Section 505 while still not limiting access for undocumented students. Currently, there are nine states — Texas, California, Utah, Washington, New York, Oklahoma, Illinois, Kansas, and New Mexico — that allow undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements to pay in-state tuition, but most do not allow students to qualify for financial aid.

The rationale for the legality of the in-state tuition bills is that immigration status is not used to define residence for tuition purposes. Instead, in-state high school graduation and attendance are the main requirements to qualify for in-state tuition. California’s AB 540 uses the following qualifications to determine who is eligble for in-state tuition:

  1. Attended a California high school for three or more years.
  2. Graduated from a California high school or earned the equivalent (GED).
  3. Registered or enrolled at an accredited public institution in California.
  4. Signed an affidavit with the University stating that he or she will apply for legal residency.

For the record, I am STRONGLY in favor of in-state tuition bills and the latest iteration of the DREAM Act in the US Senate. The main reason I feel laws like AB 540 are important is because these students have not done ANYTHING wrong. In fact, they’ve done things right! It is unfair to punish students by making this “educational glass ceiling” for something their parents did. You tell me if you’re going to stay behind in your country when your mom or dad says, “Vamos al Norte” or when you overstay a visa.

I have a lot more thoughts on this, but I really hope this lawsuit is dismissed like the Kansas lawsuit. In that case, a federal district judge said that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they did not demonstrate that they were personally harmed the by a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented students. Whether or not the law was in place, out-of-state students would have still paid higher fees.

AB 540 and other laws like it still fall short, and that’s where the DREAM Act picks up. Once these students graduate they might not have adjusted their status meaning they can’t get a good job, or the job they get is a low-paying under the table job. In addition, undocumented students in California DO NOT qualify for any kind of state or federal aid, even loans. They have access to some scholarships, but only those that do not require students to be citizens or permanent residents (MALDEF has a great PDF list of such scholarships).

Finally, the following quote shows just how opponents of in-state tuition bills frame the issue.

But Aaron Dallek, a UC Berkeley senior from Chicago who is one of the named plaintiffs in the case, called the policy unfair. “I would understand if the university needed out-of-state tuition to fund education, but I don’t feel it’s right that illegal immigrants have more rights in the state of California than I do,” said the 21-year-old business major. (LA Times)

Wait, did I read that right? This kid really thinks undocumented students have more rights than he does as a US citizen? You gotta be kidding.


La vida loca or a simple kind of life?

Dear Gwen,

I’ve written an open letter to you before. That was all about your music and I wasn’t annoyed or offended by any of your creative work. I’m generally against censorship, but this situation makes me want to bend the rules of the First Amendment. I can’t make you do anything, but I can suggest it. I’ll just put it simply:

Stop! I’ve had it up to here.

I rarely watch videos, partly because I don’t have cable TV and mainly because I just don’t care. I probably would have missed your “Luxurious (remix)” video if I hadn’t stopped by Mujerista’s blog last night. I almost clicked the stop button to keep the video from playing and listening to music I didn’t want to hear. It’s a good thing I let it play because I’ve been running out of things to post at my blog and recycling old posts feels like cheating.

As you may have inferred, I have several problems with your video.

Cultural appropriation? First, in the words of Isa, my wise roommate, “What the hell?! NO! Horrible. You don’t RIP la Virgen in half. You can make her embrace the naked Sirena… you can put a calaca in place of her face… you can make her a Zapatista… but you can’t rip her in half!!” Chispa, another good friend, said “no she didn’t with la Virgen!” Sadly, yes you did.

Gwen, I know you’ve been around Mexicans and Chicanas/os. You grew up in Anaheim and anyone who knows that area and it’s neighboring Santa Ana know that there are a lot of Mexicanos in the area. In fact, Santa Ana is the most Mexican city in the US, as your fellow Anaheiman (is that a word?), Gustavo Arellano, loves to point out. Merely based on your OC roots, I can be fairly sure that you’ve seen the murals, hats, tattoos, medallions, and everything else devotees can manage to decorate with the image of la Virgen Morena. I thought you might have an inkling of an idea regarding her significance as a religious and cultural symbol. I guess not. Instead you commit a huge affront to the very cultural you’re foolishly trying to imitate.

We Mexicans take our Virgen de Guadalupe seriously. Many of us can accept her in more modern renditions, yet we will not tolerate destroying her just so you can show off your toned abs and breasts. I know I sound like a Puritan here, but I’ve just finished celebrating la Virgen de Guadalupe’s feast day and thinking about what She means to me, my family and Raza. If you walked out in those tiny shorts and ripped shirt anywhere in Southern California, you’d get dirty looks, maybe a few abuelitas yelling at you, and a possible beat down.

Second, stop with the Frida Kahlo look. Just don’t do it. I mean, Chicanas (and some Chicanos) dress like her all the time and have her image/paintings plastered all over their bedrooms. She’s sandwiched between la Virgen de Guadalupe and Morrissey when it comes to most popular figures among Chicanas. Only Raza can be that obsessed. Keep the flowers and braids with ribbon out of your hair. It’s not like you’re dancing folklórico, plus they don’t go too well with the blonde hair.

Third, I know you’ve been trying to do the chola thing since the ’90s. It was funny then, but it seemed you got tired of us. You pimped Indian culture and more recently hired Japanese Harajuku girls to follow you around. You even named them. What do you have against using your own Italian, Scottish and Irish roots or even just using your white suburban culture? To be fair, I have seen you rock plaid. The Japanese and Indian things were weird, but I didn’t feel like you were intruding on my culture, so it bugged less.

Now, your new image baffles me even more, especially when you take the three dots that represent “mi vida loca” and put them on your face. I’m no chola, I like having fuller eyebrows, personally hate wearing lipliner and lipstick, and can’t make my hair as big as it needs to be. Aside from the aesthetics, I’m also a kid from the suburbs and wasn’t in to the gang lifestlye for various reasons, the biggest being that my parents would kick my ass. Still, I feel I have the moral authority to speak for them (hi Oso!). So, Gwen, quit it with the chola thing, okay? You’re a multimillionaire pop star who just wants (wanted?) a simple kind of life. How crazy can it really be?

Fourth and final gripe: if you’re going to break a piñata in your video, you might as well do it during the tardeada/barbeque scene. I know you’re aware that piñatas are a party thing, so it makes absolutely no sense why you would do it all by yourself. Who’s going to get the candy? Oh wait, that’s what you get to lay in at the beginning of the video.

All in all, Gwen, I think you’re just trying too hard. I mean, what’s wrong with being a white chick from Anaheim? Well, I guess it might be boring. I would have just ignored this video and gone back to listening to Tragic Kingdom if it wasn’t for the Virgen shirt. Everything else was minor compared to that.

You did get something right. The lips and hair are on point. Everyone knows cholas want to be blonde.



Mil palabras: little sister

Hacienda Heights (September, 2004)

When Lori was in high school some boy (one of many, many young men) confessed his love for her. I think his name was Chaz. Anyway, he said something about her “natural beauty” and I laughed. I only laughed because Lori’s smile cost her a few thousand dollars, she spends a good deal of time applying her face, and she spends a good deal of money getting her hair colored. Of course, she doesn’t need all of that… she’s got the good genes.

I wrote the paragraph above on her 21st birthday, January 15th. I tend to essentialize her for her beauty and ability to do things I find incredibly difficult (like comb my hair). Lori has many other talents besides making you look good. She is the photographer of the family, but rarely touches her camera these days. It’s a shame, because her photos (including this self-portrait) are just like her, smart, creative, and of course beautiful.