La Virgen Morena

Nuestra Virgencita Since Friday I’ve been writing about la Virgen de Guadalupe. Most of it is over at and is largely devoid of my own personal feelins on la Virgencita. That’s the tougher part to write.

I really wanted to name one of these “the 474 year old Virgen,” but felt that being reverent was more important than being funny. Excertps from the series.

The Ubiquitous Virgen de Guadalupe (12.10.05)
I know you’ve seen her. She’s on candles, murals, taco trucks, and flickr. She’s in private homes and in public spaces. She has her own alcove in ornate churches and graces humble shrines. She’s even on a steering wheel cover in Wal-Mart.

Celebrating la Virgen de Guadalupe (12.11.05)
My parents and grandparents woke up this morning at 4 something a.m. I ignored them and went back to sleep. As much as I try, I can’t match my elders’ devotion to la Virgen de Guadalupe. They left to church to begin the festivities for el Día de la Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. December 12 is a major holiday in Mexico and is celebrated the Mexican way: with a big party.

From Tepeyac to East LA (12.12.05)
Recently, I gave my brother a black t-shirt emblazoned with a white stencil of la Virgen de Guadalupe. She wasn’t the same Virgen my mom has placed throughout our home. This Virgen’s demure face was covered with a handkerchief and rather than hold her hands in prayer, she held a rifle. A ribbon below her feet showed the well-known mantra of the 1910 Mexican Revolution and 1994 Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, “Tierra y libertad!”


Tacos de papa

The elevator opened up on the third floor and I ran into Eric and another student. “Hi,” I said, caught a little offguard.

“Hey,” Eric responded. A long time ago, he was a mocoso first year fresh out of high school. Now he’s still mocoso, but he’s in his fourth year and will be graduating soon. “Whoa, you look like you didn’t sleep.”

“I didn’t,” I said. I had actually just left campus an hour earlier to go home, shower and change and return without even taking a short nap in time for a meeting and my last class.

That’s what last week was like. I stayed up all night, and all day. I saw more of my laptop than my roommate (she thinks I’m moving out or something). I even wrote while I was sitting in traffic and el Venado drove. The week sucked, but I let it get like that so I can’t blame anyone by myself.

By Friday around 6:30, I was done with everything. The paper and research proposal were in, I had presented each in class, and had attended the final meetings for the quarter of my Research Apprenticeship Courses (RACs). The official finals week had yet to begin and I was done. It felt nice.

I spent some time with el Venado on Friday evening and the next day I went home to Hacienda Heights. My Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni were the only ones there. They had just returned from visiting one of my aunts and were wondering about the rest of the missing familia. Dad, Danny and Adrian were out golfing. Lori was at work. Mom was shopping in preparation for the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities. I lef the quiet and nicely decorated house and took VR for a walk. I left again to go get my eyebrow and upper lip waxed but not without first telling my grandfather where I was going.

“Papá Chepe, ahorita regreso. Voy a quitarme las cejas,” I told him. (I’ll be right back. I’m going to go get my eyebrows waxed.)

“No, no te las quites. Te van a dejar muy pelona, te ves bien,” he told me. (No, don’t take them out. They’re going to leave them too bald, you look fine.)

I gotta love my Papá Chepe. I didn’t listen anyway, and instead went through the semi-torturous experience of getting my upper lip and eyebrows waxed (ow, ow, ow!). I returned to the house with puffy eyebrows and returned to my draft and began working on a piece on la Virgen de Guadalupe (see Soon after the house filled up with people again and my mom began cooking tacos de papa for Danny’s birthday. She pulled me away from my writing and conversation with el Venado.

“Se te van a enfriar los tacos” she reminded me for the third time. (Your tacos are going to get cold).

“Okay, I’m going, I’m going,” I yelled for the third time, but with more sincerity.

“Hey, I need to go eat,” I told el Venado. “We’re having tacos de papa for Danny’s birthday.”

“Oh no! You cut up poor VR [also known as Papas] to make tacos?!” he asked incredulously.

“No, dork.”

I swear, he’s usually not that corny.


Tata at 27

I used to follow Danny around all the timeHi Danny (Tata),

You know, I don’t really remember what it was like when it was just you and me. I know the stories ’cause Mom tells them over and over. There’s the one where you knocked me out of my crib and then there’s the other one where you yanked my bonnet with braids off my bald little head in the grocery store. I remember a few, but they were all post-Lori. I know some day I’ll be telling your kids about the war of the billiards balls. Mom and dad got rid of the pool table a tad too late and after discovering that their skinny first born was Mr. Destructo.

To tell you the truth, I never really learned my lesson. Looking back at those mid-1980s years I can see why I didn’t understand that hanging out with you was bound to be trouble. Perhaps getting hit in the head with one of the billiards balls had some lasting effects on my ability to make rational choices. But even with the potential physical harm that came with being your little sister, I still didn’t ever want to keep my distance. I tagged along like no other little sister could. I joined your Little Leagure team. We both joined a folklórico dance group. I was in choir, you were there. I chose to play trombone because you played. I went on band trips because you were going. I became an altar server because I saw you doing it. There are dozens of other examples.

He was trying to play some Beatles tune I know why I became your shadow and didn’t mind being known as “Danny’s sister.” You were (and continue to be) fun. And your friends were cool (and cute). From kindergarten through the present, you never seemed to lose any friends, you just gained more and more friends. They were hardly the superficial type too, they were people you truly cared about, and vice versa. Some were your age and some were older. You even added a few surrogate parents and grandparents. Everyone else loves you so much and I can see why.

I didn’t always follow your example. I was a little smarter. Rather than be an hocicona and talk back to Mom and Dad, I kept my mouth shut. Sometimes you didn’t know which arguments were worth letting go and which were worth fighting ’til you could win in a battle of attrition. But even then, I admired you. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t talk back to my parents even when I knew they were wrong or being unfair. Eventually, I developed that ability and become almost as hocicona as you. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but finding my own voice and becoming more assertive is definitely good.

I’ve learned a lot more from you even when I thought there was nothing you could teach me. Thanks.

¡Feliz cumpleaños!


Mil palabras: cuando caliente el sol aquí en la playa

Playa en Mazatlán
Mazatlán, Sinaloa (August, 2004)

I have a paper and research proposal, plus accompanying presentations for each of those to complete by the end of this week. Yes, it is my favorite week in December, finals. Needless to say, there are many places I’d rather be right now and many things I’d rather be doing. Swimming in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and strolling along the beach in Mazatlán are just two of them.


Stuff you can’t learn in books

I’ve been reading a lot about immigration from Mexico. It’s all very macro or “big picture.” There are no stories of individuals. It’s just numbers and policy and public opinion. Sure, it’s useful (especially for the paper I should be working on right now), but I would be missing out on the whole picture regarding immigration if that was all I considered.

The best lesson about immigration was the experience of spending a few weeks with my father’s side of the family in Guanajuato last year. Below is a piece I wrote just after returning from a day-trip to visit my Tía Abuela Jesús in Morelia.

Great aunts Life altering experiences
August 24, 2004

I feel emotionally drained.

When I said that this trip could possibly be life altering, I really didn’t know how. On the way to Guanajuato from Mazatlán, I had this weird feeling in my stomach.

Today, I started to cry as my tía Jesús started talking about my Grandpa Bartolo, her big brother with such reverence. It shouldn’t surprise me that someone would love a sibling so much, but it just overwhelmed me. After awhile, I couldn’t even look up because the tears were coming and I didn’t want my aunts and uncles to get concerned.

On the way back from Morelia, a big city in Michoacán about an hour and half away from Salamanca, I figured it out.

I pretend to know all sorts of things about immigration and my family, but the truth is that I didn’t know much, especially from my father’s side of the family.

As a kid, I never realized how emigrating to another country really disrupts things. Even as an adult, I took for granted that my immediate/nuclear family was all in LA and almost of all of my extended family on both sides was in LA and Southern California. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as second cousins and that my parents had cousins and aunts who loved them as much as my own primos hermanos and tíos y tías love me.

So, I cried because I felt cheated, and I feel like my father was even more cheated. I wonder what it was like to live in LA when all his uncles and cousins lived in Guanajuato. And I feel sad that I probably won’t get to see all these really wonderful second cousins, aunts, uncles, and tía abuelas (great aunts) for years.

I really do know myself better.

I’ve seen the factory where my Grandpa used to work. I know that my thick lips come from the M (Grandpa) side of the family, and I know that my love of music and love of learning are distinct B (Grandma) side of the family characteristics.

I don’t know why it took me so long to make this trip. What was wrong with me?

At least I’m going back in two weeks. And now, back to finals.