That sarks!

Ninth grade honors English was great. We had a small class of no more than 20 students, one of which was my cute and dorky crush. We read Roman and Greek mythology and Don Quixote. We acted out the most famous soliloquies from Shakespearean plays. And we learned how to express anger, frustration and regret without using your everyday four-letter words.

Mrs. O was like my mom. She didn’t tolerate cursing. My mom’s punishment was bad. I quickly stopped saying words I knew would land a whole jalapeño or bar of soap in my mouth. Mrs. O’s punishment, subtracting points from our overall grade, was ten times worse. Let me remind you, we were the honors class. Points meant a lot to a bunch of 14-year-olds trying to get to college.

Whenever a classmate got caught saying “that sucks!” or some other non-FCC approved word, cursing, Mrs. O would call out “ten points!”

My classmate would immediately pull out a blank sheet of college-ruled paper and begin brainstorming alternate words for “sucks.” If he was lucky, others would offer some suggestions.

Once you turned in the ten words, you were pardoned and the points were tacked back on to your grade.

At the time, this was just a pain. We had better things to worry about, like memorizing Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. Besides, why was “sucks” even considered a bad word?

Thirteen years later, I’m glad Mrs. O challenged us to come up with ten alternate words to whatever curse word she caught us using. If it weren’t for her and my mom, I’d be a potty mouth and no one would ever be surprised when I let a “fuck!” slip out. Then again, it’s also Mrs. O’s fault that I adopted a classmate’s alternative for “sucks” and occasionally say, “that sarks.”



I hear mispronunciations of Spanish words and names all the time. It bugs and hurts my ears, but I’m used to it. With a last name like Mosqueda, you think I’d be used to mispronounciation, but I’m not.

I don’t think I’ll ever get accustomed to hearing the gross and now formalized mispronunciation of the singular form of tamales, tamal.

Desert Chicano brought this up in a comment where he mentioned the Tamale Festival in Indio. He didn’t make a mistake, the festival is really called the TamalE festival. It’s the same thing in LA. The first result of a Google search for “tamal” is the Wikipedia “tamale” entry. At least Wikipedia acknowledges that “tamale” is incorrect:

The plural is tamales, and this is the form of the word most often seen in the United States among Hispanics, with the singular frequently given as tamale (incorrect to Spanish-speakers, who use the correct form tamal).

I don’t know when and where it was decided that this was correct.

I’m probably thinking about this too much. There really should be no need to refer to tamales in the singular. Eating one (or not liking them at all!) sounds strange to my ears too… but there is such a thing as too many tamales.


Gracias a dios

I left my mom’s side a few hours ago.

Visiting hours were over. She was weak and drugged. She needed her rest.

I gave my dad a short back rub and told him, “don’t stress out too much.” Even though visting hours were over, he was going to stay as long as he could.

I caught up with the rest of the siblings a few minutes later in the waiting room where people watched an Ugly Betty rerun. We gathered up our leftover Subway sandwiches, magazines and bags. Danny volunteered to take Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni in his car. Lori and Adrian drove in a separate car. My dad’s sisters, tía Mary and tía Lucy, headed to their respective homes in East LA. And I went in my own direction.

Once alone for the first time in several hours, I turned on the radio and heard the Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize?. It made me cry. I’m such a chillona.

My mom is fine. The surgery went fine and she’s on her way to a (hopefully) speedy recovery… Thanks for all your kind words, e-hugs and prayers to el Santo Niño de Atocha and San Rafael.


It’s all going to be okay, right?

Mom and Papá Chepe are not the kind to pass up dancing My mom will be undergoing surgery tomorrow afternoon to remove a tumor.

I’m nervous, but I feel like I shouldn’t be. (I probably shouldn’t have watched the last few Grey’s Anatomy episodes.) My mom and dad don’t sound nervous. They sound calm and collected, like they know everything is going to be okay.

I talked to my mom earlier this afternoon after she went for her pre-operation appointment. She gave me more details about the length of time the surgery would take, where they would cut and how long she’d have to be in the hospital.

She also told me that she was hungry, but she can’t eat.

My grandparents already know. There was no way to avoid my mom being gone for 4-5 days without them noticing.

Thanks to everyone who sent their support. Keep her in your thoughts and prayers.


All in the frijoles

The bad thing about being a double major in Sociology and Chicana/o Studies and a minor in Spanish on the 4-year track was that I had to be very strategic about my courses. I’d often enroll in a class I had minimal interest in it and ignore classes I would have loved to take. Continuing graduate school at UCLA has given me the opportunity to go back and take classes related health and law related to my current research. The geek in me loves this.

This quarter I’m taking a class on health in the Chicano/Latino population with Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture.

I feel like a nerd in his class not only because it makes me think of my role as a researcher (e.g., what if my findings prove the negative stereotypes right?) but also because his research is fascinating. I thought I knew a lot about my community, but my knowledge of health issues was minimal. I’d only heard and read the negative stuff in the mainstream media about high rates of diabetes and obesity. Few people talk about the Latino epidemiological paradox.

Basically, Latinos have higher risk factors such as lower income and educational levels. On top of this we are less likely to be insured and have less access to quality health care.

But get this, we’re actually healthier than whites and African Americans. We have lower age adjusted death rates, lower rates of death from heart disease, cancer (excluding cervical cancer), and stroke. We do have higher rates for diabetes and cirrhosis. Our infant mortality rates are also lower.

The most interesting thing to me was about Mexicans. According to the studies I’ve read for class, Mexican immigrants are healthier than second generation Mexicans. Yes, the longer we’ve been here, the less healthy we are. Assimilation is bad for our health! (Take that, Arnold!)

What’s the cause of this? Could it be the tortillas, frijoles and chile?

I don’t know. Some people downplay the Latino paradox and insist that we just can’t be that healthy. They say Latinos are misclassified on forms or that we return to our homelands to die. Others might argue that it is no surprise that immigrants are healthier since you’re not likely to have sickly migrants trying to cross the border.

It’s times like this that I really miss Grandpa Bartolo. I’d love to pick his brain about this. He wasn’t a doctor, but he was a sobador and always had health advice to give.

Do you have any explanations?