My mother migrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1992 in search of a better life after having lived through the civil war. Naturally, as the first-born of three, I am the most connected to my Salvadoran heritage. I’ve traveled three times to the motherland to visit my family, and I know I’m at home when I get a whiff of fresh brewed coffee, a staple in just about every Salvadoran household. With the Los Angeles weather beginning to cool down and the holidays approaching, I am looking forward to dipping my mom’s fresh-baked quesadillas into my warm cup of coffee. They are not to be confused with Mexican quesadillas, which are primarily made with tortilla and queso. Salvadoran quesadillas are essentially cheesecakes with a combination of different flavors such as cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, cream, and (you guessed it) cheese. Sometimes they are topped off with sesame seeds to add a little extra texture.
It is normal for your baby’s sleeping schedule and nap schedule to change as they grow into little independent toddlers. As much as I love routines, when it came to implementing my toddler’s new sleeping schedule every night, it took a while. Life with toddlers can be crazy, in the end, it’s all worth it.
It was during a mandatory program I attended during the summer of my junior year that I met Cal State Fullerton Professor of Chicano Studies, Alexandro Jose Gradilla.
Part of his curriculum was to share the history of Latinx/o movements across the century and how it has shaped both the forms of identity-making for our community but also how it has also furthered the liberation and lives of all people of color. It wasn’t until we got to the part about immigrant rights movements, from Prop 187 to the blowouts of 2006 that my ears truly sprang up and where I saw a mirror in my academic journey for the first time.
Growing up, I knew I was an immigrant from Mexico. From hiding when the cops would drive by, to avoiding San Diego or never being able to travel back home to family in Mexico the way my friends were, I knew as I kept getting older that I was different.
As I was driving through one day on the way to buy chicharrón carnudo at the Sahuayo Market on Pomona street in Santa Ana, California, I saw a street sign for a community crop exchange. I stopped to buy some calabazas and began talking with one of the volunteers, Tessie Rios. I asked her if she lived in the area and she told me that she was on the board of the neighborhood association.
I felt like I had found a needle in the Mexican haystack to uncover a Puerto Rican homeowner in Floral Park. One of the nicest areas of Santa Ana, called Floral Park, is mostly white. Still, the former mayor of Santa Ana, Miguel Pulido, lives there, and so does Congressman Lou Correa.
Around 76% of the Santa Ana population is Latino, according to the U.S. Census. Many of them hail from Sahuayo, Michoacán, México, and the two cities have a sister city agreement.
We sat in a nearby park and Rios told me her life story. Homeownership wasn’t an ambition to generate wealth, rather it was a story of survival and a search for stability caused by the diaspora. Rios lived an intense and traumatic childhood being shuffled in and out of Puerto Rico from birth until the age of 40. That’s when she made the purchase of her forever home and finally pivoted from insecurity to security.
I grew up practicing Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian spiritual tradition that is Afro-indigenous at its core, practicing Capoeira at my parent’s Brazilian arts and culture center, and eating foods that were distinct to a Latinx blackness that I didn’t see represented in the world immediately around me. I don’t think you can ever truly strip yourself of who you are, but when I reflect back on that period of my life, I’m aware of how much of myself I did not express because I did not feel that it would be legible to others. I didn’t fit neatly into any category, and it was confusing for a long time to understand. Growing up Afro-Latina in LA asked me to shed parts of myself in order to be comprehensible to others. In a city that is predominantly Black American and Chicano, there were only a handful of Afro-Latinx folks that I knew, and the majority of them were my own family. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time at LACMA in the incredibly powerful exhibition, Afro-Atlantic Histories. Walking in, you are immediately thrown into a timeless space that connects you across waters. To my left, a map of the transatlantic slave trade, and a brief account of the histories. As the daughter of an Afro-Brazilian immigrant, I knew that Brazil was the last country to abolish slavery (In 1888, just 135 years ago), but to see that represented here in the city that raised me, felt important.
So many people in the U.S., including Latinos, are uninformed about Puerto Rico. I’m not an immigrant, and by the way, neither is Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor even though several elected officials called her that during her nomination hearings. Countless times I have been asked by people who should know better what kind of money is used on the island (yeah, the U.S. dollar), do they need a passport to travel there (um, no), and how is that I speak English so well.
September is for salsa (both music and food), Spanish, sabor (taste), salud (health), and símbolo (symbol).
Well, September 15 (specifically the second half of the month) kicks off Latino Heritage Month. It runs from September 15 to October 15. The logic for starting in the middle of this month is that certain countries (like Mexico, Chile, and other Latin American nations) celebrate their independence in mid-September through mid-October.
As we begin to prepare our Latino heritage celebrations, it’s worth noting that 2023 is uniquely different. Why? Because our culture has had a remarkable year thus far.
I went to Mexico to look for relatives of my great grandfather, who left there in 1890. My grandfather was a cowboy who rode cattle from Texas to the Midwest. I told a woman, who could have been a cousin, how my mom was born in Carrizo Springs, Texas and grew up in a migrant worker family. They picked cotton in Texas and beets in the Midwest and then wound up on a tomato farm outside Chicago. My mom’s sisters convinced the family to move to the city where they could make more money working in factories. My mom was the youngest, so she was allowed to go to high school if she got an after-school job. She found a job in a department store. My mom and dad, also a migrant from Texas, met in the high school cafeteria. They married and had five children, all who went on to graduate from college.
In Los Angeles county, the latest countywide Universal Basic Income program just closed its limited applications for foster youth. For three years, recipients of the Breathe program are set to receive $1,000 a month and a supportive caseworker. A similar program that was city wide was Big Leap, which has proven to work for families who were experiencing hardship throughout the pandemic. Both of these programs aren’t set to be renewed and require continued political will to continue.
The Bass administration has shared that there is still an ongoing need to get the word out around social services programs when it comes to housing and economic recovery. We need more than an emergency response to homelessness. Families who rent and even own are still struggling.
For over 50 years, Chicanas/os have been creating art in various mediums at various venues. A great sample of beautiful Chicana/o art can be found in The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum. While not all Chicana/o artists have had the opportunity to exhibit at prestigious museums and galleries, the art pioneers of the past have broken the doors open for brown artists–present and future. The artists of Mexican origin in el Norte must be understood in the context of racial capitalism and anti-Mexicanism—a term best understood by the late and great historian, Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones, in his brilliant essay “La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism.”
In short, if we want more brown kids from America’s barrios to become great artists and exhibit their art–domestically and internationally–they must first see themselves in the best museums and galleries the world has to offer
On March 23, 1979, Roberto Rodriguez was a young photojournalist on assignment when he was severely beaten by law enforcement officers in his East Los Angeles neighborhood along Whittier Boulevard, this while photographing an incident of police violence. He was criminally charged with assaulting four deputies with a deadly weapon with a total of eight charges. He would go on to win his criminal trial and then, seven years later, won a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and raised in East Los Angeles, Roberto apparently died July 31 while living in Mexico’s sacred Teotihuacan. The symptom of his untimely death is a reported heart attack. Yet, the root cause of his sudden death occurred 44 years on East Los Angeles’ Whittier Boulevard—the capital of lowrider cruising—when the cops brutally assaulted him.
The Biden-Harris Administration has allocated significant funds into environmental justice efforts, providing an opportunity to change the outcomes of ZIP codes like mine. Through Executive Order 14008, the Council on Environmental Quality Chair introduced the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) to publish maps highlighting disadvantaged communities. Thus, although CEJST recognizes significant burdens in my tract, such as historical underinvestment, traffic pollution ranking in the 99th percentile, and a lack of green space ranking in the 92nd percentile, my census tract in my city Lawndale is not labeled as disadvantaged because it falls slightly below the low-income threshold at 62%. This census tract is also home to majority Latinos.