Latino Blog Challenge Day 6: Crossing Borders

Prompt: “Immigration: For or Against?”

I’m for people moving when they want and/or need to, and I’m pro immigrant/migrant rights. I’m pro youth getting an easier path to citizenship when they didn’t make the decision to migrate without papers, but were under the care of a guardian who made that decision for them.

Not a fan of conditions that make it so people HAVE to migrate against their will, so that families are separated, so that people work in subhuman conditions to send money home or feed their families. Not a fan of heavily controlled borders and the dehumanizing language around undocumented people (e.g. “illegals” and “aliens”). Not a fan of super difficult processes to become a citizen of a country where someone is working and/or fleeing and/or trying to provide for themselves/their family and/or be part of the community.

Latino Blog Challenge Day 4: Rollcall of Awesomeness

Latino Blog Challenge Day 4: Rollcall of Awesomeness

Prompt: “What Latino blog I recommend”

Well I can’t just pick ONE, obviously! So here are a few!

I want to focus a bit on the intersection of queerness and Latin@ identity because my induction into my queerness was not through a lens of queer Latinidad. My queerness was part of my conscious identity before my ethnicity, and it was hella whitewashed in terms of theory because that’s what was mainstream and available. Now I’m doing my work to deconstruct that and try to live my sexuality in ways that feel authentic but also connected to my ethnic history and homeland of Puerto Rico.

To that end, I’d love to highlight some awesome queer Latin@ blogs, and I gotta start with Tumblr: Fuck Yeah Queer Latin@s  and Fuck Yeah Jot@s. I also had the lovely experience of connecting with Max during a webinar and simultaneously finding their blog, but not making the connection until a bit later. Finally, the Latinidad section of QWOC Media Wire is another awesome collection of articles. An honorary mention in this section, because it’s not solely Latin@ but pretty awesome and QPOC-y, is QueerBrownXX.

Now, not solely a queer latin@ blog, but instead a general one that does touch upon sexuality is the Latinegr@s Project. I gotta give mad appreciation to them because as someone who benefits from light-skinned privilege, I like seeing spaces that actively cultivate strength, pride, and power in being afro-latin@ and visibly so; that post art and music and jobs and resources; that critique white-washing and frequent negative media portrayals of dark-skinned characters; and highlight the marginalization even within already oppressed communities. In the same vein of fabulousness, check out Latino Sexuality and Vivir Latino (the latter is geared primarily towards folks that are part of the Latin@ diaspora in the U.S.).

Latino Blog Challenge Day 3: Feed Me, Seymour!

Latino Blog Challenge Day 3: Feed Me, Seymour!

Prompt: “Favorite Latin Cuisine”

HARD QUESTIONS! I’m a total foodie and just spent a weekend in Puerto Rico having amazing Latin-American food. At Tierra de Fuego, we ate Argentinian food; at Perurrican, we ate Peruvian and Peru/PR fusion food; and at home we ate comida criolla.

I think the defining feature of my favorite Latin-American cuisine, though, is the lack of heat and the blast of flavors. Having grown up in Puerto Rico to a boricua mom and a Cuban dad, those cuisines are definitely my favorite, though I do have soft spots for Argentine and Dominican food.

But let’s just get our mouths watering now, and I can share some food memories:

  • Milanesa (a breaded cutlet dish) a la napolitana (with ham, cheese, and marinara sauce) or a caballo (with a fried egg on top) from El Deli in Puerto Rico, an Argentine place where I drank the mushroom & wine sauce like a soup, where we could draw/sign on the walls with big markers.
  • Abuela making short-grained white rice with tocino as I sat on a small, white wicker chair and watched cartoons.
  • Picking out the black rice grains from the big measuring cup full of white rice as I stood on a chair helping a neighbor when we visited Mayaguez.
  • Picking parcha (passionfruit) and sugar cane and guineos (bananas) and carambolas (starfruit) and little medicinal herbs and recao from our backyard.
  • Christmases with arroz con gandules, home-made pasteles wrapped in twine and banana leaves, arroz con dulce with that little cinnamon stick. A roast pig on the spit and Christmas songs about going to see Jesus, about the jibaritos on the mountains.
  • Limbers made in plastic cups and eaten after school, bright yellow corn ice-cream with cinnamon on top (or guava sherbet with creamed cheese balls), and shaved ice piraguas in Old San Juan.

Latino Blog Challenge Day 2: Visitando la patria

Prompt: “What Latin American Country/Island have I been to”

Well, I’ve lived in a Latin-American country most of my life–18 years to be exact–though some debate if Puerto Rico is even a country at all. It’s actually an archipelago, for starters–a collection of islands in the Caribbean, part of the Greater Antilles–that’s still not sovereign. PR is a commonwealth of the U.S., a strange love-child of the Caribbean waters and the U.S. empire.

Aside from that and perhaps touching the shores of some other islands when I was too young to remember more than a few snippets, I’ve never been anywhere else in Latin-America.

Hopefully one day I’ll visit other places, but here are some at the top of the list:

  • Cuba–my father’s homeland. He and his family fled Fidel Castro’s regime and thus hopped over to Mexico, Florida, and eventually Puerto Rico while my dad was just a small child. They all said they’d never step foot back there until communism fell and/or Fidel and his line died out. 
  • Argentina–we had online friends there in the late 90’s due to my dad’s love of Argentine Dogos and my mom’s tech savvy, friendly nature.
  • Costa Rica–pretty pretty!

Latino Blog Challenge Day 1: Latin@ in America

Starting late, I know. This was supposed to start on the 15th, but I’m starting today because I was traveling (to Puerto Rico, coincidentally).

Prompt: “What I love most about being Latino in America”

First of all, I’m assuming “America” here means the United States of America? Which is a pet peeve of mine because the USA is NOT the entirety of America and I think it’s strange how US folks call themselves just “Americans.”

But anyway.

I love that we’re a presence that complicates notions of race and belonging–that in a black/white country we come in too many colors to easily pinpoint and identify as Latin@, and that while all our Latin-American countries have their own histories, we as people have histories with living in the U.S. too.

I like that our mere presence can turn racialized notions on their head. Here in the U.S. we organize more based around country of origin and/or language rather than the color of our skin because skin does not dictate our full cultural landscape (though it does affect it). Our origins, overall, are mixed and complicated so that questions of race can throw many of us for a loop. How much of our blood is black or native or various flavors of colonizer? Is it even a question of blood anymore for those folks who have immigrated into Latin-America from other countries and been there for years, decades, or even centuries?

I love that even in the face of antipathy and harsh immigration laws and racism and xenophobia and stereotypes, we are still overall a proud set of people, that we congregate joyously and there’s always food and conversation and community.

Dear White Friends, Lovers, Strangers (in/from the U.S.)

No, I don’t hate you as a person because you’re white.

I hate the structural inequalities that put white people at an advantage. I hate the legacy of racism in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. I hate that people of color can’t try to create a safe space for themselves without some white people commenting on how that’s “reverse racism” and “discrimination.” I hate that when people of color talk about race and inequality, many white people respond defensively, negatively, and/or with guilt that then makes them focus on their “feeling bad” and impairs them from seeing the realities we’re bringing up. I hate that many respond with “well, we’re not ALL like that” because I already know you’re not all “like that”–“like that” being overtly discriminatory and horribly racist, but most of you to some degree still perpetuate racism even if in small ways.

I don’t need your guilt or anger; I need your support and your allyship in action.

I don’t need you to hate other white people, but to call them (and yourself) out when something racist happens. I need you to stand up for people of color even when there are none in the room. I need you to examine your privilege and see how it affords you certain things that are not accessible (or easily accessible) to people of color. I need you to look at the history of how racial difference was constructed in the United States and understand the context of race.

I need you to LISTEN.

I do NOT need you to feel guilty, but I understand if you do. I can understand if you feel bad, uncomfortable, awkward, or anything in that realm, but those feelings are a byproduct of examining privilege and usually they can even be part of the process of becoming an ally.

No one said this would be easy, and we must not confuse safety with comfort.

Dieta Mediterránea Review (with some spoilers)

I realize I never posted this. Oops. Rectifying that right now!
(This is from Sunday, Aug. 30th, 2009.)
—-

I just got back from watching Dieta Mediterránea with my family (read: mom, dad, maternal grandmother). Going into it, I thought this movie was about a woman torn between two men…but, to my surprise, that was not the case. Sofía is a fierce, willful (sometimes to the point of being very stubborn and even immature) lady with a passionate love of cooking and a bit of wanderlust who is NOT about to make a choice between her long-time boyfriend and this guy she has always been kind of attracted to (a love/hate kind of thing). So she doesn’t!

“Whut? A triad? In a mainstreamy Spanish movie? Fo’ REAL?! ONE THAT WORKS?”

Well. It’s not without its hitches, but there are significantly less problems and resistance than I thought there would be (which seems sweet, but too idealistic). And yes. This group wants the triad model and all people participate–it’s not a V. Well, it kind of is because the female protagonist IS the axis around which the men revolve, but the men DO relate to each other as well.

I was kind of uncomfortable watching it, though, for various reasons:

  • I was with my FAMILY. I couldn’t cheer as enthusiastically as I wanted. I couldn’t say “this is kind of what one of my ideal romantic futures would look like.” I couldn’t fully let me guard down to “un-blank” my face and really enjoy the sex scenes, or the moments of intimacy in general. I couldn’t help but grin widely during a lot of parts, though (just not the sex). Having been awake for almost 24 hours (and now pushing 26, yay!), I was a little cracked out, and add to that the adrenaline of watching a movie where the main characters form a triad, there’s a closeted gay dad, and men TOUCH each other in the triad and KISS each other? And I’m watching this WITH MY FAMILY and only my mom and grandmother know how RELEVANT this is, and they don’t even know the FULL story about how relevant it is to me? It was intense.
  • I was in a movie-theater full of people, all watching a movie that mirrored bits of my life and ideology. I felt judged. Not actively, of course, but…whenever people laughed at certain things, I felt like it was more personal than it “really” was. I felt really sad when people groaned at the gay dad–I knew they were groaning, not because he was cheating on his wife over and over, but because it was with younger men. My dad was one of the most audible groaners and I swear it hurt me to witness that. The groaning or laughing whenever any homosexual activity went on? Yes, I laughed a few times, out of sheer surprise, but not disgust or “hahaha, they’re GAY, ahahahaha.” I was also on edge–I was half-expecting to hear someone shout something derisive, or something about how they were all depraved. It didn’t happen, but I expected it to, and while the expectation is kind of realistic, that’s still really unfortunate (that I expected it at all, I mean). I was also nervous that I’d hear snide comments about the movie and the characters as I left the theater; I didn’t really want to deal with that. I can deal with straightforward shit that’s directed at me; those are easy to brush off. For some reason, though, the people who make comments in front of me degrading shit I love or believe in because they don’t know I love or believe in them? Those upset me.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3230/2677123765_5ef65609a5_o.jpg
YES. I met Paco, the one on the right. :)
The other one (Alfonso Bassave) is my favorite, though.
His nose…is so. good. I just want to nom it.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3079/2677124023_423e880c81_o.jpg
What. an adorable. smile. (the older man = ???)

http://www.fotogramas.es/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/peliculas/dieta-mediterranea/de-fogones-y-hombres/2620012-1-esl-ES/De-fogones-y-hombres_noticia_main.jpg
And some eyecandy–what a beautiful sight to behold. :)

Watch the trailer here!

Explosion in Puerto Rico

So a petrochemical plant back home EXPLODED TODAY.

WHUT.

An oil-storage facility in Cataño caught FIRE Friday morning, around 12:30 AM. Huge explosions were heard, and though nobody was killed (or so reports say for now), the blasts shattered windows of homes and vehicles near the plant. People are being evacuated from the area since the smoke is highly toxic. This “thick putrid smoke” can interfere with planes flying overhead, so that area has been blocked off from having air-traffic.

It’s fascinating how I, in Rhode Island, found out about this almost immediately: thanks to Facebook. My News-Feed was going NUTS with everyone updating their statuses, wondering what was going on, suggesting what was going on, looking for explanations and giving them…it was intense. It was a big domino-effect of questions and answers and more questions. I was going to call my family and see if they were okay, but I was finding out about what had happened first and they eventually called me…so yes, they’re safe, thankfully.

Anyway, it was insane and felt by tons of people and the fire in the sky was nuts. It looked/sounded pretty apocalyptic, which I’m sad I missed, since I’m big into apocalyptic movies/scenarios.
Hypothetically, anyway.

And there’s also this video, linked to me by Harry Aspinwall.

Aaaaand “official” pictures:

puerto-rico-plane-crash-explosion

Three fuel tanks burn inside the gasoline warehouse and distribution center of Caribbean Petroleum Corp., owned by Gulf, in Catano, Puerto Rico, early on Oct. 23, 2009.

Advertising: Hope, Crying, and Culture

I often feel a desire to cry during movie previews. Well, not the movie previews, exactly, but some of the ads they play before movies–the ones with swelling music and Spanish words and some bullshit about what it means to be Puerto Rican. The Banco Popular one? Dear lord, it makes me well up like nobody’s business. There’s a longer version out there, but this the version in theaters (and it’s faster-paced):

Click here for it. Like, I’m watching it right now and I’m tearing up, even though I’ve watched it a bunch of times before. The part where the children’s chorus comes in? Ohhhhh man. If I haven’t cracked by then, that does it. (Of course, I have to be in the zone for the tears to be inevitable; catch me off guard or stressed and I will wave away the ad with annoyance.)

Anyway, I’ve translated the lyrics for those of you who are Spanish-impaired. :P

I’m the light of the morning
that illuminates new paths,
that goes flooding the mountains,
the farmer trails.
I’m the fruit of the future,
the seeds of tomorrow,
planted in pure dung (read: fertilizer)
of my boricua land.
I’m a fisherman of dreams;
I go looking for a sea of spume
of shells and sands,
of sirens and moons.
Of stars and horizons,
my fortune is composed.
I’m a sailing seagull and an astronaut of fog.
Of the bread, I am the yeast that feeds the hope
of the Puerto Rican man,
of the awakening of my mother country.
I bring boricua blood;
I’m the son of the palm-trees, of the toads (does the song say sapos?) and the rivers
and of the singing of the coquí,
of valleys and coffee plantations,
of sugar-cane and pineapple,
of guava and mampostiales,
of tembleque and maví.

I chose to not translate tembleque, maví, and mampostiales. It feels too weird to see them in English, somehow linguistically reduced, or transformed into something else. But, if you MUST know:

  • mampostiales = “very thick, gooey candy bars of caramelized brown sugar and coconut chips, challenging to chew and with a strong, almost molasses-like flavor”
  • tembleque = creamy coconut pudding usually garnished with cinnamon on top
  • maví = “mauby,” a drink! (“The drink or syrup for the drink is made by boiling a specific buckthorn bark, Colubrina elliptica, with sugar and a variety of spices. In looking at individual recipes on how people make mauby, you’ll note spices and flavorings vary exceedingly. Cinnamon is usually included, but then the drink flavoring diverges according to recipe. Some people add cloves, anise, vanilla extract, or cola flavoring. For more info, just check the wiki.”)

If this doesn’t make your mouth water at least a LITTLE, you should get your salivary glands checked. Anyway. Why do I get so emotional? Part of it is the setting of the theater, of course, that sets the stage (no pun intended); everything is bigger and louder and more intense there, plus the darkness creates an air of intimacy and solitude (that’s more believable when one is not in a packed room with some dingbat kicking the back of one’s seat), or at the very least of uninterrupted connection to what is onscreen. However, even when I’m not in the theater, I can get teary-eyed. It’s the idea of this, well, idealized Puerto Rico. It’s a longing for that, and not coupled with the belief that it’s nonexistent, but with the belief that there IS that beauty and that wonder in the Puerto Rico in which I live–that it’s just a matter of stopping and appreciating it, or finding it, or even just knowing how and when to look. The beautiful visuals and music create an air of hope…and if an ad is going to make me feel something, hope is a fucking fantastic choice. It makes the viewer tune in to that part of themselves, the hopeful part, the part that identifies as Puerto Rican, the part that wants to be proud of the mother country and not ashamed. It’s the part that goes “yes yes yes” during the whole ad.

To me, advertising is important. Heck, I wanted to GO into advertising for a while! All things being equal, or more or less equal, I WILL give preference to the organization with better ads, not because I believe their product is better, but because I admire their advertising and feel like rewarding them for a job well done. I will purposefully choose to support a company whose ads I like. And speaking of other ads I like, Harris Paints created a CLASSIC with this one:

Click here.
This thing was played at EVERY MOVIE SHOWING IN EVERY THEATER (of the Caribbean Cinemas chain, at least, but I’m pretty sure CineVista also played them). It ran for YEARS. People went into a movie and sang along to this during the previews, some in barely audible whispers, others in great, booming voices. It was glorious. They eventually retired the commercial after a bunch of years and everyone got upset. And what does this ad have in common with the Banco Popular one? It invokes our sense of Puerto-Rican-ness AND it has great visuals AND catchy music. It talks about paint colors in terms of Puerto Rican things, colors WE know because we see them every day or we are at least pretty damn familiar with them. Green is not fucking…kelly-green or hunter green or limeade green, it’s “verde quenepa.” Red is this red, of the flamboyán (Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant). Blue is the blue of the cobblestones that line San Juan’s streets. And so on. In fact, here are the lyrics:

Paint your life
with the colors of my land.
Paint your life.
Piragua strawberry,
white like coconut,
mango yellow.
Quenepa green,
cobblestone blue,
flamboyán red,
turquoise of the sea.
The colors of my land,
our colors,
paint your life
with the colors
that Harris gives you.

Mmm, gotta love appealing to people’s sense of unified culture. I’ll avoid cynicism for now (shocking!). And for clarification, a piragua is like a snowcone, but the top is pointy like a pyramid (not rounded like a snowball). SO yes. Other ads or previews make me cry too, for different reasons. It’s usually the beauty in them, though, that captures me; they’re so intense and beautiful that I just can’t help but tear up. Same thing with music.