Category Archives: latino/a

Erasing the Mexicans

by Guest Contributor Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, originally published at Write.Live.Repeat

This photo shows my mother on her wedding day. That’s her, in the middle. Her sister “Sis” is on the left, her sister Janis on the right.

Notice how the sisters exchange a strange look across my nervous, uncertain mom (who was 24 at the time). Knowing my aunts, and the family narrative, I have a feeling I know what that smirk was about. It was a smirk of superiority, for my mother had chosen to marry a short Cuban man who spoke little English – while the sisters themselves had both already married conservative white men.

At holiday gatherings, my mother’s family – which self-identified as “anglo” – often made derogatory comments about “Mexicans,” that being the only group they could readily find to lump my father (and his children) into.

When I was in my teens, my mother’s paternal aunt Gladys researched the Conant family tree (my mother’s maiden name is Conant) and discovered, among other things, that my mom’s father’s grandmother’s maiden name was Marquez, and that she hailed from Anton Chico, New Mexico. Her family, Gladys assured us all, could trace its roots directly to Spain in the 1500s, with a land-grant from the King. She was, in other words, royalty. “She was from the Northern part of Spain,” I often heard my grandmother (who married into the Conant family) say, following up with “they’re blonde-headed up that way.”

Well, this week I began researching our family tree myself, for a memoir I’m working on. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Barbarita Marquez (listed as “Marcus” on her death certificate in California, ha!) was not exactly as Spanish as the Conants have wanted us all to believe. Continue reading

On Tyra: Biracial Women Who Hate Their Other Side

by Latoya Peterson

Checking my Clutch feeds, I stumbled across this video from the Tyra show*. Literally, the title of the post sums it up. It’s about biracial folks who hate one side or the other.

The video is 32 minutes long.

The video features Jenna, who is half black and half white, who denies her blackness; Tabitha, who is half latina and half white, who denies her whiteness; Jaselle, who is black and Puerto Rican, who denies her PR heritage; and Sohn (her segment was not included in the video I watched.)

While Tyra focused more on Jenna for the majority of the segments, but the other guests actually brought up some really good points about race and identity.

Jenna appears to have been a ratings ploy – she espouses extreme hatred of other blacks, denies of all positive aspects of her non-white heritage, reaffirms stereotypes as truth, explains a preference for a “white” way of living, proudly displays three rebel flags (using the customary “get over it, it’s heritage not hate, it’s in the past” defenses without any acknowledgment of her own contradiction) and even has a photo of her in makeshift Klan gear.

[One of the Clutch commenters called her a sighted Clayton Bigsby. Was Chapelle’s art imitating life? Or was that skit based on a true story?]

Yeah…moving on. Continue reading

Obama and Myths of Racial Democracy

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America)

Political pundits have celebrated president-elect Barack Obama’s sweeping and historic victory as evidence that the United States has taken an initial step toward a “post-racial” or “colorblind” society.

In a recent Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, Shelby Steele provocatively asked, “Doesn’t a black in the Oval Office put the lie to both black inferiority and white racism? Doesn’t it imply a ‘post-racial’ America?” Analysts on both sides of the political spectrum have answered yes. Phillip Morris of the Cleveland Plains Dealer declared, “America has completed its evolution into a racial meritocracy.” While Jonathan Kay of Canada’s National Post wrote, “Electing a black president won’t instantly cure ‘the ugly racial wound left by America’s history’ (as The Economist put it in its Obama endorsement). But it will at least prove that America has finally become a fundamentally post-racial society—a place where tribal loyalties are based on ideology, not skin color.” Meanwhile, another conservative columnist, Laura Hollis of Townhall.com, flatly claimed, “Racism is dead.”

Most interesting, and perhaps troubling, is the way Latin America is being used by observers to symbolize what a “post-racial” future will look like for the United States. In a syndicated report for McClatchy Newspapers, Tyler Bridges remarked, “This year’s election presents intriguing story lines for Latin Americans. Race is a less important issue here than it is the United States, but many dark-skinned Latin Americans are quietly cheering for Obama.”

U.S. commentators most often point to the concept of mestizaje as an example of Latin America’s seamless racial integration. Mestizaje, or racial mixing, is often seen as diametrically different to historical U.S. legal sanctions against miscegenation—the so-called “one-drop” rule. Mestizaje is cited as a prime example of how Latin Americans have been able to move beyond race. Although mestizaje has different historical roots and trajectories within different Latin American countries, there has been a rhetorical emphasis across the board on a kind harmonious racial exceptionalism at work in Latin America.

The everyday practices and lived experiences of many Latin Americans, however, paint a different picture. Continue reading

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, Regarding Hate Crimes Against Latinos: “Oops. My Bad.”

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published at Guanabee

You might recall our recent look at the murder of Long Island resident Marcelo Lucero and his community’s reaction to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation. Levy said the murder of Lucero was a “one-day story” that was receiving “undue” media coverage. Well, Levy has since apologized for those remarks:

“It was absolutely the wrong time for me to suggest that coverage of events in Suffolk is treated differently by the media,” Levy said in a letter to Newsday. “The horrible incident is indeed more than a one-day story. It was a reminder of how far we as a society still have to go.”

We understand that murderers commit murder, and that the seven teen boys charged with carrying out the actual beating and slaying of Lucero are the ones who most need to pay for their crime. But, while they are the ones who need to carry the bulk of the burden of culpability in this case, their guilt is shared by people like Steve Levy. Some people commit murder with bullets and blades, some do it with their words and examples. Steve Levy is not a murderer, but he worked to perpetuate a culture of murder, an allegation echoed by activist Tony Asion and Dean Kevin Johnson in their recent interview with NPR concerning hate crimes against Latinos.

The “one-day story” made its way into the New York Times. The NYT article quoted Levy as calling the seven murders “white supremacists.” Which, we think, is a step back. Continue reading

The Reggaetón Factor in the U.S. Elections

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America)

Who would have thought when Daddy Yankee released “Gasolina” in 2004 that four short years later the song would become the butt of jokes about John McCain and offshore drilling? If there were still sectors of U.S. society that didn’t know about reggaetón, this year’s presidential race certainly changed that.

Daddy Yankee caused a stir in August when he publicly endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The reggaetonero recently made headlines again when he agreed to help moderate a debate on October 9 among candidates for governor of Puerto Rico as part of the “Vota o Quédate Callao” (Vote or Shut Up) initiative to get young voters to the polls in November.

Not to be outdone, Barack Obama has also had a number of reggaetón artists come out in support of his campaign, most notably Julio Voltio and Don Omar who appeared in the video “Podemos con Obama,” directed by Yerba Buena’s Andres Levin. Calle 13 is even rocking the vote over at MTV. The duo can be seen in ads on MTV and MTV Tr3s urging young people to listen to their new album on the way to the polls.

Does this signal the emergence of a “reggaetón vote”? Pundits have wondered about the weight of the “hip-hop vote” in this year’s election, particularly regarding Barack Obama’s potential appeal to young African American and Latino/a voters. But in 2012 will political pundits be asking candidates what they’re doing to win the “reggaetón vote”? Continue reading

Poncea, Pokemones, Poncea!

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

Last week The New York Times reported on the Chilean youth parties known as Poncea Parties (a.k.a. lets make out and dry hump on the dance floor parties). The New York Times is surprisingly late uncovering the Poncea Parties. Even the less cool Newsweek covered the Poncea phenomenon in March! Come on NY Times, step up your journalistic game!

There has been a lot of recent American media coverage about the about this Chilean youth subculture and their (often public) sexual exploration (despite the NY Times’ late discovery). Drawing inspiration from anime, the young Chileans refer to themselves as “Pokemones” and don piercings and flat ironed asymmetrical haircuts. Mostly the American coverage is scandalized to the point of careless reporting.

While the sexual repression of the Pinnochet dictatorship is mentioned in passing as a cause for this sexual awakening and experimentation, the focus seems to be on the perceived sexual deviance of the youth. They are not monogamous, same-sex hook-ups are commonplace, and they are actively breaking down the boundaries between public and private that dictate sexual normativity. I think the American media coverage through coded language is pointing the finger at stereotypical beliefs about Latin American licentiousness and queerness (and please believe they threw in the fact that the kids were grinding to reggaeton) as reasons for the youth’s “bad behavior.” Cast into a national phenomenon, the media has ignored important issues of race and class in participation in the poncea parties. For instance, who has the ability, economically and otherwise, to actually partake in these activities? Whose bodies aren’t policed and survailed? Even if its deemed naughty by the mainstream, it is still dictated by issues of access so not acknowledging that is careless journalism.

Also, by isolating this particular issue of “deviant” youth sex to a Chilean context the American media doesn’t have to face the fact that similar sexual activity happens regularly in schools and suburbs across the U.S. (remember the whole oral sex bracelets a few years ago?). By focusing on youth sexuality and the need for effective sexual education “over there,” we excuse ourselves from doing the work around youth sexuality and education that needs to happen here.

I’m not condoning 14 year-olds giving each other blowjobs on bus benches in Santiago (because that just seems unsanitary), but I am advocating for a more complex analysis of the issues behind these parties. I’m looking for more than “Chile’s disaffected ‘Pokemones’ don’t care much about politics. They’re too busy having sex.”

It’s just not that simple – so stop the simplistic journalism.

*tip of the fitted cap to Guanabee

Quedate Callao!

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

Reggaetonero SieteNueve has released a tiraera pa Daddy Yankee due to his endorsement of John McCain. The song called “Quedate Callao” asks how much money Daddy Yankee got to sell his people out and lead them into war over “gasolina.” The chorus says “Mejor quedate callao si vas a hablar por los otros” (roughly:”it’s better that you stay quiet if you’re going to speak for us“).

The hook uses a line from a voting campaign that Daddy Yankee was part of in January 2008 called “Voto o Quedate Callao” which translates to vote or shut up, or vote or be quiet.

Raquel Rivera, has written about the campaign and what it says to try and get the youth vote, so I urge people to look at her take over at Reggaetonica.

I think that SieteNueve’s track is great and points to alot of the political reasons why people are bugging out over Daddy Yankee’s endorsement of McCain. What I think is interesting is the use of the slogan “Voto o Quedate Callao” that Daddy helped popularize now being used to silence his (non) vote. The whole voto or quedate callao campaign basically said if you’re not going to vote, or in this case you can’t vote because of neocolonial law, then you have no right to voice your opinion. I think it is interesting and telling that SieteNueve’s video ends with him saying “I endorse Don Pedro Albizu Campos,” alluding to the fact the Daddy Yankee has no business voting for Obama or McCain, because the issue is still Puerto Rican independence and neither candidate is going to provide that.


*tip of the fitted cap to Angry Brown Butch and Vivir Latino