Cursilerías bibliotecarias

The Chicanx Resource Center in East L.A. is like the Biblioteca Vasconcelos of the barrio; it’s both grand and epic and impeccably stocked with books on Mexican and Latin American History. Though it is quaint in size, I can walk and contemplate the books on all seven aisles and feel as if it is a complete and impressive collection of history, of the border, of the barrio and of the inspiration inflicted by all of these on the humyn spirit and our struggle to translate our struggles in order to transcend them. While I was walking down the aisles I was overcome by the urge to cry, to let my tears intertwine with the wonderful rivers of words and letters I saw form all around me. I was suddenly and quite fatally overcome by the realization that I, along with the thousands of authors here featured and their millions of readers, was witness to the grandeur of life and experience, and of the quest to capture life within the both hard and soft covers of books. I realize my current heartaches have been translated before and thousands of times over and that my struggle isn’t completely unique in the struggles among the children of borderlands. My solitude was not only shaken but I quickly rediscovered the beauty of writing, of the power transmitted by a collection of borderless voices, and the importance and beauty of a Chicanx Resource Center. It is a place where feelings and words converge, to wake us of our pain in solitude, our perturbing loneliness and our untranslatable experiences.

I swim amidst words that spell out meXicana encounters and bind together the profoundness of thought of chicanx poetisas like Gloria Anzaldúa. I swim among the waves of letters of borderlands and historias y nostalgias de las patrias. It has revived the feelings and saberes that my Mexico City querido is with my everywhere I travel and my pochoteca spirit has been reignited by the resilency that emanates from books and from these mahogany tables as if to remind me of the buoyancy of translated feelings. Resisting the urge to cry all over a hard copy of John Ross’s El Monstruo..¡Me siento viva!

Living beats

Today I’m in the mood for some jazz, Duke Ellington, Monk, Nina Simone and café con leche.

 Reading about jazz musicians of the past and on the essence of jazz immortalized in the writing of James Baldwin (among others), I have the notion that this music is about sentiments and feelings buried deep inside that only jazz notes can communicate. It is a product of genius and tragedy.

I find so much beauty in and appreciate people who make music, people who are music, and people who live life as beats and melodies.  Some people I’ve met are as troubled and tragic as Thelonious Monk but just as brilliant.  In the past it has troubled me to think people can think and desire so differently than me, that their sense of purpose and creation is so different than my own.  But like everyone, they make internal compromises in order to get by – metaphysically, philosophically, spiritually.

In order to survive – that is, to live the lives of their choosing, as drummers, as musicians, as challengers, artists, and performers – they come to a sort of agreement with themselves in order to turn and confront the world as they are, as they have chosen to be, intending to occupy as much space in the world, as they are. Sometimes the world decides you’re crazy or dangerous or stupid and does away with you.

But sometimes because you create a jazz album, a book or writing – conversation and enlightenment in all its forms – you become impossible to destroy.  You transcend your fear of death, of destruction and termination – the fear of yourself, your vulnerability and temporality – through your power to create and inspire. Perhaps that is one outstanding reason I adore music.

It is a remnant of that amazing power of creation, a testament of sorts. Music from a time far gone, from a present very proximate and dynamic, and of a reassurance that this creative force that slumbers in many people, is very capable of influencing wonderful interpretations to inspire us all.

As with music, so it is with dancing, and with words, and with ideas, and with smiles, and with love.

Mexico City: Letters of Note

Be it through coincidence or the laws of attraction, I have found people who have been equally intrigued and entranced by Mexico City.  I have forged both old and new friendships with people who are tirelessly working on moving to Mexico City in the pursuit of creative confidence and love. Others, by way of good friends and professors, inquire as to what sort of opportunities  there are there, what experiences there are to unmask.  Be it for a weekend or a month, people are perpetually called to Mexico City.

It is precisely this intrigue, for those who have yet to know its essence and people, and love, for those of us who know it all too well, that I try to communicate when approached to describe sights, places, and experiences of note in D.F. The following is a bilingual and spanglish (sprinkled with chilango vernacular, which, with time and habit we all become fluent in) attempt at that – pieced together from various virtual and loving exchanges – “¿Qué locuras me recomiendas en el DF?”

Amigx, ¿por donde empezar? Es una ciudad intensa, loca y surreal.  Mexico City me ha enseñado mucho sobre la vida, como es imprevisible con extremos y matizes.  El punto, supongo y espero, es conocer a la ciudad más allá de lo que el departamento de turismo promueve – porque sí, los museos y el patrimonio cultural como el palacio de gobierno son hermosos y plasman los murales de Diego Rivera, Siqueiros, y Frida and other brilliant creators  – but to live the City es (re)conocer aquello infundido de la vida citadina y cotidiana, es conocer a la banda y lo sublime y bonito del barrio, lo desagradable, la desfachatez. Es conocer los mercados y tiangüis dfeños como Tepito y Mercado Sonora for synesthetic inspiration and stimulation and to feel the warmth and happiness of people. Es visitar alguna de las pulquerias que se encuentran en el Centro (el cual es muy hermoso y una de mis partes favoritas de la cuidad)  to rub elbows with dones and doñas, wise and inexperienced.

It’s searching and finding great music. Como Multiforo Alicia que tiene shows de rock, garage, y surf. Recuerdo, I remember, the times I’ve been lost in enjoyment of garage punk, surf, and cumbia beats  that have transported me to dance floors in Los Angeles and back again, a corporal nepantilism that induces dancing across the grey hues of borderlands, finding yourself right back in the heart of Mexico City, absorbing the energy and vivacity of damn good music.

Pursue your energy and hunger for the City but also be tranquil and confident,  súbete a los taxis, a los peseros y por supuesto sin falla – no te vayas sin subirte al – metro.  Goza de la comida rica and quintessentially urban; come tacos de al pastor si se te apetece o las quesadillas de huitlacoche, flor de calabaza y las frutas y vegetables y garnachas domingueras.  Y pues total, relájate, déjate llevar por el caos ordenado y el orden caotico de la ciudad. Y paséate y goza. The notion of enjoyment and relaxation is somehow very distinct in Mexico City. Stand still and watch the meticulous order of chaos unfold in spirals and roundabouts before your eyes; the mini buses, gold and red taxis, and thousands of swarming pedestrians who harmoniously coexist and rhumba to the rhythm of car horns and street side hustlers’ hollers. It is a sort of sustenance and source of strength to experiment in the freedom of abandonment and chaos. Enduring life in a city of nine million extremophiles, denizens that live in conditions most living creatures would consider inhospitable.

Y charla con lxs chilangxs y no chilangxs.  Charla recostada en las islas de la UNAM, en las bancas del Parque Alameda, por la calle de Donceles (por si también te gustaría encontrar un buen libro) o charla con amigos viejos o nuevos en algún café en el Centro.  Únete a una marcha (que siempre, siempre los hay..avanzando por las venas de la ciudad).  Y respira profundamente aquel aire toxico y contempla el cielo gris y olas de hormigón desde arriba en el mirador de la torre latinoamericana o a la gente que te rodea sentadx en la plancha del zócalo. As I write this, siento que lo extraño, pero estas palabras que voy redactando me alegran – un amor innegable.

Mexico City: Zócaleando

El Zócalo es un sitio de encuentros y de choque, de contemplación y manifestación. De grandeza: grandeur.

I’m sitting in the heart of México, leaning against the enormous flag pole that hoists the tricolor flag adored and honored by millions. This is my favorite point, in my favorite Colonia, of the city. This is a place of constant movement; with every national holiday and change of season, el Zócalo is transformed. Giant ice rinks, a capitalisticly branded christmas tree, el grito and independence day, revolution commemorations and the international book fairs are some of the events that require the perpetual rearrangement of this sacred space; constant mutilation, sometimes in the interest of official city ordinance, capital accumulation or for the diffusion of national and international culture and art. Usually, these spaces require bureaucratic planning and government approval. However, there are rituals and performances of a more organic, angry, desperate and sporadic fashion: mass protest and social grievance manifested.

This is a sacred site for the left in Mexico, a symbolic and spiritual plaza that is usually the end point of many marches that paralyze the city.  Students have claimed it, Zapatistas, electricians, families of persons disappeared in the appalling mess of a “War on Drugs”, and Lopez Obrador have claimed it. It’s volcanic stone square adorned floor bears signs of its constant use and the weight of millions that have walked, marched and danced across it.  There’s discernable trash and disarticulated paper kites, paper bags and condoms, pan dulce crumbs strewn across the square. The bubbles that float atop it reflect along its beautiful 360 surface of water and soap particles, the panorama of La Caterderal, el Palacio Nacional and the light blue and grey sky.

Today I hear the beat of two conga drums and the musings of street performers. Just beyond the demarcated square, there sits a young man playing a spanish guitar and beside me there sits a couple with their Sunday afternoon purchases of black and white glossy photos of early 20th century Mexico.  And if I look directly above me, the impressively long flag pole rises and reaches for a spectacular horizon and the bluest point of the rarely blue Mexico City sky.  The largest plaza in a country of a thousand plazas, el Zócalo feels sacred.  Enduring and eternal, there is no weight that can ever undermine its millennial importance and strength.

Ruptures and reencuentros

There is a strong overwhelming sadness when you begin to let go of something you love; sadness and anguish seeps into you, winds and spins down into your soul, to erupt, para derramarse, to flood your entire being.  There is so much that ties me to people and to places.  There are certain places that I love beyond measure and beyond articulation, it astounds me.  It overwhelms and inspires me.  When it comes to a place and experience like Mexico City, I have become so enamored that the thought of having to relinquish my plans of establishing myself there more permanently frightens and overwhelms me.  But what else is there?  What comes next?  What happens when I let you go?

I don’t know what to work for, other than for my own happiness.  I am living now, I lived yesterday, I will -maybe- live tomorrow.  I am only aware and present that I am living this exact fleeting precise past instant. I am here and I have everything here, with me. When it comes to ruptures, sometimes I prefer to block people, hoping they’d forget me, so I could forget them.  I think it becomes easier not to feel certain people so present if they themselves separate my image and smell and taste from their senses and memory. And that scares me also.  Because, once they forget me, who will I be?  What will I be? This is always possible.  This always happens.  And we still exist.  They still exist, too.  You exist separately, like you did all along, always independently.  No one belongs to any one, somewhere along the time shared and given, we forget because at a certain point we seemed to have fused together.  But we all live parallel lives; we all exist independently; you were someone before you met him; you were someone before you visited Mexico City; Mexico City was Mexico City before you; he was himself before he met you.  This is the law of history and destiny since always.  You are now a different person, perhaps more beautiful perhaps more enlightened perhaps more aware.

But then there are people you adore and love and although you may  not see them often, you adore and love just the same.  So why is there a need for a rupture?  Perhaps because it is more like a departure. Depart but leave the goodbye open for new hellos, new convergences and renewed embraces.  Sometimes I oscillate between goodbye forever or be with me always but perhaps life need not be so extreme. Leave it open to new encuentros.  El amor es eso; they will return, you will return, love always returns.

palabras desnudas

“No acumules silencios, grita de vez en cuando” – filosofía digital y anónima 

I love exploring words, creative ways to weave desires and pain into words, dreams into projects,  and poems into inspiration.  I love the way words are flexible and ever-changing but also impressively precise.  This love is probably born out of with my own cosmovisión and sociopolitical life perspectives.  We’re asked all the time: “Why did you choose to study X?” or “Why have you chosen to pursue Y?”  “Why are you organizing with Z?” These questions, sometimes innocently posited for the purpose of  small talk, welcome us to share  sublime and lucid insight on our life experiences.  For me, it comes down to the bareness of words and meanings.  Much of what I am inspired by are words and palabras: spoken, written, silenced, protested.

Ultimately, I think our passions as writers, singers, dancers, lovers, actors, and travelers arise from a conjunction of life experiences and encounters. We are products of the millions of intersections and encuentros that mark our minds and spirits and memory. Personally, I associate social justice with writing, with communication and voice, with power through spoken and written word, with palabra.  Born and raised in Boyle Heights, the move to Santa Cruz at age 18, graduation at age 21: through the constant movement, I have seen how my transnational transbarrio and translocal communities oscillate between silence and voice. It’s difficult to pinpoint exact experiences but I remember growing up, witnessing the subtle discrimination imposed against my father, a very well spoken and elegant man with dark brown skin; being pulled over on a California highway by a highway patrol car, my father’s speechlessness and inability to respond to the police officers aggressive questions and inquiry. The –  quickly shattering – silence of thousands of undocumented Latin American migrants in the U.S., my mother’s constant struggle to learn English, to communicate eloquently with a physician. I have felt a rabid, lingering desperation to scream this silence into extinction. I’ve felt a desperation tugging at my vocal cords, pleading to articulate the injustices my communities has faced for years, decades and certainly even centuries.

“What do you most want to learn about journalism?”

In 2012, I found out about an opportunity to participate in the Authentic Journalism School sponsored by Narco News, an on-line news bulletin with an affinity for the construction of and solidarity with movements for authentic democracy and ending the war on drugs in Mexico.

For personal reasons or otherwise, I wasn’t accepted into the program but I was left with a lengthy (about 26 pages) memoir that vividly expressed my passion for writing and journalism.  The Narco News application is now something I go back to read and to continue to deconstruct what moves me about writing, specifically about social movements and social justice in Latin America and in the U.S., in a practical and creative effort to understand how I see myself contributing to these efforts.

Reviewing these responses comes at an interesting time, when I start contemplating pursuing a Master’s in Journalism, meanwhile brainstorming how I could develop experience and write with creative courage.

What I’d like to now share is my (working) response about the gigantic and complex question: “What do you most want to learn about journalism?”  Aquí les comparto, compas:

Well I want to learn many things really. I want to see how others perceive journalism, whether they also see it as an outlet for community empowerment, be it at the level of communities like East Los Angeles or larger communities like Mexico. I see journalism as a tool for empowerment in my community, a way to communicate its perceptions of itself. Boyle Heights is painted as a violence-filled neighborhood by mainstream Los Angeles media and while although gang violence does indeed inform much of the social scheme of things in my community, social reality transcends dread and violence. It is a culturally rich community, with many spaces and members that are working against those who seek to make the community itself think they are nothing more than gangsters, teen mothers and a disposable and docile labor force.

I see correlations between the ways in which the media reports on Boyle Heights and the way it paints a whole country like Mexico. Every morning I monitor the U.S. English language news for the Americas Program MexicoBlog and it is honestly very spiritually exhausting and intellectually frustrating. As I explained in a Facebook post one morning, everyday I take a couple of hours to monitor the news on Mexico in relation to migration, politics, the drug war, transnational mining, and the list goes on, for my internship with the Center for International Policy. Overall, the news reports as well as the news itself can be so overwhelming, so ridiculous and so disheartening. The dehumanized Mexican criminal, migrant, citizen is always confronting perpetual misery. Their (our) existence isn’t restricted to those generalizations and misinformed categorizations.

To be more specific, in the month of September of 2012 there was a boom in news stories describing how Mexican “drug pin” criminals and warmongers have been apprehended and thus mark “success stories” in Calderon’s war on drugs. A critical and informed reader understands that the rise in sudden drug war success stories is correlated to the 2012 electoral conjuncture and the fact that Calderon is on his way out of the presidency and that Enrique Peña Nieto and the Partido Revolucionario Institucional is on the way in. However, informed by mainstream mass media, the Mexican and U.S. public are told to rest assured that the madmen producing and distributing the drugs and perpetuating the violence have been apprehended. “Drug king-pins” aren’t the source of the problem. Violence, lynched Mexican citizens, dead drug lords are plastered in photographs all over the covers of newspapers and magazines that fill Mexican newsstands.

I wonder sometimes what that does to the collective psyche of the Mexican populace, how they understand themselves, and the country in which they live. The way the drug war is reported and portrayed in mainstream U.S. and Mexican media criminalizes Mexican drug cartels and ignores the role of U.S. consumption of the drugs, the flow of arms to Mexico from the U.S. and the complacency from both the U.S. and Mexican government. How can we change this? How can we turn journalism away from a weapon of distraction, hopelessness and dehumanization to a tool for empowerment and consciousness? How can journalism help a child or teenager from Boyle Heights or a colonia in the heart of Mexico City understand themselves, understand they have the power to influence the world, to challenge their own realities? I want to learn what can be done to challenge and change the way news is reported transnationally, from the barrios of Los Angeles to those of Mexico City.

Unparalleled epiphanies

Listening to Manu Chao and reading over LALS readers and lecture notes, después de tanto tiempo asegurándome que sólo sé que no sé nada, me pregunto: What the heck did I learn as an undergrad? Today, as years have come and gone, there’s still so much to remind myself of, to reflect, and to learn.

Keeping tabs on all of the theoretical morsels, sometimes bitten off in chunks too big for us to chew much less digest, the discussions, debates and epiphanies, is difficult. And these lessons are erased by time and distance as we take to our present context, new countries, new cities, new deadlines, and the flux of our realities.  Having studied Latin American and Latina/o Studies and Politics at UC Santa Cruz (please take note of the “and” “Latina/o” and the banana slug reference, these are all necessary to contextualize the experience of a brown womyn studying and deconstructing social science) I remember a few things more vividly than others.

I remember that sublime thrill – the feeling I can only associate with that deep, long, desperate breath of air you struggle for after you’re doused with ice cold water or deprived of air for a few seconds too long – it was to study Latin American and Latina/o studies.  What is globalization? What is a border? neoliberalism? injustice?  economics? migration?  my father? my mother?  my community?  myself.  This struggle for breath and air is at once painful and desperate, reviving and invigorating.  It was the most painful and illuminating period of intellectual development of my young life (only to be rivaled by the learning and un-learning inspired by life in Mexico City, however, this has been much less intellectual).  This, of course, was complimented by my aggravating study of Politics.  I would sit in a classroom, obviously out numbered by white students, outnumbered by voice, by confidence and upon further reflection, deprived of the platforms for discussion and intellectual debate that reflected not only experience beyond theoretical constraints – experience as telling of state institutional policies and deprivations as violence, for example  – but the opportunity to express fundamental and powerful critiques of the Political Science and Politics model of the U.S., born out of Latin America.  I always felt, as a student of Politics, that I was doomed to perpetually build the monster I so ardently deconstructed as a student of LALS. Torn, disarticulated, left without a language to speak to these two parts.  I understood, and still do, what Politics is and represents and that it is why I wanted to train my intellect and spirit – because how ever hard you try, your spirit is part of the being that creates these thoughts and compels you to intellectual debate – to the language of the deciders, deliberators, creators and destroyers.

But I also learned that this way of knowing doesn’t easily welcome your language and voice: the struggle of the classroom reflects many struggles, your voice is shut down by non-verbal, unspoken, deeply rooted assumptions of who should do the talking.  I’ve traveled, I’ve lived in Mexico, I’ve studied in UNAM, where I’ve studied politics, philosophy, and latin american studies.  As I corporally, intellectually, and spiritually distanced myself from that time of great growth, it became less present, it’s as if I almost unlearned those theories and forgot that frustration.  But it’s still there, isn’t it?  Slumbering and sulking and awaiting to astound other students, the silent of the social sciences.  But these students, I, will always bellow.  In so many ways, their clamor wields potency and power.

This is what I remember from undergrad: simmering in this creativity, power, and articulation. And there is so much still to digest and reflect.  And somehow, as soon as I take moments to breathe and tune into Manu Chao, it’s as if it all rushes back.  The all nighters at Stevenson Computer Lab and the feeling that this epiphany on neoliberalism and cultural production for my term paper will have no parallel, ever again.

Amorcito mio

I GUIDE MY LIFE THROUGH LOVE.

 Through the love that emanates from my body and simmers within my soul, through the love of creation and inspiration for justice and transcendence, love from within myself for myself and not the love I wish to see in the eyes of others who look at me.  Self Love, which  for so long I sought to find in others as a validating sort of love, radiates within me for life, for my lovers, and for love. I do not guide my life through fear, but through love. I love those who come into my life and those who part from it, because through the synergy and intensity of our love, we grew stronger, leaving each other with the lessons to continue, breaking down or building ourselves the way we need to.

Dulce Esperanza

What’s in a name?  A bit of investigative work and short conversations regarding what’s behind my name, my parent’s explain that it means “dulce esperanza”.  This, along with all of the symbolism encompassed with being a daughter of two mexican migrants now living in Los Angeles via way of Durango and Sonora, and who I am becoming, has prompted me to write this short piece in Spanish.  Espero que les guste, muchos besitos:

Yo tengo alma de ave, me seduce el viento que acaricia mi piel, como si animarme a tomar vuelo.  Desde pequeña me gustaba correr, brincar y jugar sin fijarme ni preocuparme hacia cual rumbo me dirigía, sin importar que me tropezara o me cayera, y un día de jugar era todo un éxito cuando terminaba con moretones en las rodillas y en los codos y empapada de sudor y tierra…a la angustia de mi madre.  Jamas me he dejado vencer o desanimar por miedo a causarme heridas, tras años de deporte de baile de viaje he aprendido que tengo un cuerpo muy fuerte y resistente.  Sí temo defraudarme a mi misma y esto me causa enfrentar retos con temor de ser insuficiente, de no creerme digna de lograr aquello que tanto me asombra, pero persigo aquellos sueños con tremendo empeño y cada día con más paciencia y amor y valentía. Porque me fascina la sensación de volar, de percibir la inmensidad del hermoso entorno; de vistas nuevas viejas y antiguas que se vuelven nuevas con cada día.  Me gustaría discernir las rutas por las cuales puedo volar, con amor y esperanza, para navegar por el mundo con la curiosidad y confianza desarrollada de niña y con el amor propio que voy desarrollando como adulta.  Y con la esperanza engendrada en mi por mi papá y mi madre, por mi familia y comunidad, por el mundo hacía mi y yo hacía el mundo.  Me gustaría navegar el mundo volando, con valentía y con la mira hacía el horizonte perpetuo.