Promesas y la Lila

I promise an update is coming soon. I may have some exciting news but I'm holding off until I get the final word, or part of the final word. In any case, here's something I've been working on.

A Medley of Cultures: Transculturalism in the music of Lila Downs
Globalization and transculturalism have become every day words in the vocabularies of people all over the world. It is said that inventions like the internet and agreements like North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have helped push along the concept of globalization, a global economy, and lead to transcultural societies, culture that crosses many borders. Japan has factories in border towns like Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The Mixteca community in New York City who travel to Mexico at least once a year for a religious festival are just a few examples of the medley that has become the world. The point that transculturalism has existed since the birth trade of trade is important, but it is not until now, that it is receiving attention not only from scholars but from popular culture as well.
An example of this is in Lila Downs’ 2001 album Border/La linea, in which she performs a song titled “Medley: Pastures of Plenty/This Land is Your Land/Land. ” This song is transcultural because it is a mixture of two Woody Guthrie songs interlaced with lyrics to Downs’ “Land.” Looking at the life of Woody Guthrie, we find that he was affected by “some of the most significant historic movements and events of the Twentieth-Century—the Great Depression, the Great Dust Storm, World War II, the social and the political upheavals resulting from Unionism, the Communist Party and the Cold War .” Looking at Downs’ history, we find that she has a Scottish-American father and a Mixtec-Indian mother. Her parents met when her father was in Oaxaca filming a documentary . Being the daughter of parents of different nationalities allowed Downs to live in both Mexico and the United States.
An interesting factor in “Medley” is the lyrics. In “Pastures of Plenty,” Guthrie talks about the migration that took place during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. “This Land is Your Land” satirical because the land is not “for you and me.” Both of these songs end with a reclaiming of the land:
Well, it’s always we ramble, that river and I,
All along your green valley I’ll work till I die,
My land I’ll defend with my life, if it be.
‘Cause my pastures of plenty must always be free. (Pastures of Plenty)

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back,
This land was made for you and me. (This Land is Your Land)

Interlaced with this claim for land and freedom is Downs’ “Land” which gives a voice to the indigenous groups subjugated to the genocide by the European settlers during colonization. Even though the indigenous groups are not around, according to Downs, they will continue to exist “Dust is to dust hail thee memory/even if they grin me, dust I will be—.” Downs is a Scottish-American/Mixtec-Indian woman singing in English, Spanish and Nahuatl and performing songs written by a mid-nineteenth century social activist exemplifying the transcultural world we are living in today.



I have a confession to make; I’m hooked on La Academia. I used to watch it when it first started. I remember watching the first episode when I first arrived in Houston. When I called my mom to ask if my brother, who had driven with me, had made it home ok, I asked her about this Academia that my brother-in-law was watching. She said, “oh si, La Academia. Acaba de empezar.”

I quickly grew to enjoy Yahir’s singing night after night. I was annoyed with Miriam’s love affair with la camarita and annoyed with Victor’s playboy attitude. After Yahir’s generation, I didn’t think I would watch it again. However, a couple of things happened that led to this addiction. First, Dan the Man moved in with me making the 9 P.M. phone calls obsolete. Then, when I would call my mom Sunday night, she would always ask, “¿Estas viendo La Academia?” Of course, I was not watching it because I was watching Extreme Home Makeover and Desperate Housewives. I would spend the entire day reading and doing homework so I could reward myself with two hours of television. A three hour concert was a bit too much for me at the time. The other thing that happened was that school ended, obviously, this would free up a lot of my time. The other thing that happened was the season finales of Makeover and Housewives.

Now, if you swing by my apartment on Sunday night, you will find me glued to a television, reading and cursing at Alan Tacher. You know that day I wrote that entry about not being able to write lately? Well, I wrote an entire entry in my paper journal about how much Alan Tacher gets on my nerves. I hate the way his fingers look all long and skinny when he hold the microphone. I hate the way he flirts with the girls and tries to get some cheap thrills, and I especially hate the way he drags on and on the announcement of who’s getting kicked off. I hate the latter so much in fact, that today, I threw my pen at the television.

Lolita Cortés and Arturo López Gavito, who by the way is a dead ringer for The Brain from Pinky and the Brain, are the most annoying and the most amusing at the same time. I enjoy how they get into a debate over what each crítico has to say about the almuno’s performance and yet they get on my nerves because sometimes they make a big deal over nothing.

Alumno Edgar gets on my nerves too, but tonight, he had me giggling like a little girl at the crazy things he was doing. I was even jamming along to his little rap. Lolita was right in saying that when he performs, he gets all the attention on him, the way it should be. But still, I’m pulling for my girl Yuridia. My mom says that she kind of looks like me. “Cuando tenias las piernas de escopeta. Como te enflacaste esa vez,” she says.

I like her because she’s cute and she’s got a great voice. I’d also like for Erasmo to win. I loved it when he sang that song, “Con tus perfumenes mujer, me vuelves loco… .” It reminded me of the night Gabi and I arrived in San Miguel. And of course, I loved it when he and the other guys sang Intocable’s “¿Y todo para que?”

Anyone interested in a La Academia viewing party next week for the grande finale?



I'm not sure what to make of this. It's something I turned in for my Pop Culture class last semester. It doesn't make any sense to me, but I thought I would share.

In recent years, there has been a rise in the popularity of quirky t-shirts. If you walk into your local Target, you will see a wall of t-shirts that read “Your village called, they lost their idiot” or “I can only make one person's day and today isn't your day/Tomorrow isn't looking too good either.” If you venture into a highly Latino populated area, like Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, you can find a booth that sells Latin influenced shirts like those of NACO Inc. These shirts take U.S. pop culture and mix it up with Latin flair. One example is the Naca/o shirt which takes the ever popular ACDC logo and replaces it with NACO. There is also the Mr. T t-shirt in which Mr. T is replaced by El Profesor Girafales from the notorious skit “Chavo del 8” from Chespirito, a 1970's Mexican program. There is also the blood red t-shirt with the mustard yellow heart and the letters CH in the center of the heart, which symbolizes El Chapulín Colorado, another Chespirito skit that mocks superheroes. Of course, these shirts mean nothing to those Americans who grew up watching Happy Days and the Brady Bunch. But to the Spanish speaking Generation Xers who watched Chespirito as kids these shirts mean more-they imply that Latino culture is becoming incorporated into U.S. society and that the entertainment they grew up can be pop culture.

The NACO Inc. t-shirt that reads “Estar Guars” is emblematic of transculturalism. Star Wars has long been a staple in U.S. pop culture. There are conventions dedicated to this film and almost everyone has seen at least one of these movies whether it was at the theater as a kid, on TNT, or one of the latest prequels. For NACO Inc. to produce such a shirt means that the U.S. is not the only country producing knock off pop culture from other countries in the form of mañanitas (shawls), peasant shirts, or Corona trucker caps. NACO Inc. is not the only company doing so. Walking the markets near the Zócalo in Mexico City, the streets are lined with tarps covered with t-shirts that play with U.S. pop culture.

These Latin influenced pop culture shirts can also be found at a store at the Edward's Marquee Theaters Plaza in Houston. There is a shop that offers not only these U.S. pop culture burlesque t-shirts but other items like the “Frijolero” t-shirt which was made popular by the Grammy nominated Molotov's single “Frijolero.” Wearing such a shirt is an incredibly political statement because of what the song says. It talks about the racial struggle that Latinos still encounter and recalls that “if not for Santa Ana…that where your feet are planted would be Mexico.” The production of this t-shirt and others is in a way assimilating to U.S. pop culture, but at the same time they celebrate and embrace a folklore that would otherwise be lost and replaced with an Aztec calendar ignoring a crucial chapter of history.

Blogger Dreams

I've been in pretty gloomy mood lately, but it seems that things are starting to get better. Last night, when I got home from my writer's group meeting, there was mail on the table. I noticed a post office slip for Daniel, some magazines, one from AAA and Legion and finally, there was a letter from Pasadena Independent School District addressed to me.

I had applied for their alternative teacher's certification program back in April but had not heard a word from them. This led me to the depressive mood, because I honestly did have my heart set on teaching for them. It's in an area that is very diverse and yet, I feel that I would be able to relate to the students. Plus, it doesn't give me the overwhelming feeling of doom that HISD gives me. Anyway, the letter asked me to take in a copy of my transcript, which states that I did in fact receive a B.A. degree. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that if I can't get a job teaching high school English I can at least do middle school.

On Wednesday night I had this really funky dream. Dan the Man, Gabi, Bo and I were at the crappy amusement park in El Paso. We were on some ride that swung back and forth like a pendulum. I remember that we were considering which section to get on so that we'd get the biggest thrill. I remember being on the ride and doing the pansy thing I always do, closing my eyes when we were to far off the ground and coming down. (I'm afraid of height, but I always make myself do these things for the thrills)

Anyway, as I was getting off the ride, my roommate drove up and rolled down the window. I was holding Dan the Man's hat and went over to see what she wanted.

“Someone's looking for you,” she said.

“For me?”

“Yeah, some girl named Gabriela. She said she needs to talk to you. I just saw her over on the other side, get on, I'll give you a ride so you don't miss her.”

I got on the car and she dropped me off on the other side of the amusement park. I remember leaving Dan the Man's baseball cap in her car and thinking he was going to be mad at me. Somehow, I knew what this Gabriela looked like because I spotted her right away. Actually, she kinda looked like Bella Chicana. Anyway, I went up to her and asked her if she was looking for me and she said, “Yeah.”

“Well, here I am.”

“I wanted to talk to you about your blog.”


“I don't like what you write. I don't think you should be talking…”

It all became a blur after thing, but I remember her telling me that she didn't like what I said about the Catholic Church or how I treated Dan the Man. I remember that I told her to mind her own damn business because this was MY blog and I could do as I damn well pleased with it.

It was all so weird because it felt so real. Its funny how our minds take all our concerns and make one big jumbled mess out of them when we fall asleep.


Reading Mis Ojos

Tonight at my writer’s group, I read a piece I wrote a couple years ago about my dad. Aside from not producing anything new lately, I read this piece because it was requested for consideration in an upcoming anthology. My never-ending polishing sentiments caused me to take this to my meeting tonight.

Prior to tonight’s meeting, I read the story a few times checking for grammar, but more than anything, to wear off any sentiments I felt while reading it. See, this piece was written while I was enrolled in a memoir class in the Fall of 2003. We were asked to make a list of nicknames. After about ten minutes, we were asked to pick three of those nicknames and finally, to pick one. I picked Mis Ojos, which was my dad’s special nickname for me.

One night, over a pitcher of Shiner at Kay’s Lounge, Gabi and Bo told me that I had to forgive my dad. They told me that when I went home that Halloween, I had to go and try to fix things with him. To take all my left over financial aid money and take him out to have an awesome dinner and tell him everything that he did to me and how it made me feel.

A couple weeks later, I got a phone call at about 7:30 A.M. from my brother Jorge, telling me that Dad was dying. I thought it was the usual bullshit. According to doctor’s, my dad had been dying since I was 12. Why would this time be any different?

Well, turns out, he really was dying. It all happened before I could get there. When I got back to Houston, I had to keep working on the story because it was part of my final portfolio for the class. My professor said we could work something out, but I knew it was something I had to do. Besides, I had gotten so far behind in my other classes that I couldn’t really afford to work on a new piece.

A couple of months later, that same professor contacted me and asked me to submit it for the anthology. However, working on it then was so much harder. I couldn’t get through it without tearing up. I guess it was good since, I didn’t cry much. I would let out short bursts of large tears and quickly compose myself. Working on this story was really therapeutic; it still is. However, I didn’t want to break down like I did in that poetry workshop in San Miguel, so I read it at least twenty times before tonight. Although my voice shook harder than a feigning heroine addict, I was able to get through it without any tears.

I wanted to write something about my dad on my birthday, because as some of you may know, el día del padre in México is on my birthday, June 15th. But that day, I wasn’t in the mood for writing. For some reason, I couldn’t even make it through a conversation that day without tearing up. It was so bad that when Jorge called to wish me a happy birthday, I didn’t even pick up the phone. I guess its good I took the day off from work.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this, so I guess I’ll stop for now. If the piece gets published, I’ll share it with ya’ll.


Trapo Loyalist

Last night, as I was washing away the residue of entomatada ingredients, I remembered being ten or eleven, looking at the multi colored foaming Ocello sponge my madrina held in her hand. She quickly scrubbed away all the food from her dishes and ran them under the running water. She would sometimes keep a bowl of soap, Clorox and water mix by her sink. More often than not however, she dropped a few drops of Dawn or Joy on the sponge. When the sponge began to fall apart, she would dump it in the trash can she kept under her sink and take out a brand new one probably from the other side of the cabinet under the sink.

My mom, her older sister and downstairs neighbor, in my mind, was too old fashioned for an Ocello sponge. My mom used a washcloth. Un trapo. It could have started its service in bright magenta, but by the end of its first dishwashing experience, it was a faded pink. El trapo would help her serve a plate of steaming enchiladas. It would experience every cleanable surface in the narrow kitchen and sometimes even the floor. After dozens of kitchen cleaning adventures, it would end up torn, tattered and sometimes frayed. Mom would dump it in the trash and bring out another washcloth. I don’t know if she sometimes used the washcloths we used to shower, this was before the pouf era, but it never grossed us out because my mom used more than enough Clorox.

Despite swearing that my madrina’s sponge was better than my mom’s trapo at a ripe age, these days I can’t do without a trapo in the kitchen. Some people think it’s gross because they believe it germinates bacteria, but a study that was discussed on 20/20 and Oprah about bacteria in your kitchen claimed that sponges create more bacteria. This however, is not the reason I chose the trapo over the sponge. It’s more along the lines of fidelity. Just like I can’t stop being Catholic even though I disagree with the Church about a lot of things, I can’t betray my mom’s trapo. Nothing feels better than submerging your hands in a mix of Clorox and dish soap in hot water to find a sopping wet trapo.

What do you keep in your kitchen?


Lazy sabado

I’m so lazy right now. It certainly doesn’t help that all the PMS swimming around in my body decided to attack my cintura and makes it difficult to sweep, mop and put away the dishes. I had dreams para el sabado. I planned on cleaning the living room, kitchen, the bedroom and bathroom and making some spectacular entomatadas. I’m done with the living room, but now I gotta go tackle the kitchen, specifically the fridge. I think there’s still leftover graduation cake. Fortunately, the birthday cake was done at the office so it was all gone except for the piece I brought home for Dan the Man.

Anyway, I wanted to thank all of you for your kind comments. It really helps when people offer encouraging words.

I had a whole entry about this show I saw on Wal Mart, but I’m editing it. I suppose I better get back to this cleaning business. Of course, I could wait until Dan the Man gets time off and have him help me, but he’s done the laundry, taken out the trash and pretty much waited on me hand and foot this week.


More of the life drama

You know when you walk into a room and people suddenly stop talking? That happened to me today when I got to work. When I was coming up the stairs, I heard them talking, but since I've been sick lately, my hearing is a little off. I heard them saying that they had seen this person “como sin ganas,” among other things.

When I walked into the room, I wasn't surprised to hear them stop talking. When I'm going through these phases, people always talk. Although it bothers me, I'm used to it. Being the youngest in my family, I've always been subjected to criticism.

Some people blame Dan the Man for all this. Because he hasn't gone to college, they feel that he has lower expectations and for this reason, I'm going to lower mine. This seems absolutely absurd to me, but even though I have attempted to clarify such reasoning, it still fails to convince anyone. But you know, whatever.

I could sit here and list all the things people have said, are saying and will say. I could sit here and freak out about it all. But right now, I need to focus on finding a new job. Not that I don't like working for APP, but I can't stay there because I'm not a student anymore. All I want is a job that will afford me enough money to pay my bills and give me time in the evenings to write and prepare for grad school. If that's underachieving, then so be it. This is my transitional year and I'm taking full responsibility for the outcome.


Keeping on the DL

Sometimes, I think of a topic for an entry and plan it all out in my mind while I drive to or from work. When I finally get around to typing it up, it suddenly becomes a bad idea and I quickly close the word document and leave the desk. Last week, I had this entire entry planned out about life after all the pomp & circumstance of graduation. I went to the extent of writing it long hand on a scrap piece of paper and in my paper journal. I thought about it as I drove home from work, thinking of all the perfect words, but in the end, I did what I mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph.

It’s not that I don’t want to share with you what it’s been like. What I planned to do was create this entry that I can’t create just yet. I’m still looking for a job. Attempting to create the perfect resume for the jobs that I feel I can apply my skills to. (Yeah, I know I should not end a sentence with a preposition.) Coming to terms with turning 25 in the middle of this week and finding a way to keep everyone happy.

Things aren’t really as bad as I think they are. I mean, I have experience and a degree. However, this didn’t stop me from waking up in the middle of the night last week freaking out about finding a job within the next month so that it would give me enough time to find a place before my lease is up here. All the “so what are you going to do now” and “have you found another job” comments are doing nothing for me. I know these people mean well. Most of the time, I give them vague answers or an “I don’t know.” And while I know this isn’t the best answer, “God, you’re a writer, you should be able to make up something,” I just want people to leave me alone.

I decided long ago, that this is a time for me para andar oleando, just like the Julieta Venegas song suggests. I don’t know what the purpose of my life is, but I know that I’ll be pushed toward the right direction, that’s how it’s always been with me in the past. Right now is a time of growth for me. There are a lot of changes and I’m coming to terms with a lot of things and the way I handle this is to keep it on the down low. See, I know I’m an extremely fickle person and it takes a lot for me to make up my mind about things. If I wanted to, I could be talking up some director or dean of some college so that I can get into their graduate program in the Fall, but what good will that do if I find myself mid-semester wanting out? While I know I can’t spend the rest of my life weighing the options, can’t I spend a couple of months thinking it out and working on a plan?


Summer Reading List

Per Mariposa here is my list:

  1. Dress Your Family in Courduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. I'm halfway through it, but had to have a little hiatus to read some work stuff.
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, yeah, yeah, I’m a Potter fan. I promised myself I won’t watch the next movie until I’ve read the book.
  3. This Bridge We Call Home by Gloria Anzaldúa, this was a graduation gift from mi guerito, JP.
  4. The Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers Workshop, it’s supposed to give you a feel of what the place is like. I was a little disappointed when I saw no Latino writers in it.
  5. Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie, I had started this book but got sidetracked.
  6. The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order, I will supplement this reading with Bust magazine and Bitch.
  7. Magical Urbanism by Mike Davis, I’ve read chapters of this book for class and papers, but now that I have time, I was to read the entire thing.
  8. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Marquez, I’m on a quest to read all of his works.
  9. The General in His Labyrinth again by Marquez
  10. Living to Tell the Tale, once again, by Marquez. I’ve had this book since it came out, but haven’t been able to finish reading it because I got back and read chunks of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Book Meme

Hah! Now isn't this a timely meme? I'll still post a list of the ten books on my summer reading list later today. Anyway, here's the meme.

Books owned . . .
Honestly, if I typed up a list, this would be one lengthy entry. Plus, I give a lot of them away. Well, I lend them out and sometimes never get them back. However, I will say that I own about half the title on the Arte Público Press catalog.

Last book I bought . . .
Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy by David Sedaris
I know this book came out a long time ago, but I always kept thinking someone would give it to me as a gift but no one ever got the hint.

Five books that mean a lot to me . . .
Chicano Chicanery by Daniel Chacón
Carry Me Like Water by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Moths and Other Stories by Helena Maria Viramontes
En otra voz: Antología de literatura hispana en los Estados Unidos ed. Kanellos
From Out of the Shadows by Vicky Ruiz

Five individuals to provide their own list . . .
Cracked Chancla (whenever you return)
El Daily Texican now Seatlean

*I'll fix the links when I get to my casa, macs are a little weird


A peek into Brown Girl's Bedroom

La Mariposa Atomica was curious to peek into our kitchens, but I'd prefer not to. Instead, I'll let her and everyone else, peak into my bedroom.

My 10 favorite things in my bedroom:

1. A photograph of Zacateros street in San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México. My friend Emily took this picture. I absolutely love it. I've framed it and put it next to my desk so I can look at it when I'm sitting there writing and need to escape.
2. The black and white 8”x10” Army photograph of my dad. I've always loved black & white photographs, but I especially love this one because my dad was so young. I never saw him young and without a beard. When compared to my brother Jorge's Army photo, he and Dad look almost identical.
3. Photo albums. Yes, I have a thing for photographs. I have tons of them, but very few are of me. Whenever I feel homesick, I flip through my photo albums and retell the stories to myself (outloud, if no one is around).
4. My mp3 player on my computer. I love how I can add songs to the playlist and never have to listen to a song I don't like or listen to any commercials.
5. Javi, my betta fish whose house is on the bookshelf across my side of the bed.
6. My pink Rey Misterio mask. Sometimes when I'm feeling extremely silly, I wear it around the house.
7. My down feather pillow Caro gave me for my birthday two years ago. Not only does it take the perfect shape, it blocks out any unwanted light and noise.
8. A post card my sis gave me years ago of a girl holding a crawfish saying, “You want me to suck what?”
9. The picture of Spongebob and Patrick my niece Linette colored for me. I have them up on the corkboard next to my desk.
10. My bookshelf that holds all of my books signed by the author. Well, it's not really a complete bookshelf, but most of them have really nice dedications to me.


Lack of Inspiration

I know I haven’t been updating. Everyday, when I’d sit at my desk, wishing to get away by clacking away at the keys, I’d run away and do something else. The inspiration hasn’t been there. And while I know that I don’t need inspiration to write, I’ve been letting my little negative editor, who likes to sit on my shoulder, climb up my sleeve. Tonight, as I sat on my bed letting the Claritin D and Tylenol wear off, I decided that I needed to knock that damn little editor off my shoulder. So I pulled out my handy dandy notebook and got to writing. And lo and behold, I became inspired.

During the writing workshop two weeks ago, filmmaker John Nichols said, “I don’t believe in talent.” He went on to explain that talent had nothing to do with writing, but that knowing how to revise was where it’s at. He’s right.

Last winter, when I was flying to visit Dan the Man in Small Town in Texas, I read an article about Pixar Studios. One of the people that they interviewed said that in order to breed creativity, it had to be practiced on a daily basis. And this is just what I have to do. So from now on, I vow to update at least three times a week. The other days, I will be working on my “professional” writing, whether I’m editing, re-writing or creating a new story.