In the film Mosquita and Mari we touch on the topic of queer curiosity. One thing that stands our the most to me, is the fact that both sets of parents, question their daughter’s involvement with boys but never suspect that their daughter might be lesbians. As the film goes on, I as a viewer, was confused as to whether or not the girls were lesbians or just curious. The important thing to note is that, while many might dismiss the notion of they themselves, or others around them might be queer, it is actually not something new. I know that for my family, when I had a close friend they never suspected anything unusual. It wasn’t until an outsider, mention to my parents, that others might believe I was gay because of how close my friend and I were that the gay witch hunt began. It took many awkward conversations over a long period of time, and a boyfriend to finally shake that idea out of my parent’s head. One thing I vividly remember, was how everyone who discuss the issue of homosexuality with me equated it with sin, and foreign. For my article I would like everyone to read about the Muxes in Mexico. So, while many argued that anything that was not heterosexual was wrong, we find that in Mexico itself there is a tradition that is inviting and respectful to different gender identities. It is important to note that these ideas are believed to be a long legacy of indigenous practices, so much so that some would argue that these sentiments are more traditional than homophobia.
So one thing that is bugging me is how did la Loca get HIV? Was I the only one scratching my head about this. I am not great at understanding literature but is this some kind of illusion of queerness, was there a subvert message about la Loca being queer that I did not get? Then who would have thought that Sofia would have had the courage to divorce Domingo? This goes back to the idea of the stereotypical Chicano family. Sofia is supposed to be happy with Domingo, even though her brain betrays her heart. Then when Domingo is back Sofia should have been excited to have her husband back, but in reality she is resentful of his departure. She tiptoes around the issue but then unexpectedly she asks Domingo to leave, is that is not a big enough sign of her agency she goes on to be the mayor of Tome and she founds her own, world recognized organization. MOMAS. Throughout the book Sofia does this delicate dance around Chicana womanhood. She is aware that her being left by Domingo puts her in a difficult situation, she understands what others would say if she brought a man into her house, and she knows what others think of women like her daughters. Through it all she defies social rules about womanhood. She takes on the responsibility of being the head of house, the business owner, and a mother. I just found it confusing that in the end she is organizes MOMAS, because women typically become martyrs themselves. I felt that Sofia, as a leading character, would fight patriarchy until the end. However, I think it is equally as important to note that there is no black or white scale when talking about progressive and conservative women, the truth is that there is a big spectrum and the progressive and conservative ideologies fluctuate and most importantly, it reminds me that the human species is full of contradictions.
My family and I are dwellers of the in between spaces. We live Southern California which, in a lot of ways, is the space in between Mexico and the United States. As a family we live our lives in the space between the traditional and nontraditional. We are nontraditional in the sense that we do not adhere to the traditional heteropatriarchal order, in fact Tita, my great-grandmother, is the boss of our family. Our family does not expect boys and men to adhere to all the rules of hyper masculinity, nor do we expect the women and girls to be docile. We are traditional though, in the sense that family is of utmost importance. The family is always a top priority and as a family we grow and struggle together. One way we honor our family is by keeping all of our family in our hearts, even those who have passed away. We honor our dead family members through the tradition of building altars for Dia de los Muertos. To celebrate Dia de los Muertos this year my family and I decided to build an altar out on our front porch. We purposefully chose this place because we wanted to proudly honor our dead in a very public place. Now more than ever, I can appreciate the importance of this choice because it serves as an expression of national pride. Although at the time we did not know who would ultimately win the election, we decided to build our altar on our porch to display our desire to keep our cultural identity. Taking that into consideration, we opted for using the altar as a way to remind people of important figures in our culture. Our purpose was to honor many important cultural figures and remind our neighborhood of important contributions to society. To name a few we chose: Juan Gabriel, Maria Felix, Mario Moreno, Celia Cruz, and Pedro Infante. We decided to put some of the most iconic figures of our culture in our altar because we hoped that those who saw it would be able to appreciate our cultural contributions. We thought this would help the our community feel pride in our contributions to cinema, music and overall artistry. As a family we decided to do this because it is all too common to undermine and completely ignore the contributions of the minority culture, especially within current anti-immigrant rhetoric. Although our altar honored many important national figures my paper will focus on Selena. Selena is an iconic figure that dwells in the space between the traditional and the nontraditional just like my family does.
As a women Selena exuded talent and confidence which are not normally associated with women in the Chicano culture. She was extremely confident with her body which is a stark contrast to what the culture teaches its young women. As a girl in the Chicana culture, I was definitely told that modesty is golden. My parents, but especially my mom, would very closely police what I wore and how I displayed my body. One important thing that stands out in my mind was the fact that my mom would police me more than my father would. It is the opposite of what a father should do, for the most part men are expected to govern the wives and children yet my father did not police me. The thing that stands out about my mother policing me is the way she would present the whole situation, when she would talk about girls who dress provocatively as Selena did, it was not in a tone of anger but rather a tone of pity. This reminds me of how the pubelo of Tome would speak of Caridad in “So Far from God”, my mother would lament the girls who felt they needed to expose themselves to find love. She would warn me that it would not be appropriate for me to wear some of the revealing outfits that Selena was known for wearing on stage. As a young lady, it was not so much her outfits that stood out in my mind, rather it was the way she exuded confidence in those outfits that impacted me the most. I am of the belief that women who own their body and exude confidence are different from women who wear revealing outfits in the hope to get mens attention. When you closely examine the pictures and videos of Selena you can see just how comfortable she is with her body. If there is anything I work on a daily basis it is being comfortable in my skin and exuding confidence regardless of the clothes I am wearing. This is something that goes directly against the belief that women are supposed to be humble, soft spoken and passive and ever faithful and loyal wives.
Selena as an artist is an important figure because she had a large platform and a large fan base. In her career Selena was the star of the show which is in direct contrast to the idea that men are in charge. Growing up in a Chicana/o family I was never lead to believe that I was in charge. There was a definite chain of command starting with my father and eventually reaching it’s way down to me. Basically, I was down at the bottom of the totem pole, if I outranked anyone it would have been the pets at best. This is why Selena stands out in my mind, she was the head, she was in charge yet she never lost her femininity. In the books “Next of Kin” and “So Far from God” the argument is made that women can too be in charge yet, they are not to lose their femininity. In this sense Selena embodies that in between space of traditional and nontraditional. Another key thing to take into consideration is, women are allowed to be in charge only in the absence of men. This is reason why Selena is nontraditional, there were many men in her life yet she refused to leave herself at their will. I remember looking at how my mom had to ask my dad for permission and thinking to myself, is that what my life is going to be like? I remember feeling a sense of dread thinking that for the first half of my life I had to ask my dad for permission to do everything and when I get married I would have to ask my husband for permission to do everything. At that time, this way of living was all I could envision. Now, as an adult and as a mother, I can pinpoint the ways my mom quietly resisted heteropatriarchy without ever speaking the word feminism. Seeing Selena heading her life and career gave me the smallest glimpse into other possibilities in my life. In this sense, iconic figures like Selena help broaden the views of not only others outside the Chicano community, but also those within the Chicano community.
At this point, it is also important to speak about celebrating and mourning the dead. In this sense I believe that Selena is a perfect example of a combination of mourning and celebrating death. Although this may sound like a contradiction, it is important to note that we Chicanos as a community are a contradiction. My family contradicts itself by living in the space between the traditional and nontraditional, in the space between Mexico and the United Staes. I myself am a contradiction, I am child of immigrants, born and raised in Compton, mother of two, who managed to transfer out of a community college with a 12% transfer rate, in a university with a 30% graduation rate in route to graduate school. I live and breathe those contradictions. I, like many others mourned the loss of Selena. Although I did not know her personally, I could sympathize with her family. At that time, I remember bursting into tears thinking of how it would feel if I lost one of my family members. The contradiction is, that I celebrated her by continuing to play her music while mourning her loss. To this day, many around the world continue to mourn and celebrate her, and that is exactly what my family did this year for Dia de Los Muertos by adding her to our altar.
On our altar the decorations were meant to be indicative of the fact that Dia de los Muertos is about celebrating and honoring our dead. I don’t know how exactly to explain it, however, I think it is symbolic of the Chicano community to use many bright and festive colors. I had a Chicano Studies professor jokingly say something along the lines of: what color would our class rooms be if our mothers came in to decorate? I can now appreciate what she meant by that, it is part of our culture to use bright and festive colors. As a family we felt that a hot pink background would be the best way to carry this message of celebrating. Another cornerstone of celebrations is tequila. In our family, it is customary to take a small shot of tequila in honor of the occasion we are celebrating. To continue to bring in the theme of celebrating our dead, we decided to add a small bottle of tequila, you cannot have a celebration in our family without having at least one shot of tequila. Also, in our family, we consider ourselves fiesteros and escandalosos. Often times, when the occasion is really special we hire a mariachi to mark the event with glorious live music. During funerals, it is customary to honor the dead by hiring a mariachi, it is the equivalent of given the dead a proper send off like they do in New Orleans. This aspect of honor the dead was also incorporated into our altar, we added mariachi figures, but not just any mariachi figures we added day of the dead mariachi figures. This once again symbolizes just how much of a celebration Dia de los Muertos really is, reminding us of how we have mariachi in only the biggest celebrations. For my family the idea of honoring our dead is a great responsibility, it is important to celebrate our dead as a way of keeping our family ties. Dia de los Muertos is also about remembering to celebrate their lives and their accomplishments, sure we can cry for our dead but it is equally important to remember the joy our dead brought to others. This is why this year we wanted to celebrate our Chicano pride in a public space. Now, post elections, I can appreciate how this public display of our altar is a reminder of how we as Chicanos and Chicanas continue to resist oblivion. In the midst of such hatred, it is important to circumvent the broken US nationalist agenda and create safe spaces within our communities. Just as Chicano Nationalism aimed to unite Chicanos and preserve Chicano identity, we, as the marginalized and disenfranchised, need to organize at a grassroot level to forge ahead in the fight against racism. Although being true to our roots has always been important, now, in a very real sense, our communities need to embrace our identity, celebrate our cultural practices, practice self love, and organize in order to continue to exist within the United States.
More than a mere celebration, Dia de los Muertos is about helping our dead reach eternity.In my family it is believed that dead are wondering between eternity and earth, it is because they are sad to see us crying for them that they refuse to leave. Traditionally, it is also believed that our loved one’s spirits follow us as a form of protection. One of the biggest responsibilities we, the living have, is to show the dead that we have made peace with their passing so that they can continue on their way to the otherside. In order to do that we celebrate them on Dia de los Muertos and provide them key items they need in order to make it to the end of their journey. We added flores de muerto because they are supposed to provide a guiding light to the deceased on their way to eternity. It is believed that the dead need the light from the flores de muerto to guide their way because the journey to eternity is long, dark and frightening. We also added pan de muerto and un baso de agua, the idea is that if the dead are on a journey we want to help them get through the journey so we provide water and bread so they can make to the end of their journey safely. Whereas pan provides subsistence water is hydration. In my family, Tita, my grandmother says that the pan is also a reference to Catholicism. Although, my whole family may not be Catholic, or religious for that matter, it is important to note that bread in general is an important symbol within the Church, it is a symbol of Jesus’s body which he sacrificed for humanity. Tita also says that water is symbolic of the Catholic church. Within the Catholic church it is said that water has the power to cleanse people of their sins. The Catholic church is deeply embedded within the Chicano culture, that it would be an injustice to neglect the effects the church as on Dia de Los Muertos. Celebrating the Dia de Los Muertos, goes hand in hand with Catholicism’s all saints day and all souls day. Once again, addressing the issue of living in between the space of traditional and nontraditional, my family is divided on the issue of Catholicism, and religion in general. While some in the family are devout Catholics, others are on a wide spectrum from agnostics to buddhist. Although the discussions on this topic get heated amongst most of the family, and there is a general atmosphere of acceptance, we all adhere to the will of Tita. My grandmother, is a devout Catholic and none of us dare to contradecir our 92 year-old Tita. This very much reminds me of how in the book “So Far from God” Domingo refused to provoke the wrath of Sofia is often left to stick is tail in between his leg and avoid an argument. In this sense, although we may not all willing give consent to adhere to Catholic belief and practices, we all stick our tails in between our legs when Tita is around. This is yet again another example of how my family lives between the traditional and the nontraditional.
My family and I decided to work on the altar together this year, and I believe that it worked so well that it will become a new tradition. Although is is traditional for us to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos and honor our loved ones, we stirred things up this year by collaborating and creating a shared altar on our porch. We decided to celebrate important public figures in our culture in a very public place. This was unintentionally a beautiful act of resistance based on our desire to announce our Chicano pride. It brought a sense of pride to find artist who contributed to society through music, cinema, and artistry. My family and I hope to draw more attention to our cultural contributions as Chicana/os during the difficult times that are on the horizon as we begin to combat anti-immigrant agendas and blatant racism.
There are many things that strike me as important to the understanding of the Chicana/o family structure within the book “So Far from God” by Ana Castillo. One important aspect is the use of non western medicine and the focus on holistic healing. The La Times article by Mikaela Conley touches on this idea of holistic healing. I think it is important to emphasize that for too long our Chicana/o history of healing has been viewed by the dominate culture as witchery and hokum. The truth is that our medicine is, in a lot of ways, more traditional than western medicine, as our healing cures are passed down from generation to generation. I think it is amazing a beautiful that I can step out into my yard and find easy remedies that works illnesses ranging from a cough, to migraines. Above I posted a collage of just a few plants that are around my house that are what I consider to be intelligent design. There is a lot of thought that gets put into our houses and one key component is what plants are available in our gardens as Chicana/os. My family has a wide range of beautiful yet purposeful plants. In my family we have truly mastered the art of gardening by focusing on plants that are sustainable, convenient, and improve our lives. In the book, we see how Caridad really hones in this desire to know about Dona Felicia’s traditional medicine and how they both approach healing as a need address the physical as well as the spiritual. In my life as a Chicana I cannot count the times that I turned to traditional cures to alleviate my illnesses. It is empowering to name it for what it is, traditional medicine, and slowly undo the damage of eurocentric beliefs that Western medicine is superior.
I titled my family collage “La vida es un carnaval”, Celia Cruz’s song resonates with me in particular because for a long time I was depressed. Now that I am better, I say “La vida es un carnaval” because I appreciate my family now. Although being with my family is not always easy it is definitely a privilege. In my collage I referenced two important aspects, my nuclear family and extended family. In my nuclear family the gender roles are not so closely observed. In my extended family, there is a definite line drawn between a man and a woman. I will attempt to explain how these interpretations of gender roles change through the different generations in my family and how as a cohesive group, my family both nuclear and extended have placed family, above all else as their priority. I will be referencing the pictures in my collage beginning with the top left picture as first, the top right as second, the bottom left and third, and the bottom right as fourth.
In the first picture I have both of my sons, David on the left and Daniel on the right. This picture represents the notion that gender norms are learned in the household, namely the mother reproduces gender norms for her children to imitate. I included the picture because in the article titled “Chicana/o Family Structure and Gender Personality: Chodorow, Familism and Psychoanalytic Sociology Revisited” authors Segura and Pierce point out that “mothering happens in a social context” and that “factors of race, class culture, or history enter either into a label (conscious or unconscious) identity, or they shape the particular early object-relational and family patterns”. As a mother, I know that I teach my children gender norms. I teach them about my culture, depending on the social political world that surrounds me, and my perspective influences their conceptualizations of family and the outside world. In particular, my partner and I try to be open minded on how children learn, have a right to express themselves, and may develop interests outside of what gender norms dictate for them. The hope is that in the future our children will live less gendered lives and grow to be caring, assertive, pragmatic individuals. Above all we push the idea that family is of utmost priority, having a family is a privilege, and family takes priority.
The second picture from left to right is of my mother-in-law, my partner, and I. This picture represents the multigenerational aspect of my family as well as the extended family. In the article “Chicana/o Family Structure and Gender Personality: Chodorow, Familism, and Psychoanalytic Sociology Revisited” we learn that “familism is observable in four ways: by macrocharacteristics such as large family size (demographic familism); by the presence of multigenerational households or extended households (structural familism); by the high value placed on family unity and solidarity (normative familism); and by the high level of interaction between family and kin networks”. My family is large and values unity, we always make to time to get together and reconnect. Every get together includes everyone in the family. I chose this picture because I rarely had family get togethers until I met my partner. My mother did not, for reasons that were not entirely her fault, often spend time with her brothers and sisters, so I grew up with no strong connections to my extended family. Now I am older, and have honor of being accepted in my partner’s family. I chose a picture that included my mother-in-law because I cannot appreciate her love and support enough. Although she does not consider herself a feminist, she has definitely pushed me to resist norms that are often considered inherently Chicano. Not once did my mother-in-law push me to abandoned school to focus on motherhood. She has helped me get through my daily challenges as a woman. I have not forgotten the family I was born either, I visit my parents an average of five times a week to get the kind of love and support that you only get from family. My mother pushes me to succeed every day, does not impose the harsh social expectations that surround motherhood, is caring, compassionate and understanding. She reminds me constantly to be satisfied with doing the best I could regardless of whether or not that meets the expectations of others. Although I am happy to be part of a new family, and happy about being closer to the family I was born into it has not been easy to accept that my children have multiple mothering figures.
The ideal has been set as the nuclear family, something which I cannot afford, I rely on extended family to step in and help raise my children. Everyone in the third picture has been a parental figure to my children. Each teaching my children a little bit about gender norms. If you look at the four young men in the picture, they have taught my children that there is no set way to be a man. Each one of them have very different things to teach my children about what it means to be an adult in terms of sexuality, relationships, work, and education. Likewise the four different women in the picture have been parental figures for my children, each demonstrating that there is no one way to be a woman. Each has taken different routes in life demonstrating that we are all human and not everyone follows a straight path showing that the important thing is that pull yourself together for the next hurdle.
The last picture is that of my children, and partner. This picture reminds me that life is about striving to improve, not perfection. In this picture you see the family sprawled out in the living room playing video games. These moments teach my children that there is no mold to fit, you find what works for you and make the most with what you’ve got. I hope my children grow up with less hang ups about being ideal. I hope my children live a more liberal expression of gender roles and never undermine the progress that is made every generation. Family life is hard work but it breeds the most rewards, family makes la vida un carnaval!daniel-david
The material for this week touches on a very important part of being Chicana. We live on boarder lands and much of our identity is based on our experiences within those borderlands. Nothing is more fundamental, in my opinion, to our understanding of ourselves, and the outside world than our language. While watching the video of Norma Cantu speaking of her experience growing up in Texas the thing that struck me the most was this sense of duality, of having allegiance to both Mexico and the United States and most importantly how that duality was played out in the realm of the house and school. Growing up, I was definitely aware of these two opposing worlds. More importantly, it was this sense of having two halves that could never be a whole. I remember going to school and Spanish being shunned, although the teachers never directly told us not to speak Spanish, I remember using Spanish almost in secret while out on recess with my class mates. I also remember the frustration when my other half was lacking, when I could not come up with the English word for what I was trying to say I would almost go into fits but never thought of doing the most obvious saying it in Spanish, like wise when I did not have the Spanish word for I was trying to say I’d do anything and everything to come up with the word. I think it is beautiful and effortless how Norma Cantu can switch between English and Spanish. I would also like to note how it takes guts to do that, growing up I remember on several occasions teachers saying that it was a terrible habit to mix Spanish and English I remember two particular teachers. My 8th grade teacher, who shall remain nameless, saying something along the lines of: “What wrong with all of you trying to ruing two different languages you are going to school to learn proper English and it is disrespectful to try to mix Spanish, makes you all look like a bunch of fools”, then years later my 12th English teacher who was going on a rant said something similar: “Listen, all of you have a huge disadvantage coming from Spanish speaking homes, this is your last year of being coddled in the universities they will not thing twice about failing any of you, we will be reading this entire year, we will read a lot, that’s the only way you will learn English”. I would like to point out that although these two events stuck with me, there were many other times where I was given the impression that I would never master English and that Spanish was not proper.
My question to the class is what is your experience with English, Spanish, and Spanglish?
The film La Bamba tells the story of the rise to stardom and sudden death of Ritchie Valens. Film centers on how Ritchie comes from a working poor dysfunctional family. As the story unfolds we see many archetypes in the movie that aim to reflect the truth about Chicano families. Connie, is the female that had to take on macho characteristics in the absence of a husband. We see Bob as the macho who is also a drunkard and in trouble with the law. We see Rosie as the mother who is dominated by her husband. Ritchie is bashed for not conforming to Chicano norms of aggressive masculinity. In “Next of Kin” author Richard T. Rodriguez writes that while films like La Bamba appeal to the Chicano and Latino communities but that they are “governed by the necessity of ‘crossover’ appeal for a ‘broader audience’”. Is demonstrated as Richie is forced to change his name to Ritchie Valens in an attempt to sound more “professional” in my opinion it is an attempt to make his name sound less ethnic and therefore more palatable to the masses. Furthermore, these films continue to portray families that “evoke the stereotype that Chicano and Latino families are inherently ruled by patriarchy”. This is demonstrated though the relationship between Bob and Rosie, Bob is the strong macho and Rosie is the submissive mother. I also argue that filmmakers have to appease the executives in charge of production by reinforcing the stereotypes, on this Rodriguez writes “as African American filmmaker Spike Lee puts it, ‘the gatekeepers-these are the people that decide what goes on television, what movies are made, what gets heard on the radio, what’s getting written in the magazines- I can tell you those are all exclusively white males’”. When that is taken into consideration I am not surprised that the film portrays Bob as an abusive alcoholic who is in trouble with the law. I am not surprised that Connie is the typical femme macho who plays both mom and dad for the boys and simultaneously keeps her femininity. I am not surprised that Rosie is the Chicana mother who does not need to be liberated and will raise another generation of Chicanos who will be considered dysfunctional. It is also important to note that the family portrayed in La Bamba is also symbolic of the “sacred institution in which gender roles are fixed in the name of tradition”. At the same time though the film reveals how Chicano films create “figurations of la familia that simultaneously ‘shoot back’ at the stereotypical portrayals”. In that sense we see that Ritchie is naturally talented and manages to rise to fame. We also see that Bob is capable of rehabilitation, we see Bob flourish and become successful in his own means. We too see Rosie gather the strength to stand up to Bob. My favorite part is where Connie yells out at the club manager who refused to let Ritchie play “They don’t know who they’re dealing with. My granddaddy was a full-blooded Yaqui Indian!” which is in my mind a perfect example of how Chicano films aim “to rescue the past from oblivion, to raise the historical sense, to instill a sense of longing for the whole Mexican heritage”.
The article “Imagined Boarders: Locating Chicano Cinema in America” details how Chicano cinema was highly influenced by the Chicano Movement and was an outlet for expression. The Chicano cinema started with the United Farm Workers and the Teatro Campesino and how the acts reflected the social movement that was trying to organize the Chicano community. It was mainly promoting the farm workers strike and pushing for social change while mainly reaching the oppressed minorities within a local community. As the grass roots politics gained momentum the audience shifted from small local communities to larger audiences nation wide. Luis Valdez in the Teatro Campesino and Jesus Trevino in Ahora! used cinema to discuss and critic issues impacting the Chicano Movement. Chicano Cinema aimed to help build unity within communities and to spark social change, their work “wove together current events, history, culture and entertainment”. As one can imagine their was a lot of push back from the dominant culture, Chicano Cinema was highly scrutinized, censored, underfunded and deemed incoherent and unprofessional. Eventually the Chicano Cinema was pushed for a pan-american unity and striving to empower the expression of other cultures as well.
On a side note the article referred to code switching as a way to get around the fact that the Chicano programming was highly scrutinized and censored. At first I was not really surprised by the notion, virtually anywhere you go now code switching is rather common. What did surprise me however was that a show like Ahora! was able to use code switching to say things that would have been censored out had they been said in English. This means that in those major networks like PBS no one spoke Spanish, reason why code switching worked in the first place. It is hard for me to imagine a show getting away with that now.