Remembering Margarita Valencia


screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-1-29-53-pmscreen-shot-2016-12-05-at-4-48-18-pmThe altar I built with the help of my mother was for Margarita Valencia, her mother and my grandmother. I never had the chance to meet her because she passed away in El Salvador a couple of years after I was born. My mother always tells me stories about her and I feel as though my curiosity grows as I get older. Although we were not able to cross paths, I have a strong feeling that she is constantly around my family watching over all of us, especially my mother. With this altar, I hope I made it known to her that she means so much to me and I appreciate her for being able to create someone as amazing as my mother. This Dia de los muertos was dedicated to her and I could not imagine my altar being dedicated to someone other than her inspirational self.

From the stories my mother has told me, Margarita lived a very difficult life as both a child and adult. Poverty, abuse, and loneliness are just some a few of the painful things she had to experience until her death. Her husband (I refuse to call him my grandfather or my mother’s father because of the terrible things he did to the women in the family) did not offer her the necessary support to maintain their family of eight. He was constantly using the little bit of money they earned for alcohol, cigarettes, and other unnecessary resources that would not benefit the family. My mother witnessed him beat Margarita that there days she would have to isolate herself in their home so no one would see the bruises he would leave on her body. He abused my mother for years but there was not anyone who had the courage to stand up for her because he was a dangerous and calculated man. When my mother was a teenager, Margarita’s husband was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. They witnessed his health decline rapidly but still felt as though they were completely under his power. The family soon learned that his days were numbered and were stuck between feeling sad or relieved that he was no longer going to be (physically) in their lives.

Spirituality is something that is only practiced by a few people within my family. When I was in elementary school, my mother tried to get us all in the routine to attend church every Sunday. I knew that God was powerful but I found the church itself to be very uncomfortable and problematic. I just could not connect with anyone around us. Once I completed my first communion, we stopped going to church and decided to praise God in our home. When I was about twelve years old, I started experiencing signs of anxiety and went down the painful road of eating disorders and low self-esteem. My father experienced really painful health issues and since he was not able to work, paying our bills became nearly impossible. I would catch my mother crying throughout the day; she was just drained and tired altogether. This is the time where my mother decided to learn about spiritual practices to help us get through this difficult time. She started to conduct limpias around the house and visited curanderas for personal spiritual cleansings and other healing material she could place around our family. Her limpias consisted of cleaning the entire house thoroughly, mop the floors with holy water, and burn sage in each corner of every room. When she was finished, she would leave incense burning for an hour with the windows wide open in order to lead the negativity out of our home. Amazingly enough, our whole situation improved drastically over the next couple of months. Not only did my father’s health get better, but we were also able to save our home and begin making payments again. To this day, my mother sincerely believes that exploring the powers of spirituality allowed her to feel more connected to her ancestors who in return provided her assistance and healing during difficult times.

Over the past couple of years, there have been strange events occurring in my home. My mother and I have felt presences over our shoulders and the pressing feeling of someone watching us. My father, who is a skeptic of any paranormal and spiritual, says that everything we are feeling is just in our heads; we beg to differ. Before building the altar, my mother reconnected with her daughter in El Salvador and they would spend hours talking about Margarita. They shared laughs and tears remembering the life of a woman I never had the pleasure to meet myself. One night, my mother brought up a specific memory while chatting with her daughter online. During their conversation, a stack of books fell off a shelf; it seemed as though they were pushed off. Soon after, my mother noticed a strong smell of roses around the house, a scent similar to one her mother would wear. When she was explaining the incident to me a couple of minutes later, I was terrified to walk around my house because I did not want to experience the same thing. I kept telling my mother to stop telling me stuff like that because it makes me paranoid, but she calmly told me that there was no reason to be scared because she knew that it was her mother and she would do nothing to harm the family. Deep down, I have always wanted to feel some kind of connection to Margarita but did not know how to approach the idea to actually make it happen. Strangely enough, this class’s altar assignment was given just a few days after my mother had that strange experience.

When I first brought up this homework assignment to my family, they were a bit dazed and confused because we have never built an altar in our home or celebrated Dia de los Muertos. To be honest, I felt somewhat lost during the beginning of the assignment too because I did not know if my parents were going to be comfortable with me building an altar for individuals I was never really close to. I decided to choose Margarita Valencia because over the past couple of months, my mother began opening up more about her relationship with her mother. From the good experiences to the bad, she said it all. Although she may not be alive, I hope she knows I am grateful for the fact that she supported my mother and helped her become such an amazing and selfless person and I do wonder about her often. I wish I were able to dream about her in order to get an idea of what she looked like. I decided I wanted to devote positive energy and love to this altar along with the help of my family members, especially my mother.

During the process of building the altar, my mother and I were so confused over what to include and how to organize it. We looked at various examples on the Internet and were discouraged for a while because we felt like complete amateurs trying to build one. My mother only had one picture of her mother and it was mailed to her decades ago once she had already migrated to the United States and began building a home and family with my father. After getting over the insecurities we felt over our alter building, we decided to just ‘go with the flow’ and include material we felt comfortable and connected to. My mother is a devoted believer to Saint Jude. A couple of years ago, my sister bought my mother a statue of Saint Jude along with a necklace. She placed the statue on the dresser right next to her bed. My mother placed a glass of water right in front of the statue and every couple of days she refills it and says, “Ay, tenia mucha sed mi santo.” She decided to place the statue on the altar with the picture of her mother next to it hoping that it would bring both of them peace. Since marigolds are the traditional Dia de los muertos flower, we set up a bouquet in a vase and spread leaves all around the small table. We had some glass fruit in a cabinet, which we never used so my mother decided to bring those out and set them around the items that were already on the altar. When we stepped back and looked at the altar, my mother and I got chills all over our bodies and felt a strong sense of pride, relaxation, and happiness. My mother then commented that she thinks her mother is going to be feeling very welcomed when she comes around again.

In the novel So Far From God, Sofia embodies everything a chingona is supposed to be. Although she suffered immensely under the hands of men, she proved her resiliency and bravery by continuing to support her family and not letting the sadness of losing loved ones bring her down. Through her tristeza, she was able to become an active community member and provide individuals the support and guidance she was always trying to show her daughters. Sofia’s character made me think a lot about Margarita and my mother. Margarita’s life was made nearly impossible to live because of her abusive husband. She did everything in her power to try to keep her family in tact but he always had to find a way to make their situation more difficult. When he died, my mother told me that she would find Margarita crying for hours in the following days; she always wondered if she was crying over sadness or joy over her husband’s passing. Although their financial situation got more difficult after his death, Margarita proved to be courageous and independent because she provided resources for her eight daughters without the help of a male figure. People would constantly spread rumors about her status as a single woman taking care of so many children, but that never fazed her; she was trying to move on and be happy and that is what matters the most. I think these resilient characteristics of her were passed down to my mother because of the way she has always put her children first even if that meant she had to suffer for a while.

In the future, I hope I can have support from more of my family members to build altars in our home. I think starting this tradition in my family will help me connect more with my ancestors and Latina/o culture. My father is a bit more reluctant to discuss specific memories about his parents so I hope that he will begin opening up to me more as time goes by. It is difficult for my father to discuss stories about his parents because he drifted away from them at a very young age. When he was around ten years old, his mother abandoned his family and he never heard from her again. Once he migrated to the United States and started his new life here, his father passed away in a car accident; one of his regrets is not being able to see him one last time while he was still alive. I suppose death is difficult to remember in my family so we just try to distance ourselves from it altogether. For as long as I can remember, my father has tried his best to maintain the masculinity in his persona. To him, proving his manhood is the only way he could get respect from people. In the book Next of Kin, Richard Rodriguez states, “U.S. nationalism, with its intimate attachments to patriotism and xenophobia, has a remarkable way of collapsing into a single group racialized, economically disenfranchised people whose histories relate to the establishment of the border. All Latinos, then, would reductively be seen as incapable of matching the “family values” of the white, middle-class American citizenry”(71). My father took a lot of pride with being the family provider for decades. Over the past couple of years, his health has been declining but he refused to stop going to work because he did not want people to think he was weak. This year, doctors diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was granted disability for life, which means that, for his safety, he cannot work in his usual job settings again. I suppose talking to him about his family only makes him more sensitive because I think that remembering those memories would only cause him to get sentimental (something he rarely does in front of anyone). He was so used to being competitive about everything in the past and now he feels he has nothing to show for himself. Although I know it is not right to pressure him into telling my stuff about himself, I want to keep asking because I think it could serve as a healing process for him and help him realize that he will always be an amazing father in my eyes and does not need to match anyone’s expectations; he has always been enough.

Overall, this altar assignment has made me reflect on my family, culture, and traditions, something that I never devoted time to in the past. I also learned so much about myself and was able to acknowledge that I needed to try and communicate more with my parents because I think it makes them feel good knowing that one of their children is interested in their past, especially my mother. Talking to my mother about Margarita has made us spill secrets to one another for hours and I feel so much more connected to both of them each time. Dia de los muertos is a celebration that was very much present throughout my community as I was growing up, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to actually contribute something of my own. Hopefully in the future I will be able to continue this new tradition in my household with more cooperation from my father and siblings because I think it would bring us closer together and it would answer many questions that I have regarding my family.













To Margarita:

Every time my mother speaks of you, I cannot help but notice the love and adoration she has for you although you are not physically present on this Earth. Although I only have one picture of you, I know for a fact that your beauty, resilience, and courage are infinite. Nothing you did for your family will go unnoticed; I will make sure of it. Please know that through all of my mother’s accomplishments, she has kept you in mind. And I promise that through all of mine, I will keep you in mind, too. Te amo, abuela Margarita. For you, a thousand times over.

Where Do I Belong?!: The Complex Construction of Racial Identities

In the lecture “DNA and Blaxicans,” Dr. Annemarie Perez discusses the black and white binary within American society and how that affects race identities among individuals. The black and white binary is the ideology where only black and white folk are recognized within communities. Although the black population is one of them most oppressed groups in the world, the other ethnic groups in between of this binary who are also mistreated and abused because of their historical and cultural backgrounds go unrecognized. In the article “Race Beyond Black and White: Four Reasons to Move Beyond the Racial Binary,” author Scot Nakagawa addresses the issues that rise from looking through societal issues using a limited viewpoint. Nakagawa lists reasons to which it is important to move past the black and white binary:

  1. “Ignorance of our multi-racial history is the enemy of civil rights”
  2. “We are all profiled differently by race, but all of the different ways in which we are profiled serve the same racial hierarchy”
  3. “Race is central to the struggle over citizenship in America”
  4. “In order to achieve racial equity, we need to complicate our understanding of race”

In other words, to make our society more progressive and accepting, people need to stop influencing the use of social constructions such as race; this only makes categorization of others more common and silences the cultures of those who do not belong to just one group. No ethnic community is more important or “pure” than the other. These racial hierarchies within American culture have only damaged the way people can openly and proudly express the various heritages within their identity.

Just like author Nakagawa, being bi-racial and bi-cultural brings its challenges when it comes down to identification. For a long time, I felt as though I had to choose between my Mexican and Salvadoran heritage. Since I did not know many Salvadoran folk within my community, I only identified as Mexican. This caused me a sense of guilt because I wanted to be prideful of both my cultures but I did not want to keep explaining myself to people every single time. I then transitioned over to identifying as Latina since that term was a bit more inclusive, however, people still made assumptions that all Latinas/os were Mexicans. Now, I simply say I am Chicana/Salvadoreña because I feel as though I am representing both sides of my family in a balanced manner. And besides, the way I identify should only make myself feel comfortable and the best way people could support me is by simply acknowledging that there are different layers to my persona.


Race Beyond Black and White: Four Reasons to Move Beyond the Racial Binary

The Struggles of Pinpointing Racial Identities

Identifying with a specific racial identity has been difficult for as long as anyone can remember. In this week’s readings and podcast, readers get a glimpse of the struggles of trying to fit in spaces while others make them feel as though they do not belong. American society is built on the foundation of a black and white binary. Racial identities in between of these identities go unrecognized and/or experience negative misrepresentation.

In the podcast “Being Blaxican in L.A.” scholar Walter Thompson-Hernández discusses his experience of living with his Mexican and Black racial identities. Although it was a struggle trying explain his background to others, he eventually learned that as long as he is comfortable with his identification, then the ideologies of others do not matter. He started to use social media as an avenue to address issues regarding biracial struggles and successes within communities around American society. Other biracial folk are given the opportunity to talk about their stories in a safe space free of judgment.

Assimilation is another topic that is constantly talked about within the area of social justice. Assimilation is the act of adapting to other cultures and traditions for reasons including the desire for privilege and acceptance. As discussed in the paragraphs above, the black and white binary is an ideology in which we only see two racial groups among society with blacks being the oppressed population and white folk being ‘superior.’ Within the Latina/o community, there is discrimination and a racial hierarchy with people admiring Eurocentric features and denying other such as dark and indigenous complexions. In the article “Why Latinos Won’t Become White,” author Gabriel Arana explains how the Latina/o community sometimes look up to the White community because they feel as though it would grant them privilege and keep them safe from discrimination. This is damaging because it only influences and encourages racial discrimination more. Regardless of how much they want to belong to the ‘superior’ population, they are only lying to themselves and others.


My questions for you are: do you think assimilation is an excuse for surviving in racist American society? Have you always been comfortable with the identity you are claiming today? Do you feel sorry or anger towards folk who have chosen to assimilate?

The Spreading of Masculinity and Patriarchy All Around Latina/o Families and Communities

Masculinity and patriarchy are known to be practiced by men. They use these ideologies to control women and remain ‘superior’ in our hierarchal society. The most dangerous part of these dominant beliefs is how women begin to internalize them towards themselves, their children, and other community members. When Latina/o women have been surrounded by controlling men for most of their lives, they carry the idea that their way of living is part of keeping their cultural values alive. They begin to teach their daughters that in order to be a considered a ‘good woman’ she has to watch over the men in the family and take care of their needs before she is able to acknowledge her own. In the dissertation “A Grounded Theory Approach to Exploring the Impact of Machismo on Second-Generation Latina Women’s Identity Formation,” author Marilyn Valenciano explores the way society and culture contribute to the mental development of Latina women. Valenciano goes on to quote Dr. Abalos: “Machismo is a sacred story that can and does possess us and takes us over even when we rebel against it, the rebellion still dominates our consciousness and thereby prevents us from creating an alternative transforming self that is both feminine and masculine”(9). In other words, Valenciano tries to explain how the lives of Latina women revolve around either surviving the machismo in their culture or trying to combat it. Latina women also tend to  be torn from being ‘respectful’ to their culture by obeying and being submissive to men and trying to be independent by breaking the detrimental cycle. The most difficult part of being around machismo is not letting it be internalized and in the novel The Rain God, it can be seen how Nina tries to express her spirituality to her family and both the men and women either ignore her or deem her as crazy. She tries her best to not let it get to her but the reader can sense the solitude she feels from time to time by being treated as an outcast by her family.

No matter how difficult it may be, women within the Latina/o culture need to come together and combat the patriarchy in their people together; as one united force, anything can be accomplished. Tearing each other down and perpetuating this idea of a submissive ‘good woman’ will only cause each other more harm…passing down this behavior only gives power to men and that needs to end. No healthy tradition or culture would allow someone to feel as though their existence is not enough for the world. Listen to your fellow mujeres without judgment. Watch over them. Defend them. Accept them. Hug them. Love them. We are all we’ve got. It may be difficult, but we are strong enough to fight off beliefs that are trying to control us.

The Dangers of Patriarchy and Masculinity within Chicana/o and Latina/o Families

Ana Castillo’s So Far From God explores the lives of a Chicana/o family in Tome, New Mexico.  The book’s chapters are considered “episodes,” and each episode represents the different struggles and successes of the characters. Although this family has a close bond, each member carries different values and life perspectives. Sofi, the mother, is woman who had to learn how to be independent out of necessity. She left her home and married at a young age. She had four daughters (Esperanza, Caridad, Fe, and La Loca) with Domingo but their marriage eventually dissolved because of his addiction to gambling. He continued to make life difficult for his family since he wanted to gamble personal belongings and property. Apart from suffering the loss of her husband, Sofi also had to deal with the death of La Loca. During this time, she wondered what debt she owed God for making her suffer so much heartbreak. Sofi proves her resiliency and strength by refusing to give up anything to Domingo and supporting her family through tough times.

Through the novel, Sofia’s daughters struggle with their identities and this causes them to live in pain, suffering, and insecurity. Esperanza was the contemporary Chicana with the family who went against the traditional lifestyles her culture often imposed on women. She pursued a degree in Chiana/o studies and was determined to make a change in her community. Although one would think she was a strong, independent woman, her partner’s toxicity caused her to doubt her passions from time to time. Although she was able to leave the relationship, her life was still cut short because of masculine entities. She was sent to Saudi Arabia to report war events and her life was taken (along with others) because of the violence. Caridad was the daughter that followed the traditional values of her culture and ended up losing her identity once she lost the man whom she felt completed her existence. She had an abortion once she found out she was pregnant with his baby and soon began behaving like the “bad woman.” This “bad woman” behavior involved her going to bars late at night and bringing different men home. She then experienced a rape and her faith in men diminished completely. She decided to reclaim back her existence by exploring her spirituality and was on a mission to find inner peace. Unfortunately, exploring her identity and sexuality led her to the decision of ending her life with her lover Esmeralda since they thought that was the only way they can break free from control and judgment. Fe represents the daughter who assimilated into white culture. She got a hold of a career at a bank and developed a relationship with Tom. It seemed as though she had achieved the middle class life she always wanted but this ended once Tom left her. She would later marry her cousin but one could tell that she was miserable up until her life was taken by the chemicals caused by the military industrial complex. Finally, La Loca was the daughter that resurrected after her fatal accident. She is the figure in the family that maintained traditional skills in order to keep her culture’s values and history alive. In my opinion, I feel like she has ability to see the hypocrisy and malicious intentions in people which makes her want to keep her distance from humanity altogether.

One of the most intriguing parts of the story is how Esperanza was able to come back as a spirit, but Fe was not. Both girls led very different lives but patriarchal ideologies and US nationalism controlled their lives one way or another and eventually caused their deaths. Esperanza had so much love for the work that she did and although she loved her culture, she knew changes needed to be made. I think she was able to come back as a spirit because her work on Earth and among humans was not over yet. She always had a strong sense of determination so she wanted to make a difference even as a spiritual entity. Fe was disconnected from her culture and did not care much for staying in contact with them since she was miserable for most of her life. There was no reason for her to come back with the living since living was not something she enjoyed herself; her work on Earth was done and over with. It was time to leave it completely.


Do you think spirituality can make a difference in someone’s journey towards healing?

Would you blame Chicana/o or Latina/o culture for the deaths and suffering of these women?

Do you think we really have control of our spiritual entities and be able to decide where we want to spend our afterlives?

Which character do you have the most sympathy for?

The Corona Family: Always Moving Forward, Never Looking Back


My family has gone through major changes over the past years. Sometimes I like to think that there is nothing we cannot handle because we have experienced so much. It used to be difficult living under the same roof because my parents’ old-fashioned traditions would make my siblings and I feel too controlled and restricted. My father dominated our home environment so sometimes I felt as though I could not express any feelings because I was scared of being called too weak or too sensitive. As I got older, I began to notice the negative effects of my family’s internalized misogyny and patriarchal ideologies and was determined to break the cycle in order to live in a healthier home environment. In the film Real Women Have Curves, I was able to relate to Ana’s character the most because her independence was commonly frowned upon and although it was exhausting having to deal with the harsh judgment of her loved ones, making herself happy became the top priority. I am currently on the journey of growing and becoming my own person and it makes me so happy that my family took the chance to join me along for the ride.

My oldest brother Roman enlisted in the Marines when I was ten years old. He was not entirely involved during my teenage years so I always felt some kind of weird disconnection with him during the few times he would come back home to visit. We would try talking about personal material but it was awkward. I felt as though he was extremely judgmental of women and used derogatory language to describe them; it made me feel really uncomfortable around him. I thought I was never going to build a strong brother-sister bond with him. Fortunately, everything changed once I started college. He moved up to Seattle with his new wife and was able to obtain his dream job. He started messaging me more often asking if I needed any type of support for school. We began to update each other on our daily activities and I was surprised by how much we had in common. He started listening to my opinions more often and tried his best to understand my perspectives. This spring, my mother and I finally got the opportunity to visit Roman and his wife in Seattle. I got to see another side of him I had never experienced before. We stayed up late exchanging music playlists and watched the best movies. His change in persona occurred when he befriended men in his workplace that would abuse their wives; through these individuals, he was able to learn how detrimental badmouthing was to another being. He said that he needed to change because he would not be able to handle someone doing that to my mother, sister, and me. I hope our bond keeps getting stronger throughout the years.

Although my oldest brother was not around much when I was growing up, my second oldest brother and sister were there to help my parents watch over me. I used to get so irritated with them because they tried to discipline me and I thought it was unfair because I thought it was not their job to control me. They were only trying to keep me on a positive path and steer me away from trouble. Today, our relationship is strong and full of love for one another. We cannot go a single day without talking to each other and there is never a dull moment while being with them. They can count on me whenever they need something because I would drop anything in the world just to make sure they are okay.

This summer, I was granted the opportunity to conduct research at the University of Virginia. I have been away from my family before, but this was the first time where I was going to be living across the country for two months with no way to drive down to visit them when I got homesick. I was terrified because I thought that the distance would make us feel less connected to one another. I did not want to feel left out or neglected. From the moment I arrived to Virginia, my mother began messaging throughout the day asking me for updates on the people I was meeting and the work I was dedicating my time to. Every morning, I woke up to a sweet message from her wishing me a good day. Whenever she would call, I could hear my father in the background excitedly ask her to put me on speaker so we could all be part of the conversation. This distance made my father and I grow closer when I came back home because he said that he felt a small emptiness in his heart while I was away and did not want me to think that could not express myself comfortably at home like I did in other places. That is when I noticed that he was finally okay with the independence that the women in my family were trying to obtain. My parents, brother, and sister started sending me pictures of themselves during outings just so I could get a feeling of being included regardless of how much distance was between us. It felt great knowing I will always belong, even when I am away.

My mother has always been my biggest inspiration and motivation. When I was younger, I would throw tantrums when she would scold me for not trying harder at school, not being more involved in extracurricular activities, and being neglectful of things that would have been helpful for my future. I used to scream while asking her why she felt she needed to control my life that way and she would calmly respond with, “Because I love you.” Now that I am older, my mother has told me that the only reason she was so hard on me was because she wanted me to be independent and not let anyone, especially a man, shape my dreams and future. In “Beneath the Shadows of the Freeway,” author Lorna Dee Cervantes writes, “You’re too soft… always were. You’ll get nothing but shit. Baby, don’t count on nobody.” This made me think a lot about my mother because there are moments where I feel as though she thinks I am not standing up for myself enough because people always seem to hurt me, especially men. She may be really harsh by reminding me that I am too sensitive sometimes, but I understand it is because she does not want me to live a life under the control of a man; she does not want me to experience long periods of unhappiness like she did. She does not regret anything in her life because she loves her family and will do anything to keep us together, but she does wish she was able to find her voice sooner and not let men within the family keep her from expressing herself.

Although the men in my family are a little more aware of the their behavior towards women, for years they would made us feel self-conscious and ugly because they would bash our appearances, specifically our figures. I first got my period at the age of eleven (fifth grade). My body started going through changes that I was too young to understand. I started developing breasts and my hips were getting wider. When I turned thirteen, I had a curvy figure, one that I felt comfortable in and did not think too much of. One day, my father brought up the topic of weight during our family bonding time. He began to recommend that I use the treadmill because it seemed as though I was getting too pesada for my age. That was the first time I took a long look in the mirror and felt as though everything about me was wrong. I started to go on long runs and soon after, I developed an eating disorder that would haunt me till now. When I started college, my father would keep making comments about my appearance saying that I would look even prettier if I lost a little weight. By this time, I had had enough with his opinions especially since they disrespected me. I was able to sit down and talk to him about how insignificant it made me feel when he would try to restrict my eating habits and judged the way I looked. That was the first time he was able to understand the damage he caused me by saying those hurtful comments. In the article “Queer Aztlán”, author Cherrie Moraga states, “What was right about Chicano Nationalism was its commitment to preserving the integrity of the Chicano people…What was wrong about Chicano Nationalism was its institutional heterosexism, its inbred machismo, and its lack of a cohesive national political strategy” (Moraga, 226). This made me think about my father and the other men in my family because through their determination to keep our culture in tact, they felt the need to shame other women’s individuality thinking that was the right way to go about it. Sometimes our movements need to understand that unity means building each other up, not tearing each other down. His actions caused me a lot of pain, but I am glad that I can finally be open about my feelings to my father because it has brought us closer.

I feel as though I am in a better place now because of the changes my family has gone through over the past years. My father is a bit softer now and my brothers let my sister and I be more independent. Every time we have disagreements, both the men and women try to talk about it maturely instead of trying to silence one another. In “Machismo Is Part of Our Culture,” author Marcela Christine Lucero- Trujillo addresses how both men and women always remind the presence of patriarchy among our families, but to them it is not seen as negative because it is so embedded within Latina/o communities. This made me think about how the women in my family were so afraid to defend one another when the men would offend our presence; this contributed to the cycle of patriarchy in our family because the silence among women made it seem as though it was alright to be dominated by men. One thing I learned through the process of shifting my family dynamic is that it is okay for one’s culture to go through changes because that means it is evolving. Ideas that worked back then probably will not have the same effect if they are practiced today and that should not be viewed as negative because there should always be an open door for positive change.

The Struggle of Surviving Here and There

Without a doubt, the Latina/o community is based on strict traditions and old-fashioned beliefs. Maintaining the community this way helps individuals feel as though they are keeping their culture alive. What they fail to realize is that their traditions and beliefs sometimes marginalize people within their own group, such as those who identify as LGBTQ. Coming out as LGBTQ in society is already a difficult task because many view this lifestyle as ‘taboo’ and ‘unnatural.’ Coming out as LGBTQ in one’s Latina/o community is just as complex because of the common misogynistic, masculine, and patriarchal ideologies that both men and women internalize. Women within the Latina/o culture are expected to marry a man, have children, and dedicate their time towards their family. To their families, identifying as LGBTQ means that they will not keep that expected role as a woman, causing these women to feel as though they failed their loved ones. Over the past couple of years, a handful of transgender Latina women have been murdered with many of those cases still unsolved. In the article “The epidemic is real: transgender Latina in Texas murdered,” author Dawn Ennis states, “Tijerina’s name is now among 19 trans victims of murder in the United States in 2016. In all of last year, at least 21 trans people were killed. More than 80 percent of those killed in 2016 have been women and about 20 percent, including Tijerina, have been Latinas, according to HRC.” The violent experiences of these victims are not taken seriously or even publicly announced because no community and culture find them valuable or worthy enough for justice. Since these women were far from the traditional expectations of the Latina/o community, they have not really bothered to figure out the reasons behind the violence towards these specific victims.

Ennis’s article reminds me Carla Trujillo’s “Chicana Lesbians: Fear and Loathing in the Chicana Community” because Trujillo makes a point of how a Latina woman’s identity is not taken seriously if a man is not part of her life. A woman’s independence always threatens a man because that means he will lose control over something he has always been used to dominating. Cherrie Moraga is one of many lesbian Chicana scholars who have dedicated their work towards reclaiming their gender and sexual identity. In Moraga’s “Queer Aztlan,” she addresses her bold move to bring up LGBTQ issues within the Chicana/o moviement since they were hardly talked about. I feel as though Moraga expresses some kind of resentment towards her community because they made her feel like an outcast since they did not represent the different layers of her identity fairly.

Although I truly love my Latina/o culture, I feel as though the patriarchy and masculinity is damaging the identities of women who identify as LGBTQ. We cannot call ourselves a connected community if we keep marginalizing people who have every right to be a part of us, even if they do not follow the ‘traditional’ values that are imposed by men.


The Chicana/o Rap Revolution

I have never been familiar with the rap genre, let alone Chicana/o rap. All I ever really knew was that the genre was developed for and by underrepresented communities of color. In chapter three of Next of Kin, author Richard Rodriguez talks about the development and impact that Chicana/o rap has had towards various cultures and generations. Chicana/o rap has not had much commercial success mainly because artists within the genre are not major names such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and Tupac Shakir (Rodriguez, 101). A lot of times people even question this type of rap because they do cannot relate to its message or significance. Rodriguez also makes the argument that although Chicana/o rap was supposed to bring awareness to the marginalized community, it still carries strong misogynistic messages and bashing towards individuals within their own group. Although I do agree with what he is trying to say, I feel like the ‘mainstream’ rap tends to do the exact same thing. In modern days, both ‘mainstream’ rap and Chicana/o rap have distanced themselves from the original social justice topics that people would use to communicate suffering and mistreatments among underrepresented communities. Women are often referred to in a dehumanizing matter so I do not know what makes both types of rap any different. If Chicana/o rap wants to be more successful and memorable, then I think it should be more inclusive and political towards events that are going on in our society today. Maybe there will be a change in audience and attention. Why would the mainstream be anymore appealing than the other? Why do you think it is so common (AND ACCEPTED) that rap focuses on women in such a negative way? Do you think people would find rap less appealing if it got more political and serious? What does the audience find so amusing about homophobia and sexism within rap music? Do you think the audience even understands what homophobia and sexism is and how it negatively affects our society?

Embracing the Identity of Being a Real Woman with Real Curves


Real Women Have Curves is a film that focuses on the obstacles that a young woman faces within her traditional Latina/o household. Ana, the main character, is constantly trying to distance herself from the patriarchal ideologies her family was so used to living but her mother constantly shamed her for being ‘different.’ Carmen, her mother, thought that the ‘perfect’ woman was supposed to work and support her family. Ana rejected this lifestyle immediately and decided she wanted to build herself by pursuing an education and loving herself, but Carmen considered this a selfish thing to do. She always wondered why Ana chose to “rebel” against her and thought there was something wrong with her daughter.

From the very beginning of the movie, Ana’s independent persona made her family and other community members very uncomfortable. Carmen, Ana’s mother, was more mortified than anything. She could not stand how Ana was outspoken, blunt, raw, and so intelligent. Ana was not a pushover either so whenever her mother tried to talk down on her, she always stood up for herself. In her strange mind, Carmen believed that submissive women were a healthy tradition within the family. Deep down, I feel as though Carmen was jealous of Ana because she never had the courage to break away from a cycle that never made her happy. In the poem “Machismo Is Part Of Our Culture,” author Marcela Christine Lucero-Trujillo talks about how the presence of machismo is always reminded by Latinas/os everywhere you go. This made me think about the film because Carmen seemed to constantly bring up the “fact” that men had to be in control of everything in order for anything to be functional. She also made it seem as though women had to be the nurturers of the home so everyone’s well being fell on their hands, not the man’s. If anyone tried breaking this so-called tradition, she would shame them and make it seem as though they were the ones with bad hearts.

Ana’s mother is the perfect example of a misogynistic woman. Carmen always made Ana feel terrible about her weight because she would tell her that no man would ever love a woman with so many curves. I thought she was full of contradictions too because she slapped Ana once she had an idea that she was not a virgin anymore. I was so confused because I thought she wanted her daughter to find a man that would take care of her but I guess she wanted to keep the cycle of machismo going and she knew that the guy Ana was seeing was anything but “traditional.”

At the end of the film, I was so happy Ana got to live her dream of going to college far away from her family. I did not feel sorry for Carmen at all. I was so angry when she let her pride take over and did not bother saying bye to her daughter. I thought she was selfish throughout the entire film and she had no right to mentally and verbally abuse Ana the way she did. Sometimes we have to risk hurting others in order for us to live the life we deserve.

In “Imagined Borders: Locating Chicano Cinema in America/ América,” author Chon A. Noriega discusses the impact of cinema entertainment within the Chicano community. Cinema is used as a way to express struggle through a personal lens and it helps the audience relate to certain scenarios on a deeper level. This form of entertainment can be tricky because there are some Latina/o films that still promote the ideology of patriarchy, making it seem as traditional and normal. The reason why Real Women Have Curves is so special and moving is because it teaches people a lot about the negativity regarding patriarchy and masculinity, specifically in the Latina/o community. It also shows how women can internalize it and project it onto others. This is one of the few films in which women took over the lead roles and the men were just the supportive actors, which made it even more empowering and different.

I highly recommend this film to people of different cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders. The family portrayed in the film can apply to different communities because patriarchy affects almost every culture. Women can also find this film very beneficial and empowering because it helps us embrace the importance of building our identities and accepting our existence without the validation of anyone.