I should be working on my philosophy of teaching (yes, I’m applying for jobs), but I had to take a moment and write about tortillas. Corn tortillas especially, though flour ones have their place.
One reason I feel so strongly about them is that I’m allergic to yeast. Extremely allergic. Even a slice of bread (or a glass of wine — wine is full of yeast) and I’m breaking out in painful eczema rashes on my arms, face and neck. Wheat flour produces a similar though less severe reaction. You’d think this would cause me to avoid bread altogether but what can I say? I crave carbs.
But what makes my allergy bearable are tortillas. I know I need to learn to make fresh corn ones myself. If I can get my hands on fresh tortillas, my desire for any other bread is almost nil. Fresh tortillas are hard to come by in Santa Monica though. I don’t get to East Los Angeles often enough.
But the reason I’m writing this is that I woke up thinking about the best corn tortillas I ever had in my life. About ten years ago I was in Barrio Logan researching Chicano Park. The murals were amazing — if you have a chance to see them you should — but what I remember most about that day was stopping at an old fashioned tortillaria because walking past, my dad and I could smell corn.
We each got one tortilla from the owner, to taste. … Read the rest
Reading today over at the excellent blog, Lotería Chicana, Cindy has written today about Oscar Zeta Acosta who would have turned 75 this year. It’s a great post on a great blog and inspired me to put down my own thoughts about the Chicano wild child lawyer and writer that was Oscar Zeta.
His biography is probably equal parts history and myth. In the passionate and wild time that was the the Chicano movement in 1960s and 1970s Los Angeles, Acosta still stood out as larger than life.
I first encountered Zeta Acosta’s prose in Revolt of the Cockroach People. I read it when I as eighteen, followed quickly by Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo. However much I may take issues with the sexism and narcissism of Acosta’s texts, I love these books and on some level, have compared every bit of Chicana/o writing I’ve read since to them. Though Acosta wasn’t originally from Los Angeles, these are Los Angeles texts about a moment in our history when everything was being questioned, when change was both seen as possible and being demanded.
It’s fitting, perhaps, that the birthdays of César Chávez and Zeta Acosta are so close — the men were born a decade and a week apart. Chávez is seen as the saintly figure who fought self-lessly for decades to life and move his people forward, fighting for the rights of downtrodden farmworkers from the 1960s until his death, peacefully in his sleep, in 1993. Acosta raged through life, a representation of raw Chicano manhood. … Read the rest
Being my parents’ first child has always been a large part of my identity. I am their mixed daughter; the result of a 1960s high school romance between an eastside Chicano boy and westside Anglo-Catholic girl. I attended Catholic school from first grade until college — Catholicism formed the bulk of my my cultural identity through out my childhood.
My parents, whose racial divide had brought them social discomfort in the 1960s and 1970s, including difficulties renting and buying homes in parts of Los Angeles, did their best to shelter my sister, brother and me from the worst of their experiences. I knew I was Chicana and identified as such, but my identification didn’t mean anything more to me than my mother’s distant identity of “Irish.” When my teachers commented on my speaking and writing in perfect English, I didn’t recognize the loaded compliment in their words. Later, when I struggled in high school Spanish (as did both my siblings and most of my cousins), I never considered why the Spanish language was so hard for me, why when my bilingual father helped me, my accent was somehow considered “wrong” and “too Mexican.” It would be years before I realized my struggle with Spanish was, in part, due to an ingrained distrust of the Mexican side of myself.
Then, coming onto UCLA’s campus as an undergraduate in the late 1980s, my Chicana identity became much more of an issue. Attracted to Left student politics, I first joined, or tried to join, the campus MEChA organization.… Read the rest
[I was tweeting this roundtable on Hijas de Cuauhtémoc but lost wifi so I decided to blog it. These are my notes taken as the discussion was going on and is probably both disjointed and incomplete. Session was recorded for classroom use at CSULB.]
Introduction by Maylei Blackwell. (see tweets)
Discussion by Anna NietoGomez, Sylvia Castillo, Leticia Hernandez, Audrey Silvestre.
ANG: My purpose in being here is because I’m trying to create a more coherent picture of what was going on in the 1970s. We were motivated to start Hijas because Chicana contemporaries were experiencing sexual harassment w/in Chicano movement. Chicanas and Mexicanas were dismissed as irrelevant. Male leadership seeking freedom and civil rights for himself and not for the we that included Chicanas. The sense of being othered by own community.
Fredrick Turner’s book influenced by having section on role of women in the revolution, women called Hijas de Cuauhtémoc. This small piece of Chicana history made us realize that feminism was our history. Used the model of press as a way to raise awareness, to encourage Chicanas to express their ideas through writing and art, to confront issues of discrimination.
First issue not well received. MEChA organized a mock funeral for members of Hijas, funerals were depicted with names of Hijas on it. Hostile environment. Apology when coffins were found 20 years later.
Sought funds through community financial solicitation. Spoke at Norwalk senior citizen community center. Supported by parents / families. They raised $250 so they could publish.… Read the rest
This conference feels a bit like a marathon. There’s so much to see and hear, so many people to talk to. Today I miss the first morning session (wasn’t feeling great) but then went to the first plenary (great talks by student scholars) and then got some cash and headed to the book exhibit.
I’m not sure what I was expected, but this was much much more. The book exhibit at MLA is cool — lots of publishers, lots of books. But the NACCS book exhibit, while smaller in space is full of not just wonderful Chicano/a books, but ART. I bought some lovely stuff — didn’t stop ’til I ran out of money
Apologies for the low quality pictures — I took them with my iPhone and I don’t have the steadiest hands. My first purchases — a NACCS t-shirt — for $5 the deal of the decade as far as I’m concerned. Then I saw a copy 500 Years of Chicana History by Elizabeth Martinez. I hadn’t even heard about the book yet which shows how out of it I am as it came out in 2008. I had to have that too.
At about that moment I got swept up into the friendly and powerful table that MALCS was running. I’d been meaning to join, so I did right then, signing up and paying for my membership. That got me signed up to submit an article next month for review to see if I can take part in a writing workshop in August.… Read the rest
[This is the exact text of my talk. You can download a pdf version of all the slides: NACCS though I haven’t been able to reach Maria Teresa Fernandez to get her permission to repost them to the internet. She did give me permission to use them in my research when I spoke to her at USC in 2010. If anyone has a current email address for her, please send it to me at annemarie (dot) perez (at) me (dot) com ]
“for those who dream of roses / swallow thorns”: Aztlán as Cosmopolitical Space
I’ve included in this talk a photographs by Mexican artist Maria Teresa Fernandez. She’s documented the building of the Wall between the US and Mexico and the increasing militarization of the border. These first images are about the demise of Friendship Park, the point where the US and Mexico meet the Pacific ocean. Here’s the park as it was, a space for meeting friends and family on the other side.
Here it is as the barricade was erected in 2009, creating a yards wide distance between US residents and the border fence, dividing people.
New rules are in place forbidding contact that was, until recently, relatively casual and free.
Modern usage of the term Aztlán dates from the 1960s-1970s civil rights movements. . The poet Alturista gave Aztlán’s mythology in his poem introducing the journal Aztlan… Read the rest
I’ve spent the morning giving my talk –which I’m going to post here as soon as I figure out how to put it up– and attending sessions at NACCS. My first response to my first experience attending this conference is WOW — there are a lot of Chicanos and Chicanas here. Everyone is friendly and have been nothing but supportive, interested and above all enthusiastic. There’s a lot of celebration and old friends meeting, but a great deal of concern about the attacks on ethnic studies, especially those under way in Arizona.
I’m taking a break to get a little food and to blog about this presentation before I stop being able to read my notes.
I tried to tweet the sessions but (so far anyway)
I haven’t been able to get onto wifi at the hotel I have just been given wifi access so my tweeting has been was limited to what I can do on my phone. This was less than successful — I type too slow on it to really be able to keep up, plus my battery bit it half way through the second session.
The second session was a great presentation called “Chicana/a Archives and the Chicano Movement: A Discussion” by Southern California archivists working on building or maintaining university archives on Chicano/a history and community.
Even before the discussion started, they shared a link to a great resource — a picture archive on farmworker history called The Farmworker Movement Documentation Project. It has a great digital archive of documents and photo resources.… Read the rest
[In celebration of my dissertation being accepted today by my university’s library, I’m put up its abstract. Don’t worry, I’m probably not going to post the whole thing.]
Title: ”Splitting Aztlán: American Resistance and Chicana Visions of a Radical Utopia”
My dissertation researches American resistance movements, focusing on nineteenth-century Transcendentalism and the Chicano/a movements of the 1960s through 1990s. It is concerned specifically with the emergence of Chicano/a literature from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth century, especially Chicana authorship and editorship as part of a tradition of U.S. resistance literature.
The 1960s was a period of renewed interest in the literature of American Transcendentalist communities, especially the writings of David Henry Thoreau regarding resistance and civil disobedience. This re-reading shaped and informed American civil protest literature of the 1960s, including that of the Chicano Movement. Reverberations connect the two periods in the area of non-violent social protest. Further resonances may be heard now between the nineteenth-century suffrage and abolitionist movements and the 1960s civil rights and anti-war movements, as they questioned the United States’ role as an imperial nation — a role begun with the nineteenth-century policy of Manifest Destiny.
The replication of and discursive focus on nation and universalized communities of men, opened space for women as editors and authors. Chicana writers and editors of the late twentieth century, like the protofeminists of the nineteenth-century suffrage movement, split the single “divine soul” by pointing out the contradictions and flaws in a discourse on the nation which presumes only masculine subjects. … Read the rest
I’m giving a paper for the National Association of Chicana Chicano Studies conference. This will be my first time attending. The conference is being held in Pasadena this year.
Even though I could probably rent a car and drive there and back each day, I decided to pay to stay at the hotel. Part of the reason is convenience — my paper is at 9:00 AM the first day and I don’t want to have to drive through rush hour traffic and worry about being late. But the other reason is I really want to experience the conference, come early, stay late and all that. This seems an obvious thing to say, but I know I won’t be as likely to be there if I’m not actually there.
The paper I’m giving is a bit of a re-hash of a paper I gave in September 2010 at St. John’s College in Durham. It’s on re-envisioning Aztlán as cosmopolitan space. I’m nervous about giving it in a way I wasn’t nervous in England. The scholars at the conference in the UK knew lots about cosmopolitanism but knew nothing about Chicano/a studies or Aztlán. Here I’ll be talking to people who not only know about it, but may feel invested in other visions and definitions of Aztlán. It preys upon all my fears of not being “really” Chicana, or not Chicana enough.
That said, I’m so looking forward to spending a three days immersed in Chicano/a studies surrounded by Chicano/a scholars. How cool is that?… Read the rest
God, I can’t tell you how weird it is to write that. It’s been this guilty millstone around my neck for so long, anytime I’d start to enjoy or work on something I’d think “but shouldn’t I be writing my dissertation?”
And now it’s over. “Splitting Aztlán: American Resistance and Chicana Visions of a Radical Utopia” is in a queue to have her formatting checked over by my university’s editors. Soon she will be on ProQuest, searchable by anyone who cares to look. My days as a student are, at last, numbered.
Ironically, now that my dissertation is turned in, I can’t leave her alone. I’ve made a dozen minute corrections, found typos, glaring errors, whatever. I keep uploading new versions.
Paul tells me that down this path lies madness, something I already know something about. But she calls to me, wanting me to read, re-read and edit. The document is so far from perfect I can hardly stand it.
Must leave it alone. It’s done.
Besides, I’ve got a talk for NACCS to get ready.… Read the rest