Archives

Blog Archives

Being Latino | The Values and Challenges of a Bicultural Relationship and Family

The plan… NOT to get constrained or distracted by an infatuation with another. Simple, clear, and safe.  The perfect plan to allow for a professional Continue Reading

Cultural Experience0 comments

Bittersweet Journeying

ElPasoSkylineI spent three days in my US hometown of El Paso, Texas over the Valentine weekend, and it is always a bittersweet homecoming. I suppose my experience with El Paso has been bittersweet in that it offered my family much opportunity for a life of hope and success at the expense of a beloved home and culture. It was good to reconnect with family and friends, and meet new members born into the family, as well as meet the partners joining the family, evidently on account of our lovable nature. The reason for my El Paso visit, a cousin’s wedding. My husband and children had the first occasion to see the west Texas town my Mexican family had made its new home so long ago in search of a new and better life. About 34 years ago, young, scared, and angry I began my bitter sweet journey into a new country, a new culture that is El Paso.

El paso, a step in a process, a footstep, and a passage. A passage, into the new, into the unknown, and into the peril, of an 8 year old girl crossing el puente. A step towards hope, which many immigrant survivors have attempted to take numerous times and continue to this day. I realized how indebted I am to my family’s elders for taking that first paso in this journey to self-realization and progress while sitting in the church pews admiring aunts, uncles, and cousins walking in to take their seats. “We’ve come a long way,” was my first thought. And, we have a long way yet to go, it is certain. The younger generation will take that next paso in the exploration and experience of the new and unknown. I am confident that this is the way to progress and improve not only ourselves but Others. We evolve only by experiencing the Other, and I suppose I knew it instinctively, as a young, scared, and angry 8 year old. I truly and willfully live it now. Explore, experience, evolve, and most importantly share with the Other.

Gracias to mi familia for a welcoming reconnection and wonderful visit. My children will forever remember this short visit as it was impressively loud, unforgettably tasty, and passionately warm. We visited with family, we toasted a new union, we ate hometown, though questionable, fare, and visited El Paso sites for which I have vague memories exploring as a young foreign traveler. We rode the Wyler Aerial Tramway at Franklin Mountains State Park, drove through Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site on our way to hike up the thousand-foot high cliff of El Capitan at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We spent the night in Carlsbad, New Mexico to wake up and descend its dark, cool, wondrous caverns the next day.

CarlsbadCavernsCarlsbad Caverns held an amusing recollection for me as my only childhood memory of the caverns was that of holding a huge 1970s hand held radio to my ear listening to a recorded tour of the caverns. Along the walkway, instructions to “Start” and “Stop” were painted in white and red. I did not know much English and did not understand the recorded guide through the caverns but, I did know “Start” and “Stop”. So I waited for the “Start” command and ran off to the painted “Stop” on the path. It was a race, a race to beat the recording, and I would beat it most of the time as other cavern visitors ahead of me would obnoxiously slow me down. As for the caverns, I did not learn about stalactites, stalagmites or aragonite crystals. All I did was beat the recorded tour and the rest of the family. The first and last time I have ever been first to arrive! This time around, having visited other Texas caverns as an adult, I knew about the various structures and framework of the caverns and actually enjoyed its simple, intrinsic beauty. I also took delight in watching my 7 year old son listening to the recorded guide, following the various numbered segments, and completely missing the point of the prerecorded guide tour. Would he remember being in the caverns? Yes. Would he recall the amazing structures? Perhaps. Would his memory be of the hand held radio? Most definitely YES! That’s who he is… mama’s mijo.

A three-day visit to my bittersweet west Texas town of El Paso, a day in a grotto underneath the highest peak in the state of Texas, and two days on the road in a tight-fit Suburban, that’s my current experience and I’m here sharing it with you, the Other. Enjoy!  

A mi familia pasoana, ¡muchísimas gracias por un fin de semana fenomenal!

Home1 comment

Book Review of America Libre, A Novel of Family, Country, and Revolution by Raul Ramos y Sanchez

America LibreI met Raul Ramos y Sanchez on a Latina writers’ group website, NuncaSola. I’m not sure how our contact occurred but all the same a pleasure to have made his acquaintance. I have since followed his public debut as a writer and marveled at his tenacity to publication. After five months as a self-published edition, Grand Central Publishing debuted a tougher, leaner, come-out-fighting, America Libre, A Novel of Family, Country, and Revolution. Raul Ramos y Sanchez could no longer avoid his position at the boxing ring, maneuvering through contentious issues such as race, immigration, and social politics.

A novel of family, una familia americana. A novel of country, a diverse homeland. And a novel of revolution, is it possible for human beings to initiate dramatic, idealistic change? Perhaps not. Raul Ramos y Sanchez writes a bleak and distressing plausible story that can anguish a few and enrage many. This is the most daunting. To read a story that can conceivably happen in today’s social climate and know how to discuss the issue and keep one’s emotions intact. Can a group of people protest peacefully? Can a public official manipulate the fear of a few and divide a diverse nation into an “us and them”? Can an idealist gather enough muscle to initiate a violent revolution? Yes, yes, and yes. How is this possible? Better yet, why is it possible? Ramos y Sanchez suggests that it is the result of societal misconceptions, and, as one of the novel’s goals, awareness is vital to the avoidance of such plausible outcome. However, how can a tense story enlighten all of us to look past the fear and rage that America Libre incites and calmly discuss such issues? I do not know. Perhaps readers will have to wait for the upcoming sequel, El Nuevo Alamo.

I shared this novel with my husband as I wanted to experience his cultural perspective. I’m a Mexican-American that studies the question of identity and mostly writes about cultural experiences by way of identity. He is a Texan, “who happens to be Anglo” and prefers not to include the issues of race and culture in the same conversation. In his point of view, race is rarely relevant and often times wrongly substituted for culture. So his perspective is one in which I’m often curious. And, once again, he brought up an interesting point. If in fact the goal of the novel is to answer and clarify the societal misconceptions of what is a Hispanic and/or Latino, then why introduce a novel that promotes a misconception of what is an Anglo. There is not one “good” Anglo in the story, at least not one that is sophisticated enough to see past the fear or one intelligent enough to ignore the babble of any politician. Why then use race, from the other extreme, to fight the notion that there is no useful definition of race in today’s reality? Which brings to my mind another question, is it possible to share a cultural experience without a severe lesson such as a violent revolution?

I invite you to read this novel and purchase your copy by visiting Dulce Bread & Book Shop.

Home0 comments

Little Bits

Cachito

 

Cachito, Cachito, Cachito mío
Pedazo de cielo que Dios me dio
Te miro y te miro y al fin bendigo
Bendigo la suerte de ser tu amor

Me preguntan por que eres mi cachito
Y yo siento muy bonito al responder
Por que eres de mi vida un pedacito
Que yo quiero como a nadie he de querer

Cachito, Cachito, Cachito mío
Pedazo de cielo que Dios me dio
Te miro y te miro y al fin bendigo
Bendigo la suerte de ser tu amor

Cachito… cachito mío
Tu eres el amorcito de mamá… y de papá
Cachito… Cachito mío
Tu eres el amorcito de papá… y de mamá

~ Consuelo Velazquez y Alvaro Carrillo

 

Last week started with a late and loud entrance into Sunday Mass. There is absolutely no possible parenting skill to make a sneaky, quiet entrance with a boisterous little two-year old girl and a cowboy boot-wearing, vociferous six-year old boy, not to mention a proud mama wearing a cute pair of 1-inch clanking heels. Blessed daddy had arrived earlier with the quiet, well-behaved part of the Ravet crew. Needless to say, Father Greg, along with the front half of the church, had noticed that I, in fact, had attended Mass regardless of the late hour. I felt especially blessed for simply arriving safe, sound, dressed, and without having strangled my youngest children. All was well. Amen.

 

Monday was an easy day, as I usually and purposely do not schedule any appointments, meetings, and/or activities for this day of the week. It is a sacred weekday that gives me the opportunity to recover, in my pajamas, from the 48 hours I have just spent with all the children and the husband. It is a day for me (and Evita) to recoup some much needed quiet, alone time. That is, until school pickup, sibling fights, homework, sibling fights, dinner prep, sibling fights, dinner, sibling fights, baths, sibling fights, and Scouts’ meeting. I ingeniously used the hour at the Scouts’ meeting to clean out my auto while waiting in the parking lot for my son. Why clean out the auto? Not because it desperately needed a wash, dusting, and vacuuming. No. I gave it a cat’s bath for a school field trip to San Antonio the following morning. I had volunteered to drive a carload of 5th graders to the Botanical Garden in San Antonio. “Should be fun, fun, fun,” I said, to be with my oldest son and his friends while taking a stroll among beautiful, picturesque gardens.

 

Sure, Tuesday was full of fun, fun, fun! Rising at 6 AM to prepare for a day of driving, touring, learning, teaching, and driving back home just in time to pick up another group of students, this time my own, and completing the afternoon with sibling fights, homework, sibling fights, dinner prep, sibling fights, dinner, sibling fights, baths, sibling fights, then freshening up (read here coffee) to make it to a networking meeting. Whew! I completed the night having a tired yet productive conversation with Latina colleagues, feeling good, feeling supported, and feeling accomplished. Gracias Comadres! A split-second thought entered my mind of continuing the night with a documentary premier on the topic of immigration. I’d had enough for the day, made a mental reminder to research other possible screenings of this documentary, and headed home to bed.

 

            On to Wednesday, nothing on the calendar! Yes! I can work on my writing. Nope! The house was a mess, the laundry had piled up, Evita needed some mama-time, errands, and no toilet paper anywhere! Then back to pickup and….

 

            Thursday! Thursday was the day for writing and Carmen Lomas Garza. I was excited about going to an art exhibit and meeting Ms. Lomas Garza that afternoon and hear about her life as an artist, as a Chicana, and as an inspiration to many Latinos, young and old. I began to prepare by taking a long hot shower only to come out of the bathroom to find that I did not have any clean underwear, or should I say clean women’s foundations. Back to the laundry room to wash, dry, fold, and iron for appropriate attire to an art exhibit, all the while caring for Evita, entertaining, teaching, playing, feeding, reading, singing, and storytelling. Then… a call from the husband with a change in plans, why not go to the art exhibit with the whole family? Sure, why not. Great idea! Ms. Lomas Garza, after all, has several great children’s books full of families such as ours. Wonderful last minute change, turned into an hour of dressing sweaty, tired, hungry children, coming from a full day of school, into appropriate attire for an art exhibit. No sweat! A little yelling, a little screaming, and a little “because I said so!” And we were out the door only 30 minutes behind schedule, plenty of time. We arrived late, once again, though this time without the rowdy entrance that is our history. Mama sat down to listen to the Chicana artist answering questions from the audience and blessed daddy guided the children down the hall to enjoy the art exhibit and tasty hors d’oeuvres offered at the end. We all met Carmen, a friendly, patient soul that was kind enough to sign each of the kids’ programs, complete with names. We chatted for a while, discussing our favorite paintings and had our picture taken. A pleasure to have had the opportunity to meet such an inspiration, and off we went to think about dinner. There was no lengthy discussion…, mama and daddy looked into each other’s eyes and mentally agreed to spend this month’s dining budget, today, only the second day of the month. Oh well, the kids will just have to wait a short 29 days until the next dining out.

 

            TGIF or so it goes. Once more, I woke at 6 AM to prepare for a day with school children, this time with my twins’ class. I volunteered, again, to drive, prepare, bake, wash, drive, serve, clean, and drive. This time for the 3rd grade class and its celebration of the Passover Seder. In charge of six 3rd graders, I drove to another family’s home to guide the students in the preparation of three green salads, and two chocolate hazelnut cakes and their Passover confectioner sugar, got the students appropriately dressed in nice kaki slacks and white dress shirts for the boys, and light colored dresses or skirts for the girls, drove them and the food to the celebration home, served, cleaned, and drove back to school just in time to drop off these students and pick up my own children. I must add here that one of my twin boys was inappropriately dressed as he had carefully chosen a pair of grey sweatpants with a navy blue patch on one knee and a cavernous hole in the other. ¡Hay qué locura! We quickly drove home to have some of the Ravet crew pack and prepare for a Scouts’ camping weekend and for the others to prepare for a music lesson, a drive to ‘buelita’s home, and back home for the night.

 

            Saturday, a day of fun and rest. Nope, not at the Ravet home. My oldest and I took part in the YWCA ATX adventure race. I woke at 6 AM, yet again, to prepare for my first adventure race with my son. This was an opportunity to spend quality time with my oldest son while deciphering riddles, locating check points, performing athletic tasks, and obtaining completion stickers for twelve downtown Austin locations that seemed to be a thousand miles apart, especially when mama takes the long cuts instead of the short cuts. No whine, no complaint, no bother was heard from my son. What a young man! What a son! We deciphered 11 of the 12 riddles, we located 11 of 12 check points, we performed 10 of 12 tasks, and we did not come in last! Híjole was I pooped and sore. As I write this I can still feel the pain. Note to self, start training for next year…, mañana.

 

            The week ended with a loud, laughter-filled, family dinner, couldn’t have had any other ending. This time, family adults and friends gathered to celebrate… well just that, familia y amigos.

 

            A busy life, a busy week, all the while singing, out loud and in my head, a childhood song sung by my Abuelita Eva, Cachito. Why is this song trapped in my head? In addition to being one of my favorite childhood memories and songs, it has come full circle and will continue to circle around, as someday I will share it with my grandchildren. I am extremely blessed to have cinco cachitos that I love dearly and continuously thank God for my vast fortune. For now, I will share with you a musical part of my Spanish childhood. Enjoy!

 

Little Bit

 

Little bit, little bit, my little bit

A piece of Heaven that God gave me

I gaze at you and marvel, and bless the day

that fortune made me your love.

 

Why are you my little bit, some may ask

A feeling so lovely to elucidate

As you are a little bit of myself

That I love like no other is to love.

 

Little bit, little bit, my little bit

A piece of Heaven that God gave me

I gaze at you and marvel, and bless the day

that fortune made me your love.

 

Little bit… my little bit

You are mama’s love… and daddy’s love.

Little bit… my little bit

You are mama’s love… and daddy’s love.

Home1 comment

  • Testimonials

    MBE/WBE Certified

    The migrant issue is always one that is certainly full of diverse emotions, numerous perspectives, and differing experiences. It is a subject that I am familiar with on a personal level, as well as an intellectual level, as I put a lot of time and thought into the subject. I share with you a few words from a writer that has dedicated her professional career to the migrant issue and encourage you to experience various migrant stories of your own.   About the Book: For nearly a decade, Margaret Regan has reported from Arizona on the escalating chaos along the U.S.-Mexico border. Undocumented migrants cross into Arizona in overwhelming numbers, making the state a test case for the nation’s border policies. In 2007, agents in the Tucson Sector alone caught more than a thousand people a day, far more than in other states. The vigilante movement had its roots here, and the state’s employer laws are the most stringent. And for years Arizona has had the highest number of migrant deaths. Fourteen-year-old Josseline was just one of thousands who have perished in its deserts.With a sweeping perspective and vivid on-the-ground reportage, Regan tells stories of a varied cast of characters while darting back and forth across the border. She rides shot-gun with the Border Patrol, hiking with them for hours in the one-hundred-degree desert; she interviews deported Mexicans and angry Arizona ranchers; she visits migrant shelters in Mexico and camps out in the thorny wilderness with No More Deaths activists. Using Arizona as a microcosm, Regan explores a host of urgent issues: the border militarization that threatens the rights of U.S. citizens, the environmental damage wrought by the new border wall, the desperation that compels migrants to come north, and the human tragedy of the unidentified dead in Arizona’s morgues.[caption id="attachment_523" align="alignleft" width="136" caption="Photograph by Jay Rochlin"]Photograph by Jay Rochlin[/caption]About the Author: Margaret Regan is a longtime journalist in Tucson, Arizona. The art critic at the Tucson Weekly since 1990, she has won more than 50 journalism awards, including a dozen for her border reporting. She has a B.A. in French from the University of Pennsylvania; she studied French in Paris at the Sorbonne and Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala, at the Popol Vuh School. Margaret lives with her family in Tucson, 64 miles from the Mexican border. The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands is her first book.Thank you for this interview Margaret. It is good to meet with you to talk about your first book. The significance of the book’s title, The Death of Josseline as the title story, is the death of a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador who was left behind by her coyote when she fell ill in a mountainous wilderness in southern Arizona, close to the border. She was on her way to Los Angeles with her 10-year-old brother to meet their mother. The mom had left the kids in El Salvador with family while she worked in LA, and had finally saved up enough money to pay a coyote to bring them to the U.S. The younger brother continued on, at Josseline’s insistence, and raised the alarm when he reached LA. Three weeks later a No More Deaths volunteer named Dan Millis found her body in Cedar Canyon. This all happened exactly two years ago.
    • Was the death of Josseline the impetus that initiated this writing experience? How did you hear of her story?
    No, I had been writing about the border off and on since the year 2000, and I had gathered many migrant stories before Josseline died in 2008. I got a book contract in spring of 2008 and it was in the course of doing new reporting that I learned of her death. I camped out with the No More Deaths activists that summer, and one of their volunteers led me to the remote canyon site where another volunteer had found her body in February. I put her story first in the book, and named the book after her, because her death was so tragic and the circumstances so heartbreaking. She was only 14 years old, and she and her brother had been separated for some years from their mother, who was working in Los Angeles without papers. The mom had to save the money to send for her children. Josseline fell ill and was left behind on the trail in Arizona. The mother didn’t know it until days later when her son, then 10, arrived safely in LA and sounded the alarm. Josseline’s body was found three weeks later.
    • What compelled you to dedicate much of your journalistic career to the border issues and undocumented migrants?
    My interest began in 2000, when the deaths in Arizona started skyrocketing. Under Operation Gatekeeper, the federal government had sealed off the old urban crossings, in places like El Paso and San Diego, and assumed that the Arizona landscape was so dangerous no one would cross here. That calculation was wrong. Arizona became the chief crossing place, and the place where the most migrants died. Almost 2000 migrant bodies have been found in southern Arizona in the last 10 years. As a journalist, I have felt a moral obligation to bring this story to light. On a personal note: when I first went down to Douglas, Arizona, in 2000 to report on the crisis, I had just researched and written a lengthy piece on the tragic lives of my Irish immigrant great-grandparents, who died young and poor in Philadelphia in the 1880s, after watching two of the children die. When I saw what was happening to the Latino migrants in Arizona in 2000, I thought: the details might be different, but this story is the same as my great-grandparents’ story in all the ways that matter. 
    • How has this experience affected your perspective on the migrant families and the U.S. immigration policy?
    I feel a great compassion toward the migrants I have met. They are motivated primarily by their love for their families and their sense of responsibility to support them. I am in awe of the courage they show in undertaking long and dangerous journeys in order to work. Their work ethic is phenomenal. Whenever I ask somebody what kind of work they plan to do, they seem puzzled. The answer is almost always, I’ll do whatever work there is. U.S. immigration policy has, unwittingly perhaps, caused the deaths of thousands of these hardworking people, and separated families, wrenching babies from their mothers’ arms, imprisoning people for working at low-wage jobs. In the name of homeland security, the government now has the power to curtail the civil liberties of U.S. citizens living in the borderlands. The Patriot Act, in authorizing the building of the border wall, has allowed the unelected Secretary of Homeland Security to overturn 40 years of laws protecting the environment and archaeological treasures.
    • Do you have plans to continue authoring books? Was it a difficult process to go from reporting to writing a book?
    It was very difficult to go from writing newspaper stories to writing a book! Under my contract, I had only about eight months to turn in the manuscript and I found it hard to do new reporting and research, and the writing, in that time frame. I did use some stories I had previously written as newspaper articles, but even those required updating. I do hope to write more books. I’m thinking of looking at the detention centers in Arizona, part of a vast chain of prisons throughout the country where migrants are held indefinitely for sometimes long periods, with no rights to an attorney. 
    • Anything else you wish to share with readers?  
    I hope my book helps other Americans become aware of what’s happening along the border, right here in the United States. Most especially I want them to know that every year at least 200 migrants are found dead in southern Arizona, killed only because they want so much to work and to contribute. As a friend said, if every year Tucson had a plane crash that killed 200 people, the rest of America would sit up and pay attention and take measures to stop the slaughter. I would hope they would do the same when they learn of the state’s annual harvest of migrant deaths.24X7coffee_resizeThis book is available at Dulce Bread & Book ShopThe Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico BorderlandsMargaret Regan Beacon Press

    City of Austin Small & Minority Business Resources Department

    Charlotte Gullick

    “Teresa proved herself to be the best of community partners for Austin Community College’s Big Read program in 2010. She brought fantastic ideas, timeliness, and good cheer to all interactions; her work helped support a variety of local authors. A delight to work with.”

    Charlotte Gullick Consultant, Smarter Learning Group

  • Sententia Vera Cultural Hub

    Bookshop | CoWorking Space | Community Engagement | Coffee Bar