Friday, January 10, 2014


This will be the last post on this blog. 

I see the shade of the face of this country turning slightly darker, and I want those new faces to be able to succeed and move this country forward. Latinas in particular need to step out of their traditional roles in society and start embracing the opportunities that are all around them, if they know where to look. 

With that being said, what very little blogging skills I have will be joining a group of Latinas and their skills in building a new blog. The name is still to be determined, but the message is pretty simple: Latinas need to start speaking out. 

My vision for this blog is to have it be a space where Latinas can speak about their lives and the changes they want to see. Yes, this means feminism. And while feminism in the Latin world is mostly seen through the grassroots movements, there is very little feminist activity in the Latino world. Hopefully this blog will at the very east get us to start thinking about how we as Latinas fit into this society and what we can do to make sure we are respected as much as any other woman and man. 

I will be turning the OYE Facebook page over to the new blog, so any current followers/readers will be  notified when the blog is up. I will be updating this post with the link in the near future.

Thanks to anyone who actually read my posts! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Read Read Read

Arizona lawmakers banned the Ethnic Studies program in Tucson high schools.   The program helps the large population of Mexican-American students to relate to what they learn. It has worked — the students' graduation rates soared. And now they are fighting against their government to get the program back in their schools. You see a great video from PBS that explains it all.

All of this got me thinking about the amount of Latino and Latin writers I've encountered in my high school career. I can't name a single one. That all changed in college, but it's still not enough. Because in the plethora of white male writers that I've collected on my bookshelves, I can't say that I have had a similar racial experience, for obvious reasons. That's important, right?

I'm pretty mixed about all of this. I understand that we live in the United States — white male writers are gonna happen. But we're establishing our own presence in this country, so shouldn't Latinos also be read in the classroom? The same goes for Asian, Native American, and all types of racial and ethnic groups.

I can't blame it all on the school systems, though. I have to take some responsibility and read Latin and Latino writers on my own. The video I made (up above) shows a small sampling of all my book, most of which are written by white male writers. And unfortunately the only Latin and Latino writers I have on my bookshelves are Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And then there's a Jim Morrison poetry book that's in Spanish. I have to start reading more Spanish books, too.  

The school systems will come around. They have to. But in the mean time, I think we should all take it upon ourselves to read more about our cultures from people in our cultures. And in our own languages, too! Any words that can get you thinking should always be welcome — no matter what language they are in.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Things Latinas are Tired of Hearing

I recently stumbled upon this page from Cosmopolitan, and I have to say that I have heard all of these things before. Whether they were said to me, or to someone else, these things can be really racist and sexist. And of course, these are all seemingly innocent remarks, but the truth is that they happen a lot.

I think these remarks are most encountered in a social, flirting scenario which very easily takes it from an innocent remark to a bit of cat calling, only it doesn't just happen on the street, it happens in an up close and personal conversation.

Then there is this page I found, that focuses more on Afro-Latinas. This is not as innocent as the last page Cosmopolitan has. 

All of these unwanted remarks toward Afro-Latinas are racist and even more damaging and disrespectful to one's culture. And the worst part about it is that some of us in the Latino community actually think some of these things are true. 

Darker skin and tighter curls does not make these women, and men, less Latino. They just have  more African roots to them, as other Latinos have more Spanish roots to them. It also astonishes people in our community when a darker-skinned person starts speaking in Spanish. We really have to let go of this notion that darker-skinned Latinos don't speak Spanish.

Here's some proof!
This is Zoe Saldana, Dominican and Puerto Rican, speaking Spanish on Despierta America:

Some of these remarks on the first page are funny, and some are true —like having a big family— but it's still not entirely appropriate to assume these things about a Latina.The page about Afro-Latinas — no! We need to get away from these stereotypical and racists thoughts. Everyone has a different story, so please don't group us together and think we are all the same, or that darker features exclude you from the community. We all have different experiences with our culture, and assumptions are not the way to get to know about it. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I Hope They Don't Call This a Race Film

Edward James Olmos. That's usually the first name that most people think of when considering all of the major Latino actors in the film industry. Even though there have always been a number of Latinos on the big screen (Anthony Quinn for example) the roles and representation of Latinos and their history isn't always present.

That's why I was glad to see the trailer for the new Cesar Chavez biopic, directed by the Mexican actor Diego Luna. We'll see how the movie is when it comes out next year, but for now I think we can focus on the fact that this Latino film is happening. Of course there are a number of great films from across Latin America, from Memories of Underdevelopment to City of God and Amorres Perros. However, there are very few films, I think, that depict Latinos — the ones living in United States. "Chavez" not only depicts a group of Latinos, but it depicts a history that doesn't always get covered in mainstream America. Whether the film is actually any good is another thing, but here's what Luna said about the film in an interview:

“Well what happens is that, well, they are Americans but it’s a very complicated relation[ship]. It’s      such a long, long, long frontier between the Third World and the First World, and that separates them with their story, with so many things I believe are necessary to become someone, to know where you come from...For a long time people in the States were saying ‘you’re telling a story about Mexicans’ and I said ‘no, no, no this is a story about Americans in fact’ and that we Mexicans have a lot to learn from. It talks about this double moral issue that you find a lot in the States, where there are all these people feeding the country, building the country but at the same time [it] is a country that doesn’t want to recognize that, but doesn’t want to get rid of them either, that just wants to keep them in the shadows. And that’s probably why there’s not a film about Cesar Chavez today.”

I like that he said it is a story about Americans because it speaks to the location of many Latinos — "America", or the U.S. I hope this film gets people thinking about the future of Latinos and their value to the American society that is to this day trying to push them out. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Latinas in the Media

Google for images of "Latinas" and that is what you get. A myriad of sexualized women. And one "We Can Do It!" shot. Unfortunately, this is how the world sees Latinas, a role that is very limiting and degrading.

I've struggled with some women in my culture and their way of dressing. Some may say that it is empowering to be proud of and comfortable with the bodies "God" has given us. But this oversezualized representation of Latina women is just injusto. We are more than a piece of meat to savor over.

It's no better that one of our own perpetuates this image, along with another common image of Latinas. Hollywood star Eva Longoria's show "Devious Maids" cast Latina women as maids working in a rich white person's mansion, with all sorts of scandals happening behind the scenes. I get that the show is somewhat of an homage to the telenovelas that are shown all over Latin America, but a majority of those shows are even worse. Not only do they over sexualize women, but they always seem to depict the good and beautiful lighter-skinned woman as the protagonist and the darker-skinned woman as the evil backstabber.

Longoria defended her show in an interview with the New York Times, but editor-in-chief of Cosmo for Latinas Michelle Herrera Mulligan criticized her for her comments in an open letter

Mulligan makes a great point about the other image of Latinas that Longoria's show perpetuates -- the maid.

Latinas, and Latinos in general, are depicted as the "help" in most cases. While there certainly is a large number of Latinas who make their living as maids, they are not the like the women in "Devious Maids".
I have actually meet a couple of strong, hard working women through my volunteering with UNITE HERE Local 1, the hospitality union.
The women I've talked to work long hard hours cleaning hotel rooms and do so for their children. Of course there are a lot of differences between the real-life maids I've met and the maids depicted in "Devious Maids", but the show perpetuates the maid as a role that only Latina women can fill. The show exacerbates this by sexualizing their actions.
The real women who just happen to be maids are not represented, and are certainly not freed of any oppressive forces just because there is a show about maids on Lifetime.
"Devious Maids" does not breakdown any barriers, it only makes them worse for the average person.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The State of Latinas

Whenever I'm on the bus or the train, I see younger Latina girls and wonder where they are headed in their lives.

It's no secret that a large majority of Latinos are on the lower end of the economic scale. Education is always thought of as the answer to economic mobility, but many Latinos do not always get far in their education.

As a Latina woman, I think education is definitely important, especially for women. I only hope that those girls I see on  my way to school everyday have plans to go to college. Although it is not a guarantee, education can help these girls attain a well-paying career. That alone would vastly improve the situation of many Latino families to come.

I bring this up because I came across some facts about Latinas and their status in the United States.

While this is not the complete facts sheet, I'd like to share some of the more interesting and important facts:

  • Latina teens experienced historic lows for teen pregnancy in 2012, at 39 percent.
  • Seventeen percent of Latina women receive Medicaid, compared to 9 percent for white women.
  • Latina women represent 17 percent of new AIDS diagnoses among women.
  • Latina women experience unintended pregnancy at twice the rate experienced by white women.
Educational attainment
  • College graduation rates for Latinas have increased faster than any other group of women.
  • Graduation rates for Latinas were at 31.3 percent in 2008, still significantly lower than graduation rates for white women, at 45.8 percent.
  • Only 3 percent of Latina women are represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, fields, while women in total make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce.
  • As of 2013, Latinas owned about 1 out of every 10 women-owned businesses.
  • In 2012, data showed that the receipts of Latina-owned businesses totaled $65.7 billion; this is an increase of 180 percent from 1997 to 2013.
  • In 2011, 788,000 Latinas ran their own businesses—a 46 percent increase over five years. In comparison, female business owners as a whole only experienced a 20 percent increase over the same period.
  • The increase in revenue has been even greater, with Latina-owned businesses earning 57 percent more from 2002 to 2007, when compared with a mere 5 percent increase among all women’s businesses over the same period. Revenue for Latina-owned businesses grows at about 9.5 percent per year.
  • Latina women own 36 percent of all companies owned by minority women in America.
Economic security
  • Latina women make 88 percent of their male counterparts’ annual full-time earnings.
  • Latina women earn $549 per week, compared with white women’s median earnings of $718.
  • According to a 2010 study, the median household wealth of single Latina women is $120, compared with single white women’s median household wealth of $41,500. Latina women with children have zero median wealth.
  • From 2007 to 2012, the share of Latina women earning at or below minimum wage more than tripled.
  • Poverty rates for Latina women, at 27.9 percent, are close to triple those of white women, at 10.8 percent.
  • In 2012, the poverty rate for Latina women overall was 27.9 percent, compared with the rate for non-Hispanic white women at 10.8 percent.
  • In Latina households, about 4 in 10 working wives were the primary breadwinners for their families, according to a 2010 CAP report. This doubles the rate from 1975.
  • Latina women are 69 percent more likely to be incarcerated than white women, according to a 2007 report. In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union asserted that incarceration particularly affects Latinas and black women as they are often the primary caregivers for their children and are also disproportionately victimized.
  • Latinas saw a 14 percent increase in labor-force participation from 1970 to 2007, a notable rise.
Political leadership
  • Today, only 9 of the 98 women in Congress are Latina; all serve in the House of Representatives. Five of those nine women represent California.
  • Only one Latina has ever served as mayor of one of the nation’s 100 largest cities.
  • From 1996 to 2010, the number of Latina elected officials increased by 105 percent.
  • In 2010, there were 1,858 Latina elected officials.
  • Latinas comprised 32.9 percent of all Latino state senators in 2010; women as a whole only represented 22 percent of state senate seats.
  • Of 1,789 female state legislators, 62 are Latina. Latinas in this position represent 22 states.
  • Of the 73 women serving in statewide elective executive offices, six are Latina. Five of those six represent New Mexico.
As you can see, there are definitely some advances that Latinas are making, especially in education and political leadership. However, the teen pregnancy facts are still not that great — we can do better! Any amount of progress is good, but it's vital that we keep that progress in motion. One day we can have those numbers in economic security be on our side so that future generations of Latinos can have all the opportunities they can without economic struggles holding them back. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Día de los Muertos

Día de los Muertos takes place today and continues on in to tomorrow. 

I provided a link to some information because to be honest, I have never taken part in the celebration of death or even know that much about it. The only thing I've experienced is the decorated bread — called pan de muerto — that my family and I share on either of the days in the celebration. 

It is mainly a Mexican event, but according to the link it is celebrated in other countries other Latin American countries, and even in Europe.  The link also says that it is a growing tradition in the U.S. as well since there are large numbers of Mexican immigrants living here. 

However, I wonder if the majority those celebrations take place in California, where the Mexican population and culture is vastly present. Other than California, I can't see Día de los Muertos taking place anywhere else in the way that would in Mexico. And the reason for that may be something that Raul Dorantes, the Chicago writer, spoke to my class about a couple of weeks ago. 

Dorantes said that one of the reasons we may not celebrate Día de los Muertos in the U.S. is because we don't bury our dead here. He spoke about this specifically about Mexican immigrants, but I think it rings true to most Mexican families. Whenever someone dies, we send the body back to the homeland to rest in eternity. There are no graves to visit here, which is a part of the celebration. 

photo: diariodn
So celebrating Día de los Muertos in the U.S. I guess doesn't do much as it would in Mexico. I think it's just one of those things we leave behind because there isn't much room for it here. From what I've read and from what my family has told me, the celebration is a community-based event. Nearly all of Mexico City takes part in it, according to my family. Clearly, with the U.S. being a different country with loads of other cultures present, Día de los Muertos cannot be the same as it is in Mexico.

Here is a link to some great photos and information about Día de los Muertos.