Wednesday, September 29, 2010

LBC Day 15 - Latinos in Movies

I love movies. I have been a movie buff longer than I have been into music. Most times, I am not caring all that much of the ethnicity of people in films as long as it is good and it makes sense. While, I totally get and understand that there will be films that will exploit certain people and play into stereotypes, it does not make me stop seeing what Hollywood has to offer.

With that said, there are not too many Latinocentric (I think I made a word here) movies that come out of Hollywood. The last move that I saw in the theaters in which the plot was intended toward a Latino audience was Our Family Wedding. Most times, it seems that we are side characters within the plot. Now, unless you are in a Robert Rodriguez fillm like Machete or Desperado, then Latinos are in the fore front.

But, I will not take a negative tone with this one. I think there are many Latino Movie Stars we could focus on because they are making it in a very competitive industry. I have already written two blogs on Zoe Saldana, so I wont go there (even though her career is exploding). We could look at America Ferrera, whom I think is a very good actress, but I am waiting for her BIG movie. I have always been a big fan of Salma Hyek, however, I feel that her movies are hit or miss. Jennifer Lopez just has not been able to catch a break with roles that define her. I personally think she plays too many non Latino characters.

I will say that when I heard Jimmy Smits was going to be Bail Organa in Star Wars a few years back, I was so very happy. Then I saw his screen time was like less than 15 minutes in both Star Wars films combined. Although, it has got to be cool to be immortalized in a movie trilogy like that though. I have talked a little bit Laz Alonzo before, he was in Avatar, but I really liked him in Miracle at St. Anna. I shouldn't really forget John Leguizamo for any of his numerous roles, but like Salmita, it is a hit or miss with him.

I know that I have not named nearly as many people as I want to, but I think that the interest of Latinos in Hollywood is growing. It is an uphill climb from playing something like Mexican Gangster to positive role model like Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver). We will have to wait and see what we get at the movies in the future.

Did I miss anyone you like?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LBC Day 14 - Favorite Latino Musician

I remember the first time I heard of this skinny Puerto Rican who can blow away a crowd with his vocals. My aunt Olga was talking about a guy named Marc Anthony that could sing as if he owned the entire industry. She spoke about his command of a song and even though it seemed like he never danced on stage, he was an amazing performer. This conversation was in the mid 90's.

I think that is a big endorsement from anyone in my family. See, my family has witnessed salsa in the 70's during the height of Fania. So people like Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon were household names. It made me think that I needed to pay attention to this guy.

When I moved back to NYC in 1998, I started getting accustomed to the night life. One thing that can be said about the bars in the Bronx, they love to play Salsa. This is when I really heard Marc Anthony. The first song of his that was stuck in my head was Nadie Como Ella. I absolutely loved that song so much that I had to pick up his album Todo A Su Tiempo. Since then his music has stuck with me.

Marc Anthony was one of the reasons why I went on my mission to go get as many old school salsa songs as I could. I feel that he gets it. The way he sings and the music that is produced reminds me of being in the basement with my dad listening to El Gran Combo.

Right now, I feel he is where it is at in terms of Salsa. Of course there are a numerous amount of artists in this genre, some who have been in the field longer than him (i.e Tito Nieves), but once he starred in El Cantante he began to embody the music. I feel that his portrayal of Hector Lavoe was good and his performance on the soundtrack was just awesome.

I look at my iTunes and Marc Anthony is all over it. Maybe he was an easy choice as my favorite Latino Musician, but I would be hard pressed to find a better one.

Monday, September 27, 2010

LBC Day 13 – Afro Latinos I See Everyday

I am not sure what made me pick this topic because there are certainly not many Afro Latinos I see everyday if any at all. I have been sitting here thinking about this. There have been students who can fit this bill, but most if not all, have graduated. Of course, I am talking about the ones that I know well.

In Syracuse, most Latinos live on the west-side. I am not really in that part of town unless I was to see my Dominican barber (and I have decided to save money and cut my own hair). Although, they do have some good places to eat they may make me want to venture out there

I really cannot count anyone on television either. Sure, I can talk about Jose Reyes of the New York Mets since I do manage to watch baseball just about everyday. However, with work increasing and the amount of sucking that this teams has managed to do, I wont miss much sleep if  I miss a few games.

Unless I look into the mirror. Because it turns out that I am the only Afro Latino that I see everyday. I know that other Afro Latinos exist in my part of Syracuse. Clearly, I do not see them as often as I should because it seems that they are just not as many up here as I would like. Of course I am not know it all for the reason of this. But, from time to time I may see one or two, but just not everyday.

While I thought at one time this would really bother me, I have come to realize that I will always use myself as a source for inspiration. I am not going to say that all Afro Latinos should be like me, but I will say that I think that by keeping myself educated and healthy I can make my mark in this writing game.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

LBC Day 12 – Do I speak Spanish?

The Spanish language is so complicated to me. I have always felt this way, particularly with all the dialects from the different Latin American countries. So with that said, no... I do not speak Spanish. I wish I did. I have an iPhone app to help me with this. The funny thing is that I can understand it but I cannot speaking fluently nor can I hold a conversation. However, I do know some phrases and sayings.

I have mentioned that I can, however, survive if I need to. Of course, if you parachuted me into the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico for like a few months, I am quite sure I will know more than just how to find a bathroom, a restaurant, and a doctor.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my grandmothers used to talk to me in Spanish. I even remember songs that associated objects from Spanish to English (i.e. ventana - window, piso - floor, lapiz - pencil, and pluma - pen). I can never remember the rest of that song. So I know that when I was younger my mother was trying to get me to learn a little bit but, all conversations were in English. I am not one of those people that cannot roll his R's. My mother made sure that I can do that.

So I figured that I can learn Spanish in school. I was excited that they were teaching it in grammar school. I took it very seriously. I was learning the alphabet and the numbers. Then we got to actual sayings and I slowly was beginning to realize that Spanish I was learning was "formal" and no where near the conversational Spanish that I was hearing from my Grandmothers or in the streets.

I used to get very intimidated as a kid when it came to speaking Spanish in the real world. When I was 14, I worked for Pathmark on 207th street. This was one of the first times that I really encountered Dominicans in large numbers. Frequently, people would ask me questions in Spanish about where something was located in the store. At times, I would be like..."no speak Spanish" and then I would get a weird look. Other's I would understand and direct them. But, this one time, some guy came up to me and said something that I did not understand. So in my infinite wisdom, I say perfectly, "no hablo espanol".  He gave me this only look like.. "really?" and walked away. I started sticking to... No

I began to get discouraged because I was starting to find that I was getting corrected at home and at school for what seemed to be 2 different languages. Ugh! I was so done. I think there was a part of me that shut down. I am really not sure how I passed Spanish in High School, but clearly I did something right. Maybe it was my gumption to graduate.

I will say that I do love to hear other people talk in Spanish. It is something that I love to hear on campus when I walk around. I have picked some more things in my years and I really do want to learn as much as I can because to be honest, if I do have kids, I want them to learn how to speak the language.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

LBC Day 11 - Latinos In The Media

This is a subject I can write all day about. I have serious issues with how Latinos are viewed in the media. We are the largest "minority" in this country and yet we have the smallest representation in the entertainment industry. However, as our numbers grow there is an influx of advertisements that cater to the Latino middle class. The last presidential election has shown that Latino have a huge say on who gets put into the white house. I think the powers that be have taken notice of that.

There are too many issues for me to certainly list, but I can say that the power of the media can shape they way the world can look at a person or a people. Media plays a huge role in Latino identity. The Latino Identity is typically defined as a light skinned, dark haired individual that is often made to look exotic. Afro Latinos are rarely seen in areas of television media with the exception of sports. Despite what the media may consider to be Latino, the darker skinned people still remain fairly invisible.

Beyond that, I have noticed that often times the media has a way of making Latinos seem more like outsiders than immigrants. The Arizona Immigration Law (SB 1070) is a great example of that. You have to think about  it this regard, most Americans do not know the difference between Mexican and Dominican. I am also willing to bet that most of America think that either most of us came to this country by either raft or climbing a huge chain link fence. Which is a shame but let me share a story...

When I was in the Dominican Republic partying with family, I met this guy who was a husband of a friend of mine. This tall Dominican who was so funny and loved to tell stories. So there was a lot of bantering going around.. Turns out that he lives in Tennessee. He married my friend in NYC and then moved to the south where they raise their children. So, being a good dad, he coaches a little league baseball team. So his team is filled with little White kids as well as Black kids and maybe one to two Latinos. This one little White kid walks up to him after practice. He looks up and says (in a southern accent). "you sure are the tallest Mexican I have ever seen". That story just made me laugh so hard! But, it is goes to show a my point...we are not viewed separately. Most of our images are not of a positive nature either.

We simply need to do better. I had to really think about what we see on television and movies. I will just limit this to American Media but what do the Latino actors/actresses play in films and sitcoms? Is our "race" a factor in these shows or can these people play anyone. What about the roles that are meant to be played by a Latino but someone else plays them. I know people love Scarface, but I really cannot get into that movie. I love Al Pacino, but not as a Cuban. Another thing that surprised me this week was Blair Underwood playing a Afro-Cuban in the show The Event. I wont say it is not believable...but why could they not get Laz Alonso to play that role?

Picky? Maybe. I just think we need positive views on our people and less images of our people in shambles. The media can empower or bring down whomever they choose and it can also play a big role in how children view us.

LBC Day 10 - A Latino Musician in Pop music

Preface: Yes, I am late this one but and I actually starting this yesterday while I was out at the bar...

I am sitting here trying to figure out Latinos in pop music. I do not want to say Marc Anthony because that could be an obvious choice. I thought about Christina Aguilera but, I don't care about her work all that much. Jennifer Lopez seems to be so passed her time. So I have the person that I have left is Pitbull.

I know that hip hop may not be considered as pop music, but it is pretty close. I personally like Pitbull because it is my opinion that he brings something different to the table. Sure, he resides in the Miami, which can considered the dirty south. If you know anything about Miami hip hop then you know that it is pretty much all booty music (no complaints here).

Pitbull is a Cuban American that was put on the music map in 2002 in the Kings of Crunk album by Lil John. Since then he recorded his debut album M.I.A.M.I in 2004 and 3 other albums since then. It is always interesting to see where Latino rappers fall in the hip hop genre. I think he lyrics are funny and his songs make me want to dance. I was a huge fan of Big Pun and when he died, there was a huge whole left in terms of Latinos in Hip Hop.

Then Pitbull comes along with this flashy beats and catchy hooks and before you know it he is 4 albums deep and is almost everywhere in Miami. When we think about Latino artists in pop music, I know he may not be as big as Santana, or have the fan support of Christina Aguilera, but I feel that he is growing in popularity that he will be a big force within the industry.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

LBC Day 9 - Musica Related to My Culture


Music has always been a part if my life. While I may not have appreciated Spanish music when I was a kid, I have grown to love it as an adult. My house was always blaring Salsa when times were good. My dad had 8 track and vinyl of just about all the biggest Salsa artists of the time. I have spent most of my adult years searching for all the music.

All the music was kept in the basement. This was where the precious stereo, that I could not touch, lived in this wall unit that had all the records in one space. The 8 track tapes were in another space. Scratching of the vinyl was considered a capital offense in my house. I never knew why because it seem that rap music was getting away with it at the time so why could I not try it? Needless to say I was not stupid.

My dad also had a set of Congas that I just loved to bang on. I was not as good as he was on them, but he let me play on the smaller bongos for good measure. Every so often a song would play and he would sit and play them. It seems to go into rhythm so it was all good to me. What I was also allowed to play with was the guiro. This wooden percussion instrument that my dad used to show me how to play. I would laugh to my self because the handle of instrument that scraped the guiro looked like my brother's afro pick (and we are not black...riiight!)  I also loved the claves! The looked like nun-chucks that Bruce Lee used in the movies! I would play with those too with my dad.

Now that I think about it, I think he had like a whole set because I seem to remember the cow bells and maracas too. I couldn't tell you what happened to all that stuff, but I remember it fondly. When he wasn't around I would spend hours looking at the record covers. Some of the art on those covers was so cool to me. I would also see pictures of Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe, El Gran Combo and Johnny Pecheco (to name a few). Of course, of thing about Latinos is that all music revolves around sex and some of the covers had art of naked women...but that is besides the point.. :)

I used to watch my dad painstakingly record all this music from vinyl, 8 track, and reel to reel (yes that old) on to tapes (that are now out of date). He used to make copies for people because my dad had all the latest music and all the oldies. I found myself being that way in college where I would do the same thing for hip hop. I would make tapes for people because I had all the good stuff.

Of course, getting older and taking pride in where I come from, I have a good part of my 30's looking for the same music my dad used to blast. There are some songs that stick with me like "Pedro Nejava" byWillie Colon. Often times when I do visit my father in Florida, I raid his CD collection and covert hours of music into  my iTunes.

One thing that he currently has, that I am dying to get my hand on is his vinyl to CD recorder. That will put me in a world all of my own if I can get some of his old stuff that I cannot find. I would be set. The point is music is gift from a rich culture. I love salsa so much that I can barely stay still when I hear it. I have been lucky enough to see a few good live artists. But this obsession I have will not die anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

LBC Day 8 - Latino Racism

If you have read my blog for a while then you know that I am no stranger to this subject. I specifically added this topic to the blog challenge because I think it is something that should always be talked about even though the purpose of this month is unity, it is also about education. Do not get me wrong, I love being Latino and I have said that from day 1, but the only draw back is how there seems to be a color divide amongst us.

Last February I talked a lot about Afro Latinos and how they are at the bottom of the social ladder in the Latin American culture. A good example is the comic book shown above. Memín Pinguín is a character in a comic book created in the 1940's. Somehow this comic is still popular in places like Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Panama, and Colombia. The character is about the misadventures of a poor Cuban Mexican boy. This book has become so popular that there have been talks about a live action movie.

Depending on whom you speak to there can be arguments that this book is meant to be comedy and that there are stories of pride that takes place from Memín. However, it is my opinion that you can dress up a pig in make up, but it is still a pig. The problem is the way Afro Latinos are viewed in many of the same places that this book is popular. Is there no wonder that they are not taken seriously within Latino culture. I consider this book to be very much like black face in the United States for African Americans.

I made a joke on Twitter during the World Cup that this event would one of the few times we would black people all over Univision (since they televised all the games). While I meant in jest, I know that what I said is more or less true. I will be one of the first people to tell you the this type of prejudice exists in my own family. Dark or light, I will guarantee you that most people in my family have been told to date/marry someone lighter than them. How does something like that make us feel about our skin color? How are we to look in the mirror and see beauty in our complexion when the ones who are supposed to love us find it hard?

We have deep issues with identity as a people. There are those who would rather just believe that we have no African influence at all in our blood and culture. Unfortunately our art and music depute this notion. Being black is viewed so negatively that we are lose the meaning of what makes being Latino so great.  I have personally felt that color divide in college when I simply did not fit in with Latinos and African Americans. Of course, when I look back at it, I never really had to fit into both because being Afro Latino gives me fluidity to  fit into both.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

LBC Day 7 - Post A Picture of Your Culture & Explain The Significance

Fort San Felipe del Morro

So far this has been the toughest of all the days. I had to really look at what picture I wanted to post so that I can explain it's significance. I scoured the web for different things, but I settled on this picture above because I took this picture 5 years ago when I was in Puerto Rico. I wanted to post a picture that I actually took because I feel that since I was actually at this place, I can explain it a little better.

When I see this picture or even its silhouette, I think about my childhood. There have been pictures of this fort in my house. In fact, Bacardi was such a household name that this was one of their insignias in the early 80's. I may be wrong about that, but I remember seeing this in some kind of advertising. Anyway, I knew that this was a place in Puerto Rico. I wasn't sure about it's significance or its importance, I just knew when I was a kid that it existed.

I have been to Puerto Rico twice. Once as a kid in the mid 1980's and again as an adult in 2005. I have have been to this fort twice, but I did not appreciate the beauty of "El Morro" until I was an adult. In fact, the parts of the island that I visited are all just gorgeous to me, but I really enjoyed Old San Juan, which is where the fort is. So let's get to the facts...

Fort San Felipe del Morro (other wise known as "El Morro") was built in the 16th-century and is located on the northwestern-most point of the islet of Old San Juan. It was named in honor of King Philip II of Spain and was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay. It's sole purpose was to defend the city of Old San Juan from seaborne enemies. During Spanish rule this fort saw action against the English in 1595 in which the fort fought back the British. It was attacked again in 1598, but this time by land in which the Spaniards were almost beaten. The Dutch also followed suit and although the fort fought them off...the Dutch burned the city down before leaving. (You can read more about this here)

When I was at El Morro, there was talk about frequently fending off pirates. What I find interesting is that during my trip to the Caribbean in 2007 there was alot of talk about the history of pirates in the region. Which is another reason for all the forts being built. As a matter of fact, forts like El Morro were a bit of a calling card during the Spanish Rule of Latin America. Similar fortifications can be found in Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Panamá.

The significance to me is that no matter if our ancestry lies in different islands, different paths, or different families, we are all brought together by history. In some way, our people have a shared experience outside our shared language. El Morro represents a small part of that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

LBC Interlude

Today is Day 6 in the 30 Day challenge and I have already posted my poem here. I wanted to this take time out to thank those people who have been participating in this. I can say that with 6 days down and I have already challenged myself with a few things. Not to mention that I have been getting messages from other people telling me who hard some of these topics really are.

The story about my two grandmothers really took me awhile to write. There was also some emotion into it because I was remembering things that I have not thought about in some time. Interestingly enough, this is only the tip of the ice berg here. I know which days will be harder for me than others. So I look forward in tackling those days.

I really did not think about compiling a list of blogs that are participating in this Latino Blog Challenge because I honestly did not think many people would have been all that interested in this. So while this day was slated to be a day off for this blog since I wrote the poem on the other one, I think that now is the time to list all the people who contributing to this. I have noticed there are some that are strict with posting everyday and some who may post a few blogs in one day in order to catch up. Every so often I will add some entries to my Facebook page as a highlight.

So here they are:
Please keep in mind that some blogs do write about other things everyday as well, while others may simply just do this challenge. I am happy that some people have engaged me with this and it has been so much fun reading other people's thoughts (espically about the food...I was so hungry that day).

As someone said to me... A writer keep writing! (have fun mi gente)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

LBC Day 5 - A Story About Growing Up Latino

When I think about growing up Latino, I am forced to think about my grandmothers. These are the only two women that were in my life that always seem to remind me of what I am. I was closer to my maternal grandmother than I was to my paternal one, but that does not mean that I do not still think about either of them.

My maternal grandmother was called "abuelita". She was the head of the family and as far as I could tell was the sweetest woman in the world. Always treated me like I was special. In fact, mi abuelita treated me perfectly. I remember her being in her bed alot and being sick often enough. She would have her walker and walk around her apt. But, no matter how she felt, she always made the best food.

I just thought about this when as I writing. Mi abuelita was the first woman I wrote a poem for. I must have been in like that 3-4 grade. We were celebrating her birthday and there was all kinds of food and a delicious cake. My aunts and uncles were giving her presents. I remember that I had no money so I used to make cards (it is what you do as a kid; take some construction paper and fold it in half...draw something) and when I saw what every one was giving her I became self conscious.

I wanted to just give her the card and walk away because it was just words on some made up card. She saw me and (she always spoke to me in Spanish) told me to come to her. So I cautiously walked up in my shy way. Mi abuelita asked me what I have in my hands. I told her that it was a card that I made and that I wrote a poem. At this point, I just wanted to just give it to her then run and put my head under a pillow because I feel everyone's eyes on me. Then she asked me to read it.

Truth be told. I do not remember what I wrote. I just remember that the poem was about her and how I struggled so hard to rhyme the word pleasant. So I remember that I used the phrase.."pleasant as a pheasant" (boy, I can put those words together cant I???). At the end of my poem, she grabbed my arm and thanked me and told me that my words made her feel very good. I could feel her encouragement. I will tell you when she died years later, I am not sure that I cried any harder than that day.

My paternal grandmother was called "abuela". I did not see her as much as my abuelita but I remember there was a time that she used to take care of me as a kid. Family issues being what they were, I was still able to see her when the chance became available when I was older.

What I remember about her the most was everything was in Spanish! The feel of her apartment was just so different to me. Sure, she kept old things around but they were very ethnic. Mi abuela had a small radio in the kitchen that played Spanish music and talked about the news. When the tv was on, we watched novelas and/or anything on Telemundo. I would also watch her cook. I was always amazed how she cooked everything. If I was lucky, she would let me chop or cut anything to help her. All her instructions were in Spanish.

There are very few regrets I have in life, but one of them is not spending as much time with mi abuela as I got older. She died a few years ago. When I look at my mi tia that I stay with when I visit NYC, I see mi abuela in her. So this is part of the reason why I feel the need to take of my tia when I see and when I eventually move back to New York City.

I feel that my 2 grandmothers always reminded me of where I came from. Through culture, food, religion, and most importantly, their love.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

LBC - Day 4 What Latino Blog I Recommend

I do my best to try to read as many blogs as I can. Some blogs are very long and drawn out. Some are very simple. Then there are the blogs that are simply great. All the blogs on my blog roll are worth reading and I have more than twenty five on that listed sorted by when they post. The one that always seems to be near on the top of that list every time I look at it is Latino Sexuality.

The brilliant mind behind this blog is Bianca Laureano. I first met her over twitter last year and personally last December and I have to tell you all that she is the real deal. She know what she is talking about and writes many articles about sex and society on different sites. I was interested in her because of her posts last year about Afro Latinos. This lead to her and I collaborating on the LatiNegr@s grass roots project last February that saw both blogs dedicating posts to the contributions of Afro Latinos for black history month. The result was this site: LatiNegr@s on tumblr (which is still active).

What I like about her blog is how real she is when it come to sex and the community. I personally find it hard to talk about sex in a public forum such as this. Sure, I can write some poems about it but, she takes it to another level at times. Bianca is a sex educator and does her job well. She is also a good friend who I have learned a great deal from. Her belief is that our community needs to better educated with issues of sex and I have to agree with her. The best part about this is that she available as a speaker.

Her blog is a connection to the larger Latino Sexualty site. Here is where she really proves that she is as real as what she says she is. I am all about people being real in their blogs. I think that she really walks to the talk. Her blog is something that I would recommend to anyone. Sure it is about sex but she is very knowledgeable about Latino culture and is a champion of women's issue.

Friday, September 17, 2010

LBC Day 3 - Favorite Food

I  had a conversation the other day with a fellow blogger and she stated to me that she thought my favorite food was Chuleta (Pork Chops) and I laughed because that so for from the truth. She had good reasoning too because if you follow me on Twitter you will know that when I get into my cooking sprees, I usually have chuleta with arroz con maiz (rice with corn). But, the one thing that I just love that seems to go with any Latino meal is Platano Maduros (sweet plantains).

Lord help me if maduros were ever to leave this world I do not know if i can find the same pleasure in life. Food means that much to me because I really feel it is the essence of our culture. I also feel that cooking is the one thing that I can do correctly. My dad taught me a lot of fundamentals of cooking and I figure that if I cannot speak the language the right way then perhaps I can get the food correct and pass that to any children I may have.

The reason I love maduros so much is the sweet taste and the rugged texture. The savory flavor is a welcome addition to any meal. With that said, there are meals that are bases around maduros that I have not mastered. There is a dish called pastalone or piñon. These dishes are to die for. I know as a kid someone made this and I am not sure who, but, my ex-wife's grandmother made this one day and I have not been the same since. I would compare this to a lasagna or a meat pie if you can imagine that. My ex wife has made a low fat version of this using turkey which is just as good.

I am not exactly sure when I fell in love with maduros because I know that I rarely had them when I was a kid. However, when I was living with my dad during my high school years, he used to make them frequently enough. My step mother would yell at me because I would eat so many of them and leave her with very little or nothing at all! (I am literally laughing as I write this...)

There was one thing that my dad used to do with maduros that would just make my entire night was that he would bake them. He would would wait until the platanos were ripe enough and peel them. Then he would take a knife a cut a slit right down the middle and add I do not know what kind of cheese though and I know it wasn't sliced cheese either. I may have to ask him when I am done writing this what cheese he used. Anyway, I think that is when I fell in love with platanos maduros.

I make them as often as I can and now after writing this I am hungry...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

LBC Day 2 - What Latin American Country I Would Love To Go To.

It is not like I have traveled as much as I would like to. I feel as I have gotten older, the need to go and see other places in the world seems to grow. It would also makes sense to do it now while I still can. I have considered myself to be just Puerto Rican for such a long time because my mother's side of the family seemed to dominate the amount of time spent around me. So, it was easy to forget or ignore the part of my family that is from Ecuador.

My dad is half Ecuadorian and since my grandfather is not viewed in a positive light, there haven't many opportunities for me to celebrate that side of my heritage. So it really wasn't until my father started dating my step mother that I really began to see anything to do with Ecuador. My step mother is Ecuadorian and I have learned so much from her about this country. I have heard the music and at first I was like..."what the hell is this?" But, as I kept hearing it, it began to grow on me. Of course, she only played it when she was cleaning but that is not the point. The food...well, I love food and she makes this ceviche that would make crack seem like a small piece of chocolate.

I will admit that I had no desire to go there when I was a teenager but as I have grown older, I have felt a slight pull to Ecuador. I am very curious about that part of my ancestry and would love to see where this leads. The last time I was in NYC to visit my aunt, she pulled out this picture of my great grandfather and he looked so much like my dad! So this lead to a very long and deep discussion on a possible family tree. But, I feel, in order for me to start that, I need to plan a trip to Ecuador.

I have a few friends who are from Ecuador and they tell me that is a gorgeous place. The only problem for me is that I do not even know where to start. My step mother hasn't been there in quite a while (other wise I would have to sneak on the plane with her) so I need to figure out where the best place is to visit.

Of course, I could start with Quito (the capital), but something tells me that I will get so lost in the shuffle. I should probably mention that I need to go with someone. No way am I going to Ecuador alone! Let me not mention that my Spanish is purely for food, medical, and bathrooms. Needless to say I will need to make sure that I can navigate this place with someone.

I have seen pictures and I heard stories from people who have been and I hoping that I get the same feeling I get when I went to Puerto Rico, which was a feeling that I belonged. Clearly, I am an American, but I felt so different because it was like everyone was close to my complexion so it felt great to me! So, I am not sure what to expect in Ecuador but I am hoping that this will be like a second homecoming.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

LBC Day 1 - What I Love Most About Being Latino

I had to think about this one for awhile. There are so many things that I love about being Latino. I can go into things like culture, or food, or music but that, to me, just does not cover all of it exactly. My assessment about life has always been based on feeling. My overall feeling about being Latino is that we all seem to embody our culture and our lifestyle and I love it.

The funny thing is that when I was living in the Bronx as a kid, the people in the neighborhood were mostly Puerto Rican. So in many cases, the sense of being unique is lost because everyone is sort of doing the same thing. It was no big deal to listen to salsa all day and all night on a Saturday while the adults drink beer as the food was cooking. It was normal to me to have rice and beans every day. So when I left that element to go to college, I began to see the richness of my culture and realized that I have the ability to embody my culture.

It is a pride thing. We know that our culture is rich. We know that our people look good. And we know this so well that you can feel it when we dance. You can taste it in the love we put in our foods we cook. You hear it with every roll of the r when we speak our language. We embody our culture.

I love the fact that I can walk through the Schine Student Center at Syracuse University and see Latino student in the Atrium where there are information tables on their various organizations. Everything is all social and when someone plays salsa, merengue, or bachata then we all get to really see the culture come alive! I noticed that all the students I know embody their culture in such obvious ways. I makes me feel that I am still in the Bronx at a block party.

So when I talk about the embodying nature that each one of us has it is like the sum of the whole. Latinos come in different shades and from different countries and yet we are a part of this mass of people called "Hispanic". I think that because we are are so definable by language and yet so undefinable by appearance that out culture manages to live through us.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge

The 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. 30 days, 30 blogs, 1 message to celebrate Latino Heritage Month. I challenge myself and any Latino blogger to write everyday for the next 30 days. The rules are simple. The blog must be at least 2 paragraphs on the selected topic, although there are 2 entries for poetry. The blog can be written in anyway chosen.

Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15 - October 15. So this challenge will begin tomorrow. I am a strict person with my writing so I will be writing everyday until this is over. I will also say that the 2 poems will appear on my Poetry Page. Good Luck to all who try this, if not...happy reading.

Day 1 – What I love most about being Latino
Day 2 – What Latin American Country/Island I would love to go to.
Day 3 – Favorite Spanish food
Day 4 - What Latino Blog I recommend
Day 5 - A story about growing up Latino
Day 6 - A Poem (original or quoted)
Day 7 -  Post a picture about your culture and explain its significance
Day 8 -  Latino Racism
Day 9 -  Talk about Music related to your culture
Day  10 – Talk about a Latino Musician in pop music

Day 11 – Latinos in the Media
Day 12 – Do I speak Spanish?
Day 13 – Afro Latinos you see everyday
Day 14 - Favorite Latino Musician
Day 15 – Latinos in Movies
Day 16 – What Do I know about indigenous culture (i.e.Tainos)
Day 17 – Why I love Latinas (or Latino Men)
Day 18 – Latino Art
Day 19 – Religion
Day 20 – Latino Stereotypes I wish I could change

Day 21 - What Latin American Country/Island I have been to.
Day 22 – Do you consider yourself more Latino than American?
Day 23 – Hispanic or Latino..What do you prefer?
Day 24 – Should Puerto Rico be a State?
Day 25 - Post a picture about your familia and explain its significance
Day 26 – Favorite Latino Actor or Actress
Day 27 – Favorite Latino Author
Day 28 – Family Ancestry
Day 29 – Latino Politics – What affects you?
Day 30 – What I learned in the last 30 days..

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some Ground Rules..

On the eve of Latino Heritage Month I wanted to lay out how things will go on this blog. With my recent partnership with the Printed Blog, I need to tell you that this big ass button on the right ----------------> indicates that if you really like what I have written, then please place your vote for me. What this does is give me a chance to be featured in print. I have viewed this publication and I think this is a great thing to be a part of and I am really honored to be a part of it.

The next thing that I need to talk about is that I am working on a 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. I am still developing it and will unveil it tomorrow. This is a challenge to me and to anyone out there who wants to really try to raise the bar higher when it comes to Latino Heritage Month. One of the things I really love to do is challenge myself so I am coming up with 30 topics.

This is not as easy as it seems. I honestly thought I was going to just coast through this. But I have spent about a week on this so far and I have to say that this should be very interesting for me because some of these things I do not normally talk about. But, I am all about personal exploration and cultural awareness. I plan on challenging myself creatively and intellectually.

When it comes down to it, I know that other blogs will highlight the obvious and same people and topics. I want to go a little broader and deeper. Quite frankly, I want to get personal, since that is what I am all about because my writing is personal. I take the time to share with all of you how I feel and how I live my life. So I owe it to myself to step out of my box.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 Reflections on Xenophobia

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." - Mahatma Gandhi

Today is has been all about reflection. I debated about writing about this day. I have already done it several times and, of course, I will never forget. But, the one thing I do not want to do is talk about this day over and over every year.  I think we need to focus on lessons learned so that hopefully this will not happen again. However, on the 9th anniversary of 9/11, I feel that we are increasingly surrounded by ignorance.

There is so much animosity over this Mosque at ground zero. The people who are crying foul about this whole thing believe that it is disrespectful to what has happened and that quite possibly there is some ulterior motive in the long run. Of all of this just fans the flames of the man, Reverend Terry Jones, who originally wanted to burn the Qur'an because "Islam is a evil".

This becomes a case where people do not know their history. So let's set the record straight on a lot of things. I am, by definition, a Catholic and I have been recovering for some time now. But, I do know a few things about Christianity when it comes to violence and killing under the name of Jesus. I could use several examples on this. We can talk about how settlers of the United States felt that the indigenous people were too savage and either need Jesus or needed to die. Perhaps we can talk about slavery and how many of the slave owners used religion to oppress slaves in order to get rid of their heathen beliefs brought from Africa. However, I think the best example is the Jewish Holocaust under the hands of Nazi Germany. After all, Hitler was a devout Christian who was simply was killing Jews under the name of God (He used to also sanction the burning of books...hello Reverend).

Do the action of many people in the history of the world who used Jesus to kill others mean the Christianity and all its forms are evil? Clearly not so much. What people also do not seem to understand that Qur'an is like the next installment of the Torah and the Gospel. Muslims believe that everything in the first two testaments with the exception that Mohammed is their messiah. So if you think about it, we all believe in the same God.

Now, I will not lie and say that seeing a Arab on a plane does not scare me a little because it has. I was on a flight to California a few years ago and an guy whom I thought could have been Arab (he could have been Indian too) was sitting next to me. I remembered feeling shamed that I was hoping that he was not going to do anything that may result in my death. It sounds so messed up but we all see the images on TV and they do have an effect on the psyche.

It is those types of images that scared people after the attack of Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. The xenophobia was at an all time high that many Japanese Americans were detained in internment camps. This type of fear and hatred is still possible in this country and the fact that Islamic Americans cannot even build a mosque near ground zero is a bad sign.

It is my hope that 9/11 does not stand for a day when we become more divided on issues of Religion because there were Islamic Americans who died in those buildings that day as well. Our movement to a global society gets hindered when people simply do not understand each other.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is She Really Black?/De verdad es morena?

The issue of skin color has become so personal to me. It isnt just a indication of beauty. I am attracted to a diverse pool of women and I know I am attracted to one type of woman over another. However, I feel the measure of a woman always comes down to attitude and personality. When it comes to skin tone, I believe it is all connected to ancestry.

Keeping that in mind, I read this article on Clutch. I will need you to read this before you can go past this particular paragraph. I have written about skin color in the past before and I feel that this will be the perfect prelude to Latino Heritage Month that starts next week.

Let's look at the issue here. There seems to a growing need for actresses (and actors too,most likely) of color to choose if they are Black or Latino as if there was some notion that they cannot be both. I am fully aware of my color when I look into the mirror. If I were to get stopped by the cops they are not going to have a debate on whether I am Black or Latino. They will see me for the color I am. The shame in all this is that people in this country (and Latin America too) refuse to see how homogeneous we are all slowly becoming. The more we seem to merge into one color the more that there is a call for distinctiveness.

I am always amazed by the amount of ignorance that is in our culture. Now, let me me identify "our culture." For the purpose of this argument I will just assume that Latino and Black are one in both the same considering that in most places, like New York City, we all go to the same schools and live in the same neighborhoods. Couple that with the fact that both Latinos and Black come in all shades. I would like think that my readers are all familiar with the "one drop rule".

Both share many things in common and one of those is a dislike for darker complexions. I wont sugar coat this because it is true. If someone is too dark there are jokes about how hard it would be to see such a person with the lights on...and this is both cultures I am talking about here. I will just mention that my cousins called me "tarbaby" as a kid. So, how can I ignore my skin color?

On the same notion, How can any Black person seriously ask about Zoe Saldana, "Is she even Black?" Really? This type of ignorance is why I have tried my best to talk about Afro Latinos. This not about if I choose to call myself to be Black or Latino. It is about knowing your history. It is knowing about why there are dark people who speak better Spanish than any light skinned Puerto Rican you know. It is about realizing that slaves replaced the Taíno Indians as the workforce because they were slaughtered by the Spaniards, who then mated with the salve thus the birth of Afro Latinos. So do we really need to choose?

But, often times we are left to read very little about Afro Latinos and their place in the world. One would think that Afro Latinos are only suited for Baseball. I do not see anyone asking David Ortiz to choose if he is Black or Latino. At the end of the article the question was asked: In a so-called “post-racial America,” why are we still caught up in the often insignificant nuances of Blackness? Very simple answer...self hate.

We see the what America considers beautiful. The skinny Meghan Fox or Lady Gaga (just using these women as examples) grace the covers of magazines and young girls of any color want to look like them. The images we see of beauty tell many women that being light skinned is the best. It is perfect to have the complexion of a Christina Aguilera and the ass of Jennifer Lopez. Beauty and the definition of it has all been based on a color scale. Some people do not buy into it, but a lot of people don't.

Self hate also breeds haters. Let's be real, there are some real haters in this world that will think that Afro-Latinas are trying to replace African American women on this scale. It is bad enough that Black women have to deal with white women and light skinned Latinas in the competition for Black do you think they will feel about Afro Latinas? Truth be told...Afro Latinas suffer from the same issues that African American women have. The pendulum of what is considered beauty in this society hardly swings their way.

I know I have made this mostly about women, but I have often said that I have had problems considering myself as a good looking man based on my dark complexion and no matter how much a women would tell me how cute I am... I simply had trouble believing it.

This it a subject that maybe tiresome to bring up and talk about but, people need to be aware that Afro Latinos should not have to make a choice between two cultures when we simply exist in both.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Independently Single

When I started on the venture of living alone, I was not sure exactly what to expect. It was with a heavy heart and a almost naive sense that I thought that being single again and living alone would be hard. But, I realize as I head to my ninth year living in Syracuse that it is all mental.

The thing is I had lived alone before and it wasn't all that hard. But, I was like 25 and I really didn't know any better. I was living in a basement apartment in the soundview section of The Bronx and thought that it was the greatest point in my life. I had a job and I lived alone. I could come and go as I please and had no one to answer to. The funny thing is I barely remember what I did for food everyday before I started dating.  I think I had take out many many nights. Quite simply, I didn't care. I had like two bills: rent (which was all inclusive) and cable. That was it!

Fast forward a decade and things are so much different. Juggling finances can make anyone crazy with the mortgage, car note, cable/internet, insurance, credit cards and anyone else that I happen to owe money to. I had so much fear that I would not be able to deal with just life in general. I remember sitting in my office, alone, on the verge of tears thinking "how am I going to get out of this?" I thought life cannot be all this hard. Of course it wasn't. When people say that we all need to take things one day at a time, that is so very true. That is why I feel like this year is going by slower than years past. I have had more time to think and contemplate life.

The funny thing is that being a single man is actually not all that hard. Once I figured myself out and all the things I like and do not like about myself, everything fell into place. It allowed me to set the goals that have gotten me to this point. What I am grateful for is all the things my dad taught me when I was in high school. He was also a single man living in a house and trying to get by. While it may not have seemed that I was not paying attention to him and all the things he did or cooked, I was taking everything in while have that nonchalant teenage attitude.

My dad was the one that taught me how to live life independently. He told me that I should never assume that I would be with any one woman for the rest of my life. How could I argue with that at the time? He was divorcing my mother who was his second wife. So there were lessons on how to clean clothes and cook for myself. He is a Navy man so everything had it's place and unfortunately I never picked up his neatness.

It was my stepmother (whom my dad was dating by the time I graduated high school) that supplied me with the "women's touch"on things. Again, it may have seemed that I may not have been paying attention but I was.   Nuances like ironing a certain way and shopping for clothes that made sense was something I got from her. Sure this was a long time ago, but when I was in my twenties, I thought I knew everything I could know about life and myself.

While I discovered, after the break up of my first love, that my dad had been right about women and life in general, it isn't until now that I am able to really fully understand everything. I am fully self sufficient. I do not need a woman to do anything for me. I always felt bad for guys in college who couldn't do their own laundry. I always wondered how crippling it must be if they were to lose whatever appeal they had that allowed girls to wash their clothes for them.

I can cook anything I set my mind to...which my dad told me that once I start cooking for women that I will never truly be alone (he is so right about that). I laugh because he always had an issue with the way I clean and I will tell you that I hated to do it. Now, I have two roommates and it is all I do. The funny thing is, I do not mind this. I want things in my house cleaned the way I want it to be cleaned. I was just cleaning the stove today before I made some chuletas (pork chops...don't judge) and I smiled thinking that at one time you could not pay me enough to do this.

Now, as I set my sights to the complete my final goal of getting out of Syracuse, I find that being a single man is not hard at all. I just need to enjoy my independence.


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