Thursday, October 28, 2010

Passionate Dreamer

At this moment, I do not want to get to a point where I have nothing to talk about so I will just write about what is currently on my mind and see where it takes me. To be honest, this blog is titled "Inside My Head" and it would be nice if I actually did that from time to time.

I am such an emotional person that sometimes, it is hard to focus on certain subjects. Right now, I feel a certain way about the type of work I do. I am passionate about students and that is one reason why I have stayed where I am. The passion for this runs so deep that I find myself getting infuriated by those who do not share a certain amount of passion for the education of students. While I am not on the academic side yet, I do feel that student affairs provides students with education outside the classroom.

I feel that this type of work is very rewarding and I feel that I have sacrificed large amounts of my life for students. It comes with the territory and that does not bother me. However, I believe a great deal of that sacrifice was part of ending my marriage. It becomes difficult to work with people who forget why we work at a University.

I have also been struggling with several poems that I have swirling in my head right now. I have written five unfinished poems that are just staring at me from my notebook. They are all about love, of course. Although, one of them seems to be about the absence of love.

I am trying to figure out why I am struggling with this. I know that there are things that I am dealing with personally that I will equate to a chess game. Each move I make is to set up the next move and it must be planned with such precision that the wrong move could lead to the wrong kind of checkmate. The funny thing about this is that I am not all that great at chess, although I do know how to play.

I also have this growing fear in the back of my heart.  I am trying to do so many things that failing is becoming less of an option. The job market is so bad that I have been turned off by it. I have to fight myself just to apply for a job. Which is why school is looking so good to me. I am not afraid of school nor the work. I have a small fear that I may not get in, but I think jitters like that are normal. I am just thinking about the next move.

Leaving Syracuse will be harder than leaving NYC because I will be leaving a career that I have enjoyed but, I think that now it is the time to chase a dream. I will have to, once again, go out on a limb and do this. I have learned so much this year about myself and what I will do to make myself happy, which also means taking risks. So, with the end of this year coming I will be taking one of possibly many leaps of faith in hopes that I will be rewarded in the end.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Future

I need to use this blog as a sounding board. I know that I have talked about what my future career goals in the past and I have always said that I wanted to get a Master's degree. When thinking about this in the past I have though about what made sense.

I first thought, years ago, that the best route for me was a Master's in Business Administration. At the time it made sense. I wanted to pave the way for me being a VP of some college and I felt that this route would round me out as a professional. I would be able to understand the world from a business sense. I went so far as to take a graduate level Economics course. Through this class, I realized once again how much I hate the corporate world and math. It was a hard class that I took with my busy work schedule and I still passed with a hard earned B+.

I knew this was something that I did not want to do. So I had to rethink my strategy and think about what it is I really want to do. That is when I started thinking about Higher Education. I know from experience that this particular field does not have many people of color. I am one of few Latinos in any capacity in administration at Syracuse University.

There is a particular area of study that SU has that is very similar to Higher Education called Cultural Foundations of Education. I find this area to be very enlightening. I loved the two course that I took so much that I was able to get A's in both. I opened myself to a new world in which lead me to create this blog in the first place. However, I felt like there was something was missing. I knew that there was this feeling growing inside of me that makes me not want to stay here, particular after the break up of my marriage.

I knew then, as I know now, that I am done with the Syracuse point of view on things. I know that I need to move on to other places in order to truly be rounded out. So, I have been on this job search for more than a year without any real bites. To be honest, most places are looking for a Master's degree and I not willing to stay here and pursue that. So that leaves me with finding a job and then go to grad school part time or just cash in all my chips and go back to school full time.

During my job search, I came across a small school in Bronxville, NY called Sarah Lawrence. I have had a few people tell me how awesome this school is because they have Master's courses in Writing. I applied for a job that I did not hear back from and I just kept this school in the back of my mind...until about 3 weeks ago when I was walking through a graduate school fair that I was working. A lady from Sarah Lawrence College was there and we started talking.

She talked about how great the school was and how I really need to think about attending an open house to see the campus. I filled out a card and took some paperwork on the school. I read it when I got home and really started to ponder if this was something that not only could I do, but is this what I really wanted. I have to admit I feel that my writing is missing something that I cannot quite put my finger on. Maybe, I needed formal training from people who have done what I aspire to do.

I put this thought on the back burner because I had a LBC Challenge to write, I had Homecoming at SU to work, and I had a speech to give. Friday, I finally get the official Sarah Lawrence packet in the mail. I opened it with such excitement. There was a letter addressed to me and all this information on how to apply. More importantly, the open house is November 11th. Ugh, it is a Thursday, which is going to be an issue. So I put it down because I figured that I will just get back to it eventually.

This weekend was when all thoughts came into my head that I just need to write down because I do not want to forget this. A Masters in Writing could mean that I can still be in Higher Education. I could teach a writing courses, perhaps at another university or college! I had even thought about how I could teach Blog Writing and have classes just on how to communicate one's feelings and put them on a blank slate. Perhaps I could teach a course on Cultural Writing on how one can express culture through writing...

I thought about this and I had to just stop and look around. What if this is what I was meant to do? What if this what I have been looking for? It just feels so right to me. I would still do the public speaking thing, the blog writing, the poetry, and the short stories, but to totally submerge myself into writing and help students realize that this is something that they could do is just priceless.

I just need to apply. Now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

On the Cusp

Someone told me that they can imagine me not writing another blog for awhile since the LBC Challenge. I have to admit she was right in the sense that I needed to take some days off from writing. Now that those days are now behind me, I have to just write some reflections.

First let me say that nothing makes a month go by slower than to count each day. When I was writing each entry of the LBC Challenge, I felt like each day was going by slower than the last. I loved writing like that every day, it showed me that I can layout subjects in advance, no matter how difficult, and still accomplish the task at hand. I really wish I had this type of motivation in college.

I really enjoyed my time in Utica, even though it was only for a few hours. I am so glad I had decided to write that speech instead of just "winging it". The speech was supposed to for twenty minutes and I will be completely surprised if I was up there for that long. I didn't want to drag and be boring to a bunch of college kids that ultimately just want to eat and dance.

I am glad that I injected some humor into it. The audience laughed when they needed to, which is always a good sign that they are following what is being said. I started to feel that while, I wrote this speech before hand, I was more talking to them rather than talking at them. The feeling is so very empowering when you begin to realize that people are really listening to something that you created.

Which brings me to my poetry. There was a reason why I added a poem to the ending of my speech. I wanted to see if I could do it. If i can read my poem in the way in was intended to be heard. I wanted to absolutely be sure that if I go down this road of public speaking, I need to be confident in all facets of my writing. Once I was done, a wave of confidence came over me as I walked back to my seat. I knew then that I could go on the road with my own creations and spit them out, because after all, they are my poems and I cannot worry if people will think they are good or not.

I think about the type of month that I have had up to this point. Several things have happened that has challenged me, my thought process, and my faith. First, my mother sent me a letter with a prayer card and a religious medal. I thought about how crazy it was to get it especially before my blog post on religion. No, she didn't not know about my blog or anything I write, so I was just taken back by this. I wont even mention the amount of dreams I have had during this past month that has made me think about the journey that I am currently on.

Then there is the fact that I feel that I have been hustling so much to get extra money to get myself in a good position to make the move I want to make. However, every time I get to that place where I feel so very comfortable...something breaks. The furnace broke in the beginning of the month and the refrigerator broke last week. These are the things that frustrate me because it does not help in my goal to get ahead. However, I am getting a third roommate. So this will indeed help my cause. (yes, I got both things fixed)

I haven't even mentioned that I still wrote this challenge during the busiest time of my life with SU Homecoming  being so busy. In fact, I had been working since 8:30am the day of the speech. I had to run home after a reception at 4:30pm, take the quickest shower of my life, shave, iron my shirt, get dressed, leave the house, get gas, and then get cash before I can finally hit the road. The event was at 7pm. I was on the road by 5:45pm and the drive was an hour. Talk about cutting it

I am motivated. I am really getting tired of being here. I need to break out. I actually took the time to talk to someone from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. They were up here for a graduate school fair last month. I am thinking about a Masters Degree in Writing. I have also had an offer from a good friend to be my agent so he can help me get more speaking gigs. I just need a head shot and write a Bio.

I am on the cusp of living my dream. I just need to get there.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Utica Speech: Small Impacts

(My Utica speech from earlier tonight)

Wow! Thank you so much. I have to admit I am a little nervous right now. This is the first time I am really speaking in front of a crowd like this and getting paid for it! I want to that Anthony De La Rosa for contacting me and making this happen. I would also like to thank the Latin American Student Union for bringing me here.

What I want to talk about tonight, is small and meaningful impacts that we make in life and particularly when it comes to Latino Heritage Month.

First I want to say that I met Anthony last May during a event at Syracuse University. You see, I fill many roles over at SU, but my main role an event planner, so anything major that happens within the student center, chances are that either I know about it or I have had a part in planning it. I also serve as an adviser for two Latino student organizations. One is called La LUCHA, which is an undergraduate organization (much like the Latin Student Union) that tries to empower and educate student on issues involving the Latino community. The other organization is Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity Incorporated.

Anthony is a member of LSU and we met at a fashion show/concert (featuring Fabolous) that was co-sponsored by them and another student organization. One of my former students that I am very close with named Melissa (we call her Meli), introduced me to him at this event. At the time, the whole immigration in Arizona issue regarding senate bill 1070 was just beginning to bubble over and I felt that I really wanted to do something that would make a small but meaningful impact.

Which brings me to what I do when I am not working. I am a blogger/poet/activist. I do not claim to be an expert in either of these three and I use them sparingly. I created the current incarnation of my blog in 2009 called, Inside My Head, as a way to release my creative energies. Any writer will tell you that they feel lost if they do not write and there was a period in my life where writing became non existent.

During my thought process of what the blog could possibly be about, I thought about some of the masters courses that I took at SU that had an impact on me. These course focused on the modern education system and how people of color operated within a system that included institutional racism, segregation, and socio economic issues. So in taking these course I ran into an area of study that I really wanted to focus on and that was Afro Latinos. I found this to be a subject very hard to research because there are simply not many people who write about it. In fact, I think I can count one one hand the amount of people that have published educational literature on Afro Latinos.

So I started thinking that if I wanted to make my impact on the world, it needs to it start here. I chose a suitable name that I came across while researching a paper. Latinegro, one word. Not to be confused with Latin-Negro. I am not sure about the rest of you, but when it comes to choosing a screen name, I want it to be unique. I don't want to have some ambiguous name with numbers at the end of it and may or may not signify something. I don't want to be called something like blacktino_2010.

Anyway, my blog is about me, of course, and the experiences I have encountered in my life. I very much aspire to be a novelist and I am actually working on one currently. More importantly, I wanted people to be aware of the plight of the afro-latino in this world. We are not just baseball players. I am certainly no Robinson Canoe nor am I Jose Reyes. I wanted to make an impact with my words. I want to educate people that latinos come in different shades despite that fact that we are invisible in place like Univison.

Getting back to how I met Anthony. I wanted to take a picture of Me and Meli with a sign that said. "Do I look Illegal?" I had seen other people on Facebook and Twitter do this. I wasn't trying to start a revolution, I just wanted to make a small statement, to make a small impact on how people saw the immigration issue. Just because Mexicans in Arizona were going through this did not mean it did not effect Puerto Ricans or Dominicans in New York. I was going to post this on my blog and talk about Racism and Latinos. Previously, I wrote a letter to Arizona on my blog protesting this whole ridiculousness. So what ends up happening is that Meli Anthony and another LSU member Josh all get in front of a camera and we take several pictures. I thought is was great. I was going to post it and be all proud of myself. Needless to say, I am still waiting for those pictures. (Josh? -_-)  However, I did take one of myself that I ultimately posted.

But, something happened after that. Josh went back to his campus at Morrisville. Anthony went back to this campus and on facebook about a week later...I start seeing all these videos and of people from these different campuses taking these photos! It turned out the Josh and Anthony decided to do something about it! I was in awe because I could not even get my own students to do this! I could not beleive I made an impact with two people that I did not know very well. (but we are facebook friends and I follow them on twitter too..)

That was my point. I made a small impact that turned out to be something bigger than me. Now, again, I am not going to sit here and take credit for the whole idea that is not mine. I am just glad I made people think because after I saw what they did...I posted their video on my facebook and on my tumblr...just to get exposure. Guess what happened? Other people within my scope of facebook friends were posting these types of pics on their profile. Impact. This is the type of impact we need to make for Latino Heritage Month every year.  Most people may not notice it all that much but it does make a difference to those who do notice.

This year I made my impact when I sent out a challenge to all bloggers on September 14th. A Latino Blog Challenge. 30 Days. 30 Topics. To celebrate Latino Heritage Month...and yes I do say Latino Heritage Month not Hispanic Heritage Month. We do not live in Spain. We are Latinos in America.

Once again I am trying to make a small impact just on my readers and it turns into this thing where 5-6 fellow bloggers joined in on this challenge. Some of which I never met or know until now. They took my challenge and during the height of it, were posting right along side of me. So anyone can read what each one of us had to say about each given topic.For the sake of time I will not list all 30 topics but here were some that made things very interesting.

Day 1 – What I love most about being Latino
Day 3 – Favorite Spanish food (which is Maduros...are they on tonight's menu?)
Day 6 - A Poem (original or quoted)
Day 8 - Latino Racism
Day 12 – Do I speak Spanish? (
Day 13 – Afro Latinos you see everyday
Day 16 – What I know about indigenous cultures (i.e.Tainos)
Day 20 – Latino Stereotypes I wish I could change
Day 23 – Hispanic or Latino..What do you prefer?
Day 24 – Should Puerto Rico be a State?

Now, those were the top ten that I enjoyed writing the most. The funny thing is that at the end of the 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge, I learned that Latino Heritage month was indeed 31 days. (whomp whomp). What still gets to me the most, is that I feel Latino Heritage Month received attention outside of academia. While not everyone finished...I think that attempt was made which satisfied me and ultimately justified my reasoning for creating this blog challenge to begin with, but let's face it, It is REALLY hard to write for 30 days straight.

So, What does this mean to you? Very simple. Be sure to set your goals in life on what you want to do. Being Latino is simply not good enough. When you try to make an a small meaningful impact in whatever you are passionate will witness how that impact becomes like a snow ball rolled from on top of a mountain that gets larger with momentum as it reaches its ultimate point of impact.

I would like to leave you all tonight with a poem that I wrote on Day 6. I call it:
Negro Mestizo

Yo soy Latino
related to Taino
bred from parents
whose blood line
runs deep
of ancestry
Negro Mestizo
Inca. African. Spanish. Taino.
a combination
of cultures
ingrained in history
a conglomeration
of pride
a beacon into the past
rolled into a man.

A representative
A superlative
without explanation
cultura optimo
taking the best
parts of four
dividing it by two
and passing it down
Afro Latino
Negro Mestizo
Latin Negro
a product of my people
with all parts equal

My Name is Anthony Otero...latinegro you can find me on twitter and on blogspot. Thank you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

LBC Day 30 – What I learned in the last 30 days

I am very excited that the challenge is over and I made it. I know that I wasn't always on time, but I was able to get all 30 days done. I did not think that it would be as hard as it turned out to be.  When I came up with the topics it was all from the top of my head. I really thought it would be cool to write everyday about the topics that had to with Latino culture.

What ended it up happening was each topic became harder than the last. I was good until about day 13 and then I hit a wall. I do not see many Afro Latinos every day and that bothered me. I also had to re word some of that blog post because I realized that I was making it seem that I was the only Afro Latino in Syracuse and that wasn't what I was trying to convey.

Since that day, this challenge began to get harder to write with the different topics. When I first started this blog I thought to myself that there was no way that I would be able to write about being Latino everyday. This challenged proved me wrong. There are topics that I touched upon that I am sure I could have created a whole other blog post from. I also learned that I need to do more research on Ecuador.

I also realized two things halfway through this process. The first was that I should have considered Columbus Day as a post. I would have loved to go in on that subject. While I did touch upon it during day 16, I should have aligned my posts with the actually days of the month. Which brings me to the second thing I realized...there are 31 days in this month! I had to shake my head when I realized that, but I think a 31 day blog challenge just does not sound as

Well during this time..I was asked to speak at Utica College this Saturday 10/6. I am very honored to be doing this and I plan on talking about this very challenge. I am still in the middle of writing it and I plan on posting what I say as a blog post this weekend. I am hoping to also get this speech recorded, so I can do a podcast if I can.

I want to thank all those who contributed to this challenge and all those who followed me through this. I did receive a lot of compliments and words of encouragement. I am not sure if I will do this again, but I am grateful for the experience...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

LBC Day 29 - Latino Politics: What affects you?

One thing I do not like to get into is politics. The best candidate does not always win and the worst candidate does not always lose.  What really gets me about what we consider to be democracy is that the issues that have the most lobbyists are the ones that seems to be handled better. One would think that in this day and age that a law such as SB 1070 in Arizona would never be passed, but because of the federal government's lack of policy on immigration, we are stuck in a situation of mistrust and racial profiling in one of the states of the union.

Unfortunately, there are so many issues to deal with that is hard to focus on any one thing outside of immigration. Many Latinos have become successful enough that they may not see the same issues as the rest of do. However,  there was a point in the past where Latinos were very much into political movements within this country.

When I spoke about the Latino Identity over the last few weeks, I purposely neglected to mention that the term Latino is also a political identity that many sub origins identify with. Chicanos may be used more by those Mexican Americans who refuse to be racialized by the vast majority. They deal with many issues of assimilation and immigration. Militant Puerto Ricans choose to use their origin as a political identity when dealing with issues of colonization of Puerto Rico by the United States. Political organizations like the Young Lords popped up in New York City in the late 1960’s during same time as the Black Power movement.

It is shame that no one seems to be shutting down college campus anymore because these issues are just as important now as they ever were. I will just talk about Syracuse and how this community cannot seem to come together over basic issues such as education, healthcare, and unemployment.

I remember being in a meeting that was called by the Spanish Action League (La Liga) that had members of Governor Patterson's administration to talk about what they can do to help Latinos in Syracuse. This was when he first came into power and needed support to get some legislation across. What I witnessed we various Latino leaders all at the same table talk about issues that each sector had. Education was an issue because there were not enough ESL classes for adults and children seem to be forced to be the caretakers at times thus sparking minimal school attendance. Healthcare was an issue because Spanish speaking families did not want to go to hospitals that did not have translators (La Liga does train and provide them) or doctors that spoke Spanish. Employment was an issue because there is not enough work to go around and most Latinos that move here from other countries cannot see to correctly adjust the different ways of job searching.

I am sitting there listening to this and I asked all of them bluntly..."Why do you not all realize that all these issues are connected? You are all fighting for a piece of a pie and not helping each other because you all feel that your one issue is more important than the rest. If we could get more funding to educate people then they will be able to get a job with benefits that will then allow them to have healthcare. The problem is cyclical"

You know what I got when I said this? A blank stare. This is why I do not do politics and why people are not ready for me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

LBC Day 28 - Family Ancestry

One of the things that had sparked this whole idea of this challenge has been thought of me looking into my family tree. During one of my trips to NYC, my aunt had brought this idea that perhaps I should look into our ancestry and see what I find. I think we all reach a certain point in our lives in which we should stop and look at where we are in this world.

Mi tia, from my dad's side, had informed me that there are several family members who live in NYC and in Puerto Rico I have never met before. These would be family members related to my late abuela. She rolled out names that I have never heard before and yet she hasn't heard from these same family members in years. Then she pulled out an old picture of a man that kind of looked like me. It turns out to be my great grandfather.

When comparing the picture of my dad and my great grandfather, I could not help but look at the resemblance and just be in awe. This grandfather was from the paternal side of the family, which I even know less about. I came to the conclusion that at some point soon I need to start this quest to learn about my own personal past. I can spew out knowledge about different countries and talk about Tainos, but I have no clue about where my family has been. This quest is becoming more important to me since I am really not sure I will ever have kids of my own.

My mother's side of the family has already started a tree of sorts. I did happen to glance at it during the holiday season last year. Many of my aunts tell stories of my grandparents and their lives in Brooklyn from a long time ago along the family they came with. However, there is no official record that I can see that ties all this together. So, I can only imagine the type of road map to the past I can create with all the people in my past that connect.

LBC Day 27 - Favorite Latino Author

I dedicate this blog to the only Pulitzer Prize winner I have ever met, Juno Diaz. I have written a blog about him before and what still amazes me about him is that he has left a mark on me as a writer. I was not fortunate enough to take his class when he did teach at Syracuse University and I feel that if perhaps that had happened, I would have made a literary connection then sooner.

He has written two novels, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Drown. Both books are absolutely fabulous in imagery and how he was able to take life of Latinos and put it on paper. His words are flawless and I read them as if he and I were having a conversation. What I like is that he started off as a short story writer and then moved on to novels.

Juno Diaz won the Pulitzer Prize for his second novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It is because of this book that we brought him to Syracuse University in 2008. It was a really big thing because here we are trying to bringing up someone big for Latino Heritage Month and because he taught here, he was willing to come and speak with very few problems.

He spoke in front of a packed house in the new Newhouse 3 building. In fact, he was insistent that he did not speak, he wanted to have a discussion on the book. Juno read 2 passages from the book and he had me floored. The fact that one of his passages was describing a sexual act within the book in front of an audience filled with students and faculty, and he read it it like it was Shakespeare, showed me that I should no longer care what people think about me and what I write. It was indeed a magical moment for me.

Juno Diaz has set the bar for me; he is where I want to be. He will be my inspiration to take my talent to the next level while keeping it real. Having dinner with that man proved to me that success can continue to keep a person humble. Juno talks like he writes which makes his literary work so masterful.

Monday, October 11, 2010

LBC Day 26 - Favorite Latino Actor or Actress

I am not sure why I had trouble with this topic. Maybe because I did not want to speak about people I have already spoken about. I picked Eva Mendes because I feel that she is becoming a bigger name in Hollywood. I think that her body of work is indicative of where she going within the movie industry.

Yes, she is gorgeous and that gives her an edge in a society that is very much sex craved. Most of the industry is always looking for that Latina with sex appeal and she certainly has that. However, what I have come to really like about Eva Mendes is that she has personality. I appreciate that she can be sexy and goofy at the same time. She seems to have great comedic timing.

She started her film career in 1998, but I did not notice her until 2001 with her role in Training Day, which was a great movie that landed Denzel Washington his Oscar Award. However, her starring role in the movie Hitch, opposite Will smith, is what really brought her to the forefront.  This Florida born, Cuban actress, also appeared in movies like Ghost Rider and The Spirit.

I think that she is on the short list of Latina actresses that have made an impact, but have not really landed that one big role that defines them. I am hoping that she will be the one to do this.

LBC Day 25 - Post a Picture of Familia

First, I need to say that it took me longer than I want to find a picture with anyone within my family. I spend a lot of time speaking about my dad on this blog and on Twitter, but I never speak much about my brother nor my nephew. This picture was taken in May of 2007 at my nephew's first communion. I will first say that you will have trouble finding a better picture of three good looking males this side of the Bronx!

My brother currently lives in the Bronx with his son and wife. I go visit them as often as I can when I am in New York City. As a matter of fact, last time I was down there was for my nephew's birthday in July. We went to Six Flags: Great Adventure and we had a blast. This is the other part of the family that I seems to not talk about so much on this blog. There was a time I was going to dedicate an entry to my brother, but it just never came to fruition.

The significance of this picture is that there are many differences between my brother and I and I feel that my nephew (and godson) is the one thing that brings us together. Do not get me wrong, I do not have a bad relationship with mi hermano, we just look at life differently. He is seven years older than me and while I always looked up to him, there as always a sense that he was too old for me to really connect with him in my youth.

My nephew is currently 10 years old and I remember how small he was when I saw him for the first time. He has gotten so big that is takes me by surprise every time I see him. He is definitely one of the biggest reasons for me to return to NYC. I miss him very much and I am not willing to miss out on him growing up anymore. This picture serves as a reminder that I still have work to do.

LBC Day 24 – Should Puerto Rico Be A State?

This is a debate that I am on the fence about. There are so many ways to look at this issue. Puerto Rico and statehood is something that I am not sure I will see in my lifetime but the question is why not? This idea that Puerto Rico should a state, or remain a commonwealth, or be independent can create a long debate amongst Puerto Ricans both native and American born.

I think that people focus on the fact that taxes will have to be paid by residents of the island,which is considered bad thing to many people since that is something they may not want to do. Of course this may mean that the standard of living cost will rise as well. The interest rate for the United States is much higher then that of Puerto Rico and somehow that gap will become a big problem. So economics play a great role in this debate.

However, I think the fact that Statehood would allow Puerto Rico representation within Congress and the Senate is a bigger deal to me. While someone currently sits in Congress as the Resident Commissioner, that person has no vote. Sure, this elected official can serve on committees and do the things that other members of the House or Representatives can do, this person cannot cast a ballot for any issues that may effect Puerto Rico. Being a state would afford Puerto Rico with the same rights and leverage as any other state within the union.

On the other hand, the big issue of English being the official language of the United States can be a deal breaker. The United States has no official language and many politicians are looking to change that. If that does happen and Puerto Rico gained statehood, they would have to abide by this. Clearly this is an issue to many people who are native to the island. Of course, we can argue semantics and say that the commonwealth status allows for so much tourism into Puerto Rico from the US that most places do speak English.

Currently, Puerto Rico has the best of both worlds. They can have an international team in any sport during world play. They can have their own entrance into the Miss Universe Pageant (which is a big deal). Those two things alone help with the sense of pride for island residents. The best part for them is that they get the benefits of being a US citizen without having to pay taxes.

There has been a call for Puerto Rico Independence over the years because if you think about it, they have been under some kind of rule since the time of Columbus (whether it is Spain or the US). This is something that I am not so sure about. While I completely understand the point of letting Puerto Rico be free in this world, I would hate it if it became a poor island that was run by corrupt politicians.

My view on this is that commonwealth status may be best for all parties involved. But, what do I know, I do not live there. Perhaps if I did, I could come up different perspective. Hmm...that is not a bad idea either.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

LBC Day 23 - Hispanic or Latino: What Do I Prefer?

I have never cared for the word Hispanic. I have always felt that this word did not feel right. When I thought of Hispanics, I thought about people that look more like my dad than me. A better example would be people like Lou Diamond Phillips or Julio Iglesias. Whatever the case, I felt that because of my darker shade I was looked at as more black than Hispanic.

The word Latinos means something entirely different to me. A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger asked me what the definition of Latino was to me. I replied to her that I feel the Latino means someone of Spanish decent who lives within the Americas. I feel that this meaning compasses more of what we truly are, people who linked by a common ancestry that can be traced to the time of colonialism.

Hispanic to me falls more into the European side of this argument. I feel that it more exemplifies the traits of someone from Spain. While I am not trying to change definitions of words, I think that it is very important that whatever you call us it needs to hold true to everything that we are.

I prefer Latino because I think that describes my ethnicity beyond just Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian. I think it the word represents the deep and rich culture that we all share without making a particular distinction between the different people in Latin American, the Caribbean, and the United States. I also prefer Latino because unlike Hispanic, it can be genderized (i.e. Latina). The term Hispanic is problematic for many reasons and although it is widely used throughout the Southwest, Latino is a word that can have an assigned gender like most words in the Spanish vocabulary. Being that Spanish is the language we should all be speaking, this is very important nuance. Also, words like Afro-Hispanic or Hispanegro just do not sound right.

So while the word Latino has the ability to encompass all countries and people within this dynamic, it has the ability to separate based on gender and color. Latino is also a racialized identity that presents a series of social issues. Many Latinos are fighting for the right to not be categorized as “non white” for fear that being considered less than that would forfeit their perceived privileged. Theses would be the groups of people that would be identified as “White Hispanics”. This is a struggle that many White Hispanics fight for to maintain their social status. These are also the Latinos that popular culture identifies with.

Latino is a powerful word that describes a powerful set of people. Next time someone says wants to know the difference between Hispanic and Latino, before to refer them to my definition.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

LBC Day 22 – Do I consider myself more Latino than American?

This is something that I have had many conversations with my dad. I consider myself to essentially be Latino. My dad considers himself American. I can understand his argument. He was born in American thus making him American. I was in the Navy and served his country. Of course he holds true to his roots. As I have explained in my post over the last month, my dad is very much into our culture. I learn most things from him.

I consider myself Latino. I feel that I represent my people no matter where I go. I think that this best describes me. Yet, I often wonder how my identity is looked at when I leave this country. I am almost certain that what my passport says is more important than any ethnicity I identify with. In the eyes of the world, I am indeed an American.

This isn't a point of what I am proud of being more. I think that being a citizen of the United States despite its deep rooted issues is something that we all my take advantage of. We do not live under tyranny or a dictatorship. We all have the basic ability to live life to the fullest. To me being Latino just adds flavor to what being an American is.

I also have a great sense of nationality. I never thought that I would root so hard for an American swimmer during last year's Summer Olympics, but Michael Phelps did a lot for me in my thought process of nationalism. I think that being able to stand by your country in sports is a great sign of pride. The funny thing is that when Puerto Rico beat Team USA in 2004 in Olympic basketball, I was rooting for PR all the way. I think at times like that I find myself in a bind because in my mind, we win so much that a small team needs to shine every so often. There was also the World Cup this past summer that made me very excited to be an American.

So when it comes down to it, I am more American than anything else. I am more familiar with the culture of this country even though the real culture is borrow from others.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

LBC Day 21 - What Latin American Country/Island I Have Been To

Over the last twenty one days, I may have mentioned (just a little) that I have been to 3 Latin American Countries. Although I am not sure that I can call Puerto Rico a country, I would assume for sake of argument that this will slide. I have been to the Dominican Republic and Mexico (twice). I have written about being in DR and in PR, but never about Mexico.

While my first trip to Mexico was to Cancun, I think it still counts! I had so much fun considering this was the first vacation that I paid out of my own money. I noticed many thing different things in just being in another country. One thing that struck me was the lack of traffic laws...or what I consider to be traffic laws in Cancun. Many locals drove so fast and if you crossed the street, prepare to run.

While most of the places in Cancun were really touristy, there was one place that I went to that I really enjoyed. There is a small island called Isla Mujeres that I enjoyed so much because it seemed so untouched by commercialism. You could rent a motorbike and drive the length of the island in about 40 minutes.  I remember the army base and a few locals just living their lives.

I went there in 1999 and I can recall tours to the pyramids being offered and turning them down due to my lack of intelligence since all I wanted to do was party.  Thank god that over the years I have gained a sense of self and identity.

Which leads me to my trip to island of Cozumel. I only spent a day on this island as a part of the cruise I was on in 2007. This time I made sure that if I am going to make a trip to Mexico, I was going to see some pyramids or at least some ruins. For those who do not know, Cozumel is an island with the Yucatan Peninsula and is considered Mexican territory.

This is beautiful island with a rich history. There are Mayan ruins located in several points of the island, but the place that I went to is called the San Gervasio Ruins. This was a vast place that had shelters and places of worship. I was very much taken back by the sheer amount of ruins that this place had. You can really tell that the Mayans had a sense of culture. The picture on the left I took myself.

While I do feel that I have been to Mexico twice in 2 different locations, I feel that I need to see more. I would like to really go to certain places like Mexico City and Oaxaca. I feel that these place will always show a connection and common ancestry that we all seem to share.

LBC Day 20 - Latino Stereotype I Wish I Could Change

There are so many stereotypes that Latinos have that it one would think that I would be hard to pick one that I wish I could change. However there has always been one that had just really gotten under my skin over the years. It is the notion that Latinos are lazy. The idea of being lazy is a some what all encompassing trait that includes always being late and being generally nonchalant.

This is actually a motivation tool for me. If I feel that I am in a situation in which someone views me as the stereotypical Latino based on me possibly being lazy, then I find myself proving the exact opposite. Laziness is a stereotype that makes no sense to me. I have no idea where this has come from. I will say this, Latinos are far from lazy.

I think about the migrant workers who make barely enough to be considered minimum wage. I think about my family who have clocked in massive amount of hours at their jobs. I think about my mother who worked too much at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. I think about my father who busted his ass for Con Edison to get me through college and he worked so much that I still think about the cancer he developed in his lungs.

Let's not forget that Latinos in this country were the reason that Obama is in white house. The massive amount of Latino voters is what put him over the hump. If we were lazy then we would not have come out in such a force. As much as I can say that I wish to get rid of this stereotype, I would like to think that we have done a great job of showing that this label not not apply.

LBC Day 19 - Religion

Religion is something that I think all Latinos can say is at the core of the family dynamic. In most Latino households, you should be able to find a picture of Jesus some where hanging.

When I was growing up, Religion was something that we never really spoke about. It was something I did go to school for. I spent 12 years in Catholic School. During that time I learned all I needed to know about being catholic, if that is what I was supposed to be. I was baptized as a baby, had my first communion when I was in second grade, and I did my confirmation in seventh grade. That is what you do when you go to Catholic school.

I know that many Latinos believe in more than just holy trinity (father, son, holy spirit). We tend pray to the virgin Mary and a plethora of saints. I think it really depends on who you talk to, but I know that different people may favor one saint over another. Some might pray to St. Anthony, for example, if they lost something and want to find it. They will light a seven day candle and if it was meant to be found then it will be found.

Which brings me to Botanicas. I am not sure I can fully explain these religious shop quite the way I need to. I am not sure I can do them justice. I do remember my mother going there quite often to pick up things. There were a few in the Bronx that I can remember when I was a kid. I am not sure if they are there any more. This is where my mother used to pick up Holy Water (there was specific kind I guess), incense, and those seven day candles I referred to.

I will briefly talk about this because I do not like to get into this too much. I know that there is Santeria that many people believe in and while I am not saying I do not believe in it, I know that I have experienced enough as a child with spirits. There have been plenty of group prayers in my grandmother's house to lead me to believe that some thing going on beyond my comprehension as a child.

Regardless of beliefs, I know that Latinos tend to be very religious if not spiritual people that rely on faith to get through the tough times.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

LBC Day 18 - Latino Art

One of the things that I have gotten so fascinated with when I have made my travels to Latin American and the Caribbean is art. I think that art is one of the things that we under rate so much as a people. I know that I do not spend nearly enough time in my life going to museums. Art is something that very few people can really appreciate.

I have been to Mexico and Puerto Rico twice and the Dominican Republic once. I have always made sure to bring back something that reminds me of where I have gone. For me, the best way I can do that is art. I am not talking just talking about the art that is painted and placed on walls for people to and interpret. I am aslo very much into the hand carved art that really express a culture.

Before anyone thinks I am an art collector I must inform you that I am not. I appreciate true art for what it is...expensive and authentic. However, there is no shame in going to souvenir shop and picking something up. What I have found is that the best places to go to get some really cool art or a hand crafted sculpture is to go somewhere that is none touristy. Not because the price is right, but because it seems to be less mass produced. The smaller shops are usually run by local families that need the money and work hard for it

I feel this is one place in my life that I knew more about. Art was something that was not really a part of my life as a kid. When I went to Puerto Rico in 2005, I just had to go to Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. That place is absolutely amazing. I have been to a few art museums in my day, but for every piece of art be solely (or souly) about Puerto Rico is just outstanding. I also took note of the African influences as well.

I do not have a favorite artist either.I am the type of person that sees certain things and if it speaks to me I will like it. I feel that much of the art that I have seen is a direct connection to the past. I find that I have a preference to older art as opposed to modern art. It very interesting to see something of Aztec origin when in Mexico as opposed to something that may just been made.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

LBC Day 17 - Why I love Latinas

Let me start by saying that I love women in general. I think that women in general make the world go round. Most of the people in my family are women. While I lived with my father when I was 16 and beyond, before that I lived with my mother. So, I have a good idea of how to treat women and how they effect the world around them. Most of the women in my family are very strong and outspoken. Thus the major why I love Latinas.

I love Latinas because essentially they are the women that I have grown to cherish and adore. Despite the problems with my mother, she still remains the relative center of what I know about women. My step mother has played a major role in my life as well. I feel that there were gaps in my life when it came to women that she filled. I would be foolish to not mention the enormous amount of female cousins that I have grown up with. I have 14 females cousins and 7 aunts from both sides. My definition of what a Latina should be comes from all of them.

Which bring me to the reason why I love Latinas. I feel they embody the beauty of our people. Since we come in all different colors, shapes, and places...the beauty of Latinas are endless. Then, there is the innner strength that comes from the women that I do know. Being Latina is not easy with cultural expectations and perceived cultural limitations.

I appreciate the struggle that they go through. I feel that Latinas are the back bone of our culture. I know that both my grandmothers held the families together. I am not sure if they had jobs in their younger years, but you can tell that keeping family together was a normal job in itself. The job responsibilities included, makes sure we ate, passing on the culture through language, making sure we went to school, and making sure we prayed. Not mention most times it was the women in the families that passed down the punishment when we were bad and forgave us for our mistakes. I see this kind of strength in Latinas. While, others view them as exotic and insatiable, I view them as women to be respected due the long histories of leadership.

To my dear Latinas, whether you are my sisters or my lovers, I will always hold you in the highest regards. You have shown me how to be strong, to deal with pain, and how to celebrate when I win. Gracias!

LBC Day 16 - What Do I know about Tainos

The history of Tainos is vast. I will admit that I do not know as much as I should know about them. This fact ultimately bothers me. So I will stick to what I do know, which is the point of where I can have discussions with people and encourage people to learn about their past. This is how I know what my limitations. Let me preface this by saying that I understand and acknowledge my Ecuadorian side, but I will only talk about Tainos and not the Incas. The reason being is I need to do more reading on the Incan Empire before I can blog about it.

What I know about Tainos is that they are the indigenous people of Puerto Rico. Now I know that there are other islands within the Caribbean as Quisqueya (currently Dominican Republic/Haiti) and the Bahamas in which they inhabited, but for the sake of this blog, I will stick with what I know and talk about Puerto Rico.

From what I have gathered, information about Tainos in Puerto Rico, before Columbus' arrival, is scarce at best. There are carvings and artifacts that can be traced to this once proud people. Once Columbus arrived to the "new world", Tainos quickly faded out of existence due to disease and the hard working conditions due to slavery. It was so bad that there was a royal decree to emancipate the remaining population of Tainos in 1520 so they would not go into extinction. This lead to influx of African slaves into the Puerto Rico.

Interestingly enough, the men that came from Spain to settle into Puerto Rico and the rest of the islands did not bring women with them. Of course there is the old tale that women are bad luck on boats, which lead many to take Taino women as their wives, thus leading to the birth to mestizo children.

I will say that the word "Borinquen" is the name that the Taino's called the Island ("Borikén"). It was later called Puerto Rico by traders and such as the island grew in popularity. The icon that I have on this blog is the Taino symbol for the coquí, which is a frog that is native to the island as well.

Let me just say that as I think about this, I just shake my head because this is the kind of history I would have loved to learn in history class. My knowledge of these things are most self taught in books that I have read over the years. I will always try my best to learn more.


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