Monday, November 3, 2008

Fasting for the Future of Immigrant Rights

Fernando Romero

L OS ANGELES --- On Wednesday, Oct. 15, members of civil rights organizations, activists, students, day laborers and pro-immigrant supporters began what is considered one of the largest hunger strikes in American history at Placita Olvera in advocacy for immigrant rights.

Already into its third week, the hunger strike dubbed "Fast for Our Future," aims to call attention to the oppression, the disrespect of civil rights and unfair treatment of undocumented immigrants by the current Bush administration.

The fast is scheduled to continue for 21 days until after the presidential elections on Wednesday, Nov. 5. A permanent encampment at Placita Olvera has been set up with tents to house the nearly 100 pro-immigrant rights activists and supporters who have fasted intermittently for nearly three weeks.

The fast also dramatizes and coincides with a nationwide effort to gather over 1 million signatures in a pledge/petition of people who are committed to "vote for immigrant rights, fast at least one day, recruit five family and friends to sign the pledge and take action to hold the new administration accountable for our votes," the pledge reads. The pledge will be sent to the winning presidential candidate.

On the first day of the hunger strike, over 70 people came to fast at the encampment on the south side of Placita Olvera, the historic heart of Los Angeles. Fasters have been given on-site necessities such as water and medical provisions for the prolonged hunger strike.

Organizers said that over the course of the hunger strike, people have fasted sporadically, but a core group of a dozen activists have maintained their fast and will continue to do so until Nov. 5.

Organizer Kai Newkirk said, "A lot of the fasters have been coming and going. We’ve had a lot of college students present and some would fast for a couple of days, especially over the weekend and then go back to school on Monday."

The fast is being organized by RISE, a movement of immigrant rights leaders and advocates. The focus of the movement is on non-violent actions to confront the escalation of anti-immigrant raids, unlawful detentions and other repressive measures by the current administration, as well as legislation for a just immigration reform.

The RISE movement was conceived in the non-violent action and tradition of civil rights leader Martin Luther King and farm labor and organizer Cesar Chavez. Organizers and activists of Fast for Our Future assert that the oppression of undocumented immigrants has become the most important civil rights issue of our time. The disrespect for civil rights is reflective of the 60s and actions such as this hunger strike are necessary to shed light on such a vital issue, organizers said.

The repression against undocumented immigrants has become a dreadful fact fueled mainly by xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment. According to the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), detentions and deportations have taken a drastic measure in terms of numbers.

In recent years, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has steadily increased raids and deportations, reaching new records. The Bush’s administration persecution and repression of immigrants has taken an Orwellian characteristic. ICE’s Fugitive Operation Teams have more than quadrupled in the last three years, going from 18 in 2005 to 50 in 2006 and 75 in 2007. Detentions have increased drastically in the last decade going from 5,532 in 1994 to 27,500 in 2007. In the fiscal years of 2007, an estimated 270,000 people were deported, also a new record.

All across the country, ICE agents have routinely breached the civil rigths of individuals. In cities and small towns throughout the U.S., ICE have detained people in their homes, on the streets, on bus stops, and questioned them about their immigration status without a warrant.

Reports show that the encroachment upon these people and further questioning by ICE is based mainly on the person’s skin color and ethnicity. The racial profiling tactic has also resulted in wrongful detentions and deportations of American citizens.

ICE uses raids to send shock waves to immigrant communities and repress rigths. The results are devastating; families are separated, communities are traumatized and losses to the economy are created. According to CHIRLA, some five million children have at least one undocumented parent. Most of these children are U.S. citizens. The intense persecution and oppression of immigrants has torn families apart and separated mothers and fathers from their U.S.-born children.

Endorsers and participants of the hunger strike include Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers; Maria Elena Durazo, leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; CHIRLA and students from Cal State Long Beach, among others.

Huerta and Durazo joined the hunger strike and fasted for one day during the three-week period of the fast.Both Huerta and Durazo urged voters and immigrant rights advocates to act on behalf of undocumented immigrants.

As of Friday, Oct. 24, 50-60 people remained encamped at Placita Olvera. Some maintained their fast, while others stayed in support of the cause.

Mariana Mendoza, a 56-year old native of Durango, Mexico, is one of whom fasted for a handful days before medical personnel advised her to abandon the fast. An activist, Mendoza said she began her fast a day prior to the start of the Fast for Our Future campaign. She has worked alongside Border Angels and other organizations aimed at helping the immigrant community. She said she joined the fast because she considers the immigrant issue an important socio/political issue which needs a resolution.

"The main goal of the fast is to bring forth a just immigration reform," Mendoza said.

On the third day of her fasting, Mendoza told how she was rushed to the to Beverly Medical Center. Mendoza, a documented U.S. resident, said she remained committed to the cause

"I felt dizzy, I felt like I was floating. I thought I was gonna die," Mendoza said. "I had gone to the bathroom and started to vomit blood and that’s when they took me to the hospital."

Jorge Valles, a Cal State University Northridge student is one of the continuous fasters. He said he wants to continue his fast until the end of the hunger strike because of his strong commitment to the cause for pro-immigration rights. The 27-year old said that the immigration issue has become one of the worst crises in this country.

"The immigration issue is such that it requires a mass action such as this one to elevate the cause and make it prominent on the agenda of politicians," Valles said. "We needed a big action that was emblematic of what we’re fighting for. That we’re fighting for the most simple rights."

To sign the pledge, go to ¶
Photos and Video by Fernando Romero/El Reflejo

Long Beach Visage

Pablo Ildefonso

Driving down Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach, one will get the impression of a prosperous city. Its shiny World Trade Center and Hilton Hotel glitter the street of Ocean Blvd. It would remind you of Los Angeles in the 80's; the years of excess.

Though driving north in Long Beach, the city begins to change; it seems to have a different face. Starting at the intersection of Ocean Blvd. and Pine Avenue, the buildings spaces are full with shops, nightclubs and restaurants. The further you head north, one can slowly begin to see empty shops with lease signs in front of windows.

According to a recent Long Beach Press-Telegram article, tourism in the City of Long Beach has been bringing a steady amount of money, despite the troubling economy. What brings tourism are the many conventions the city holds throughout the year. Conventions like Electronic Expo, Imprinted Sportswear, and coming soon TRPI 5th Annual Education Conference. These events bring millions of dollars to the city.

city of long beach

In addition, the U.S. Census reports that one-fifth of Long Beach residents live below the federal poverty line. That line being $9,973 annually for an individual and $19,971 for a family of four with two children.

In terms of race, Latinos make 27% of the poverty level, African Americans 25%, Asians 18%, and Whites 9% in Long Beach.

The Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs & Healthy (LBCGH) communities stated that the City of Long Beach in the last 30 years has spent $450 million dollars in redevelopment money. The goal is to redevelop the city into a viable visitor and convention destination. The coalition further adds that redevelopment has failed people because many receive poverty wages, which limits the amount of money that could stay in the local economy.

One of the things the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Long Beach wanted, was to be able to have a financial entryway into the city; with its World Trade Center, the beautiful Hilton Hotel, a new school, and new condominiums to show a nice space in the city. "So anyone coming into the city can see brand new buildings, and brand new condos. And wouldn't have to look at the blight or poverty," said Tonia Reyes-Uranga.

In a People-To-People tour, put togther by LBCGH, Tonia Reyes-Uranga, City Councilmember of District 7, talked a bit further about the tourism industry of Long Beach. "Development has been mostly occurring on the off ramp [of Ocean Blvd] that leads you to Downtown which have been pushing people into the west side and north side of the city where mostly the working poor live," mentioned Uranga.

"After twelve years of an administration focused on trade and tourism, what it brought was low paid jobs in the hospitality industry, in the ports, and trucker industry. They are the lowest paid workers in the industry," said Uranga.
The city has focused its efforts to bring Long Beach up economically through tourism and it has resulted in poverty wages in the industry.

In an effort to revitalize Downtown, the people of Long Beach do not have the income level to start a business. People are having trouble paying the rent. The farther you go north, the less you see revitalization in the city.

You can hear an interview with one of the workers from the Long Beach Hilton Hotel below:

¡Estás borracho!

Nunca me había emborrachado. No voy a decir que no había tomado antes pero pedo, pedo, nunca había estado. He aquí la historia de aquella noche de abril en la que el alcohol me permitió hablar sin algún temor.

Era la boda de un amigo y la recepción fue al aire libre. Era una noche con mucho viento y sorpresivamente fría. Para ganarle al frío, mi amigo propuso comprar una botella de Patrón. Y así fue. Caminamos a la licorería más cercana y ¡Salud! Pa’ que se nos quite el frío y brindar por una vida mejor. ¿Mejor? Así como estaban las cosas en mi casa, la vida me pesaba.

Pero ahí no terminó la fiesta. Seguimos brindando en la que sería la ex-casa del novio. Más Patrón y una que otra Pacífico. Perdí la cuenta de los shots que me tomé, pero fueron más de seis en menos de cinco minutos. Cuando me paré, me sentí como recién bajado de las teacups de Disneyland, bien mareado. Sentía que estaba patas arriba. Fui al baño y ya casi tomaba agua purificada…con pipí y caca. Casi me caigo de cabeza en el excusado. El mundo seguía dando vuelta y yo seguí tomando más cerveza importada.

Se llegó la hora de ir a casa pues ya eran las tres de la mañana y mi amiga nos llevo a la bola de borrachos a nuestros respectivos hogares. En el carro empecé a hablar, hablar y hablar y también a llorar, llorar, y más llorar. Éramos cinco en el carro y todos sólo me trataban de consolar y hasta hice a algunos llorar.

Llegue a casa con los ojos rojos como si me hubiera fumado un toque de la tía María Juana. Prendí la luz de mi cuarto y ¡Sorpresa! Miré a mi mamá y escuche su dulce voz que me dijo: "¡Estás borracho!"

Y con la facilidad de palabra y la honestidad que el alcohol nos regala, sin pensarlo le dije, "¡Sí, estoy borracho!" – "¿Por qué?" Muy consternada me preguntó. – "¡Tú sabes porque!

Estas palabras se convirtieron en una conversación de una hora. Bueno, yo hablé toda la hora. Ella sólo me escuchaba y me miraba con lástima. Me prometió que todo cambiaría, que ella y yo estaríamos bien. Yo le creí. Me sequé las lágrimas, le besé la nariz, y ella me cobijó y en tres segundos el mundo se apagó.

Esa tormentosa madrugada, le dije a mi amá todo lo que mi corazón sentía después de que por una semana entera ella me dijera que mejor quería estar muerta, que como era posible que yo así fuera, que era una vergüenza, estaba mal, que cochinada, ¡Qué asco! ¡Cambia! ¡Haz algo! ¿No tiene cura?

Todo esto pasó por algo que les dije a mis papás cinco días antes de la borrachera. Mientras lloraba y todo el cuerpo me temblaba, prendí el fosforo que incendiaría el fuego que hasta ahora más me ha quemado el alma. Después de esas cinco palabras llegaron noches de culpa, inseguridad, miedo, coraje, impotencia, dolor, pero también valentía, honor, dignidad y aceptación por quién soy. Así que entre mocos y lágrimas saladas les dije: "Pues, es que soy gay."

Pan dulce duro

A quien le corresponde,

Tu eres como pan dulce duro, the worst and most disappointing type of thing. Tú eres el veneno de mi paz, y el tormento de mis sueños. Vienes por unos momentos de placer, con mentiras tú me haces creer que sientes algo por mí. You touched my skin with the softness of your skin, and then of course you touched la de tú novia. You left me marked up, and yet you expect me to hide everything shamefully. Dame otra mordida y a ver qué te pasa. El valor que tienes de verme entre las piernas, hold me tightly all night, and do the same thing to your partner the next morning. I’m not going to mend your ego, to tell you you were great at it or worth it. No te entiendo, tienes todo y todavía quieres más.

¡Si no vas a respetar a tu pareja, respétame a mí!

No soy tuya,
La Miranda Moon

NACCS Joto Conference

Iris Arcon

The Second Annual NACCS, Joto Caucus Conference was a three day event full of great presenters and performers including Cherríe Moraga, an internationally-recognized feminist, Chicana lesbian writer.

The conference was called “Sacred Space Making: Mapping Queer Scholarship, Activism, and Performance,” and was hosted by California State University, Los Angeles.

Moraga, who has written such great works including This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Loving in the War Years: Lo Que Nunca Pasó Por Sus Labios (1983).

The conference had several workshops like “Feminism as a Sacred Space for Queer Men of Color,” “Immigrant Lesbians and Gay Men: the Missing Color in the Rainbow,” and “Queer Documenting, Archiving, and Researching.” Other workshops included, “Conectando Nuestras Fronteras: Bridging Queer Aztlán,” Queer Youth at the Forefront of Youth Organizing; Building Safe, Inclusive and Equitable Schools,” “Postcards from La Raza/Postales de La Raza,” “Implementing Queer Chicana/o Latina/o Studies in the CSU System,” and “Ave María Purisima de l@s jot@s: Testimonios on the Intersections of Religion, Spirituality, and Jota/o Identity,”

The last day was dedicated to Moraga. She read her newest work entitled, “Still Loving in the (Still) War Years.” Her piece embodied her Chicana lesbian side once again. After her reading, we got a chance to hear her reflect on the audience’s questions. She scolded us and said, “Why is there no movement? This scares me.”

When she uttered those words, “Queer Aztlan: The Re-formation of Chicano Tribe,” Moraga’s powerful article came into my head. She has been saying it all along. In her, Queer Aztlan, she, “felt the racism from the women’s movement, felt the elitism from the gay and lesbian movement; and homophobia and sexism from the Chicano movement.”

That is why she envisioned “Queer Aztlan.” Moraga reflected on, “ a dissolution of an active Chicano movement. The gradual Hispanization of Chicano students, the senselessness of barrio violence, and the poisoning of la frontera. For (her) ‘El Movimiento’ has never been a thing of the past. Those words were playing over and over in my head. She scolded us and asked “Why is there no movement.”

This question of whatever happened to the movement needs to be brought up again. The movement isn’t dead. It’s just waiting. What’s more important is that yeah, students have heard about the Chicano movement, but so many have not. Why don’t we know any of this information? Yes, that is what the walkouts represent.

Why don’t we know about AB540? Why don’t they know about what SB1301 and Prop. 8 stand for? And I can’t help but wonder are we still in the same place? Have we really not progressed anywhere since the Chicano Movement?

Yes, we all know certain things that pertain to immigration like the infamous May Day march. We all know about the raids, but we haven’t learned anything about queer issues. We still need to learn more.

This brings me to another issue. Will immigrants and queers have to fight the same struggle as the Chicano youth of the ‘60s? We are the students that have embodied the spirit of the Chicano Movement. We keep fighting for the all inclusive classes. We want to read about Cherríe Moraga and other writers like her. We don’t want to have to go to the women’s studies department to learn about queer theory and feminism. We don’t want to have to go to the sociology or history department to learn about all aspects of immigration. Our department should have all of these topics within the curriculum.

So with the current redevelopment of the Chicano studies department, has the department remembered to add immigration, Chican@ Feminism, and Queer issues? More importantly why aren’t we requesting these requirements within our curriculums?

One man asked, “You are a prominent lesbian Chicana writer. Where are all of the jotos? Why don’t we have queer men to look up to?”

La Cherríe left us with this, “You all have to go back home and challenge daddy. ¶

El Mentado Voto Latino

Fernando Romero

Every four years they come. Like vultures almost. It’s a cyclical visit. It’s weird. Seems they only come during presidential elections. Every four years, Latino voters are courted como la niña bonita de la fiesta con la cual todos quieren bailar. Both senators, Barack Obama and John McCain, tell Latino voters what they want to hear. That they care about Latino issues. They talked about their knowledge of Latin American socio-political issues. They’ve held debates for the Spanish media and even spoke to us in Spanish. Never before in the history of the United States has the Latino vote been more sought after.

In a close presidential race, such as this one, it is very likely Latino voters will decide the outcome of the election. It is estimated that over 9 million Latinos will cast their vote on Tuesday, Nov 4. Less than one in ten voters this Election Day will be of Latino descent, but Latino voters are important because they are concentrated in swing states that can decide the outcome of the election.

It makes sense for politicians to reach out to Latinos. Some perceive it as a good sign of the times and of the political muscle Latinos can now flex. Others see it as pandering by politicians trying to secure a burgeoning demographic. While others see it as patronizing, even.

Latinos are coming of political age, and probably face a dilemma. But which is better, being pandered to, or ignored?

The word “pander” is appropriate because it seems candidates are providing some form of gratification for Latinos’ political desires. Both candidates have made promises of making Latino issues, particularly immigration reform, a top priority as presidents. If you’re asking if whether this is pandering, the answer would be yes. Both have made immigration a top concern on their agenda when speaking mainly to Latino caucuses such as the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, the League of United Latin American Citizens and The National Council of La Raza.

But, to pander has a negative connotation and the concept seems highlighted when it refers to Latinos, the largest and fastest-growing minority in the nation. This electorate is familiar with politicians making promises they don’t always keep. Chances are we will see both McCain and Obama favor border security before immigration reform. Both have already favored a measure of building a wall along the US-Mexico border. Now they turn around and say they favor just immigration reform in front of Latino audiences; seems like pandering to me. So Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain, please don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

Patronizing? Yes. The way in which Obama will utter simple phrases in Spanish like “!Sí se puede!” the emblematic rallying cry of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Or “libertad,” like he did during a speech about Cuba. Uttering a handful of words in Spanish to simply garnish votes comes off as patronizing and will not necessarily get the Latino vote nor the goodwill of 550 million people who live in Latin America.

Patronizing the way in which McCain ran an ad in some the swing states trying to emphasize the contributions Latinos have made to this country. In the ad which ran in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, McCain refers to the military service of Latinos of past and present wars.

John McCain: “My friends, I want you the next time you’re down in Washington, D.C., to go to the Vietnam War Memorial and look at the names engraved in black granite. You’ll find a whole lot of Hispanic names. When you go to Iraq or Afghanistan today, you’re going to see a whole lot of people who are of Hispanic background. You’re even going to meet some of the few thousand that are still green card holders who are not even citizens of this country, who love this country so much that they’re willing to risk their lives in its service in order to accelerate their path to citizenship and enjoy the bountiful, blessed nation.”

To say that it is good that Latinos are willing to risk their lives and die in Iraq and Afghanistan is patronizing to the families of Latinos who have lost a son or daughter in these international conflicts.

Okay, a little bit of background history. The 2000 presidential election was decided in Florida by some 537 Cuban-Americans who voted for George W. Bush. In 2004, it was decided by 67 thousand Latinos in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada who voted for Bush and not John Kerry. That year, Bush garnished 40 percent of the Latino vote in the swing states, just enough to give him the presidency. That is the lesson; Latinos are deciding elections.

More and more Latinos are becoming a part of the social fabric of this country. More and more are voting. Political parties are trying to lure the Latino vote because in a way Latinos are poised to be an integral part of the future of this country. Latinos are currently 15 percent of the population totaling roughly 46 million. According to projections by the US Census, Latinos will go from 46 million to 125 million in 2050, almost a third of the population. It makes sense that politicians are reaching out so emphatically to Latino voters.

The question is, do the candidates actually care about the issues that afflict the Latino community? Or, is it an episodic care which comes every four years? Every four years es lo mismo. La verdad, yo no se por que la hacen de tanto pedo, si solo nos van a dar atole con el dedo. Yo por eso me quejo y me quejo. No me lo creo todo. Aquí es donde vivo y yo ya no soy un pendejo. As a significant electorate, Latinos need to make the winning candidate accountable for promises made on the campaign trail. Todos unidos tenemos que pedir un cambio. As voters, we need to make our voices heard and assume political power. Many of us still live in la pobreza. Este país se sostiene en la espalda y se mantiene gracias al sudor de nuestra gente.

While not much has changed in regards to the way politicians will continue to pander for the Latino vote, one thing that has changed is the fact that Latinos are now deciding elections and will one day decide the path this country takes. That’s a good change.¶

Mojado Routine

From Monday through Thursday, I fight against the covers in order to get up. Mis lagañas still fresh when I look in the bathroom mirror, wondering why I’m doing this in the first place.

From Monday all the way to Thursday, always the same routine. Living with the parents and feeling too old to keep doing this.

I feel like I’m past my college student prime, but I can’t let that stop me.

Sometimes I wake up early enough to have breakfast. Sometimes I just grab an apple and off I am to the bus stop.

Cold weathers, hot weathers, I’ve endured them all under the buses’ thin-sheet metal roofs. Always staring out the window and dreaming of the possibilities.

Not sure what the possibilities may be, but possibilities nonetheless.

I get to school and lose myself in the sea of colorful faces that seem to be worse off than I am.

I look at my wallet and empty its reminders in my hand to so that I can buy a Rockstar to fuel me up.

Mondays are the worst. May sound like a cliché, but it's true.

My muscles ache from the previous Sunday night’s shift at work, where I have to clean up a kitchen and mop and brush floors. It usually involves bosses younger than me, telling me that I should really pay attention to detail. But I just don’t care enough to listen.

I hate that job. I’ve gotten better offers, but the lack of a job permit in this country stops me from doing anything better.

Selling drugs or hustling my body is just out of the question. It’s too easy, and I like challenges.

My body is tired, but I am restless.

Some friends get headaches when they see my schedule. Always busy. Always doing something.

I tend to look at my hands a lot. Not out of some obsessive compulsion to make sure they’re clean. I like to look at the little scar that I have right above my right wrist.

No, I didn’t try to commit suicide because I’m an undocumented immigrant. Again, that’d be too easy.

I got that scar during the couple of semesters I spent washing dishes at a restaurant in order to pay for my tuition.

That scar is a reminder of where I come from and where I can go.

I look at the scar above my wrist to remind myself that, yes, I’ve had some shitty jobs because of my legal status, but I am in an institution of higher learning because I intend to do more than wash dishes for the rest of my life.

When the day is done and I bus my way back home, I take a deep breath and think about the day’s endeavors.

I like to stare at the people riding the bus. Some stare back, some fall asleep.

I wonder about their lives and what it’d be like to walk in their shoes. I also wonder if they feel the same way. Do you feel the same way? Would you like to walk in my shoes?


Yadira Arroyo

This past weekend was my cousin Erika’s quinceañera. The whole family came out to celebrate her presentation to the “adult” world. My father told me earlier that day that he was not going to drink. At the statement, my mom felt his forehead for a fever and I smirked. In the middle of the party, I reminded him of his proclamation.

“¿Esta no es boda?” he asked with a feigned look of surprise. “Me malentendiste. Dije que solo si era boda.” We all had our fun.

As I stood in the background through the entire day’s events, I could not help but think of my own quinceañera a few years back. I thought about it when we were in the two-quinceañeras-for-one mass (efficiency!), when we went to the East LA park for the princess photo shoot, and later on when I was inebriated and calling forth my otherwise-shunned Jalisco roots by zapateando clumsily. Except of course, that I didn’t really have a quince, in the spectacular sense of the word.

There were several reasons, but perhaps the most controversial was the following: la misa. Although, I was only 14 at the time, I had been a staunch atheist since I was 12.

“¿Cómo vas a tener una quinceañera sin misa?” would ask my mother, puzzled.

“Pues fácil,” I would reply. “Sin misa.”

Or, there was always the more engaging:

“Yadira, ¿qué te cuesta sentarte en una silla por una pinche hora?”

“¡Pero yo no creo en eso! ¿Y si me empiezo a reír?”

Variants of this conversation would continue for a few months prior to the weekend of my fifteenth birthday. Teenage angst took its toll; how I hated religion! The thought of going through with the ceremony seemed hypocritical on far too many levels.

Either way, my mother wouldn’t have it and I wouldn’t have it and so, the potential guests didn’t have it.

Oh yes, the guests. As their only daughter and eldest child, my parents certainly fancied the idea of presenting me to the world, a proper and primp señorita. Herein lays another problem: I was nothing of the sort. I was, at best, awkward at 15 and having been raised in a very private home setting, I kept only a handful of friends. I was almost emotionally indifferent to mere acquaintances, and the thought of hosting these strangers at my big day not only seemed superficial, but quite frankly, annoying. That and I sure as hell did not want to do it in a pink dress, which at the time, my mom believed was the way to go.

And so, unwilling to compromise what were then my super revolutionary ideals, my mind knew that a quinceañera was not for me. Nevertheless, standing in the midst of a barrio upbringing, with its high school amigas, Spanish-language commercial signage and early-morning tamaleros ambulantes in the year 2001, my heart ached for acceptance as a daughter who could be presentable and whom my parents would be proud of.

One week prior to my birthday, my parents caved. As they were sitting on the back doorstep and I was walking from my room to the kitchen, I heard them murmur in all their regret. Months had passed by and not a single proactive move to plan mi fiesta was made; never mind that ideologically, it could not have been. They looked up at me as I walked back to my room and my mother called my name. I looked down to where they sat and they looked back and forth at each other, a bit nervously. One of them finally spoke. With my approval, I was to have a party con DJ and a lavender dress the following weekend.

I know that by speaking my mind and being una niña especial, it will always be difficult to gain effortless acceptance from the eldest bearers of my culture, namely my parents. This fact has been quite painful, but I’ve also always wanted things far greater than the grasp of any social confine could offer. Thankfully, my parents have stood by me, through reluctance and relajo.

While I respect and yes, broodingly envy other muchachitas who have bailado el vals and greeted their guests merrily, having a quinceañera could never be for this “loca”, as my mom so kindly puts it. If being mexicana means being una “buena” hija, or falling neatly into the role of a beautiful, altruistic, obedient and domestic daughter, then my identity is inevitably threatened . But, if it in the context of progress, it also calls on a history of pride and resistance, then I reckon I’ll be just fine.