Monday, December 1, 2008

So long, 2008!

It’s been a wonderful year. We know, that is not what you may be thinking when you check your pockets, but it has certainly been a wonderful year for El Reflejo. As you may or may not know, the newsletter, first published in 2006 was able to resume production after a year-long hiatus.

At the beginning of the last Spring semester, several of us motivated estudiantes convened to plan the most revolutionary act to occur on campus since RAZA’s last Taco Sale: we wanted to publish Chcan@/Latin@ thought and art. We wanted to leave our mark. Pa’ que luego no digán que no hicimos nada.

We’ve begged for donations, thrown two fundraising paris, tabled at a campus event, visited classes, passed out flyers, passed out issues, started a mailing list and now, we are tired.

But that’s why we get a winter break.

The dedicated staff would at this point like to thank you. Thank you $upportive professors and peers, thank you chili pepper department, thank you, oh trustworthy Espie, and of course, thank you Nuestro Señor Jesús...Iñiguez that is, for getting the show on the road and bestowing your Almighty wisdom upon us all.

Y gracias lectores, que sin su respaldo, no tuviéramos ganas de seguir haciendo esto. Pero por favor, tampoco no sean gachos y echenos la mano -- con muchas submissions y dinero! Afterall, it’s the season for giving, or whatever.

Enjoy the break. Enjoy the winter sun, and see you in 2009.

El Reflejo Staff

Jot@ Diaries: Intro

Chicken Shit

Artist: Adrian _____?

La(tin@) Mala Educación

Fernando Romero

The Latino Education Forum was presented inside the University Student Union Ballrooms on Tuesday, Nov. 18 to address the concerns regarding Latinos and education.

The forum was organized in part by the Chicano and Latino Studies Dept. (CHLS) at Cal State Long Beach. The event included a discussion panel, followed by a question-and-answer session with audience members. The five-person panel was comprised of CSULB faculty, a "social critic", area educators and local politicians. The event provided the opportunity for students, educators, community leaders, and those who work for and on behalf of Latino students to engage in a dialogue that would proactively address the needs of all Latino students.

The panel discussion focused on issues of critical interest, especially those related to student participation, parental involvement, higher education opportunities, cultural awareness and dropout prevention.

The panelists talked about the possible problems and the reasons why Latinos continue to underachieve in education across different measures. The latter part of the forum was spent discussing the viable solutions to combat educational issues which persistently afflict Latino students such as excessive high school dropout rates, low enrollment in post-secondary institutions and the low attainment of baccalaureate and master’s degrees.

CHLS professor José Moreno served as one of the facilitators of the event. Moreno said that the idea for putting together the Latino Education Forum was to bring together an array of viewpoints and have a serious discussion about the problems Latino students are facing in the nation’s educational system.

"The idea for coming together tonight was to be able to engage these folks [panelists] with our ideas and to provide a forum to talk openly about the problems and solutions relating to Latinos and education," Moreno said.

The Latino education gap was exemplified in literature provided to the audience made up primarily of CSULB students. The statistics and numbers attributed to the 2000 U.S. Census cited that for every 100 Latino elementary school students, 48 drop out of high school and only 52 graduate from high school. Of the 52 who graduate from high school, 31 enroll in college. And of the 31 who enroll in college, 20 go to a community college and 11 to a four-year institution. Of the 20 who go to a community college, 2 transfer to a 4-year college. Overall, of the 31 who enrolled in college, either community or four-year, only 10 will graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

When compared to other demographics, Latinos trail in every category of educational achievement. Of the four major ethnic/racial demographics in the U.S., Latinos trailed last substantially. The Latino high school graduation rate stood at 52 percent, compared to African Americans at 72, Asian Americans at 80 and Whites at 84. Post-secondary enrollment had similar statistics for the disparity in Latino achievement. Latinos graduated with a bachelor’s degree at a rate of 10 percent, while African Americans at 14, Asian Americans at 44 and Whites at 26 percent.

The panelists cited different causes for the persistent underachievement of Latinos across different educational measures. Panelist Olga Rubio, professor at CSULB in the Teacher Education Dept. said that factors such as lack of preparation of teachers as well as a "subtractive environment" in the K-12 school system contribute to the underachievement of Latinos in education.

"Some of the critical issues that I see are student and school disconnection. There also seems to be a lack of preparation of the majority of teachers in schools who can help Latino students confront cultural differences," Rubio said.

Social critic Ernesto Caravantes, author of Clipping Their Own Wings: The Incompatibility Between Latino Culture and American Education said cultural differences have played a definite role in Latino underachievement in education. The author cited the disconnection between "Hispanic culture" and the requirements the American education system demands. Caravantes said that the cultural differences of Latinos have not placed education as a priority and have accounted for the educational underachievement.

"Hispanics have put other things before education. Not that they don’t value education, but they have put other things before education," Caravantes said. "Hispanics have primarily placed other things such as family, traditions, solidarity before education."

Caravantes did not present any evidence for his findings, but asserted that his book did not posit a "blame-the-victim" approach toward the underachievement of Latinos in education.

Caravantes said, "I think the discussion could be greatly improved if the word ‘victim’ isn’t used. I’m not trying to blame them, but to simply state that Hispanics as a culture have a list of principle values and education is not at the top."

Former deputy superintendent Rubén Barrón of the Anaheim and Hesperia School Districts, said the educational crisis afflicting Latinos requires more attention.

"The system is not working," Barrón said. "It’s not a national priority. We need to make it a national priority."
Lorena Moreno, Assistant Principal at Demille Middle School in Long Beach said some of the most pragmatic solutions included a wider involvement of Latino parents in schools.

"We need to continue to develop community relations to parents and teachers," she said. "Schools that reach out to parents do better."Rubio said that there also existed a lack of information and of programs designed specifically to alleviate some of the cultural differences Latino parents have, such as language barriers.

The panelists agreed that the underachievement of Latinos in the education system is a complex issue. The cultural and language differences coupled with socioeconomic factors has placed Latinos at the bottom of the secondary and post-secondary educational ladder. The five-person panel agreed that access to information and the change of the institutional education climate through outreach to parents and students will alleviate Latino underachievement in education.

Latinos in postsecondary education have not been keeping pace proportionate with their growth among the general population. Latinos currently make up 15 percent of the U.S. population. The population growth and contribution to the economy makes the improvement of Latino achievement in education vital to the nation’s workforce. ¶

La niña de mis ojos

I rushed home from the university to live the moment on my computer. I planned on YouTubing Obama’s speech as soon as I could lock myself in my room and get on my laptop. On the long ride home, I had been listening to a punk version of "A Change is Gonna Come", thinking it perfect for the occasion. Later, I was delighted to hear him quote the song in his victory speech. "It’s been a long time coming," he bellowed.

And then, in the midst of all the tears of joy and the surreal quality of the night, I kept anxiously refreshing the Los Angeles Times web page for results of the California elections.

I had a headache, but I kept clicking and clicking, getting the most up-to-date results as the minutes went by. Even as I was hearing our president-elect speak in the YouTube video, I couldn’t help but refresh the page. It looked like it was passing, but that was from preliminary results in conservative counties, the web site said. Hope. I clicked again and again until my head hurt so much that I decided to just sleep on it.

In the morning, things were still muddy, but I kept the Internet close. By mid-afternoon however, it was getting clear: voting Californians, well about fifty-two percent of them, had passed the motion that would amend the state’s constitution to define marriage as that which occurs between a man and a woman. That’s when I started to get different feelings about these historic elections.

It was Saturday night after the elections. With the weight of human hate on my shoulders and the thought of comfy chickens, I had a right to be emotionally exhausted. But that was nothing that a good evening spent at my grandmother’s house with all my cousins, aunts and uncles couldn’t wisp away. Yeah.

I was sitting in the living room when my uncle approached me. He got straight to the point.

"What did you vote on Prop 8?"

"What do you think?" I answered him, coolly.

"I think that you voted ‘no’," he replied.

"And you?" I asked, almost reluctantly but unable to refuse his attempt at meaningful conversation.

"I voted ‘yes’ because I do not want my kids to be taught blah, blah, blah, gibberish, blah…" referencing of course, the successful public-schools-will-turn-your-kids-gay-if-this-proposition-does-not-pass television propaganda.

I stared at him for a second. I sighed. I had to try.

"But it’s not going to make them gay. And what’s wrong with that anyway?" I told him.

Then, my other uncle and his wife decided to chime in. That is how, in what seemed like five seconds, a one-on-one discussion turned into a yelling match. Even my mom was trying to help me. After a few minutes of listening to the same circular arguments, I let myself sink into the background. I sat there, sandwiched between these gay-passionate straight folks.

"Gays this! Gays that!"

"Oh, the horror! Fragile little children will get so confused!"

"Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!"

Then, my uncle stopped all conversation, marking a triumphant victory for the haters in the room. Thundering with druggie-turned-apostle-of-Christ wisdom, he turned to look at my mother, who was arguing against him. His forehead vein popping, he challenged her. He asked her the make-it or break-it question:

"¿Pero está bien moralmente? Crees eso en tu corazón?"

And I heard my mother falter. I continued to stare at my lap, at that moment feeling quite detached from the world. I knew better than to hold her accountable for anything. I let them keep talking, keep yelling, keep knowing.

But, I’m not the type to let it stay like that. My patience has its limits and I finally decided to interject. I took a deep breath.

"As a…bi…sexual," I struggled to declare. They turned to look at me. "Bisexual" isn’t even the label I like, but given the audience, I wasn’t too concerned with the technicalities. I did it as a sort of plea for authority on the subject, for respect, for a bit of compassion.

And it only made them listen for a few seconds in momentary discomfort. They smiled smugly, as if I was trying to trick them out of their convictions by presenting worthless evidence. They weren’t fooled by my honesty. They resumed the argument and by then, my face was scrunched and I was crying.

I stood up quickly and retreated to my cousin’s room – I had just come out to my family. For the first time in twenty-two years, they seemed to be complete strangers, arrogant inhibitors of love and progress. I wondered how they could be my lifelong support and joy, and then turn into fiery rhetorical wolves at the passing of a petty law. None of this was about marriage. None of it was about civil rights. It was about allowing advocates of tradition to openly express their otherwise politically incorrect homophobia. They needed to sit me down in the living room and tell me what was up because of course, they were able to vote for it on Tuesday. Their too-often-repressed voices had to be heard! I guess.

I sat on my cousin’s bed sniffling. See, this whole "degenerate" sexuality thing is fairly new to me. I just came out to myself this year. Perhaps that is why I couldn’t handle it like a woman with ovaries. It’s so damn fresh.

I got up to look at myself in my cousin’s makeup mirror. I was crying, but I also did not want my eyeliner to run, which is an excellent thought for subduing tears. Stepping in closer, I looked into the peaceful depth of the blue-shadowed, brown eyes that were staring back at me. Like a clairvoyant, I tried to see the future revealed in my misty eyes.

The thought bit, and I asked the forces that be to show me if there was any way that years from now, I could end up with only a taste for boys. I concentrated and looked in deep, but at that moment, I could only see la niña de mis ojos. ¶

Uncovering the Lie

Gloria Anzaldúa

"Some of us take another route. We try to make ourselves conscious of the Shadow-Beast, stare at the sexual lust and lust for power and destruction we see on its face, discern among its features the undershadow that the reigning order of heterosexual males project on our Beast. Yet still others of us take it another step: we try to waken the Shadow-Beast inside us. Not many jump at the chance to confront the Shadow-Beast in the mirror without flinching at her lidless serpent eyes, her cold clammy moist hand dragging us underground, fangs bared and hissing. How does one put feathers on this particular serpent? But a few of us have been lucky – on the face of the Shadow-Beast we have seen not lust but tenderness; on its face we have uncovered the lie."

:from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Who doesn’t want to save the children?

Iris Arcón

On Election Day, I was checking the polls anxiously waiting to see the results. When I got the results that Obama had won, I cried, but it was a bittersweet victory. The ban of same-sex marriage completely devastated many of us. We received the news along with numerous statistics that African American and Latinos had voted ‘yes’ on Proposition 8. I was furious. Why did Latinos, mi raza, vote against me? Upon hearing this, I wanted to protest in Compton and East LA. I wanted to scream, "How fucking dare you take away my right to marry the woman of my dreams? Who gives you that right? ¿Es mas, a ustedes qué les importa con quien me caso? How can you ban us from having the same rights as everyone else when you know what it feels like to be discriminated? We are all in the same struggle together and you hurt us like that?" Yes, I’ll admit to this anger, frustration, disappointment that I felt towards my community and the black community. I’m not proud of it, but you have to understand it was not easy. It hurt so much. Worst of all, I fell for the lies.

Some people say that California put the propositions on the ballot and that Californians voted as a democracy. Each campaign had a chance to win and now it is over. Pardon mis chilangueadas, but ¡ni madres! The opposing side clearly used many lies to win, especially about schools teaching children "gay things."

Jack O’Connell, the California Superintendent of Schools stated that, "Prop 8 has nothing to do with schools or kids. Our schools aren’t required to teach anything about marriage."

Proposition 8 had nothing to do with altering the school curriculum, but the opposing side made everyone believe that farce. At a family dinner, this was the topic of discussion. The majority of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, all Catholics, believed that it was not their business to interfere with someone’s life. That was where my family, and possibly a lot of other people, hesitated. And that is where all of the lies worked. We must also remember that history has showed us that majority consensus is not always fair.

Then I started wondering, why couldn’t African Americans and Latinos relate to this discrimination? Many Latinos agreed that banning same-sex marriage would not make all of us equal. I feel that LGBT activists did not reach out to the Latino or Black population, and now my community along with the African American community are being blamed. Initially, I too blamed both communities, and I did not question the older, religious groups. It made me wonder if this was for a reason. It would certainly not be the first time that we have been put against each other. Even when I attended the consecutive marches, I felt out of place. I arrived wearing my "Legalize LA" t-shirt wanting to speak up for two groups and "kill two birds with one stone." I felt several faces stare down at it. The primarily white faces made me question so many things. Of course Latinos and Blacks could not relate to this discrimination! The LGBT community did not approach Latinos or Blacks.

My sister, a straight Latina, brought this to my attention. She realized that there were so many commercials for the ‘Yes’ campaign, but where were the commercials for "No on 8" in Latino and black programming? The "Yes on 8" campaign rolled constant commercials stating that they wanted to "save the children." Who doesn’t want to save the children? I even wanted to save the children! Yes, religion played a huge role in this campaign, but there are a lot of religious, Latino families with Queer sons and daughters, and the "No on 8" campaign did not tap into this reality. The LGBT community did not approach my community and now it blames it.

It isn’t until now, with the Day Without Gays movement on December 10th, that I have seen something where the Latino community can relate and understand the similar discrimination. A Day without Gays will be a nationwide Strike and Boycott in support of marriage as a right for all Americans. It was "inspired by the film A Day Without A Mexican and the nationwide strike in 2006 called A Day Without Immigrants that protested against proposed immigration laws." You see, this is what needed to be done ahead of time before harsh, racist remarks were made. I am glad that it is happening, but it only took place after we failed to interact with the Latino community.

I have big hopes that good things will happen. We will overturn the vote. You can see it in the marches that have taken place. A lot of us are pissed off and a lot of us want to do something about it. It is nice to see us all together fighting for this cause. We can only learn from this. We will not turn on our communities. Neither the Latino communities nor the Black communities are to blame. We will not blame the equally oppressed. Instead we will unite; we will all get to see a wonderful wedding day.

¡Que viva la jotería!


For more information on trans-migration issues, please visit: Sylvia Rivera Law Project


When I was eleven years old I went to Robert A. Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks because I had nothing else to do during the Summer. We couldn’t possibly afford anything fancy like a summer camp and I didn’t really have any friends, so my mom decided to send me to Summer school. She didn’t care about the classes I took, she only wanted for me to have something to do for three months. They had open enrollment back then, so it didn’t matter that I was a poor kid from Van Nuys. I would just have to take the bus every morning and take it back down a three-mile stretch of street.

I had an entire Summer and a slew of choices. I settled on taking "Introduction to Design Concepts" and "Environmental Art" (apparently, they meant murals). There was one other girl who had the same classes and took the same bus home. Her name was Elisa. She was thirteen and therefore an older girl. She had a pretty face, thin and with a birthmark painted on the left side of her face, like the milk you just poured into your café. Her hair was long and wavy, the color of canela. She had fairy-like hands and moved with a swift gentleness that betrayed her personality and her strawberry-scented conditioner.

She had been born in East LA. Her mother was from Guatemala. She had grown up like every child of an immigrant; at the crossroads of two cultures. Constant conflicts with her grandmother had made her strong, though not without a hint of sadness. She had slender shoulders and they were strong and determined. She was always confident, even when she didn’t really believe that she was. She was rebellious and constantly dressed in red, black, and white (this was before The White Stripes). Her studded belt matched her leather boots and her chains jingled with her stride.

When I met Elisa, I considered myself to be what every other 11 year-old girl didshould be; normal. I listened to pop music and I wanted to be popular. Elisa, on the other hand, listened to punk rock, alternative rock, and metal. I started looking for all the rock music that I could find, hoping that I would at least like some of it, and that I could bring back something to talk to her about. Mamá was startled with my sudden changes in music tastes. I told her that I was finally being an individual, breaking free from the pack, and listening to what I wanted to instead of what I was told to (words still too big for me to comprehend just yet).

After meeting Elisa, I no longer wanted to be another sheep, another cog in the capitalist society that we had been bred into (I had yet to learn what capitalist meant). I wanted to dress like her, be like her, and just have more things in common with her. Even if I had never decided to try and please her with all my sudden changes in likes and dislikes. She was a catalyst in my life for uncovering a new emotion in me; jealousy.

I will always remember the last time that I saw her…

It was the last day of Summer school and she was going to high school in the Fall. I turned around as the doors were closing, to wave goodbye to her one last time, to try and memorize her face before she left me forever. But she didn’t notice. I watched her profile smile and her delicate wrists slide a piece of her hair behind her ear. She was talking to one of the boys who always rode the bus. To be fair, he was actually very cute, but she still wasn’t looking at me. Me, who she would never see again. As she laughed, her eyes sparkled. She didn’t love me.

I was just the little girl that followed her around. We took the same bus and the same classes, and being her shadow was the most I could really hope for. Even if I was too young to become a good friend, I tried to learn as much as I could from and about her. She radiated with the rebellion that all eleven year-old girls are drawn to. One could even say that she set me on the right track for feminism, equal rights, and critical analysis of established systems. She taught me a lot about myself, and even though I will probably never see her again, I will always remember my first girl-crush. ¶

Those Bloody Days

Yadira Arroyo

i bled
in chunks
and rivers

my vulva
all soaked
stained panties

seven pads
in seven hours

when i sat
on toilet
it flowed

and my lips
they pulsed

aching vulva
bleeding hole
coincides with --

i don't bleed
so bad

one pad
in four hours
not stressful

a spot
here and there
at ease

at ease
my mind
and my wounded


Untitled: Natural Beauty



The "I" Word

Lorena Romero

Among ourselves we are anything but Indian,

Among ourselves we understand the allure de
ser "mestizo."

Among ourselves we know not to utter our
heritage aloud,

Among ourselves we recognize the shame but do not speak of it.

Among ourselves we have quietly rewritten history,

Among ourselves we pray that no one will find out.

Among ourselves we hate one another for making it difficult to blend in.

Among ourselves we are desperate for affirmation,

Among ourselves we long for pride of that suppressed history.

And among ourselves we hope that being Indian will someday be acceptable.

Contemplative and Hopeful


So, another year has gone by, another notch on my educational belt leaving me one step closer to graduation. Damn, it’s been too long of a trip already. Still, as I reminisce on the past year I find myself wanting, for even with the election of Barack Obama, it feels that this year was lost to politics.

You see, this year has been one of turmoil, with wars around the world, genocide, and ICE raids becoming an unfortunate norm; nothing has been spared. Even the 2008 Olympiad, a competition that has stood for unity saw controversy directed its way before it even started.

Still, with a growing economic meltdown and the failure of the three big automakers hurling along the horizon, all I can think about is what classes I’m going to be able to take next semester. Sad, isn’t it? Among so much, I choose to reduce my focus to so little. This is the reality to most, whether we admit it or not.

Thus, I reminisce and think back to a Raza Student Association general meeting where an Hermanos Unidos member asked for help with the Border Angels organization.

I still remember how I sat there listening to the presentation as he gave the stats on how many people risk all just to enter into the U.S.. It touched home in a way that I truly wasn’t able to express. Hector Gomez, the HU member, mentioned that on average, one traveler gives the ultimate sacrifice for freedom every week. But what touched me most were photos of a grave of the unknowns where they have laid to rest 600+ who have been found in the vastness of the desert between Méjico and the U.S.

Yeah, it is some crazy shit. But the battle isn’t done. You see, as the semester draws to a close and the holidays loom near, while most are just wondering where they will head out to for Christmas and New Year’s, I still remember the days when all I could do was wonder how my family in Méjico was doing. Wondering if I was going to be able to visit them one day and still have the chance to come back, without the assistance of a coyote. Wishing that El Niño Dios would know where I was now and where to bring my gifts.

Thus, I reminisce about this past year and wonder how many more have died along the border, how many have had their families broken due to the "law." How many children will lie in their beds praying on Christmas Eve with only one wish in their hearts:

"Por favor, deja que mi familia, mi mamá, mi papá, mis hermanos y mis hermanas estemos juntos otra vez esta Navidad."

And with this, I hope. I hope that while we count our blessings this holiday season we look back and remember those we have lost. That we look back and pray, to whomever we can, for those whose families that have been broken up due to forces beyond their power.

But most of all that we act, for as this year comes to an end, a new one is just about to dawn. With it comes the promise of a fresh start, new hopes, new dreams, and new mistakes ready to be accomplished and overcome.

As this semester, these memories, and this crazy thing we call the year 2008 comes to a close, let us think back and hope for the future. ¶