September 26, 2012

DAY 12: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge

Latino Politics – What affects you?

National, state, local politics, everything, it all affects me. Why wouldn't it? 


Clearly, the presidential election is the big issue this year. I’ve already commented on that. Issues affecting the average citizen also affect me but they some specifically resonate with me as a Latino.

I care about the USDA because I care about food safety. As a former migrant farmworker, I also care about it because the USDA’s policies also affect those who handle and harvest our food. For the same reason I care about the EPA and the chemicals used in farmwork, meatpacking plants, and produce process factories. I care about the economy because many Latinos and other low-income families endure the most of the layoffs, cuts in overtime, and increased workload without pay increases.

Latinos don’t just work for other people, they are the new small business owners who are rebuilding the economy. According to the US Census, the number of Latino-owned businesses in the United States increased by 43.7 percent to 2.3 million, that’s more than twice the national rate of 18.0 percent from 2002 - 2007.

Other national issues like the DREAM Act affect me. I was fortunate to be born in the United States but I care about education and I care about people. I care about the investment we’re making into these young people who, at the end of the day, aren’t allowed to contribute to our tax base. Those opposed to allowing undocumented students earning a path to citizenship (and paying taxes) can push back all they want, but let me just tell you, it’s gonna happen.


While national immigration issues are playing out, state governments like Arizona can try to enact anti-immigration and anti-Latino laws. The author of the infamous SB1070, is none other than Kansas’ Kris Kobach

Kobach, now the state attorney general, wants to see an Arizona-type law in Kansas. While he has a national reputation as a rabid dog, which he cultivates at the expense of his role as attorney general, in Kansas he’s seen as nothing more than a joke. Kris Kobach is the Fred Phelps of immigration. His current hard-on is perpetuating the myth of voter fraud. What he doesn’t get is that he is the voter fraud.


I care about local politics so much that I ran for a seat on the board of my community college back in 2009. I was frustrated with the policies the board enacted. Funders, through their donations, dictated my schools priorities. And students didn’t have a voice in the decisions ranging from eliminating late enrollment to increasing tuition.

I didn’t win a seat but I learned a lot about the election process. I learned how crucial it is not only for Latinos to vote but for Latinos to be candidates. With only $1,000 and a small crew of volunteers, I earned almost 7,000 votes in a race where only 10,000 guaranteed a win. 

By the way, never run for public office while going to school full time.

Since then, I’ve learned to affect policy without being elected to the office. I use my student status to speak to education issues. I use my writing to communicate information and bridge the effects of policy to real-life. I use my social media presence to support causes and influence decision makers.

I want to say one more thing about the DREAM Act and Dreamers (those young people directly affected by the DREAM Act). I don’t think people realize that Dreamers have a taste for activism and politics. When the DREAM Act is enacted, they won’t just sit back. They’ll want to continue to affect the world around them. They’ll vote. They’ll volunteer for political campaigns, They’ll even run for public office. They’ll be the change they want to see in the world. 

I can’t wait.

DAY 11: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge


There’s no doubt that Latinos love God – especially the ones who don’t go to church. Latinos’ love for God isn’t just spiritual, it’s cultural. How many other ethnic groups name their kids Jesus?

La Virgincita
But more than God, Latinos love the Virgin Mary, or La Virgin. Sure you’ll see a papi with a cross tattooed on his forearm or maybe the face of Jesus on his chest but who gets put on a full back tattoo? La Virgin de Guadalupe, that’s who. She’s on aprons, iPad cases, teddy bears, cowboy boots, watermelons, and, yes, boxer shorts.

Culturally, Latinos love rosaries, those candles with the saints on them. We love old chipped statues of los Santos that remind us of our youth.

I attended Alamo Catholic High School and loved it. Never in my time there did I ever hear that being Gay was bad or that God didn’t love me. It wasn’t until I left school that I learned of the church’s intolerance of the LGBT community.

As a Gay Latino, I love all that religious iconography and religious folk art. It’s beautifully created, comes from the heart and it usually serves up the drama.

I’m particularly fond of this retablo:

"One day I discovered that my boyfriend David fell in love with my brother
and I was offended, felt angry, and disillusioned. But, thanks to St. Michael the Archangel,
I met Jose Antonio and I fell hopelessly in love with him. Now it gives me much joy that
my brother and David love each other so much and are happy as I am. 
I offer this retablo to give thanks to St. Michael."

I didn’t fully leave the Church until my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s not that I was angry with God because my mom had cancer, although I was. I left the church because I saw how my mom suffered.

Her church friends encouraged her to suffer and to offer that pain up to God. I’m not talking about discomfort, I’m talking about gut-wrenching pain. Pain that comes from being eaten alive by tumors. Pain that comes from radiation and chemo treatments that kill healthy cells along with cancerous ones. Pain that no one but God or death can take away. My mother endured needless pain because the Church told her to offer up her pain to God for the conversion of sinners.

Encouraging people to endure pain for God is technique to control people and it’s from the dark ages. You want to convert sinners? Go out and show God’s love by helping the poor, by comforting the sick, by standing up for justice, by educating about the incredible world created for us. Don’t force people to endure suffering.

September 24, 2012

DAY 10: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge

Afro Latinos/Latinas in the Media

I scratched the “Afro” portion of this question because although I am part Puerto Rican, I’m not familiar with my island culture. I also think it’s strange to focus on Afro-Latinos for this topic when all the previous topics in this 30-day challenge haven’t asked about a particular segment of the Latino community.

Latinos in the media.

I’m not sure if this means Latinos as the subject of media or Latinos who work in media. What sort of media? Broadcast media? Online? Print? What is the focus of that media? Entertainment? News? Academics? Research?

Since Latino actors are the focus of another topic in the 30-day challenge, I’ll wait until later to discuss Latinos in front of the camera.

I’ve been the subject of media. Heck, I’ve been the media. One thing I’ve learned about the media is that it needs more diversity not just the professional ranks but in the training grounds. I’ve usually been the only Latino in my media classes, on staff in student media, and in my internships.

I wasn’t always the only minority. Sometimes there’d be a Black guy or an Asian girl to keep me company. We’d look at from the corner of our eyes when an editor said something stupid. Most of the time, the majority of student journalists were white. That meant most of the sources for stories were white and the focus of articles came from a default position of a white person’s experience.

I remember attending a few conferences of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to work in their student media projects. When we’d have some down time, the students would talk about the future of media and essentially it came down to this: We have to wait for the dinosaurs to die. And while the conferences left me with new friends and great experiences, I’d leave a bit frustrated because newsroom hires for Hispanics declined as did promotions for Hispanics already in the business. We continued to build our skills and do the work, but inside we all knew that we were simply waiting for the dinosaurs to die.

Then the journalism world started to collapse in on itself. It was the end of media as we knew it. Young Latinos and Latinas I met at journalism conferences abandoned their dream careers for PR jobs – or any job. Professional journalists also left newsrooms (willingly and unwillingly) as slashed budgets translated into fewer staffers. The numbers of Latinos that had made it into the newsroom were continuing to shrink.

Many fault social media for the decline of journalism but that’s not true. Social media simply accelerated it. Social media helped exposed flaws in a very old and very white system. That system is trying to fight back and consolidate its power.

But what old media doesn’t understand is that Latinos are early adapters. Our social media presence is helping redefine media. We aren’t just media consumers -- we’re becoming its content creators.

Now, we can surrender this advantage and let old media continue to sell us its outdated perceptions of who we are and let it dictate our limitations. Or we can be innovative enough to create the content ourselves and sell it to old media or, heck, we can compete against it.

Only then will we truly be Latinos in the media.

September 20, 2012

DAY 5: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge

Romney or Obama?

" ... we make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you're welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life. It's very strange." - Mitt Romney, douchbag


September 19, 2012

DAY 4: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge

What Latino Blog I recommend

I certainly recommend this one. However, if you like your blogs updated a little more frequently – like every day – then I suggest the premier Latino literature blog, La Bloga. I call it that because of the caliber of writers that contribute to it and the quality writers that it attracts as readers.

La Bloga

I first heard of La Blog when I attended my first AWP conference in Denver back in 2010. At that time I had no knowledge of Latino literature and I was rather ignorant of today’s latino writers – I kinda still am.

Some La Bloga contributors assume readers know who and what they’re writing about and others like to name drop. But just when I’m about to do a Liz Lemmon eye roll, I read a great post about a place I never thought Latinos would live much less write about. I read a Latino perspective about national writing event. I read about local, regional, and national gatherings of Latino writers and artists.

La Bloga has helped me recognize Latino writers on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and, of course, in real life. I’ve also been fortunate to have La Bloga feature some of my work and the work I do with the Latino Writers Collective.

There are other Latino blogs I favor and will eventually populate them on my blogroll. However, there's one stagnant blog I keep hoping that Latino Jesus will resurrect.

350 pound man tries to lose weight

A Latino poet tries to loose weight and blogs his thought and poems. I found it to be an inspirational blog. Here's an example of one of the poetry posts:
by David Campos
Zeros begin to zig-zag the display
while my weight settles
when I step on the scale
and wait for an accurate measure.
I do this every day
with wishful thinking
it’ll read 10lbs lighter
but progress is slow
like the movement of my shadow
when I walk up the mountain
and the strides get shorter
and the breaths get heavier
and the sweat drips heavy
down my face, neck and back.
I thought about making a graph
marking my progress. My goal
like a far off dream. It’s daunting.
My shadow will always weigh the same.
I step onto the scale with fear.
The zeros slowly zig-zag the display
before stopping on its new number
like a declaration of independence.