Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thoughts on Sexist Chicanos

In the past year or so, I’ve experienced and witnessed sexist behavior by a handful of Chicano men, a couple of them writers (non-bloggers), who in public express support for Chicana writers, their community activism, and their shared interest in social justice issues. I find it interesting that as long as Chicanas call other people and entities out on their oppressive actions, these Chicanos appear to support Chicanas. In fact, they appear to be thrilled about Chicana activism and when that activism is expressed in their writing because they recognize that our struggles are similar, that we are all hoping to live in socially-just communities and a peaceful world. They appear to be some of our biggest supporters and are sometimes generous about telling us so.

However, when Chicanas stand up for themselves when they believe these same Chicanos are acting in an oppressive manner towards them, these men cannot believe what is happening. In my recent experience, these handful of Chicanos unhappy with Chicanas standing their ground have responded with threats, power-trips, and general ugly behavior toward the women they hardly know (not that if they knew them well it would be acceptable, but that it is amazing how cruel they can be at the drop of a pin). It is even more shameful when this behavior occurs in public settings because it shows the importance of “audience” to witness the power play. It is a kind of violence, to humiliate people either publicly or privately. It appears that these “progressive” Chicano “allies” cannot believe what is happening so they respond like a sexist partner might when a woman says she wants to go back to school and not only be a housewife anymore. Lots of angry, loud, abusive threats. The attitude I’ve witnessed and experienced is along the lines of how dare these Chicanas act this way toward me? Do they know whom they are speaking to? Do they know how I can ruin them just like that because I am so powerful?

In one case (this did not happen to me but I will never forget it), there was some physical contact, some shoving on the part of the Chicano, along with his rude comments.

And even after the dust has settled, these same Chicanos have not at all attempted to communicate with the Chicanas about what happened. Instead of opening the lines of communication after the fact to seek out resolutions, their response in the ensuing weeks, months has been silence. But not silence in public. No, some of these men have decided to talk about the Chicanas to other people, spreading gossip and negative remarks about the women, sometimes while the women are in the same room, and never once admitting to their behavior. No, these women have suddenly and simply become “unreasonable putas" who they believe must be defamed in their communities so that they, these men, can continue running from themselves, running from their actions, running from the fear that they might have been wrong.

Dear Chicanas, you likely know this already, unfortunately, but old-school machismo is alive and well among even the most seemingly “progressive.” I know that “machismo” is a complex term and I do not at all want to suggest that sexism is a given in our culture. I also do not want to suggest that higher education reverses sexist behavior. This is specifically about Chicanos who actively seek out Chicana allies, yet still expect to maintain a comfortable, patriarchal position in their “support"--and use divide and conquer tactics when they feel Chicanas have "dishonored them" by "daring" to question their behavior.

I would like to publicly urge all Chicanos who have treated a sister poorly because she was critical of your sexist behavior to stop the cycle of abuse. Stop trying to ruin reputations (as if you could) because of your pride and your inability to discuss these issues openly. Stop regressing and please start treating your Chicana sisters with respect and care. Please read or re-read Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa. Here is some of what she says: “From the men of our race, we demand the admission/acknowledgment/
disclosure/testimony that they wound us, violate us, are afraid of us and of our power. We need them to say they will begin to eliminate their hurtful, put-down ways. But more than words, we demand acts. We say to them: We will develop equal power with you and those who have shamed us.”

I never thought that these words would also include Chicanos like you who have showed your support of Chicanas and continue to show support of other Chicanas you have not put-down. I hope you know that one act of support to a Chicana does not erase negative behavior to another. When will you really step up to the plate and address your recent actions? We will not let your threats and your scare tactics weigh on us. We will write about how we feel to reduce the weight of your oppressive behavior and to educate others. It is a shame that you too are a negative part of our struggle. I want to say what a shame it is that we trusted you (and in some cases, promoted your work because we believed in it), but it is not our fault that we trusted you. We will continue to trust our Chicano friends, allies, children, relatives... It is not our fault that you are unable to communicate in a reasonable way and that you resort to public humiliations, scare tactics, gossip and the like. We will not blame ourselves for your behavior, though we are concerned, as a result of your behavior towards us, about how you treat other women. We will no longer remain silent in an effort to protect the public image of all Chicana/os. You should not find us “easy targets” any longer. That is a figment of your imagination, that our kindness and our openness are weaknesses. Your behavior is a reflection of you, not us. We are concerned that you must have a lot of unresolved anger toward women, unless you are also prone to treating men the same way as well. Then we are doubly concerned. May you some day recognize that Chicanas and women are not your oppressors. May you some day find peace in yourself and the world around you.

It is unlikely that those who ought to read this letter ever will, but I am putting it out in the world with the hope that others will stumble upon it--Chicanas, Chicanos, Chicana/os, Chican@s [it's unfortunate that I've had to use so many gender-specific labels in this post--I know that the labels get troublesome--but this discussion, unfortunately, calls for gender-specificity] and anyone interested--and find a positive use for reading these words so that we can seek peace and try to prevent further and future humiliations.

I would like to thank all of the wonderful Chican@ allies, writers, and activists who recognize and address sexist behavior in our community. Wonderful, wonderful gente who are communicative, generous, and amazing friends and acquaintances. Thank you, as well, to all of the Chicanas who did the hard work of years past. Already in my lifetime I have seen change. Thank you to Gloria Anzaldúa, Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, Norma Cantú, and many many more whose words have helped and continue to help us see the light in the struggle.



Mujerfest is taking place this Saturday in McAllen, Texas. There is a full day of activities, talks, and poetry readings. Noemi and Lina of Café Revolución are great community organizers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hateful Vandalism

I contemplated whether or not I ought to post this photograph I took in El Paso on the U.S.-Mexico border a few days ago. This sign is posted on the El Paso side and warns folks not to enter the river due to dangerous currents (these signs are posted all along the border fence in El Paso). The "no aliens" sticker someone placed on this otherwise common sign is an expression, in my opinion, of outright hate. Interestingly, it is directed at a U.S. audience since it faces the U.S., not anyone on the Ciudad Juárez side presumably attempting to cross into the U.S. In my opinion, it makes fun of those who do cross over and risk their lives doing so. It is hateful on so many levels, from making fun of people in legitimate danger (due to the elements, yes, but I also think of coyotes and the militarized border), it uses the rhetoric of calling people "aliens," and it attempts to assert a casual superiority in the attempted humor that is not at all humorous. Maybe it was some young adult with nothing better to do, maybe it was the minutemen, maybe this person was Mexican American, but one thing is for sure... this is hateful vandalism that does not reflect what many people who live on the border would find humorous, in my opinion.

Now, we could turn it around and say maybe this person is very cleverly using satire, making fun of U.S. citizens entering Juárez, calling them aliens, even though everyone knows that U.S. citizens easily cross into Mexican border towns legally without showing i.d. or without explanation or permission... it's only a few coins to cross. The long crossing lines are on the Mexican side entering the U.S., not the other way around. So is this vandalism poking fun at U.S. citizens, turning the tables on the rhetoric?

I don't think so. I trust my gut reaction. The original sign is a warning for safety and I read the vandalized sign above as a warning as well, albeit a cowardly one, and not for the safety of anyone. I decided to post the picture of the vandalized sign because it is an unpleasant reality that I do not want to ignore.

This is what these signs usually look like along the border fencing and barbed wire that have been here for years.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cultural Autobiography Workshop

Please pass the word to young adults in NYC area

Cultural Autobiography Workshop

"As part of its Education Outreach Program, the Center for Book Arts offers a tuition-free, daytime intensive workshop in hand bookbinding and artist's books, especially for high school students. Participants will explore their individual cultural background through the process of making books. Basic structures will be taught to create one-of-a-kind artist's books that depict the student's relationship with family, community and culture of origin. This workshop is open to all artistic levels, although it is open only to students in the 8th through 12th grade in June 2007. Students must possess an interest in the project and see it to completion over the course of the week. The workshop is tuition free for those accepted. The workshop will be held August 6-10, 2007." details and application (PDF file)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

lots of dentistas in mexican cities/towns close to the u.s. border. even with u.s. dental insurance, the costs in the u.s. are often quite $$$$.


while not a perfect film, Sicko calls much-needed attention to the u.s. healthcare system. i hope a lot of people see the film, recognize its flaws, and become interested in finding out more about our healthcare fiasco.


comfort is an illusion for most middle class folks living in the u.s.


last time i was in big bend national park, maybe it was summer 2001, i crossed the shallow river in a small boat to boquillas, mexico. could have waded across, but it was only a few dollars, quick, and dry. the bean and cabbage tacos in boquillas were delicious, i must say. i was at big bend last week and a park ranger said how after 9/11, the border crossings closed down in the big bend area. you can go across the river, he said, but you can't come back unless you go to the international bridges that are quite far away (i think he said the closest ones are in cuidad acuña/del rio and ojinaga/presidio)... (this is now preventing the residents on the mexican side of this border area from buying groceries or anything in the big bend area because you now have to cross at those far away border patrol checkpoints. their livelihood was tourism and their location remote from supply areas in mexico.)

(the implication was that now, if you, as a tourist, go over the 50% "line" in the river, even if you don't step foot onto dry mexican land, you'd have to return via those far way checkpoints).


the people in boquillas must be hurting financially from this... they were still trying to sell things (walking sticks, hand-sized scorpion and dragonfly sculptures made from wire, and the like for under five dollars) from their side of the river. was told it was illegal to buy anything from them because we'd be encouraging illegal crossings with all the consequences.


terrorism as reason for this sudden panic to "secure" the u.s-mexican border?


in talking to someone i know from upstate new york recently, i found it interesting how he seems suddenly so concerned about the "immigration problem" and brought it up as a conversation piece in the context of my living near the u.s.-mexican border. i find it interesting how he was not at all concerned or aware that i might perceive his all-too common arguments as anti-mexican or anti-latin@. that is how accepted the talk has become---many have convinced themselves that it's a straightforward issue that is only about tax dollars and "national security." and if i as a chicana (or a 'hispanic') think there is more to this talk than those two issues, then i am reading too much into it, according to people like him who so easily fall in step with the rhetoric.


i think that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are outdated. it's "liberal," "radical" to go to war. war and violence are radical forms of solving problems or perceived problems. similarly, it's "radical" to support a wall on the u.s. border. we live in radical times under the "guise" of conservative leadership throwing around the rhetoric of scare tactics. because these scare tactics work. the upstate new yorker i mention above is a proud 'conservative' who supports both the war and the border wall.


ginsberg's "america"


the price of lettuce, the price of gasoline, the price of medication, the price of lobbyists.


the price of education. of getting it done, rather than getting it.


the problem with the word "getting"


art at the getty


the 'gettin' place'


is "getting" passive and/or active? implies a material possession attained passively. someone says, "i got this four hundred dollar cell phone," like he got a cold sleeping in air conditioning all night.


i am trying to understand the relationship between power, corruption, ethnocentrism, and the almighty $$$$$$$.


a poet-friend recently asked me if i was going to be through with the u.s.-mexican border at some point so that my poetry would become more "universal." although she truly believes she meant no harm by that question/comment, it makes me chuckle, her belief in the harmlessness of her "concern." perhaps she thought i'd find her comment helpful, a comment that comes with the assumption that someone who writes about border issues (revised: u.s.-mexico border issues) is automatically not going to be a universal writer. these types of comments are dangerous to young, impressionable writers and i can imagine they are made every day in classrooms everywhere. it's been a long time since i was one of those writers just starting out, but i can imagine that many young writers have been told to "get over it" and start writing about "important" subjects like forsythia.

i don't think i've ever seen forsythia beyond pictures before, at least to my knowledge (i'm no expert), and i couldn't pronounce it until i looked it up just now, but i recognize that it is still a plant/word/subject "worthy" of poetry, worthy of universality. okay, so this is not about the worth of forsythia, but it is about assumptions, my own included. let's write a collaborative poem to kiss and make up. feel free to add more to the title in the spirit of collaboration, but my half's working title is called "bougainvillea and forsythia get arrested returning to the u.s. after eating bean and cabbage tacos in boquillas." kiss, kiss.

Photomontage of ginsberg's "america" with music by tom waits

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Surdna Foundation's Arts program, which funds organizations that provide intensive art-making experiences for teens, is launching a new initiative in support of young creative writers. The foundation is seeking proposals from writers'/artists' colonies--artists' communities that serve creative writers--that have experience with or an interest in working with young people to develop a summer creative writing retreat program for teens. Visit the Surdna Web site for further information.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

one of many h.s. graduation celebrations in l.a. county last month.

* * *

common sense that fire/ works on the 4th and any other day permissible. the quick buzz of the spinning hot flower. neon pink, neon green, big-ass lollipop you wouldn't lick or keep still on a turntable. strike, light, snuff. snake trails on the sidewalk a forbidden color chalk like leather chola bracelets. little girls don't wear black, she said. evidence suggests that turkey day declarations/decorations sit in an old suitcase of photos, postcards, and handwritten report cards with big S's and O's. evidence suggests that we were satisfactory and outstanding citizens. birthday wicks and not-for-profit fuses. close eyes and blow out like bowling for wishes or keep your eyes open wide igniting dynamite.

* * *

very interesting documentary.

Monday, July 02, 2007

out the plane window, texas, mid-june

Sunday, July 01, 2007