06 diciembre 2010

A picture about my culture

Despedida de Sarai 002

Dos de las chicas en la foto son de Europa - Italiana y vasca.

This is a picture that represents my culture. I could not think of any other because I fully believe that the whole of culture cannot be described by any image that is monolithic, though a singular image is monolithic in itself. I chose this photograph because these are my friends whom I love dearly and also because it represents a group of women who, for the most part, are Spanish speakers and who all look very different from one another.

This entry could also count as another topic on my list, 'Latin@ stereotypes I wish I could change.'

I discussed with my therapist (does this sound pretentious?) recently the problem of passing. Passing - what so many people aspire to do - gives access to privileges and spaces otherwise denied to those of us who are Othered. It guarantees us a level of safety that may not be granted to some in our communities. I am both queer and married therefore I pass as straight and have the privilege of not facing discrimination due to my queerness. I have to out myself for this to occur because my relationship does not out me.

The lightness of my skin does not out me as a Latina, my status as a born citizen of the United States means that I am not an immigrant and I have no accent that would mark me as such. I am White in any community, and am privileged in that sense even in Latin America, but more so, my heritage is invisible and even erased in the US.

So the problem of passing becomes a question of community identification. Where do I fit? If I am a woman raised by an immigrant, brown mother, and who was also raised by various brown immigrant women (eran criadas), if I spoke Spanish (I admit my resistance but similarly there was no other way to communicate with many of the women who raised me), if I traveled to Colombia regularly as a child and had a high concentration of family - still - residing there, then can I really belong to a non-Latin community? I am aware of myself as a Latina. I am aware of social problems facing various members of the community, be they immigrants or be they darker skinned (or both).

But here in California, latinidad becomes linked to the chican@, who is more often than not brown skinned. My identity is questioned by others who cannot recognize the diversity of Latin@s, and I am sometimes met with suspicion or skepticism. I am not a 'real' Latina, or I am not that Latina.

Similarly, my best friend (also pictured in above photograph), suffers from her own identity issues. She is physically marked and accepted as Latina, but she has expressed to me on several occasions her own qualms with regard to identity - her father is a white, non-Latino man from the Southern US. Even given her skin colour, she feels that she is only half of something, and I imagine that for her she feels that her identities are at conflict with one another. Maybe she wonders if her paternal side makes her latinidad 'inauthentic.'

Though I am white, it had not occurred to my spouse that I would not consider myself 'half' anything because both my parents are from Latin America and I had traveled there extensively as a child. Even someone who knew both my background and that of my friend, my own husband, to some extent did not think of my as 'fully' Latina in comparison to a self-identified 'half Colombian' because of the difference of colour of our skin.

Of course, I am not even certain what it means to be authentically Latin@ or half Latin@ considering the diversity of the Americas due to both colonization and immigration. What of the descendants of Chinese immigrants who live in Peru? To what extent do they feel Peruvian or Latin? Or have they formed isolated pockets and identify more as Chinese - even if they do not speak it - than Peruvian? My guess is that given the absorption of traditional Chinese cooking into Peruvian cooking, the lines of identity are blurred there too.

Another key moment in therapy that revealed my conflict was my constant switching of pronouns: 'We' I would say and then I would stop and say 'They.' This is for two reasons: the first is that I recognize a difference of privilege based on class, and the second is that I want to establish a difference based on immigration status. I am at conflict with this because I see myself as part of my family and my family are immigrants - therefore I say 'we' and then I realize that to some extent I am outside that experience and I quickly say 'they.' This linguistic going back & forth reveals just how confusing and unresolved I am about my identity.

04 diciembre 2010

a hiatus

That was my hiatus and while I am currently working on papers that have to do with the voice of the Othered, I am certain I will continue the meme and also discuss what comes to mind while doing research for my papers.

November was an especially busy month!

Ay Maricruz
I did recently get a new lens and have been playing around with it. You'll begin seeing the results often this holiday season in my blog.


01 noviembre 2010

¡A votar! California Props 19-23

Día de los muertos

A reminder to all of those registered to vote who have not done so - tomorrow is the big day! Get out there and vote!

There are many arguments as to why people do not vote: they do not believe in the system, they do not believe their vote counts, they are disillusioned by the act of voting altogether. However you feel about voting, though, not voting is not proactive. If you have complaints to make about the system and you think it needs to change then get out there and voice your complaints! And for those who are content with voting and feel that it is up to politicians to make sure the change we want comes to fruition - stop waiting around on others and take a more active role in the change you think is necessary for your community!

Tomorrow, California has several propositions on the ballot that you can read about at CalVoter.org and the Official CA Voter Guide. These are good places to access both pro and comments with regard to the propositions. My blog, however, will be biased because this is my personal and political opinion.
Prop 19: Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Fiscal Impact: Depending on federal, state, and local government actions, potential increased tax and fee revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually and potential correctional savings of several tens of millions of dollars annually.
Yes yes a million times yes on 19. I've heard my fair share of people convey their hesitance when thinking about the possibility of their children or grandchildren having access to and legally smoking pot. Let's just clear this up though - they have access to it already. If they want it the only issue becomes when do they get it, not if. This is a substance so readily available I think my cat could bring home pot. Fortunately, the cat and I have already had a discussion about substances and substance abuse and I feel he's educated enough to make the right, healthy decision.

Yes, I'm being ridiculous when talking about my cat, but do think about it. Remember that right now the issue is not availability but whether or not this is a criminal offense. We do not need room in our prisons (and not more money spent on building more of them) for marijuana related offenses. It's also important to note that there are, in general, a disproportionate amount of people from communities of colour who are imprisoned for such offenses.
Prop 20: Removes elected representatives from process of establishing congressional districts and transfers that authority to recently-authorized 14-member redistricting commission comprised of Democrats, Republicans, and respresentatives of neither party. Fiscal Impact: No significant net change in state redistricting costs.
I'm voting no on 20. I just don't see the point in allowing an unelected commission re-draw the district lines.
Prop 21: Exempts commercial vehicles, trailers and trailer coaches from the surcharge. Fiscal Impact: Annual increase to state revenues of $500 million from surcharge on vehicle registrations. After offsetting some existing funding sources, these revenues would provide at least $250 million more annually for state parks and wildlife conservation.
Yeah, I get that people might turn their noses up at the thought of an annual $18 vehicle surcharge fee, but for me this seems like a no-brainer. Yes on 21. These are our parks and our conservation areas. You think parks are cool, don't you? I like parks. Hey, it pays for the admission to the parks too.
Prop 22: Prohibits State, even during severe fiscal hardship, from delaying distribution of tax revenues for these purposes. Fiscal Impact: Decreased state General Fund spending and/or increased state revenues, probably in the range of $1 billion to several billions of dollars annually. Comparable increases in funding for state and local transportation programs and local redevelopment.
A similar law passed in Missouri stating that revenue from roads & transportation was to go only to those particular areas. Many people thought 'Hey, this is exactly where the money should go! Keep community funds in the community!' It does sound good at first, but then you must realize why the state borrows money. The state dips in to these funds to put the money toward other state programs, such as education. While some amount of community funds go toward education, by & large it is the state that is held responsible for funding public schools and other state social programs. We need that money to circulate throughout the state so that it goes where it is most needed. Another thing to keep in mind is that the state is required to pay back any money borrowed from these community funds, and sometimes with interest. No on 22.
Prop 23: Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Sources of Emissions to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year.
23, the reverse of AB-32 (the law that would help regulate air pollution emissions). Another no-brainer, many groups across the board are voting no on this and I am as well. It should come as no surprise that this is a proposition backed by Valero (TX) & other oil companies like Tesoro (CA). Would you trust an oil company to dictate clean air acts? A gigantic NO on 23.

29 octubre 2010

A story about growing up Latina: Part 2 & a poem

Tú me quieres alba,
Me quieres de espumas,
Me quieres de nácar.
Que sea azucena
Sobre todas, casta.
De perfume tenue.
Corola cerrada
Ni un rayo de luna
Filtrado me haya.
Ni una margarita
Se diga mi hermana.
Tú me quieres nívea,
Tú me quieres blanca,
Tú me quieres alba.
Tú que hubiste todas
Las copas a mano,
De frutos y mieles
Los labios morados.
Tú que en el banquete
Cubierto de pámpanos
Dejaste las carnes
Festejando a Baco.
Tú que en los jardines
Negros del Engaño
Vestido de rojo
Corriste al Estrago.
Tú que el esqueleto
Conservas intacto
No sé todavía
Por cuáles milagros,
Me pretendes blanca
(Dios te lo perdone),
Me pretendes casta
(Dios te lo perdone),
¡Me pretendes alba!
Huye hacia los bosques,
Vete a la montaña;
Límpiate la boca;
Vive en las cabañas;
Toca con las manos
La tierra mojada;
Alimenta el cuerpo
Con raíz amarga;
Bebe de las rocas;
Duerme sobre escarcha;
Renueva tejidos
Con salitre y agua;
Habla con los pájaros
Y lévate al alba.
Y cuando las carnes
Te sean tornadas,
Y cuando hayas puesto
En ellas el alma
Que por las alcobas
Se quedó enredada,
Entonces, buen hombre,
Preténdeme blanca,
Preténdeme nívea,
Preténdeme casta.

por Alfonsina Storni, "Tú me quieres blanca" & for those of you who do not read Spanish, you can access an English translation of the poem courtesy of VivirLatino.

There are some days when a particular subject may be on your mind and suddenly everything relates back to it. This has happened with the topic about which I thought to blog with regard to growing up Latina.

Lately, I've been thinking about how significant my background has been for me and how my identity very much solidified after leaving California and moving to the Midwest with my mother as a child. I was, admittedly, very resistant with regard to speaking and learning Spanish as a child. My family would laugh whenever I said anything but as an adult looking back on it, I realize that they laughed because they thought I was adorable - or they were total hyper-critical assholes, either is possible. Moving, however, changed this slowly but surely as I watched my step-family ostracize my mother because of her communication style and accent. They would pull out her driver's license and declare it a fake, declare her age a fake, and there was always some sort of suspicion revolving around her age which, of course, is just another way of implying suspicion with regard to identity.

Her accent was enough to have some potential home buyers (she worked in real estate for a time) tell her to learn English before working in the US. She had lived here, at the time, for over fifteen years. Outside of the fact that she has an accent, her English is better than fine. I wonder what they would have said if we would have repeated the same whenever they pronounced 'wash' as 'warsh.'

Hearing my mother tell me that she wished she did not have her accent broke my heart. The shame she felt, and was made to feel, made me more rebellious against such racist & ethnocentric, anti-immigrant sentiment. I wanted to be strong for someone who had always been strong for me. And the truth of the matter is that accent or no, her immigration was imprinted on her skin and her experience of migrating. They would always find her problematic.

I spent more time learning Spanish in college than I ever did in any previous years. When I say 'learning' I mean the grammatical aspect of it. I learned why it was I said what I said because I couldn't tell you for the life of me why you would use 'por' instead of 'para' only that I knew what sounded best. I was a genuine heritage speaker. My accent wasn't that of someone learning for the first time but of someone who had a working grasp of the language since she began speaking any language whatsoever.

And then came grad school and then came California. Being more politically literate - and being older - allowed me to catch what I did not as a child growing up in Los Angeles. Perhaps that sort of animosity in the Midwest allowed me to read between the lines on the west coast whereas some of my friends who have spent their entire lives here might just read a comment as a normal part of speech. Anti-Latin@ statements have long since been incorporated into daily life in Southern California, as a border state, so much so that at times people might not even recognize it.

For as liberal as the population finds itself (the same state that passed Prop 8) racial tensions are fueled by jokes at the expense of migrant workers, the insistence on referring to immigrants as 'illegals,' the dismissal of Spanish as having a legitimate place in the country, the privatization of state schools making it more and more difficult for communities of colour to access higher education, and of course, the constant reminder of who is the 'model minority' and who just can't get it right. The latter, one that is always on my mind, is not too dissimilar from that age old talk of house and field slave - model or not, the key term is minority. No matter how favourable we are in comparison with othered groups, we are all, never the less, othered.

And this is what it has meant to me to grow up Latina. I am constantly aware that my heritage and language is under attack and I've been given the tools to recognize it and I've been given the support of my family (for the most part) and my friends (always) to fight it and to be strong.

Yesterday we talked about courses designed with heritage speakers - like myself - in mind. I've been told that according to many studies, Spanish heritage speakers have lower success rates as a result of feelings of inferiority with regard to culture & language. Hearing that made tears come to my eyes because I cannot tell you how often I've felt caught between two worlds, feeling inadequate linguistically, and feeling as though I must be true to one culture. That's just not the case, we don't need to feel that we have to pick one or the other, because our reality is a mix of cultures - lo mestizaje - and we need to embrace that with pride.

27 octubre 2010

A story about growing up Latina: Part I

I'm not certain if by 'story' I am meant to cite a particular, isolated instance that is related to my latinidad and that I, at that moment, identified as a 'Latin@ experience.' Instead, I'm choosing to talk about something that I did not realize at the time was shaped by my experience but looking back on it, I cannot separate having been raised Latina from my understanding of this text.

I think it was in my first or second year of college that I took a literature course in which we were separated into small groups and charged with the duty of acting out briefly a scene from Shakespeare's The Tempest. It was a very low level literature class, to say the least, and this seems a common way to engage students and to illustrate the difference of interpretation of a text. I was Prospero. I cannot remember which scene we were assigned but that I was Prospero and that one of my partners was Caliban and that when I read Propero's line, unlike the interpretations of my peers, my Prospero was an authority figure with a booming voice. He was not a gentle, wise, Dumbledore sort of a man. He was a master over other individuals. He was controlling and this somehow discomforted my peers. Why? He is knowledgeable in the text, of course, and they wanted to read him as someone who was very fatherly, but not at all cruel. How could I possibly read it the same way? How could I separate his love of knowledge from the fact that he was a man who had enslaved entities of the island? Of an island to which he himself was a foreign presence? Even if I was not aware of it at the time, or I did not have the words to articulate what I meant, how could I have seen Prospero outside the colonial sphere?

The contrast between the images of Caliban and Prospero have made me ask 'From whose perspective are we seeing?' Any quick read of Columbus's diaries about the islands will reveal not the truth about the people or the land, but his naming of it. He projects an image that to a very large extent prevents us from really knowing the land because the natives are not given the voice the self identify. Then I have to ask - is that also Caliban's reality? In an island where Prospero is the one who controls the individuals through his magical powers, is Caliban a would-be rapist? What role does Prospero have in that if he has the power to control Caliban?

Of course, the colonial reading of this play is nothing new, but I should emphasize that it was not something we had discussed prior to our acting in class. In fact, we never went over a specific colonial reading but instead discussed issues concerning Prospero's power (without mention of colonialism).

Thinking about all of this during a recent re-reading of the play caused me to ask myself and my spouse - the US has a colonial past like the rest of the Americas ('like' is used loosely), but is the American identity really tied to its colonial past as strongly as it is in the rest of the Americas? Am I imagining the discrepancy between the US and the rest of the Americas? Am I imagining the existence of a real post-colonial identity in Latin American & Caribbean countries? Is it that I am more familiar with texts on the post-colonial with regard to Latin America & Caribbean? It seems though that the figures related to colonialism, to betrayal, etc seem to be much more important figures in their respective countries. Take la Malinche for example. Is there a figure in the US? Are the revolutionaries of Latin America similar to those of the US? Sometimes it seems that there was a stronger sense of transculturation (thank you, Ortiz) at & around the point of colonialism despite the fear and avoidance of that bilateral cultural exchange. It's not that 'mestizaje' doesn't exist here, but it seems as though as an identity it is not as strong, but then again, this could just be me.

25 octubre 2010

What Latina blogger I recommend

It seems that whenever I set a task for myself and vocalize it to anyone - and it is a non-academic task - it is always the first at which I fail. I will excuse myself though and say that for this Latina, every month is Latin@ Heritage month. Why shouldn't we celebrate our families and heritage on a regular basis? This is true for anyone!All right, maybe it is not a convincing excuse, but here I am continuing with the themed posts. Today is about the Latina blogger I recommend and I can never settle on just one.

The first is probably the most popular: http://www.speakhispanic.com/

Elianne Ramos's blog covers Latin@s in the media, in politics, in business, which I understand are all tied to one another. Thus far she's provided some of the most and best coverage with regard to that angle, and she tends to be very up-to-date/timely, which if you know anything about journalism (or can guess) is incredibly important. The truth is, her blog contains a lot of information that is otherwise ignored by popular media/larger blogs and it's important that we support those sources that provide us with information about our communities that may otherwise be ignored.

Another blogger with a much different themed blog is http://gabrielaskitchen.com/

As the name suggest, the blog is cooking-centered. Gabriela's recipes are mostly related to Mexican cuisine, but her knowledge of cooking is by no means limited to this cuisine. What's great about her site is that she also covers drinks along with main courses, and for those of us who avoid red meat or pork, she provides vegetarian recipes as well. Add all this to amazing food photography - I can't stress enough how great a cooking blog she has & how you will undoubtedly feel hungry the minute you surf through her site. If you are trying to learn how to cook, check this blog out, make some of the recipes, and impress your friends with your sudden talent.

03 octubre 2010

Latin American countries I'd like to visit

Am I supposed to name only one?

The first is Colombia which for me is the most obvious. I've visited this various times in the past and would like to continue to do so because my family is there. We have only stayed within the capital but recently my aunt Clara purchased a house in Cartagena on the beach & I have always heard that it was a beautiful city.

I'd also like to visit Mexico. This seems ridiculous to say that I'd love to go to Mexico because it is a country that is so within reach because I live in Southern California, but a surprising amount of people here have never been to Mexico. I went once to Cancun which I swear is filled with more American tourists than with Mexican citizens. Currently one of my close friends from DF has been living back in the city & I'd love to go visit her.

I'd love to go to the Caribbean as well. The easiest place, I suppose, would be Puerto Rico because it does not require a passport from the US & I have friends from there & living there as well.

Honestly, I could go through every country in Latin America and think about something I would want to see or someone I would want to visit from that country!

28 septiembre 2010

Drop the I-Word

I was recently directed to this website: Colorlines - Drop the I-Word. I encourage everyone to sign the pledge, 'I don't call people illegals.'

I wholeheartedly believe that such a term thrown around by politicians and media voices alike only furthers the dehumanization of immigrants - undocumented and documented. We are talking about human beings - living, breathing, bleeding, human beings.

Acts are illegal, immigrants are people.

What I love most about being Latina

This is a surprisingly complex question for me, because I often wonder if I can really attribute what it is I love about who I am to the fact that I am Latina, or if I simply associate certain aspects with latinidad.

Either way, I suppose what it means to be Latin@ varies from person to person though we tend to come across many similarities.

One of the things I most value is access to women with strong voices. Having a strong voice does not mean you can avoid being hurt or subjected to injustice, but the women in my life have always fought. My mother and her sisters have each been married and divorced, all partners of men who left them for other women. You would think that knowing this I would have had a rather fatalistic approach to all of my relationships, but I remained hopeful. This is because each of those women knew how to move forward and my mother always emphasized to me the importance of being able to stand on one's own two feet. Always make sure that you have a back up plan, she would tell me. Always be able to take care of yourself, because you never know what could happen.

Recently I read an excerpt from
Lesbians Talk Transgender in which a member of a women-only hiking group discussed their exclusion of trans women. She had said specifically that trans women had long benefitted from male privilege and as a result had the tendency to try to direct the conversation, were aggressive in communicating or overbearing. I personally thought this was a load of transphobic garbage and that it was yet another way of degendering trans women by implying (or flat out stating) that they were men. But that was not the only thing that struck me, it struck me that exerting one's voice was associated by this women with men exclusively.

In her reality, I guess women are regularly silenced even in their interpersonal relationships. This just is not true for me. Are we on the losing end of an oppressive system? Yes (though I would argue that there are no winners in oppression) but I do not think that all women have the same voices culturally. To be honest, this seemed like a White (not Latina) Feminist problem much like previous issues with regard to voting and the work place. Women of Colour have not, historically, had the class privilege that allowed them to stay at home while the male spouse worked (I am not trying to imply that class is solely tied to race, by the way).

In communicating with many different women, I can admit that I have had a tendency to be more aggressive. I do this with men as well and I am accustomed to it. My mother & her sisters have this same tendency which is why we have all been called bulldozers or something of the like. This is both a flaw and a wonderful trait to have and while some have found me too assertive or argumentative, maybe even stubborn, I've rarely felt that my voice was silenced within groups of men or women.

This isn't to say that Latina women are living in matriarchal society or anything similar - not at all. I would be blind to deny the machismo to which we are subjected that is tied to Catholicism, colonialism, racism, etc, but I do think that in general we have had more space in which to participate and be heard. I simply cannot imagine feeling the need to seek out a group for women because men have often dominated conversations in which I was involved or tried to be involved.

Again, I think that the comment by the woman in this particular excerpt has more to do with degendering trans women, denying them womanhood, and transphobia.

Latino Heritage Month Challenge

I am so late (LATEina) to this one, & as a result I am not going to end up doing every single day challenge. Instead I am going to look through the list and address the ones that most interest me in part because I cannot write a blog entry about my love of Pitbull & Shakira, but also because as a graduate student & Spanish instructor I don't have the time to catch up and update the blog daily.

This sounds like a lot of excuses, right? Yeah, they are excuses, but that's the way I roll!

The 30 Day Latino Blog Challenge. 30 days, 30 blogs, 1 message to celebrate Latino Heritage Month. I challenge myself and any Latino blogger to write everyday for the next 30 days. The rules are simple. The blog must be at least 2 paragraphs on the selected topic, although there are 2 entries for poetry. The blog can be written in anyway chosen.
Here are the topics I hope to address:

Day 1 – What I love most about being Latino
Day 2 – What Latin American Country/Island I would love to go to.

Day 4 - What Latino Blog I recommend
Day 5 - A story about growing up Latino
Day 6 - A Poem (original or quoted)
Day 7 - Post a picture about your culture and explain its significance

Day 8 - Latino Racism

Day 12 – Do I speak Spanish?
Day 13 – Afro Latinos you see everyday

Day 17 – Why I love Latinas (or Latino Men)
Day 18 – Latino Art

Day 20 – Latino Stereotypes I wish I could change

Day 21 - What Latin American Country/Island I have been to.
Day 22 – Do you consider yourself more Latino than American?

Day 24 – Should Puerto Rico be a State?
Day 25 - Post a picture about your familia and explain its significance

Day 27 – Favorite Latino Author
Day 28 – Family Ancestry
Day 29 – Latino Politics – What affects you?
Day 30 – What I learned in the last 30 days...

23 septiembre 2010


With my mother - I was 18 or 19.

I think this works across the board, or rather, across nationalities and languages, that there are certain colloquialisms that we just do not pick up in a region as a result of our parents' immigration. In my last years as a graduate student, I took a course in which we read about various myths & superstitions, folklore & cliches. What struck me was that when placed a group with three other students and given a colloquialism, there was not one of us who had heard it used within our families or could tell you when would be an appropriate time to use it.

We all happened to be the children of immigrants - my Colombian mother, another woman was the child of two Greek parents, the child of Italian parents and the fourth I cannot remember.

Colloquialisms are not just the marker of your familiarity with a language, they are also a marker of how you are socialized, or how often you socialize with others.

I was an only child who spent much of her time on the Internet. I like to point at this, rather than stupidity, as the reason it took me until my first year in college to realize that the phrase was 'a grain of salt' rather than 'a grain assault.' My husband often laughs at this asking me to explain the latter, but I don't think that many colloquialisms can be explained by those using them now. Why is the phrase 'A stitch in time saves nine?' Why is something the 'cat's pajamas' (admittedly, not many people use this but my husband ADORES it).

More recently and with some awkward pause I had to stop my mother on the phone as she complained to me that the company with which her husband would soon be contracted was 'jerking him off.' For my mother, there is no real difference between 'jerking him around' and 'jerking him off' but I imagined her saying this to one of the parents at my siblings' school and that parent staring in horror.

To date, however, my mother's most misused phrase is 'pickers can't be choosers.' Each time I explain to her that pickers are choosers and she immediately responds, short and irritated, 'Well, whatever, you know what I mean!'

12 septiembre 2010

Latin American artists & Latin@ artists

I first want to start by saying that I love the art of Frida Kahlo. As commercial as this sounds, I even have a light switch plate with her art on it because I am very touched by it. I love the photographs I have seen of her and I can see that although my students have wrinkled their nose at her facial hair, she was such a strong woman whose presence I imagine would have been so powerful. It comes through the photos. She's a storm, and a woman like me admires that, loves it.

Apart from her art on display and reproduced in books and other prints is her home. The home is a work of art that is constantly in a state of progress - I say this as a home owner who regularly has her eye caught by something: a dresser, a picture frame, a lamp, a set of tiles. When I first saw Frida's kitchen, I looked at my own and thought '¡No la aguanto más!' Her beautiful kitchen highlighted how claustrophobic mine feels and now I am dead set on this section of my own 'work of art.'

Before I stray any further from my original intention, let me say that while I love and admire Frida's art, I have noticed that there are a good many people whose knowledge of Latin American & Latin@ artists stops with Frida. Maybe I notice this because I teach Spanish entry level courses at the university & any chapter on art focuses on (1) only paintings and (2) mostly Spaniards. They know Goya (sometimes), Picasso, & Dalí. The books almost always include Velázquez's
Las Meninas but beyond the Peninsula there is little attention given to Latin American artists. I'm sure someone will offer counter examples, but with regard to the books I've been given to use in the classroom and those I've had as supplementary materials, the focus was generally the same.

I'm not necessarily asking that Spanish teachers be held accountable for being a walking catalogue of Latin American artists. Trust, I've met some secondary & elementary Spanish teachers (OK, and some in college too) who had to work on their knowledge of the language before anything else. Still, it would be nice if more people knew something about art. Art may not be everyone's passion, but I'd think that peole studying & eventually teaching language would be some of the most likely to learn about it. If art is used to represent or question societal values, as a form of protest, or even as a form of documentation, one would think teachers would jump at the chance to incorporate it into their classrooms. But I guess another problem is who is - or isn't - teaching teachers. In many cases it seems we are left on our own to 'discover' art.

A particularly memorable instance for me was meeting a college student who was studying art and Spanish who said that Latin America was lacking in artists. Whether she was referring to painting, ceramics & pottery, photography, etc, I don't know, but none of it was - or is - true. I wonder if she remembers her statement; it is one I will never forget! What is lacking isn't art, it's exposure to that art. Were there even any professors in that small Missouri college town offering lectures on Latin@ artists? How many universities - even liberal art schools - do just that? Where are our Latin@ contemporary artists represented?

In Los Angeles we are very fortunate to have access to Latin@ specific museums such as MOLAA (Long Beach) and The Latino Museum (Downtown Los Angeles) but even with these museums specializing in Latin@ art, so many are unaware of their existence. They are not MOCA, LACMA, the Getty, the Hammer, or any other enormous, well-known museum located in the 'cultural hot-spot' of West Los Angeles. At the very least we have them, which is more than I've been able to say about other locations in the US.

What is promising is that currently The Latino Museum has an exhibit from now until the 14th of October that features various up & coming artists including yours truly and the exhibit is free. If you are in the Los Angeles area, please do check it out! The address & list of artists can be located here on the museum website.

Anyway, it's not an entry about Latin@ artits without some name dropping & links to enjoy! Here are the names (and some websites) of artists I've admired:

Lucía Pizzani, Mayra Barraza, Keiko González, Elmar Rojas, Oswaldo Guayasamín, Fernando Rodríguez Falcón, Carlos Montes de Oca (cubano), Pedro Coronel, Manuel Felguérez Barra, Lilia Carrillo, Miguel Ángel Ruiz Matute,Wifredo Lam, Antonia Eiríz, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Noemí Ruiz, Gego, Santiago Cárdenas, Fernando de Szyszlo, Maria de Lourdes Martins Pereira de Souza, Antonio Bandeira, Flávio Shiró Tanaka, Jorge Guinle, Enrique Arnal, Osvaldo Salerno, Luis Solari (uruguayo), Luis Camnitzer, José Balmes

Additionally, the Latin Art Museum website provides a number of examples of different Latin American artists and is a great resource when considering the fact that many artists alive and deceased have not had their own websites.