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    Sunday
    Sep192010

    Mexico Celebrates Independence

    Mexico has celebrated the anniversary of “EL GRITO” in the Zócalo of Mexico City, on the night of Septermber 15th.  At midnight the President of the Republic rings the same church bells as did Padre Hidalgo, and repeats Hidalgo’s call for independence:

     

    Long Live The Virgin of Guadalupe!

    Long Live the Americas!

    Long Live Mexico!

    And Death to Corrupt Government!

    With this cry for Independence, Hidalgo took up a banner of The Virgin of Guadalupe, and led some 600 insurgents into the city of Guanajuato where they freed numerous Mexican political prisoners and incarcerated the Spanish authorities. And thus began the Mexican Revolution of 1810, and Mexico’s struggle for independence.  

    Despite all the celebrations around Cinco de Mayo (May 5th), September 16th is celebrated as Mexico's Independence Day--this is the real deal!

    Wednesday
    Jul142010


    Immigrant or Native?

    It is often said that the US is a land of immigrants but the unspeakable corollary is: not all immigrants are seen as equals.  We do not treat immigrants from Cuba the same as those who came from Ireland. We do not see the Vietnamese who crossed an ocean to reach us the same as those who cross the Rio Grande. We value immigrants with key skills and create special visas for them so that they can work at some of our most prestigious academic institutions and some of the most innovative corporations.  

    Likewise, it should be understood that immigrants do not see our land in the same way.   The people who traveled an ocean, escaping the ravages of war came to the US to seek refuge.  In solidarity with their plight, the US grants asylum. The scientists, students and scholars, who visit us, see the United States as a place to expand their intellectual independence and create unparalleled opportunity. Our dire shortage of scientists and our desire to be competitive compels us to say yes to these elite immigrants. We do not have a one-size fits all immigration policy because we have different immigrants.

    In the wake of the immigration debate sparked by the events in Arizona, we now desperately need to understand immigrants from Mexico and the unique relationship to this land among the many people whose ancestry transcends our borders.  While it is true many come here to seek jobs, their presence here is not limited to seeking opportunity.   In 1848 when the US signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to secure the land we now consider to be California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah roughly 100,000 Mexicans inhabited the territory.  As the US further expanded and borders shifted in what is now Texas, families that had lived in one region for several generations suddenly found themselves defined in between the land they called home and the new land that considered them outcasts.   Many Mexican immigrants consider themselves native to these lands. Indeed, they would at least argue “we were here long before any other immigrant group”.  And because of this history, Mexicans do not feel obligated to shed themselves of their tradition or history or language.  By contrast, the Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants in the 1940’s knew they had abandoned their homeland in order to survive and live freely and thus their acculturation happened differently.  There was no turning back.  For Mexican immigrants, there is much less of a sense of having left “home” or needing to give up their identity. These lands are not foreign and there is nothing “illegal” about being here.

    While some would argue that we are well beyond 1848, history cannot be ignored.  Immigration reform is desperately needed to address the presence of an estimated 7 million people from Mexico who remain in the Southwest and who overwhelming live quietly as hard working people, contributing to local economies. But policy and legislation will fail unless we consider the identity of this vibrant community and the cultural roots tied to these lands.  Many nations have drawn borders only to fail against the deeply rooted culture associated with geography.  The US is poised to fail in its reforms again, unless a new accord is found with a people who remain loyal to our lands.     

    Wednesday
    Dec302009

    HISPANIC Magazine Doesn't Represent Me!

    Somehow Hispanic Magazine chose to nominate the outrageous, self-made Hollywood celebrity gossiper Perez Hilton as its 2009 Hispanic of the Year.   In a year when the nation saw Justice Sonia Sotomayor become the first Latina to serve as a United States Supreme Court justice, Hispanic Magazine should be ashamed of its lack of judgment and indifference to historical precedence.  The only good thing that can be said about this horrific choice is that, thankfully and mercifully, the rest of the media chose to ignore it.   

    In explaining her decision, Marissa Rodriquez, Hispanic Magazine’s Editor wrote: Who, we asked, are the big players who make the World Wide Web go around? There is little doubt that one of the web’s biggest stars is Perez Hilton. This famous blogger of Cuban American descent is credited by many for revolutionizing celebrity news. Professional gossips are nothing new, as gossip columns have existed in newspapers and magazines since their beginnings. But Perez is at the tipping point of something new, he’s taken an old idea and created something no one else has. His is one of those blogs that sometimes bests traditional news outlets in the 24-hour news game. …While he may be known for his flamboyant personal style and snarky approach to celebrity news, there is also a serious side to Hilton. A prolific poster on his site PerezHilton.com, he doesn’t hold back an opinion, and his opinions influence millions. Yes, he is controversial. Some people even despise him. Hilton knows it. But he is also loved by millions of readers from all over the world who flock to his website daily, making the site not only a cultural phenomenon and a smashing business enterprise. (Editors Letter, December 2009 Edition of Hispanic Magazine) 

    The “tipping point of something new”?

    Influences millions?

    A “cultural phenomenon”? 

    Aside from asking the obvious question about what kind of web surfing Rodriguez engages in, her gushing admiration for Hilton as a web pioneer raises serious questions about HISPANIC MAGAZINE’s journalistic rigor.  While there are far more significant individuals to list as Latino internet pioneers, HISPANIC MAGAZINE willfully ignored a Latina who truly will influence millions through her decisions in the highest court and whose success represents a tipping point of political and economic opportunity for all of us.  As Latinos finally gain much deserved attention in the arts, sciences, law and politics—we cannot afford to be distracted with the mediocre who tantalize us with an opportunity to be sensationalized with 15 minutes of fame.  We don’t need fame. We need authentic power that comes from inspired vision and substantive leadership. In the annals of history, there will be much written about this one remarkable moment Judge Sotomayor captured for Latinos.  Too bad that chapter did not get written with our own voice under the banner of HISPANIC MAGAZINE. 

    Wednesday
    Nov112009

    Veteran's Day Rememberances

    My first visit to the Vietnam Memorialin Washington DC was shortly after it opened in 1984 and by then the controversy of the war had subsided but the anguish of broken lives remained a national open sore. Instead of the noble tributes that we saw today at Fort Hood, Vietnam veterans were never quite seen like the men and women in the armed services today. The Vietnam Memorial was perhaps an apology for the days of controversy when political posturing overshadowed the anguish of personal sacrifice. All along the wall that day were stacks of personal tributes...letters , mementos, dog tags of those who survived and even some teddy bears.  Like so many who visit the site, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of seeing over 58,000 names and all those mementos of unspoken promises, yearnings and prayers.  It was hot and humid as only DC can be in August.  I needed to catch my breath before I made the long walk to the section where my cousin Raul Robledo would be listed.  My one task for that day, as the first in my family to visit Washington DC was to take a photo and send it to my Tia Paula who lived in Shreveport, Louisiana. A single parent, of very humble beginnings, my Aunt would never make this same journey. So I walked to a nearby souvenir stand selling soft drinks and stood in line and glanced at the post cards of DC and the Memorial.  And then, there it was. One postcard. A dozen names. A rose laying on one side.  My cousin's name was there framed by the one rose and the border on that postcard.  I bought as many as I could for her and for Raul, my cousin, who I never had the chance to meet--growing up on opposite sides of the country. Raul was deployed Nov 11, 1967 and died by friendly fire March 14, 1968 at the age of 20 and left behind one daughter who he never met. No matter how I frame that day for myself, I always picture my aunt opening the envelope with my letter and the cards and hope she felt proud that day. Today is about that moment for her and all the families who have someone to thank, someone to remember or someone to care for this Veteran's Day.

    Thursday
    Oct292009

    CNN's Latino in America

    I’ve been looking at several sites that feature Latino perspectives (www.vivirlatino.com and www.mylatinovoice.com) and many write about the great anticipation they had for Soledad O’Brien’s production on CNN: Latino in America. While many take time to thank her for her contribution to the dialogue, they are quick to suggest it just didn’t do our community justice and I agree.  While it must be said that O’Brien’s efforts were indeed a means to create dialogue, it may have also affirmed some of the worst stereotypes about Latinos—most of us are immigrants, we are poor,  we don’t speak English well, our kids are constantly getting pregnant, and education isn’t our biggest priority.    

    As much as O’Brien tried to blend the stories of successful Latinos with those who live in the inner-city, she didn’t bring together some of the most notable Latino scholars who are studying how much Latinos are engaging in American life and how much they contribute to our economy. She missed three incredible demographic trends that must be well understood in order to truly appreciate Latino diversity and understand the remarkable role we play in the future of America’s economic, social and political success.

    First, we are a multi-ethnic community representing 22 different Spanish speaking countries and all with varying levels of acculturation and because of our nation’s shared border with Mexico, there will always be an influx of people who are not acculturated to the US culture.  These are indeed the Spanish speakers among us who reflect their own native countries the most in language and traditions. When some compare the immigrant experience of the Irish, Polish and German families of the past, it is key to understand that those families could not go home so easily. There was no internet, no easy access to long distance calls and moving here meant being cut off from their homeland in significant and profound ways.    In contrast, by the time I was just 12 years old, my immigrant family had traveled and returned to Mexico at least 7 times and each time we were reinvigorated with our cultural roots and relished the time we could be in our extended family. Even so, my parents valued education and my brothers and I all spoke English and Spanish fluently by the time we completed our first year of schooling in the US and though my parents struggled they learned English, too.

    Second,  Latinos in the US have a healthy and growing middle class.  Median income for Latinos is now close to $39,000. Those of us in our 40’s and 50’s who took advantage of educational opportunity programs or veteran benefits or who simply developed a strong trade skill are not just surviving. We are living that America dream so many of O’Brien’s guests seemed unable to attain.  Our spending power as a whole is approaching $1.2Trillion in 2011. Yes, that’s Trillion with a “T”.   We have shaped the way grocery stores stock certain food items. We’ve inspired how fast food outlets feed us.  Our love of music, family, celebrations, and art is creating a business for celebrating quinceñeras, weddings, and baptisms like nothing seen before.  The fastest growing entrepreneurial group in the US is Latinas.  We remain in many ways the untapped opportunity for retailers, automakers, housing developments, and financial services—who desperately need to learn how to attract the Latino consumer.

    Third, Latinos as a whole are 10 – 12 years younger on average than the Caucasian population of the US.  This has huge implications for the American economy and this was sorely missed when O’Brien brought us the stories on the poor and uneducated.  As whites continue to retire in significant numbers, we are the future labor force that will fuel the economic engine of the US.  By 2050, half of the working age adults in the US will be Latino.   If ever there is an argument to indeed make sure Latinos feel included in our society and encouraged to succeed in school and have access to safe neighborhoods—this is it: The future of American enterprise rests on engaging successful Latinos to create, innovate, and promote new visions of the American Dream. Let’s hope that future documentaries on Latinos take time to reflect carefully on nothing less than that.