Semana Santa

While a lot of people seem to know about Easter Sunday and the period of time that comes before it, Lent, there is a special time the week before Easter Sunday that not too many people know about. Holy Week,or Semana Santa as some countries call it, is observed in the United States and in Mexico.

Holy Week Celebrations in Texas: Neocatechumenal Way (The Way)
The Neocatechumenal Way is a Catholic form of faith that began in the early 60’s in Madrid, Spain. There are many parishes across the country. In Texas, one parish is located in San Antonio.

Kimberly Uribe, 18, celebrates Holy Week at her local parish. ”Holy week actually has a meaning for me, because on Holy Thursday I am given the opportunity to ask for forgiveness to those I’ve judged or done bad against,” said Uribe.

Holy Week is a four-day Easter celebration. From Thursday to Sunday, Holy Week is commemorates the life and death of Christ. Here’s how the parish in San Antonio celebrates Holy Week:

Holy Thursday: This is represented as the day of the last supper, where Christ washes the feet of all 12 of his disciples. In observance, each community will meet and listen to readings specifically for this day, and after the readings, will have a “washing of the feet” where any member of the community may take the bowl of water and rag in the center of the room, and wash the feet of those they would like to ask for forgiveness from.

Good Friday: This is celebrated as the day that we are invited to reflect on what our “cross” is. Much like how Christ had his cross of eternal suffering, Catholics are asked to question what their cross is. It is during this reflection that some are invited to share their cross and how the day’s readings might have helped them with it.  Much like Thursday, the communities will meet and have corresponding readings, where they will then give personal reflections. As a conclusion, a cross is put at the center of the room, and each member of the community will kneel in front of the cross, pray for their cross, then when they are finished praying, kiss the cross and sit down until everyone who would like to has gone.

“I see the cross present and how my cross is present as well,” Uribe said.

Holy Saturday (the day before Easter): The day before Easter Sunday is a day of fasting, prayer and mass. The entire day before adults and teens will not eat for the entire day until after Easter vigil when they go out to dinner together.

“My favorite is the Vigil,” Uribe said. “Everyone wears their best clothing and is happy because of the resurrection.”

Holy Week in Mexico

Holy Week is very popular in Mexico and observes the same events, but with additional traditions — some of which are inspired by Spain.

Photo Credit: www.explorandomexico.com.mx

Photo Credit: www.explorandomexico.com.mx

One thing in particular, is the two-week vacation that schools get for the week of and the week preceding Easter. The first “holy day” is Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) which falls on the Sunday before Easter. This is part of the reason why schools begin “Easter vacation” the week preceding Easter.  Another unique Mexican tradition is that the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico paint themselves white during Holy Week. There are many additional traditions for Semana Santa that aren’t normally done in the U.S.

In Mexico, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are celebrated differently that from the U.S.

Holy Thursday (Jueves Santo): Similar to the event of washing feet, in Mexico it is not uncommon to see some visit seven churches during Jueves Santo to represent the vigil the apostles held that night.

Good Friday (Viernes Santo): On this day, multiple local passion plays (re-enactment of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus Christ) are held throughout the streets. The reenactments are also known as the “Via Crucis” or passion plays. Passion plays are viewed in some areas of the United States, but it’s very popular in Mexico. In the city of Ixtapalapa, a passion play of over 4,000 local actors is performed where almost 2 million people come and watch.

Holy Saturday (Sabado de Gloria): On Holy Saturday many statues of Mary can be found wearing black dresses because this is represented as the day that Mary is in mourning. Another tradition performed on this day is the burning of Judas for his betrayal of Jesus. On this day, an figure representing an effigy of Judas (often similar to a popular politician) is burnt.

Easter Sunday (Domingo de Pascua)- There is not a lot of festive-like events on this day as it is typically a day where people attend mass and celebrate with their families.

Whether you are religious or not, how do you celebrate Easter?

Latina Feminists in Chicano Movement

The Chicano we are currently hearing about is Cesar Chávez. It is great to see Chicano’s out in the spotlight in Hollywood with the new movie that just premiered about his legacy. But what about the women? What about the Latinas feminists who took a prominent role in the Chicano movement?

Photo credit: doloreshuerta.org

Photo credit: doloreshuerta.org

 

Dolores Huerta was actually one of the most prominent Chicana activists who worked alongside Cesar Chavez in the fight for labor reform for farm and field workers. She co-founded the United Fard Workers (UWF) association with Cesar after founding the Community Service Organization (CSO) to help improve the working conditions of these workers. Additionally, she has also been an important figure in the struggle to repeal the Bracero program, the creation of the California Aguricultural Labor Relations Act, and female/Latina rights. She later founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation in 2002.

 

 

Gloria Anzaldúa

Gloria Anzaldúa

Another Latina feminist who you might have also heard about is Gloria Anzaldúa. Born in South Texas in 1942, Gloria is largely known for her multiple pieces of writings in the form of poetry, children’s books, and novels. The piece she is probably best known is her 1987 semi-autobiographical novel, “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.” This is a book that truly altered the writing world at the time because it introduced the idea of indigenous writing and contributed to the role of feminists and Chicana women in the Chicano movement.

 

 

keynote

Cherrie Moraga

Cherrie Moraga is also a prominent writer of the 1980s due largely to her being one of the first Chicana writers who also identified as Lesbian at that time. She often collaborated with Gloria Anzaldúa and at the time wrote and co-edited her best known book yet with Anzaldúa, “This Bridge Called My Back.” This is considered by many scholars to be one of the most important books about feminist theory of all time.

 

Elma Barrera is probably one of the most important Latina feminists who you have never heard of. In response to all the criticism these Chicana leaders were receiving at the time, Elma said, “I have been told that the Chicana’s struggle is not the same as the white woman’s struggle. I’ve been told that the problems are different and that . . . the Chicana’s energies are needed in the barrio and that being a feminist and fighting for our rights as women and as human beings is anti-Chicano and anti-male.” It was because of these experiences that Elma actually assembled the National Chicana Conference (Conferencia de Mujeres por la Raza), the first Chicana feminist conference ever held. In it’s 1971 debut almost 600 women attended the event at Magnilia Park YMCA in Houston, Texas. The event has slowly grown into a prominent conference in Chicana/Chicano studies.

There are many other Latina feminists who played and continue to play an important role in the Chicano movement and its legacy. It is important to actively seek the knowledge brought upon by these women through their works of writing and their activism. Without these women, where would we, Latinas, be today?

5 STEM Summer Programs

Photo Credit: ruthcatchen.wordpress.com

Photo Credit: ruthcatchen.wordpress.com

Do you find an interest in academic subjects such as math, science, engineering, and other technical classes? Summer is just around the corner and there are so many opportunities to enjoy utilizing your skills at fun and engaging summer camps such as these:

G.R.A.D.E. Camp

This camp is being hosted by the Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston

and is week-long daytime program is tailored towards females who are entering the 8th-12th grade. It introduces girls to engineering by providing them with hands-on activities such as building robots. It is a good way to experience something new and to be exposed to a little bit of what engineers do in their jobs. By the end of the camp, you will even have created your own robot that can make its way through a maze! The campy begins June 9th. The application is on a first come first serve basis so apply now at www.egr.uh.edu!

STEP Forward Camp

This camp is supported by the Program for Mastery in Engineering Studies at the University of Houston and is a one-week camp for students entering the 12th grade. This camp requires that the participants stay overnight on campus in a dormitory at the university. The camp follows a curriculum which includes projects, field trips, and panel discussions.The application is currently open and is based on essays, transcripts, and other criteria. Apply here!

Engineering and Computer Science Summer Camps 2014

These camps are located at the University of Texas at Arlington and are both fun and educational. In these week-long camps, students are exposed to engineering and its different fields such as aerospace, biomedical, and civil.The camps involve taking field trips so that the student are exposed to the different working environments. Students are also given the opportunity to become involved in projects and other hands-on activities. Applications are due as early as April 1 so apply here!

STEM Quest Summer Camp II

This camp is for 9th and 10th grade students and is hosted by the University of Texas Medical Branch. The camp involves activities that expand a student’s knowledge and experience in biotechnology, bioengineering, nanotechnology, and health sciences. Such activities may include bacterial transformation and PCR (polymerase chain reaction)/Gel electrophoresis/DNA fingerprinting. These activities will be problem-based and investigative which also involves gaining increased knowledge in laboratory skills. The application deadline is April 7!

Residential Junior Summer Math Camp

This program at Texas State University is for 6th-8th grade students but the student must be at least 12 years of age. This camp is designed to help students who already show a great interest in math to become creative and critical thinkers. They encourage students to pursue goals that are math inclined. Since the number of spots available are limited for this camp, do not wait to apply! Deadline is April 15.

Go ahead and take advantage of these great opportunities! They are a way to add some excitement to your summer and also become familiar with the subjects you are most interested in.

Shark in the Water

Olympic_Swimming_Pool_-_Fast_LaneThe worst case scenario of a hot day in summer is to go to a pool or lake and not know how to swim. Linda Carrillo, 12, says, “When I was 4, my mom took me to the local YMCA so that I could learn to swim. Since then, I try to go with friends who also know how to swim. Everyone needs to learn to swim.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), about one in five children die who are under the age of fourteen, but what is more alarming is that the statistics for minorities drowning is higher than other ethnicities.

This could be due to a number of factors so taking precaution before heading swimming is needed. Yvette Sanchez, 13, and her younger sister Lorena, 5, attend the local swimming pool most days of the week, alone. This means that they head to the pool without a parent to watch over them.

Lorena says, “My big sister watches me. Plus I have these floaties on my arms.”

Despite this, Sanchez admits that she herself has not learned to swim. She says, “I can dog paddle, but not swim. I should learn. That is why I come here, to the pool. To learn and teach myself and my sister one day at a time.”

According to CDC, public pools have the highest numbers of drownings due to lack of supervision by adults or lifeguards. Rosita, 19, a lifeguard at Imperial Valley pool says, “There are three of us on duty. I sit here [on a bench] and Mark and Jesse patrol the pool.”

Sanchez says, “I think the lifeguards are cool. I wish they would get in the water or watch us from those high seats, but they are there, always watching so I am not too scared.”

Despite this, many children and parents who head to the local pool to relax, often forget that lack of barriers, wearing lifejackets and lack of swimming lessons results exists in case of an emergency.

Jackie, 15, a weekend regular at this pool says, “It gets pretty packed on the weekends here. I sometimes have to stop my swimming and make sure my little sisters still have their floaties on and are close by me. There are six or seven families in one area. The lifeguards are as old as I am. How are all three of them going to make sure these seven families are safe without really trying to be a part of the solution?”

Jackie adds, “That is why when we hear a whistle or hear the lifeguard yelling, we know we have to stop. Learning to swim has also made me and my little sisters feel safer. They are fast swimmers too!”

Research has shown that swimming lessons do help. Take lessons before going to a pool alone. Learn CPR and wear life jackets or use goggles and sunblock to prevent accidents from occurring. Have a safe time at your local pool, but remember with caution.

Influential Latinas

March is an important month to honor women who fought for what they believed in and made a difference in the world. These Latinas never gave up, didn’t take no for an answer, and kept trying to change the world.

Jovita_Idár1. Jovita Idar (September 7, 1885- June 15, 1946) American journalist, a civil rights worker reported discrimination against Mexican children for her father’s newspaper, “La Cronica”In 1911 she co-founded “La liga femenil mexicanista” which she was the first president to. She created free schools for Mexican children and also helped the poor. During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), she entered Mexico only to care for the wounded along the border and later organized the “White Cross” that gave aid to wounded soldiers on both sides. She fought for the civil rights of Mexican-Americans while also being part of the “Primer Congreso Mexicanista” which fought inequality and racism.

Photo credit: Judybaca.com

Photo credit: Judybaca.com

2. Judith F. Baca (September 20, 1946), an American Chicana artist, organized over 1,000 young people in Los Angeles to create more than 250 murals citywide. She was determined to give every person a voice in art and urban culture. Baca used murals and artwork to make people feel at home, and in 1970 she gave art bridge to a neighborhood in Boyle Heights. In the first team she created she had twenty members from four different gangs and brought them together by a general view of the art they would make.

Photo credit: doloreshuerta.org

Photo credit: doloreshuerta.org

3. Dolores Huerta (April 10, 1930) labor leader and civil rights activist, alongside of Cesar Chavez co-founded the United Farm Workers, she received plenty of recognition for her many hours spent in fighting for women’s’ rights. On June 5, 1968 Huerta was present in Robert F. Kennedy’s victory speech where a few meters apart from Huerta, he got shot and died. In September 1988, Huerta was beaten by the San Francisco Police officers during a peaceful protest of president George W. Bush, she was severely damaged and in need of significant surgeries. In 1997 she was named one of the three most important women of the year by Ms. Magazine and a year later recognized as one of the 100 most important along with leaders such as Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks, and Indira Gandhi.

Photo credit: Biography.com

Photo credit: Biography.com

4. Rita Moreno (December 11, 1931) actress, the only Hispanic and one of few to have won all four major annual American entertainment awards including an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony, and second Puerto Rican to win an Academy Award. When she was just 11 years old she put her voice into Spanish language versions of American films. By the time she was 13 she had her first Broadway role in “Skydrift”, March 1954 she was featured on the cover of “Life” magazine with only 23 years of age.

 

selena-quintanilla

5. Selena Quintanilla (April 19, 1971- March 31 1995) singer, by age 14 she recorded her first album for a record company although she was not signed. Her father took her out of school in the eighth grade and at seventeen got her high school diploma by the American School Program. In 1987 Selena won Best Female Vocalist at the “Tejano Music Awards” and two years later she got signed. At the top of her career, Selena visited local schools to talk to students on the importance of education, while she was getting involved with children and families, she won the hearts of millions of fans. In 1995 she scheduled her English album to release in the summer, earlier in the year she got shot by her former fan club president and caused her death two weeks before her 24th birthday. Two days later it was in the front cover of The New York Times, her funeral brought 60,000 people, and on her birthday, George W. Bush, governor of Texas, declared her birthday, April 12th, to be known as the “Selena Day”.

These brave Latina leaders continue to be an inspiration to thousands of people. They never gave up on their dreams, they fought for what they believed in, and still live in people’s hearts like the good role models they are.

 

The Baby Debate

1000537_BOTBANK13583_A_400Abortion is a touchy subject and it’s hard enough trying not to accidentally offend someone in terms of their religion or otherwise.  There are always people on either side of the debate who will try to persuade you to agree with them, but you should decide your own stance on the topic based on your morals.

What exactly does Pro-Choice and Pro-Life mean?

Pro-Choice is a social stance on the abortion debate that advocates for a woman’s right to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Members of the Pro-Choice movement are against laws being made restricting abortion. 87% of US counties have no abortion center and without these few facilities women may go to extreme and unsafe lengths to end their pregnancy.

“Making abortion illegal is the last thing the government should do because women will do it anyway and instead they’ll try dangerous things without medical professionals there to help them. Since I want them to keep it legal, they should have facilities for abortion so that medical professionals will be there and nothing bad will happen to the women because that’s what’s important,” said 16 Sophia Quiroga, 16.

Now, there is a difference between being supportive of abortion and being Pro-Choice. Not all members of the Pro-Choice community are advocators of abortion; they simply see the issue as a human rights, and feminist, dilemma.

“I’m Pro-Choice because, even though I don’t think anyone should be killing fetuses, I don’t think it’s my place to decide that for somebody else. People who are Pro-Life think that you shouldn’t kill a baby and in some ways I do agree, but I think that they also forget, not in all cases, that just because you believe in something doesn’t mean you can force someone else to go under your beliefs,” said Quiroga.

Pro-Life on the other hand is a movement that promotes the “right to life” of a human fetus.  Most members of this community form their stance based on moral or religious values. The claim to their position is that the human fetus, within the seven to twelve weeks that is deemed safe for abortion, is alive and that terminating a pregnancy is an assassination. They believe that it’s unfair for the fetus to not be given a chance at life. Members of the Pro-Choice community participate in a yearly event known as the “Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity” where they put red tape over their mouths to represent the fetuses that had no say in their life.

“We have the freedom of religion and it’s wrong that someone’s religion should be implemented in the government. I believe that everyone is entitled to their own option [for abortion] because maybe it’s not in their best interest to have a baby and going through with it would be too much for them, and that’s why I’m Pro-Choice. Congress shouldn’t be able to control a woman’s body,” said Daniela Martinez, 15.

The issue of abortion and how it should be handled in the government has been an ongoing topic for a very long time. Texas isn’t the only state that has tried to put restrictions on abortions; states such as Alabama, Michigan, and Louisiana have also made bills concerning it. The bills attempted to shut down the clinics in their state and make abortion illegal.Attempting to understand controversial topics is one of the main reasons why people avoid them. It’s important to be well-informed about the pro-choice/pro-life debate so you can form an educated opinion on the matter.

International Women’s Day Celebrations

Photo Credit: AAUW

Photo Credit: AAUW

Women make up about 55 percent of the world. While that may seem like the larger portion of the population, women have more often been considered a minority instead of people with power.  International  Women’s Day is a celebration that occurs every 8th of March around the world with the idea to raise awareness towards gender equality by showcasing what it is to be a woman.

While the day might be celebrated worldwide, it actually began as part of a protest by a group of women in New York City. At that time, women were struggling to receive civil rights that are most taken advantage of such as voting and work equality. The protest lasted almost 13 weeks.

The first official International Women’s Day was celebrated  in March 19, 1911. The campaign led to both men and women gathering worldwide in countries such as Austria in Germany to celebrate the official holiday. During the years of World War I, Russian women were forced to celebrate International Women’s Day on February 28th, 1913. Because of this, it was determined that the International Women’s Day date of celebration would be on the 8th of March of each year.

Workers get the day off work in countries such as Armenia and Mongolia. In countries like China though, only women get the day free. Just like Valentine’s Day, roses are the typical flower that is given to women as a gift. Apart from other countries, many non-profit organizations in the U.S. like to raise money for organizations assisting women.

The International Women’s Day celebration has grown into a day where women are honored with gifts by their husbands and children and participate in rallies and events all over the world. This year marks more than 100 years of this worldwide celebration.

Wonder Women

Your whole life you’ve heard of this super hero they call Wonder Woman; a mysterious female with a strong character who fights for justice, peace and the good of humanity. The perfect role model is based off of her characteristics, and whether you know nothing about her or you’re her number one fan, Wonder Woman is a cherished American figure that has helped spark hope in the lives of women everywhere.

Photo Credit: wonderwomendoc.com

Photo Credit: wonderwomendoc.com

Recently, Wonder Woman’s writer took on a new face, and gender. The ever so popular heroine was written by a male and had always been written by one until now. While reading about this well awaited change in Wonder Woman’s makeup, Kathy Guevara-Flanagan, Director and Producer of various films and documentaries such as El Corrido de Cecilia Rios and Going on 13, decided to research further into the history of the courageous action hero. Guevara-Flanagan directed the documentary Wonder Women! The Untold Story of Superheroines, and found that Wonder Woman’s influences spanned beyond the comic book page.

Wonder Woman: Justice and Equality
Guevara-Flanagan wanted “to touch on how women’s roles have changed through women’s movements by representation.” While researching Wonder Woman, Guevara-Flanagan realized her most important values are beneficial to today’s society.

“Wonder Woman was really interested in justice and equality, she can be a good symbol for that… part of her mythology was that she was sent here to help us be better people,” said Guevara-Flanagan.

Guevara-Flanagan also described Wonder Woman as an intellectual who was interested in diplomacy and not brute force. Guevara-Flanagan states how Wonder Woman was “Interested in the fact that villains in the superhero world can be reformed or changed.” Wonder Woman’s values are what persevered throughout the years, even though they might have been lost in the background once in a blue moon

Wonder Woman is originally Princess Diana of Themyscira, a planet and home to peaceful and logical women. When humans crash and land on Themyscira, the survivors inform the women of war and suffering on the planet earth. This is where princess Wonder Woman decides to help the humans and fight for justice and peace. The creator of Wonder Woman, psychologist William Moulton Marston, created Wonder Woman with the intentions of creating an awareness for working women during the war. Without knowing it, Wonder Woman became a feminist icon as she fought for women equality and strength.

In the documentary, Wonder Woman is described as a contradiction and an idealistic concept, Guevara-Flanagan states. Wonder Woman is made up of feminine commodities that most girls would have wanted as their own, and in the 1940s this was a breakthrough for girls everywhere.

DC-comic-original1-8285

Wonder Woman is originally dressed in hardly anything, a corset and booty shorts, but she is equipped with powerful accessories that mean business. There is the Lasso of Truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, a tiara that serves as a projectile weapon, and in some cases she has an invisible airplane.

“She is dressed pretty provocatively, wore very little, and there are ways in which her powers are compromised …. men created her and don’t see them (women) as equal … The TV shows, cartoons and comics largely created by men don’t exactly know what to do with her,” shares Guevara-Flanagan.

Wonder Woman as a Role Model

Guevara-Flanagan commented how wonder woman is a role model to hit TV series characters, and would not be what they are if it weren’t for her values brought from planet Themyscira.

“Female action heroes take from her … Buffy and Xena wouldn’t exist without her…. They (women) need to be seen outside the domestic sphere,” she adds.

Wonder Woman was the first female superhero to emerge in the United States and not only did she influence comic book history, but she transformed literature and television characters.

“Wonder Woman is a trailblazer … there weren’t that many women (even in literature) until that point. Stepping outside that point and being seen as a hero, she’s a precedent in that sense,” said Guevara-Flanagan.

Once women saw that they could work and survive on their own, outside of the house, they were able to apply that to their own lives and change. Today, the comic book world has many heroines and female villains that the female readership has grown immensely.

“Now females are more interested in comics. Women are going to more comic conventions and asking for more… there’s an audience there and creators need to speak to that audience,” said Guevara-Flanagan.

An awareness of and for women is being spread and interests are expanding; girls are becoming aware of their own story.

Future Latina Filmmakers

For girls who want a future in film, documentaries or the type of media, to want to create and share their own story, Guevara-Flanagan has some suggestions for Latina readers.

“Don’t be afraid of technology. A lot of women, girls, or people of color are afraid of picking up a camera… You have to be passionate and motivated and still put in the hard work. Commit to collaborate with others. I like working closely with producers because they can support me… Reach out to any mentors … a lot of Latina directors will be willing to lend a hand,” she adds.

Guevara-Flanagan wanted to send a message through he work describing how the media influences all of our society, and how girls need to be seen as an important audience with opinions, ideas, and comments of their own to expand on and learn from. Wonder Woman was a personal exploration that turned into something more, a message to fellow women.

Guevara-Flanagan grew up Latina and wanted to represent and make changes happen in the female and Hispanic arena.  Guevara-Flanagan states how she wanted to “Highlight the great discrepancies that still exist out there but also comment on the great potential out there.” She also urges viewers to “Watch the media critically there are some great organizations that tract the disparity that the females are being subjected to.”

Girls have been calling out to their sister audience and attempting to inform them of the female potential. Although the journey has been a roller coaster of support, ever since the creation of Wonder Woman there is still a need for the presence of a strong female role.

Latina/o Theater Commons Conference

Photo Credit: LTC, http://howlround.com/latina/o-theatre-commons

Photo Credit: LTC, http://howlround.com/latina/o-theatre-commons

On the 31st of October, my mother and I went to the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre at the Emerson Paramount Center in Boston for a very important conference. The Latina/o Theater Commons (LTC) was a conference that brought seventy-five Latina/o actors, directors, producers, playwrights, designers, and scholars traveling from all regions of the Untied States.   My mother, Amparo Garcia-Crow, was one of the invited artists representing the Southwest.  They came together to speak of their stories, history, triumphs and challenges as Latina/o artistic creators and visionaries.  Together they shared their visions and plans to inspire diversity and inclusion in the industry which traditionally under represents Latina/o artists. This unique gathering was the first since 1986.  

Looking back ,now I could think of no better way to spend my Halloween night.  I had traveled to Boston to visit relatives while my mother participated in the conference, but, on the day I was supposed to get picked up by my aunt, my aunt was unable to reach me as planned. The Boston Red Sox won the world championship that weekend and the city was completely wrapped up in celebration; traffic was even more packed due to all of the festivities,and it was very clear that no one was going in or out of the city until everything had calmed down. Consequently, I had no other option but to attend the opening ceremony.

On arrival we were greeted warmly and given a program with the names of the distinguished participants and their accomplishments. We left our coats outside the black box theater in the lobby, something I was not use to.  Living in Texas all of my life, I was quite a stranger to these new customs and the cold.  Many of these places in Massachusetts asking for your coat was unfamiliar to me. In that moment, I remember a brief feeling of privilege, fantasizing importance as I took off my warm fuzzy gloves and shed my jacket to be looked after outside the theater. As we entered I did not fail to notice the altar to the far side of the room, decorated with light, sheer colorful scarves and in the center a decorated skull in celebration of the “El Dia de Los Muertos” (Day of the Dead), which was also occurring.

As I looked around the room, I saw more and more people gather in the center introducing and speaking quietly with each other.

When almost all of the guests had arrived, the opening ceremony began. A man stepped into the circle, a man I now know as the renowned Luis Valdez, an American playwright, actor, writer and film director.  Regarded as the father of Chicano theater in the United States, some of his works include Zoot Suit, his movie La Bamba and the creation of his own company El Teatro Campesino.

El Teatro Campesino

Founded in 1965 on the Delano Grape Strike picket lines of Cesar Chavez’s United Farmworkers Union, El Teatro Campesino produced shorts skits and plays that honored the struggles and shared lives of the farm workers.  Even though these were serious topics, the skits and plays were presented comically to the farmworkers so that they could become motivated to liberate their oppressive working conditions. The company eventually took the actors on tour, performing and educating mixed audiences about the conditions of the farm workers.

Back at the conference, Valdez took center stage and gathered the participants into a large circle. Being the cultured man that he is, he discussed the four directions and spoke in a native language that was neither English or Spanish.   When he translated what he said, he referred to the Mayan belief that says: “You are my other self.” He then led the group activity. We were asked to turn together towards each direction and he gave a short explanation on what each direction symbolized creativity and spirituality. I remember thinking about how much presence he held, his life experience and passion that helped him create such wonderful pieces in his fifty-two years of Chicano theatre.

In any field, Luis Valdez is a marvel to behold.

When we finished the four directions, he asked the participants to address the circle and present their altar offerings.  My mother reached for hers from her bag and the others went to retrieve theirs.  The circle came together as a whole once more.  Valdez invited everyone to stand at the mic and describe their altar pieces before placing them on the decorated structure.

“Surya, when it’s my turn to go up, you’re coming with me,” my mother whispered in my ear. I nodded quickly, cheeks slightly rosy.

I remember a few people’s offerings in particular.  One participant, David Lozano, Executive Artistic Director for Cara Mia Theatre Company in Dallas, chose to walk around the room meeting each person’s eyes as he spoke.  I remember logging: “actor!”   Another noteworthy presenter was a gentleman by the name of Jose Carrasquillo, a director from Washington DC, who held up a tiny cow with a rainbow flag that he told the group he rubs for good luck before every performance that he directs. He stated comically, “It’s a gay cow!”before placing it proudly on the altar as an offering of luck for everyone involved.

When it was my mother’s turn she took my hand and led me to the middle of the circle. She showed the group a paper hand held fan with her New York Times review and pictures of her plays all taped together with a package of Texas wild seeds. She explained that some ‘seeds’ are carried to unknown places by the wind, referring to even my presence at this gathering. And what roots or blooms is beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

The next morning my aunt picked me up as scheduled, and even though I did not participate in the rest of the week-end activities many others who did not attend benefited from the live streaming.  Groups from the four directions witnessed the beautifully dictated words, and passion representing the diversity of the Latina/o experience. Our friends at Emerson College said, “Participants represent the multifaceted community, tracing their roots to many nations.” And because Emerson College helped support the conference by hosting it and supporting the theater-makers to convene, the message itself inspired their on-going collaboration with more conferences and activities to come.

Hispanic and Proud

Photo Credit: http://culturestrike.net/whos-afraid-of-the-tempest

Photo Credit: http://culturestrike.net/whos-afraid-of-the-tempest

Written by Karina Gonzalez

There is a lot of debate about the law passed in Arizona banning ethnic studies. The law states that Tucson, Arizona school district is banning all ethnic study programs that may create an uprising, discriminates against a certain race of people, and are made to specifically tailor to a certain race. There are people who protested this law when it was a bill, and now there are people who will continue to protest and fight this law. In 2011, a group of Latinos protested the law at a Tucson unified school district meeting. At this meeting they were going to vote to dismantle a Mexican-American history class. During the meeting the protestors stood up and ran to the stage, where they proceeded to chain themselves to the desks. There were a couple of security members that attempted to stop them, however they were unable to because the protestors had attached their chains to the people next to them.

 The many problems with this law 

In 2012 Peter Rothberg of The Nation wrote, “Over the past year, teachers, students and administrators have come together to challenge Horne’s ruling.” It’s obvious that even though the new law was created to lessen discrimination, there just seems to be more of it. Andrea Gonzalez, a freshman in high school, said that she found it shocking that anyone would ban a program that would obviously help students in their academic life.

Feelings of discrimination arise when there is limited Hispanic representation in the construction of a law. Alexa Gutierrez ,a junior in high school, said that she believes this plan will backfire on them in these two ways. Firstly, students will feel that their rights are being violated, so they protest, and they rebel against the government, which is exactly what they were “supposedly” trying to prevent. Or, secondly, the drop-out rate of Hispanics and other minorities will rise considerably. She also stated that both could happen because of this law.

In these programs, there was a 100% high school graduation rate and also an 82% college placement rate (The Nation)This is pretty amazing, because it can boast that all of the students participating in these programs graduated from high school and most of them went or are going to college. Granted, Latinos do not make up much of the population that graduates from high school, this school district was able to get every single one of their student to graduate high school. This in turn means that there would have been more Latinos that have good paying jobs. Gradually, over time, the first thing that people think when they hear Latino, or Mexican, or Chicano would not be ghetto.

Consequences of Banning Ethnic Studies

The consequences of this law are going to either be drastic or non-existent. Like Alexa stated earlier, there are going to be two ways that this law will backfire on them.

1.  There could be rebellions and protest against the law

2. There could be a rise in drop-outs, due to the fact that some of these programs are the only reason that some students stayed in school

3. Or possibly both

There could also be no change in drop-out rates and protests, however, this is very unlikely.

Andrea had a very good question; she wants to know why the officials who passed this law thought that students would rebel from reading books and attending classes that showed/told a different story. This is a good question to ask, because it shows that the officials who passed this law have little to no faith in students.

In early November , when the news first broke out that they passed the law, my English teacher (a white male), was outraged that they passed the law. So, he had us read a few chapters from The Tempest by William Shakespear; it is one of the books that are banned from being used in Tucson. He states that though society is verbally opposed to discrimination, it won’t necessarily stop them from doing it.

He also read a few pages from Borderlands/La Frontera, the New Mestiza by Gloria Anzuldúa. She grew up in the 1960’s and the first page he read to us from was her getting in trouble for telling her teacher how to pronounce her name properly. Samantha Benitez, 17, said that though she realizes times were different when Gloria Anzuldúa was growing up, it was good that she was willing to stand up for Latinos. At the end of the class period, Serrina Guerra, 17, said that she thought it was good that our teacher encouraged us to talk about topics like this in school. She also said that it was good to know that though he may not be a minority, he is one at heart.

It‘s hard for Americans to know that we once discriminated so openly and freely, and it’s also hard to think about the fact that people are still discriminating other ethnicities. It still happens, and the ban on ethnic studies is an amazing example of this. What Latina/o as a minority race need to do is stand up for what we want and we need to reach for the stars, because discrimination still exists and we need to end it.

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