Film Review: “Sleep Dealer”

Award-winning independent film by Alex Rivera, “Sleep Dealer,” takes the viewer to a futuristic, dystopian society through the eyes of oppressed migrant workers. Luis Fernando Peña stars as Memo Cruz, living in Oaxaca and Jacob Vargas as Rudy Ramirez, a U.S. military drone pilot.

The film written by Alex Rivera and David Riker explore a technologically advanced world where water resources are no longer local rights, with corporations controlling its distribution. Memories have also become a luxury in the sci-fi setting. Trading companies buy memories and people sell them through what is called nodes, a digital way to enter networks and work in factories.

Set in mostly Mexico and along the California border, both the lives of Memo and Rudy intersect. Memo helps his father grow crops while he’s self-taught in technology¬— his passion. When his knack for hacking results in U.S. retaliation, Rudy takes control on his first mission and targets unknown “aqua-terrorists,” resulting in the death of Memo’s father.

The plot explores both lives as Memo flees his hometown and Rudy copes with the realization that the enemy has a face. Memo then meets Luz Martinez, portrayed by Leonor Varela, who makes a living by selling her memories. She helps Memo by acquiring nodes illegally to allow him to work. Her friendly gesture has ulterior motives as she uploads her encounters with Memo per request of an interested memory buyer, Rudy.

“Sleep Dealer” approaches immigration on a whole new sci-fi perspective. Drones improve military tactics and also replace skilled laborers. Many migrant workers however, work in factories that power the drones. Nodes are also an example of exploitation, where those who need money, succumb to selling their personal memories for the benefit of others. It resembles unfair labor trades.

Memo’s character endures exploitation, much to the benefit of the interested U.S. audience. Such examples of commodifying migrant labor underlie throughout the film as American television shows amuse audiences with attacks on “aqua-terrorists” — a term given to anyone who threatens their water supply.

It instills the paradoxical thought that both may exist as a result of the other. Similar to present politics, immigration is considered for the labor but the equality is negated. The film resonates the idea that immigrants are very much “othered” by the majority, an idea that translated into the future.

“Sleep Dealer” was released in 2008 and is rated PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned) for sexuality and violence. This film was reviewed for Latinitas Magazine. 

Quiz: Classic Latin American Novels

Do you want to have access to the finest minds of previous generations? Read the classics. And why not start at home, with some iconic Latin American and Spanish novelists. Reading classic novels is like having a glimpse into the past, and as proven by history, when we know about the past we work towards a better future.

Take the quiz below to be inspired by literary geniuses! Want to know more? Don’t be afraid to pick a random name from the multiple choices and go further with some research of your own because you might be surprised at the amazing life stories behind these familiar names.

Ready?

 

1. This classic novel, was written by an iconic Spanish novelist whose date of death is the same as William Shakespeare’s. Sancho Panza is one of these novels most recognizable characters. Don Quixote was written by–

() Gustavo Doré

() Miguel de Cervantes

() Carlos Fuentes

 

2. A Chilean writer whose works often contain touches of “magic realism”, for this reason she has been compared to Gabriel García Márquez. In her debut novel she tells the story of four generations of the Trueba family, mostly told from the perspective of Esteban and Alba. The House of Spirits / La Casa de los Espíritus was written by—

() Isabel Allende

() Magda Bogin

() Laura Esquivel

 

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude is considered this authors masterpiece and made him worthy of the highly acclaimed Nobel Prize for Literature. His masterpiece has been described by critics “as the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” One Hundred Years of Solitude / Cien Años de Soledad was written by—

() Gabriel García Márquez

() Luisa Valenzuela

() Gonzalo Lira

4.  In her debut novel, this Mexican novelist tells the story of how a family tradition impedes Tita of marrying the love of her life. The novel is characteristic for using magical realism and embedding it to everyday life story lines. Like Water for Chocolate / Como Agua Para Chocolate was written by—

() Carol Christensen

() Laura Esquivel

() Nicolasa Mohr


5.  In 1948 this Argentinian writer published a dark and psychological novel about a man, Juan Pablo Castel, who was obsessed with a women. Famous novelist and philosopher, Albert Camus, supported this novel. The Tunnel / El Túnel was written by—

() William Golding

() Graham Greene

() Ernesto Sabato

6. Through his writing this Brazilian novelist inspires many of his readers to never abandon their dreams. His writings range from psychological dramas to self-improvement books. The Alchemist / El Alquimista was written by—

() Paulo Coehlo

() Georgi Parvanov

() Luan Santana

7. This 1878 novel explores worlds complexities from a moral perspective. Overtime this Spanish classic has been adapted into plays, movies and teleno velas. Marianela was written by—

() Benito Pérez Galdós

()  Blanco Reyes

()  Javier Escajedo

8. Published in the year 1499, this text was written in dialogue form with the intention to critique the servants of the low nobility. The novels main characters are Celestina and Melibea. La Celestina was written by—

() Pedro Calderón

() Fernando de Rojas

()  Tirso de Molina

 

9. This Spanish play was first published in Madrid in the year 1619. In addition, A popular Soviet play titled, Laurencia was influenced by this playwright. Fuenteovejuna was written by—

() Mauricio Vega

( )  Felix Cruz

() Lope de Vega

 

10. A Spanish language play, published in 1635. The play is a philosophical allegory that explores life’s mysteries through its iconic characters of Rosaura, Segismundo and Clotaldo. Life is A Dream/La Vida es Sueño was written by—

 

( )  Milo Vladimir

() Pedro Calderón

( )  Leo Caro

 

Answer Key:
1. Miguel Cervantes
2. Isabel Allende
3. Gabriel García Márquez
4. Laura Esquivel
5. Ernesto Sabato
6. Paulo Coehlo
7. Benito Pérez Galdós
8. Fernando de Rojas
9. Lope de Vega
10. Pedro Calderón

 

Minorities in “Glee”

The Fox Network’s T.V. show Glee is known for its appreciation for the “underdog” during its past four seasons. Glee has featured members from many different walks of life, including several cast members whom identify with being a minority and being “different.” The cast features the talented Naya Rivera (African, Puerto-Rican and German), Amber Riley (African-American), and Jenna Ushkowitz (Korean) to name a few. While this show is about representing people from different ethnicities and backgrounds it portrays minorities in a way that doesn’t necessarily label their personalities as direct associations with their race.

“The majority of the time they are portrayed in a positive way … [that shows] they are just like everyone else, and even though they may be flawed they should use that in their favor,” 18 year-old Marina Delgado said.

As one of the key characters in the earlier seasons, Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones) played a character much like other high-school girls. Her character would occasionally come across situations where she would bring attention to her race, but would also focus on the importance loving yourself and your body. The series portrays Mercedes as a plus-size African-American “diva.” Until the recent season, Mercedes constantly competed with Glee Club’s Spanish-Italian lead singer, Lea Michele (Rachel Berry), for solos. To some she might be considered a diva, but it doesn’t pull focus that she is a talented and driven woman of color who deserves recognition.

“I like the minorities in Glee and I see them portrayed [in a positive manner], but I can see how they can be seen as stereotypical and negative to other viewers because they may be offended more easily. I think they are portrayed that way because the writers are really trying to show diversity in the show and connect with people on a more intimate and personal level,” 19 year-old Monica Lee Manriquez said.

Mercedes Jones ends up being among one of the most talented singers in the Glee Club, along with Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz). The show’s minorities are not solely represented by their race. They are given additional traits teens can identify with and it widens the spectrum and diversity of audience members their character can connect to. For teens with a speech impediment, Ushkowitz’s character is relatable. For teens struggling with their sexuality, Naya Rivera’s sheds light as an LGBT teen in a culture that generally does not welcome LGBT youth.

“I do believe the characters are very realistic. With Brittney we can see the typical ignorance that people think blonde Caucasians have, however at the same time Brittany teaches the audiences that there is more than what meets the eye,” Delgado said.

“Inside these ethnicities, the Glee creators have added so many twists to each character by making them posses characteristics that add more to their character from the already established ethnicity background,” Delgado adds.

Portrayal of Hispanics in Glee

Naya Rivera plays one of the only publicly Hispanic characters on the show, Santana Lopez – an outspoken cheerleader who later comes out as a Lesbian. Santana’s sassiness at times crosses the line into bullying, but Delgado argues her character continues to grow with each season.

“It shows how Santana has grown to love this club thanks to their acceptance of her being a lesbian; the Glee Club were the only people who stood by her and showed her it is okay to be different, which was something very difficult for Santana due to her Hispanic roots, as being a lesbian is not acceptable in that culture,” Delgado said.

“I personally enjoy the portrayal of Santana the Hispanic girl. There have been times they have exaggerated her Mexican-ess by having her go off yelling in Spanish, or using stereotypical Mexican terms such as “my Mexican third eye.” I understand they are trying to highlight her roots and show that she is proud of her ethnicity however sometimes by promoting they culture you can make the mistake of being stereotypical and offending the viewer,” Delgado adds.

Glee has incorporated additional Hispanic themed traits into the show. In one episode, the show had a Spanish-themed episode where Rivera and Ricky Martin sing “La Isla Bonita” as a duet while they tangoed with each other.

While the show may promote diversity and the portrayals of different minorities, there have been instances where their effort to promote diversity has backfired.

“In [the Spanish] episode they sing nothing but music from Latin musicians, however in the Bamboleo/Hero duet the Gleeks are dressed up in boots and salsa jackets, which at the moment was very funny however, was very ignorant of them to do for a club that is promoting equality,” Delgado said.

While some viewers may argue that Glee stereotypes cultures, like in the Spanish episode.

One thing is clear: Glee, unlike most shows on Primetime, promotes cultures and the importance of accepting yourself for who you are.

5 Books Worth Reading this Summer

Summer break can mean a couple things and it all depends on who you ask. For some, summer break means going out of town, and if you fall under that category then you are lucky. However, for everyone else there is another way to travel and the best part is you don’t have to unpack when you come back home! Take a creative and mental vacation by reading a good book. If you are an avid reader or a person who reads for pleasure, below is a list of interesting and exciting young adult novels that you can read while on break!

1) Chain Reaction:  A Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles: This is a great novel if you’re looking for a love story with a twist.

Chain reaction tells the story through the perspective of Luis Fuentes and Nikki Cruz. Luis tries to walk the line and do good. He has big dreams of becoming an astronaut. Nikki follows two rules when it comes to dating boys, her number one rule  is to never trust a boy who says “I love you.”  Her second rule is to never date a boy from the South side of Fairfield. Luis takes the challenge of winning over Nikki; however, conflict arises and a dark future calls Luis, will Luis continue on his righteous path or follow his brothers footsteps into a dark world he is foreign to?

 

2) The Downside of Being Charlie by Jenny Torres Sanchez: This novel is ideal for the teen in high school who finds themselves in an awkward stage of life.

Charlie is in his senior year of high school. Even though things should be looking up since he has lost thirty pounds over the summer, they are not. Charlie must still deal with the name calling, which happens to be “Chunks.” The worst part about the year is that his mother has disappeared, and it’s not the first time. To add to the mix, his father doesn’t want to talk about it. To top it all off, Charlie has a crush on the new girl in school, the beautiful Charlotte VanderKleaton; however, he doesn’t know if she likes him back. There is one thing in Charlie’s life that doesn’t totally suck this year: his new found talent of photography. Will Charlie make it through the year with only one good thing going for him?

 

3) Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia. This film has been adapted into a film and is being premiered on Valentines Day! However, this is an unconventional love story.

When Lena Duchannes moves into the small  Southern town’s oldest and infamous plantation in Gatlin, she can’t help but stand out from the rest. Lena struggles with an old family curse that has haunted her family for generations and is having a hard time concealing her powers. At the same time, Ethan Wate, who also lives in the Gatlin, has been having dreams of a beautiful girl that he has never met before. When he meets Lena he feels an unexplainable connection between them, what is behind the connection is a secret they will soon uncover.

 

 

4) Gringolandia by Lyn Miller. This novel hits home for most Latinita readers who have immigrant family members or are immigrants from another country themselves.

Daniel and his family have been living in the U.S since 1980, due to fleeing rom Chile due to Daniel’s papá’s arrest. In the United States Daniel has a completely new life. He’s in a rock band and even has a new girlfriend, Courtney. He also hopes to soon become a citizen of the U.S when he turns eighteen. However, Daniel’s father is released from jail and is exiled to “Gringolandia.” Papá is conflicted by the torture and experiences he went through in prison. Daniel worries that his father’s path of alcohol abuse and self destruction will only worsen and he will never be able to have the ideal father-son relationship with his dad. Will Courtney’s plan to start a bilingual human rights paper only stir things up more with Papá?

 

5) Choke by Diana Lopez. This novel is for teens interested in an unconventional friendships.

Windy wants to change everything about herself, if only her parents would let her. Windy is in the eighth grade and wishes to get highlights in her hair, wear make up and change her wardrobe, but nothing seems to change. Everything is the same until one day when Nina, the popular and confident girl at school, befriends Windy. Windy’s life changes drastically, she gains new friends and is even asked by Nina to be “breath sisters,” although Windy is unsure of what that means she still wants to discover what it is. However, this new crowd of friends and life comes with a dangerous price.

Las Comadres and Count on Me

There are many times in a person’s life when being alone isn’t enough and a comforting ear is needed. Las Comadres is an organization that grew with women in need of a good listener. It is a national network of women who meet within their own community once a month to talk about friendship, tell their stories, and discuss how to help the community. It was started in Austin, Texas with the goal of encouraging Latina women to support each other. Now there are multiple branches around the US and internationally. Recently, Las Comadres created an anthology entitled, “Count On Me: Tales Of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships,” where they asked several of their members to write about friendship and how they have overcome obstacles during difficult times.

There are twelve non-fiction stories within the creative collaboration that advocate the importance of comadres for those living on the border, deep in the US, or anywhere in Latin America.  I had the pleasure of listening in on the conference call where Nora de Hoyos Comstock, founder of Las Comadres, interviewed a few of the authors from the anthology.  Adriana Lopez, editor of Criticas Magazine and many other anthologies, loved the idea of a Las Comadres anthology and pitched the idea to be published; all she had to do was find a collaboration with different types of Latino authors.  To bring a cohesive voice to the anthology, Lopez focused on each story’s dramatic event where the reader could relate. “I made sure there was an arc in each of the stories,” says Lopez.

Some of the writers who participated in the conference interview were Lorraine Lopez, Dr. Ana Nogales, and Reyna Grande. When asked about their writing process and if they had learned anything about themselves or their friendship, the authors unanimously replied that they all had realized an understanding of the amount of emotion, effort and energy put into themselves and the relationship. Lorraine Lopez stated, “the writing process did help me learn about myself, both of us, how we work, and what made the relationship last… both parties need to be invested in the relationship so that everyone can benefit and learn.” Lorraine Lopez refers to both parties as her mentor/mentee relationship she experienced with her Professor turned comadre.

The main point of Las Comadres was to give women someone they could count on to turn to during a particular time in their life, whether it be happy or tragic. In Nogales’s story, “A Heart to Heart Connection,” she has a relationship described in the title, “I wasn’t alone, I’m not an outsider, I’m one of many who are striving and searching for a comadre… looking for a oneness, a wholeness.” Although each author had a different comadre, they all seemed to be looking for the same thing, companionship.

Commenting on the economic situation, Comstock asked if there were any difficulties finding time for each comadre. Nogales stated how “Comadres is a community effort where the building never stops.” Economic downfall seemed to be just another obstacle for the Comadres to face. For example author Reyna Grande shared how she went through many hardships alone while she was younger but, “all the wonderful moments that came out, being able to relive those (awful) moments…” helped her move forward.

Transcending Literature:
In literature, the supporting character or character of most importance to the protagonist is called the foil, without the foil the story would have no meaning or sequence. Make sure you find the best supporting character you know, and remember to reciprocate the favor. Whatever point in life you see yourself in whether it be great, awful or stagnant, remember that you always have a comadre, or in some instances compadre, who will be right by your side.

Beyond the Canvas: Latino Museums

Museums are keys to analyzing our past and understanding our present. Museums document and provide an enriching and educational look into culture. Few museums in the United States are dedicated to Latino culture and studies, yet those that do exist are rich with Latino cultural artifacts, art and are dedicated to educating their communities about their raízes. Gather your friends and family for Latinitas’ own museum walk.

Courtesy from Mexic-art.org

Mexic-Arte — Austin, Texas
Mexic-Arte
is Texas’ official Mexican and Mexican-American art museum, located on Congress Avenue in the heart of downtown Austin. Founded in 1983 by artists Sylvia Orozco, Pio Pulido and Sam Coronado, it gained non-profit status in 1984 and has been featuring exhibitions ever since. Mexic-Arte holds annual summer and fall exhibitions. Summer exhibitions feature a Latino artist under 35, and the Fall exhibition is
Día de los Muertos-themed. Mexic-Arte is pan-Latino, meaning they feature artists from all Latino identities. They recently held an exhibit called “Masked: Changing Identities”.

“Mexic-Arte caters to a community that is underserved,” said Claudia Zapata, curator of exhibitions and programs. Education programming is a large part of the Mexic-Arte mission. Students learn how to screenprint and use other computer software. Mexic-Arte has helped foster other non-profit projects, such as The Serie Project. Mexic-Arte is an important asset to the Texas Latino population.

Courtesy from Brownpride.com

El Museo del Barrio — New York, New York
Located in New York’s Museum Mile, El Museo del Barrio has a history originating in the Civil Rights Movement of 1969. Founder Raphael Montañez Ortiz, an educator and activist, opened El Museo in response to African-American and Puerto Rican parents and activists concerned that their children weren’t receiving an education that acknowledged their heritage. Originally a museum primarily for Puerto Rican art, it is now open to showcasing and preserving all Latin American and Caribbean cultures. The museum recently exhibited the “Superreal: alternative realities in photography and video.”

El Museo prides itself on its community outreach, educating the community through bilingual programs, festivals, and its vast art collection. According to their website, part of their mission is to “enhance the sense of identity, self-esteem and self-knowledge of the Caribbean and Latin American peoples.

National Museum of Mexican Art — Chicago, Illinois

Courtesy from rediscoverthewindycity.com

Chicago’s largely Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood is home to the National Museum of Mexican Art. The NMMA was founded in 1987 after Carlos Tortolero organized a group of educators who shared his vision of art, education and social justice. The NMMA boasts a large collection of works by Mexican artists from both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border. The NMMA has traveling exhibitions across the U.S. and Mexico, adhering to their philosophy of Mexican culture being sin fronteras. 

With one of the largest art collections in the country, the museum’s education programs reach more than 60,000 K-12 students each year, according to their website. The NMMA also has acclaimed performing arts programs that highlight rich Mexican music, dance and theater. Admission to the museum is always free. They have hosted exhibits like artist Sergio Gomez’s collection “Puertas Abiertas/Open Doors.”

Museum of Latin American Art — Long Beach, California

Courtesy from Molaa.com

Serving the Los Angeles area and located in the East Village Arts District of Long Beach, the Museum of Latin American Art was founded in 1996 by Robert Gumbiner. “Our exhibitions focus on the diversity of modern (early 1900s) and contemporary art (present) in Latin America,” said Rebecca Horta, Associate Curator of Education. MOLAA features only Latin American art by artists with ties to a Latin American country.

MOLAA features a wide array of programs dealing with education, art, cooking, dance and a bilingual summer art camp. The museum hosts a free Annual Women’s Day Festival in March. This year’s festival happened March 10 and featured women artists, dancers and musicians. MOLAA features multiple exhibitions at a time and has its own magazine called the MOLAA Museum Magazine. They recently launched an exhibition entitled Loteria: An Interpretation of MOLAA’s Permanent Collection.

Currently, an effort by the Smithsonian is being made to open a national Latino museum on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Opening the museum is an uphill battle, but the Smithsonian has begun the Smithsonian Latino Center in an effort to develop a plan of action and to help with funding the project.

Review: Washington Heights

At first glance, Washington Heights is just another canned MTV docu-reality show starring whiny young adults complaining about “drama,” and saying ‘like’ too much.  However, after a few episodes it becomes clear that this is no Jersey Shore substitute.

Set in the Heights, a mostly Dominican, low-income neighborhood in Manhattan, the show follows seven 20-something-year-olds in pursuit of their dreams. They are mostly of Dominican descent, and all but one of them are pursuing careers in the arts. Jonathan “Audobon” Perez, the primary narrator of the show, wants to be a rapper; Reyna Saldana, a singer; Frankie Reese is a spoken-word poet; Ludwin Federo recently earned his GED and is applying to art schools; Jimmy Caceres aspires to professional baseball; and Rico and Fred Rasuk are brothers who want to become actors and fashion designers, respectively.

What separates this reality series from others is the sense of community it creates, and how relatable the characters are. While Snookie and the Situation were far from models of ambition, Washington Heights seems full of heart and with a focus on real people pursuing real dreams in a practical way.  The Dominican-American culture presented provides a familiarity for Latino viewers, especially when Spanish is spoken. It should be noted that the question of authenticity is an important one on a network with a bad rap of representing minority cultures.

MTV is no stranger to sensation and the first few episodes feature gossip and girls fighting. The content is obviously edited to create drama where there is little, and some of drama that does exists seems staged. If one can get past these obnoxious reality tropes, Washington Heights is watchable, even inspiring at times.

Washington Heights is an important departure from the privilege of The Housewives, or the exploitive nature of Honey Boo Boo. If anything positive can be said about this show, it’s that the issues the characters deal with are real. These kids work hard, have money issues, confrontations with the law, and struggle with their education; all issues people living in low-income areas deal with. Jimmy has been in jail for dealing drugs to make ends meet after his father was sent to prison. He now plays ball in an effort to escape the streets. Ludwin earns his GED and struggles with his little brother who is in prison at only 18. Meanwhile, every character deals with the regular anxiety of growing up, especially in an economy that leaves many with few options.

The jury is still out on Washington Heights.  It is not the greatest thing on television, and it certainly doesn’t challenge its genre. However, it focuses on family, community, art, and culture, all of which are things that thrive in many communities of color, especially in the Heights. It’s a welcome change from the typical excess and ridiculous antics of most reality TV. It’s worth giving it a chance, but don’t expect to be amazed.

 

Passion for Art

When looking around, people may not notice the wonderful talents and histories of other Latinitas with a simple glance. People may only notice the outside appearance of these girls, but not know their true talents. Latinitas sat down with talented Latinas to share their story with our readers. These talented Latinas represent some of the different passions and diverse creative skills. A passion to dance, a yearning to sing, a want to draw, a mission to explore, a talent with words, and a drive to design will be explored as these girls speak of their passions.

The Dancer

Hannah Velasco has been a ballet dancer since the mere age of six years old. Now seventeen, Hannah continues to dance and is aspiring to become a physical therapist for other ballet dancers whilst continuing her dancing career. Hannah speaks of dancing as a way to escape from the outside world full of worries and stress. She says, “I started to dance to find my place in the world. My dad had just left the family and dancing fulfilled this void in the best way possible.”  More than the absence of her father, Hannah’s whole family supported her in her dancing career as there were other dancers in the family. “My family encouraged me since I turned five, but I wouldn’t let them since I just wanted to have fun. Then, when I was six I went to watch my cousin dance and I immediately knew that I needed to be up onstage.”  Hannah’s passion continued to grow as she grew in age. Her favorite part of this creative process is the detachment she feels from any worries she may have as she begins dancing. “I basically become another person, “she states, “I become the character that I’m meant to be in the ballet.”  Outside of dancing, she has the work load of a high school senior to worry about as well. Her ballet practices sometimes last until late hours like 10 or 11 p.m. The next day, Hannah is up at 6 a.m. to continue her routine even after finishing her homework the night before at 1 a.m. When asked what makes dancing worth this struggle, she always smiles and says, “All the years of preparation I have dedicated to dancing sum up in those 30 seconds of thrill on stage. This feeling is almost addictive.”

The Writer

Tatiana White was never the typical student. She always had a way with words that made her teachers marvel at her incredible writing. Tatiana was first introduced to writing in the 5th grade, when her teacher assigned a fictional story assignment. This Latinita felt encouraged to widen her creativity and to tell a story with her own words.  From that point on, Tatiana continued to tell stories through pen and paper, eventually via her laptop. These tools turned into her best friends. As Tatiana says, “These stories helped me express myself in a way that is sort of hidden.” By hidden, Tatiana means that she does not write simply for her teachers to see, she writes for herself. Writing is such a great life of Tatiana’s life that she feels prepared to take the next step and make it part of her future.This Latinita’s future career plans center around using her skills with words to help the human mind; her books will be about psychology. “Writing has helped me to a great extent whenever I feel stressed or I need a little relief from the world. I want writing to do the same for other people.” Tatiana’s gift of writing has flourished from writing 5th grade fiction to the writing of a talented 18 year old with a dream to help the world.

The Architect

During her first year of high school, Valeria Duron was asked to make a permanent decision: what do you want to do for the rest of your life? Some of her classmates hesitated to choose, but Valeria knew right away: she wanted to be a architect. Some people were flustered by the fact that she could choose so quickly, but Valeria is determined to achieve her dream. “It’s the only thing I can picture myself doing,” she shared. After this decision was made, Valeria began integrating herself into architecture classes. The more she listened and paid attention to the subject, her interest grew and she yearned to learn more. She compares her yearning to be an architect to that of historical figures, “The Egyptians would devote their whole lives to build a mark on the world. I want to do the same thing.” Besides this ambition, Valeria loves a very important aspect of architecture: mathematics. She says, “[Math is] easy and everything always fits in perfectly. Even if I don’t know how it works, I know that it’s important and incorporates with every aspect of my life.” Even though Valeria is only 17, she has dreams as big as an Egyptian pyramid.

 The Designer

When people see Daniela walking around, they may not think anything other than, “That girl is dressed very nicely,” or “Wow, I wonder where got those clothes.” What these people don’t know is that every aspect of Daniela’s clothing was designed by her and made with her own two hands. Daniela Ruan’s interest in fashion sparked when she was a small girl. “My dad bought my sisters and I a white board because he wanted us out of his hair. However, it turned into something else for me.” After this purchase was made, she began to draw and sketch on a daily basis, it soon became her favorite hobby. As she grew, Daniela’s interest blossomed even further. She noticed that her sketches were mainly comprised of purses like none other, innovative shoes, and creative blouses. At that moment, Daniela decided that fashion design was the career that was meant for her. With this decision came about the creation of her own clothes, which she wears on a daily basis. Now at age 18, Daniela has big hopes for her future, “I want to hear people say ‘I’m wearing Daniela Ruan’. My creations will give me a sense of accomplishment like no other.”

The Outdoor Photographer

Courtney Francisco dwells out in nature through hiking. She started through the influence of her step dad and through the presence of the hiking culture in her Virginia hometown. Courtney says, “I lived in the Valley and there’s a lot of hiking there. It’s really green, almost out of this world.” Courtney enjoys this activity so much because it’s a chance to spend time with her family and meet new people. Since hiking is such a common activity there, it’s very common amongst the people within the area. “Everybody on the trails has something in common, so it’s a great conversation starter.”  The best part for Courtney is the reward of reaching the top. After feeling so tired during the climb, nothing feels better for her than seeing the whole of her hometown.  Another part that is especially enjoyable for her is the photography opportunities that there are on the trail. Through this photography, she has learned about the nature out there, recognizing plants and memorizing most of the trails she has traveled through. Courtney’s hiking is something she takes with her everywhere. Where there’s a trail, there’s a way for Courtney.

The Singer

Unlike other girls, Annette’s true passion did not come to her willingly.  When she was a young girl, Annette Watts did not find joy in “The Sound of Music”,  as her school had forced her into choir as an elective. However, for one of the choir’s performances, Annette’s choir did a Disney Extravaganza and things changed for Annette. “Now that was something I loved, Disney movies! So I gave choir a chance.” From that point on, music became one of the most important aspects of this Latinita’s life.  Annette’s dedication to her music career soon became evident as she begged for her parents to give her a higher musical education than what she could have at school. She has joined a private voice studio and the Youth Opera of El Paso. Through all this Annette juggles tough dual credit classes at her high school, while undertaking solos in the high school choir. Even though these may seem like a rigorous schedule to handle, Annette still finds time to perform at local shows with her friends, investigating more contemporary genres. Annette’s motto is, “If you take it a day at a time it gets a little easier.” Annette’s success is evident as she has advanced to state UIL Solo and Ensemble three times in voice and one time in piano. She has also been chosen for her local All-Region Choir during the 2012-2013 period. Lastly, she gained a major role, Madame Thenardier, in a reproduction of “Les Miserables”. Annette Watts wishes to continue her career in music by majoring in music while in college. After college, she will pursue a career in directing, “My heart is in directing. My ultimate goal is to run my own theater company one day and  stand on the stage of the tony awards giving an acceptance speech.” Surely, Annette’s hard work and dedication will pay off as her future dreams come true.

 

Film Spotlight: Precious Knowledge

The Latino population is growing every year in the United States and as a result schools are welcoming a new wave of Latinos students. They come with their own background, culture, language and they bring diversity into the classrooms.  As a Latinita, I feel that the inclusion of my culture in the curriculum could make the class more interesting and might give me more inspiration to go to school. There are many other Latinos who feel the same way and there have been movements to incorporate Latino heritage into the curriculum.  Latinitas, teachers and members of our culture have encountered resistance by groups of people who think Latino topics should not be taught in schools. With the rise in the number of Latino students, there should be classes offered that target the students’ background, heritage and culture.

A problem many students face is dropping out of school.  Annually, over 3 million students drop out and  approximately 17% of these students are Hispanic, according to the Education Week Children Trends Database. Once these students drop out of school the percentage of ending up in prison or committing a crime increases. What then can the education system do to help these students and motivate them to stay in school?

The 2011 film documentary Precious Knowledge directed by Ari Palos shows how Hispanic studies courses in Arizona helped Hispanic students feel more motivated to go to school and how they performed better in other classes. The school district of Arizona created elective courses targeted to Hispanic topics, especially Mexican. The classes discussed the Mexican-American history, culture and promoted critical thinking.  The classes created a community within the schools where it was okay to be a Latino. Many students enrolled in these classes, and as time passed they realized how many of the Hispanic students were graduating and going to the university at a higher rate.  One of the members of the program mentioned, “Everybody knew that the school system was discriminatory, there was an urgency for us to make a statement.”  This statement was greeted by many members of the Latino community, but it received a lot of negative attention by others.

Tom Horne, who during the film was the Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was one of the biggest protesters of these classes. He believed that the courses are “something that is very wrong, which is dividing students up by ethnicity and treating them separately by ethnicity. [He is] calling on Tucson Unified School District  to shut down the ethnic studies program and start teaching kids to treat each other as individuals and not on the bases of what race they were born into.” He had very strong negative opinions about these courses that were being offered, but he never went into the classroom to see what they were teaching. He made these comments on what he believed happened in the classroom instead of what he saw. Precious Knowledge shows how students battled against  what Tom Horne and his followers believed.  This battle is still being fought.

One of the main problems in classrooms it that they at times don’t make enough connection to real life events.  There have been philosophers such as Lev Vygostky, who believe that little of what is known as “living knowledge” enters the classroom. He believed that if we made a connection between students’ daily life and education, then not only was the student going to be more interested, but the education process would be enhanced. If we followed his line of thought, then the Hispanic Studies Program is a great alternative for students who wish to learn more about themselves and their background culture.

As Latinitas, we have to fight for our rights in education. As Latinitas, we have to strive for more. As Latinitas, we have to think about our future and the future of our children. As Latinitas, we have to be strong, powerful and proud women. We Latinitas are the future, let’s teach it to our children and fight for what is right in our schools.

Concert Review: Delta Spirit

The festival concert circuit can produce some of the most fun, inspiring experiences. Or, others – weather not-permitting – shows in hot, humid and soaking rainfall conditions.  For some bands, Hurricane Sandy could be tearing the world down around you – and you still stay, watch, listen and love them.  So was my experience at Latinitas base-city Austin’s annual Austin City Limits music festival that attracts over 100,000 people, rain or shine.  I waited patiently on the schedule for an amazing band from California: Delta Spirit.

Delta Spirit, a rock band from San Diego California, consists of five talented guys: bass player Jon Jameson, percussionist Brandon Young, multi-instrument player Kelly Winrich, guitar player Will McLaren and guitar player and lead vocals Matthew Vasquez.

Their music is a rare mix of soft-rock, indie, Gospel and folk that I haven’t heard elsewhere. Delta Spirit’s music is peaceful, the beats are catchy and the lyrics will never leave your head.

At the show, it seemed the band attracts fans of all different ages, high school to Grandpas. The power of music bought people together. The band had a set list of 12 songs. The first song People C’mon, really motivated the crowd. The audience responded to lead singer and Latino Matt Vasquez as he climbed to the top of one of the show’s giant speakers. This move drove fans insane!

After that dangerous stunt, people began to sing along with Vasquez. During the song California, everyone was singing along off-tune without a care in the world. Vasquez continued the sing-a-long pointing the microphone to audience a few times during the chorus.

The set was a great mix, each song seemed unlimited. Delta Spirit did not disappoint at all and I kind of forgot about the humidity of the day. They were energetic, fun and great to watch.

The performance made me forget about how disgusting the weather was, how much sweat was sliding down my face and that the ground was covered in half-filled drink cans ruining my favorite pair of Toms shoes.

To be honest, I was one of those crazy-obsessed fans that kept jumping up and down as I sang (or more like yelled) along to every song. I was fangirl defined. I even yelled, “I love you Matthew” during the performance. The performance, to me, felt out-of-this-world. It was crazy, energetic, fun and memorable.

Here’s a video of Delta Spirit performing their song Tear It Up at the Austin City Music Festival: Video

 

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