Latino Spotlight: Lalo Alcaraz

Art, satire, politics. Lalo Alcaraz, Chicano cartoonist and political satirist, discusses these issues via his popular political comic strip. Earlier this year, Latinitas was able to attend one of his talks at the University of Texas at Austin.

To his online readers and motivating conferences, he always delivers clever jokes and often describes the importance of his political cartoons. Alcaraz’s “La Cucaracha” is the first political Latino daily comic strip published nationally. The comic provides a necessary Latino voice in publications nationwide.

“You can use satire to teach critical thinking,” Alcaraz said. He uses humor as a weapon against social injustices aimed at Latinos. Many of his cartoons focus on Latino-centered issues, such as immigration, education, politics and racism.

Alcaraz is a supporter of the DREAM Act. “I love the dreamers and the civics lesson they are teaching everyone,” Alcaraz said. He has drawn cartoons depicting DREAMers in graduation caps and gowns. Alcaraz also supports Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In honor of Sotomayor’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Alcaraz drew a cartoon of a young Latina aspiring to be her when she grows up. Sotomayor has a copy of the cartoon in her office.

Having two children, a son and a daughter, has inspired Alcaraz to write a children’s book based on them. He is thinking of titling it “Little Moco.”

“It’s a nickname my daughter gave my son. It’s like a reverse ‘Dora the Explorer,’” Alcaraz said.

Alcaraz, the son of immigrant parents from Sinaloa and Zacatecas, claims he grew up experiencing racial inequality and wanted to do something about it. According to Alcaraz, his great cultural epiphany came when he was 13 years old, as he stood in front of the Aztec calendar.

“That’s where I became Chicano, in Mexico City,” Alcaraz said.

Recently, Alcaraz has been most well known for his creation of Mexican Mitt Romney, a satirical Twitter account created in response to Romney’s anti-immigrant stance during his run for President in 2012. His other satirical characters include “anchor baby news” and “Beandocks.” Alcaraz also has a radio show based in Los Angeles, Calif. called Pocho Hour of Power.

Underrepresentation of Minority Heroines

It is no big revelation that women of color seldom see themselves in powerful positions in the media, oftentimes making them feel homely and irrelevant. But according to some experts, the lack of representation of minorities in cartoons could also be causing a similar effect for young girls of color.

Today’s Youth in Media

Maria O. Alvarez, the Hispanic media consultant at Common Sense Media,  a non-profit organization that studies the effects that media and technology have on young users, believes the lack of colored girls in youth media leads to low self-esteem among minorities.

“We do know that all these messages have a direct impact in all their behaviors and how they see the world,” said Alvarez. “You feel that you’re in a lower level in society when you see that people like you, your skin color, are not in powerful positions.”

Her thoughts are supported by a 2011 study by Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison, which found that minorities tend to feel worse about themselves after watching youth media.

The study found that unlike white male characters, who are often presented as highly educated and powerful, which tends to lift white boys’ self-esteems, girl characters are often simplistic, sexualized beings, while characters of color tend to be more violent.

But this particular study, like many, lacks to demonstrate how youth media represent young girls of color.

According to Hugh Klein, who has been studying the underrepresentation of out groups in animated cartoons for the past 20 years, it is difficult to break down the representations of girls of color in animated cartoons because there are too few of them to analyze.

In Klein’s ongoing study, which examined more than 4,000 cartoon characters, he found that only 3.6 percent of the characters were African American, 1.8 percent were Latinos and 1.0 percent were Asian.  Out of the 27 Latino characters in Klein’s research, only one-third, or 9, of them were Latina.

“In the process of leaving people out of the media, you communicate a message to viewers just as much as if you were portraying them in a positive or negative way,” said Klein. “They’re so few in number probably because they’re unvalued in our culture,” said Klein.

According to his research, because animated cartoons are likely to be among the earliest media types to which young people are exposed to and because they are exposed to these messages on a daily basis, animated cartoons end up being “one of the earliest and most influential sources of negative messages.”

Minority Heroines

Some have argued, though, that with minority heroines like Doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer and Kai-Lan, non-white children are now unburdened by stereotypes and underrepresentation.

But just as mainstream films or music videos feature the token colored gal, Doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan are some of the only programs on TV with leading girl cartoons of color.

The halfhearted gesture to include a single leading Black, Latina and Asian cartoon character, according to Alvarez, sends the message that although several little white girls can be pop stars (Olivia from “Olivia”), mechanics (Widget from “Wow Wow Wubbzy”) and mathematicians (Milli from “Team Umizoomi”), there’s only room for one visionary girl of color.

“It’s not just cartoons. It’s all over. And it has an impact on how we see ourselves and how proactive we are,” said Alvarez. “We all have great value to share with the society; we can all be in powerful positions. It’s hard to believe that when the media doesn’t show you like that. But if together, parents and community, can share those messages with kids, that’s going to help.”

Alvarez believes that young girls need role models outside of the media.

“There’s a huge gap in reality and what they see in the media. We need to help them see that what they see in the media is not reality.”

Here are a few tips for young girls from Alvarez and Common Sense Media to help with self-image:

  1. Limit media consumption: Limit the amount of media you expose yourself to every day. Set limits. The earlier you start, the better.
  2. Become a media critic: Pay attention to ads, magazine covers, billboards—and talk to your parents about how these messages make you feel and ask them about their own reactions.
  3. Look for role models that look like you: Ask your parents or older relatives about professionals and community leaders who look like you do.
  4. Find everyday role models: Role models don’t need to be famous. They can be teachers, neighbors or family members. You just need a positive influence to look up to.
  5. Understand your value: Even if you’re not seeing people who look like you in the media, understand that race doesn’t define value. Compliment yourself and your peers on all of your/their wonderful talents, like your/their creativity or thoughtfulness.

Documentary: The Battle for Land

The Battle for Land, the fourth installment in a documentary series directed by Juan Mejia, aims to expand on the complexities of Afro-Colombian displacement. Told through a hybrid of documentary and animation styles, it tells the heartbreaking, but inspiring stories of Afro-Colombians from the Pacific coast of Colombia who have been displaced, as they foster community and organize to fight for their land.

Internal displacement, or the forced removal of peoples from their land to other parts of their respective country, is a growing global concern. While many activist organizations discuss displacement as a result of civil war, genocide, and ethnic cleansing—all absolutely real occurrences—this analysis fails to capture the complex nature of the displacement process. Mejia’s film aims to reveal that behind the  progress, lie the economic interests that see the land Afro-Colombian communities live in as opportunity for profit-making. Mejia works to uncover the darker underside of progress by showing how large corporations exploit the conditions of civil unrest, and how Afro-Colombians have organized and resisted.

At the center of this exploitation is FEDEPALMA, a national palm oil producer featured in the film that uses local farmers, many of whom are Afro-Colombian, to grow its oil palms. Oil palms have a devastating effect on the natural environment. Despite this, palm oil is seen as a symbol of progress by the Colombian government, and is touted for producing jobs and products that will supposedly boost Colombia’s economy. Palm oil is also hailed for its “eco-friendly” biofuel capability.

The film is still undergoing edits, and has only been officially screened twice. This explains why it felt a bit disorganized in parts. Afro-Colombian displacement is an extremely complex issue, and The Battle For Land needs more editing in order to more efficiently narrate this story. Mejia sheds light on an important and tragically overlooked issue. At the end of the screening, an audience member tearfully thanked Mejia for giving Afro-Colombians a voice. The Battle For Land is definitely worth a watch, but its rawness is not suitable for the lighthearted. An official release date for the film has not yet been set.Using infographics, animation, and interviews, Mejia takes us through the lives of several Afro-Colombian community activists, as they battle systematic racism, nurture each other’s empowerment and fight to gain back their land. They have seen cruel and senseless violence destroy their people, and threaten to do the same to their culture. The testimonio-style narrative allows the viewer to become immersed with their struggle, and does an excellent job of bringing light to the strong resistance movement that has taken shape in Colombia over the last several years. Although the subject matter is tragic and difficult to watch in many parts, especially the violent animated scenes, this film is no sob story. The activists are strong and resilient despite the heavy obstacles they have yet to overcome.

For more information on this film, visit the film’s site: http://www.battleforland.org/BFL/language.html

Artsy Latinas Doing It Big

When your role model tells you that anything can happen, follow your dreams, work hard and they will come true, you begin to get the motivation to actually do something about your life. These women have found ways to follow their passions and make a business, living, and doing what they love. Three women, Dina Eden, Nancy Contreras, and Sandra Arlette, have made a business out of their craft, art and hard work. They are combining their abilities to create an awesome fashion trifecta. I had the pleasure of interviewing these ladies to find out who they are, what they do, and how they achieved it.

Dina Eden is the owner/ designer of Tree of Eden, an accessory boutique online and in Arlette, which is located in downtown El Paso. Dina has always had a thing for art and dabbled in a couple classes, but when she took ceramics, she knew it was a perfect fit. Dina states, “ I always wanted to do something with art, jewelry is a really good medium.” Dina was a supervisor for an accounting company but then had a car accident that caused her to have total amnesia.  She went back to basics and started using art, ceramic sculpture and jewelry making as therapy. Dina decided to sell some of her creations on ETSY this past November and was asked to sell some articles in the downtown boutique, Arlette. She began to show her jewelry at many private events around El Paso. She is currently in Hidalgo Mexico to expand her creative abilities. For example, pottery Dina States, “There are a bunch of clay deposits on the Ranch (in Mexico) to work on pottery.” Her greatest success is doing what she really loves with her small business. Dina states, “I would rather struggle with a small business then with something I don’t like.”  Her success ties into her struggle, while growing up in Juarez entrepreneurship wasn’t’ really advised. Dina’s advice was to try and self teach, “start early to get a feel for it; it’s all about confidence. There’s nothing to be scared of. It could turn into a really good business.” Dina also suggests to research small businesses and learn bookkeeping, or how to finance. There are many outlets to learn how to manage money, and it’s a very important part of the process.

Another contributor to Arlette boutique is Nancy’s online store, Ragazza Bazaar. Nancy grew up watching hermother make quinceañera dresses, homecoming mums and other formal attire, and later immersed herself in the fashion industry by becoming retail managers at various stores. She started surfing the web and realized she could gain endless possibilities by owning her own online store inspired by celebrity style. Her first business was started sola, then got some help from her sister who lives in San Diego. Nancy explained how she gained hands on experience in the fashion world by going to events and showing her work in fashion shows. Some obstacles Nancy overcame was through marketing, getting the word out, but networking worked for her. Nancy is very big on supporting her local community and wants to extend more opportunities for girls in El Paso. She is currently undergoing a social media promotion website that deals with supporting local businesses online, El Paso Style. Nancy advises, “continue to work hard to promote your talent and skill and create a portfolio. Never give up, even if you think you’re failing. It takes time, work and a lot of commitment.” She also advises to research resources of the craft, your audience and learn from other who are also successful.

Sandra Arlette is the owner of Arlette, a local boutique mainly housing jewelry, but also sells many other things by herself and other artists. A craftswoman from a very young age, Sandra had always wanted to delve into fashion design, but because her educational art options were somewhat slim she studied International business. Starting in 2005, Sandra kept her creativity on the side, she had an epiphany one afternoon when her accessory choices were not very promising. She began creating articles for herself and then began crafting more for others. Arlette’s businessbegan to pick up in 2009, she states, “It really was my passion, I could stay home for days doing nothing but designing!!” Finally, Sandra opened her own shop in 2012 with the help of her family and supporting boyfriend, after dedicating her post graduation to her home accessory business. Sandra hopes to keep doing what she loves forever and helping local artists, designers around El Paso be heard. Sandra’s advice to young Latinitasis to keep your head up, do your research, and don’t be discouraged by negative people. She says, “Keep doing what you love, do it right and better yourself, always share your talent and appreciate other’s too.” Sandra also advises to surround yourself with supportive and passionate companions, get an education, and if you’re set on your artistic career, start your investigation and research now!  Sandra has made a living out of her passion through heart and hard work, young girls/Latinas can also do the same with any talent.

All three women have recently begun their business journeys, and they’re going strong. These women have accomplished and learned so many things, and a common obstacle standing in their way is the overwhelming skepticism towards going local. Sandra Arlette says, “I think the greatest obstacle has been the lack of interest of the society in “handmade” products. I think we don’t appreciate it enough and we still think that handmade is cheap or has poor quality.” Arlette’s boutique has been going strong for a year now and hopefully El Paso can support their crafts and keep their dream alive.

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.

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