Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NOLA Underwater

I have dear friends who live in New Orleans. Thankfully mi amiga Cubana, her partner and their hijito are alive and away from the rising waters. Pero they don't know the status of their home, if they even have a home anymore. I remember their home well, la Mapu playing in the pool, me sitting on the porch smoking. New Orleans is (was) one of the most beautiful cities I have been to, rich with history and struggle.

I ask for people to pray for my friends, their home, and all the people of New Orleans.
If you don't pray, light a candle. If you don't light candles, make a donation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Word Won't Come Out of Mouth

I have been trained not to say it. It's a powerful word. It can disarm, alienate, and protect. Ever since I was a small child I was taught that saying it was not an option I had. From a young age I was given huge burdens to bear, burdens I was never allowed to reject. If I did try to deny my role as savior, assistant and messenger to people, my mother, my father, my sister, I was punished. It's a bad habit now that traps me and leads me down a self destructive path. I cannot say no.

I am by nature a giving person, with my time and with the little resources that I do have. I am not greedy or stingy. This also means that I take care of myself last.

Right now I feel like I am being pulled in a million directions by people asking for my help. I have to take people to appointments that I really don't feel like doing and I sure as hell don't feel are my responsibility (no fea I don't mean you though. Something else). As it is I don't have money to be taking care of my own shit so never mind other people's shit.

I am asked to look up things, write letters, find information out for family members that should be perfectly capable but because of the way they were raised and allowed to constantly manipulate people, they act helpless and turn to me, always the enabler.

No one asks when they interrupt me if I am doing something important. My space and time are constantly invaded. I haven't had a moment to myself in I don't know how long. I have my own responsibilities to take care of, add on to that those of my daughter, my boyfriend and on and on.

I am not often asked if I need something and I am not one to ask for help because I was raised to be the one that never needed any help. But I need help. I can't do anything or anyone else right now

Monday, August 29, 2005

Recurring Dreams/Nightmares

The last time I saw her was on the number 7 train. I was leaving a rally that I was working security for in our old 'hood, Corona. Was that two or three years ago? I can't even remember. I do remember she told me she had moved back home from Los Angeles. Home was where her mother lived with my father. She told me about a new boyfriend, not the screenwriter I had met before. I remember I told her little about my life. Partially because I had little to tell. Partially because it still felt like we were in competition with each other.

I don't think of her during my waking moments. Just like I really don't think about my father, his wife and their kids, my half-siblings. Sometimes I think that makes me a horrible person. Other times I think it is for the best, less stressful.

But when I sleep, they are always there. Especially her. I dream that we are on camping trips together, the kind we went on when we were children. Except in the dream, I always get lost or something horrible happens to me. For example, in last night's dream, I was trapped in the trailer, the pop-up one that my father and stepmother used to hitch to the back of the Honda hatchback first and to the Mazda minivan later. In the dream I was trapped in the trailer with my daughter and the trailer just rolled away.

I have dreams about us in Puerto Rico. These are the dreams I get lost in. I get lost in seemingly never ending hallways in gated concrete houses, like the house her grandparents had in Santurce. Sometimes in the Puerto Rico game I get lost in an arcade, like the Time Out in Plaza las Americas. Whenever I do find my way out, back to my family, she is always somewhere ahead of me, somewhere where I should already be doing something I should have been doing.

Sometimes I wonder if one of the reasons I don't speak with my father and his "new" family is because of the fact that I always felt she was favored over me. After all she was the one who got to live with my father and live off his money, while my mother had to fight for every child support check.

That's called jealousy right? That does make me the bad one doesn't it?

Maybe I'm reading too much into my dreams. Maybe I just need to let them be, just like I let my relationship with her be...over.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

No Strangers to War

Friday, August 26, 2005

LOUDMouth : Time + Space

My article, " Mami Writes Stories in Color: Artist Mamas Creating Time and Space for Ourselves", in LOUDMouth, is up on the web.

The issue containing the article is a PDF file.

I must mention that working with Christine, the Editress in Chief, and the rest of the crew at the zine was a wonderful experience. So I want to publicly thank them for giving me the time and space they did.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Mad Loose Black Latina

I never claimed that racism doesn't exist in the Latino community. On the contrary, I stated that such a belief is a misconception. This perspective is in part because of the fact that race is not discussed in a meaningful way within the mainstream Latino community and media outlets that claim to represent.

Pop culture is probably one of the best ways to gauge where the community is at. El Principe Azul, is the latest Spanish language reality show on Telemundo (owned by NBC which is owned by General Electric). El Principe is like the Bachelor except the bachelor is Leonardo Garcia, the son of telenovela actor Andres Garcia. Latina women from various countries parade in thongs and play truth or dare with Leonardo. The filmed exploits are then shown to the ladies of Leonardo's family, including his mother, grandmother and sister.

A lot of attention has been given to one contestant, Evelyn, an Afro-Latina. What could have been an exploration of racism/colorism within the Latino community as exhibited by Leonardo's mother, instead has turned into minstrel show , with Evelyn used to play out stereotypes of swarthy Latina existence.

Evelyn has been mentally eliminated by Leonardo's mother because of her skin color. She couldn't accept a black grandchild, the Principe's mother states after first meeting Evelyn. Oh but Mami dearest isn't completely racist. On another episode she says she wouldn't have a problem if her son married an Asian woman (Japanese specifically), just not a black woman.

In following episodes (El Principe Azul is shown five days a week), Evelyn has been cast as the most sexually aggressive, earning her the first make out session with Leonardo. She has also been cast as the most confrontational. One scene of Evelyn throwing a chair at another fairer skinned contestant is replayed over and over throughout the show.

This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of issues surrounding El Principe Azul. The show can be deconstructed on a number of levels. The blatant manipulation of the wanna be princesas , especially the lone Afro-Latina, remains one of the most relevant.

Monday, August 22, 2005

My Class(es) of People Part Uno

There is a misconception about the Latino community: that racism doesn't exist. If you still think this is true, tune into any novela or watch el Principe Azul on Telemundo. I will write more about racism on Spanish language TV in another post.
What people do say, is that Latinos are extremely classists. I don't know if we are more class conscious than other people, I do know that we are not shy about it though, perhaps adding to the sense that Latinos are more aware of the differences access to money and other resources bring.

Earlier today I overheard my mother on a phone conversation with my grandmother. "He is there because he has money to be there but he still doesn't belong to that group of people."

The "he" in question is my great uncle, who was married to my mother's aunt (this is how may parents met). The "there" is the gated community in Puerto Rico where my tio moved after my great aunt passed from this world.

My mother went on to say that my tio chose to isolate himself in a community filled with people he couldn't speak to because his neighbors wanted to talk about museums and my uncle wanted to talk about farting and sex.

The statement my mother made was loaded with judgments about my tio and his family, which happens to be my family.

What is interesting is how in one family, the same family, separating lines are drawn along class lines

What determines class? The family we are born into? The family we make for ourselves? The education we receive? How much we know about topics given arbitrary high cultural ranking?

My father, always struggled against the circumstances he was born into. Born in la Trocha, Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, the family was poor. Eventually my grandfather became an accountant. In his small, religious family, getting an education was stressed and my father became an attorney in New York City. From then on everything Puerto Rican, right down to his parents, became distasteful to him. He threw himself (taking my mother along with him) into the high cultural realm of city life which included the Metropolitan Opera, parties at the Plaza, and many a cocktail hour with local city politicians in the living room of my Brooklyn Heights early childhood home.

My mother wasn't a born society lady herself. She was born in the Columbus Landing caserio (housing project) in Mayaguez. Neither of her parents, my maternal grandparents, became professionals. My mother, however did go to college and pursued a career in fashion before getting married.

My great uncle, my father's biological uncle, who helped raise my mother, doesn't have a college degree. He fought in the Korean War and spent the rest of his life working his ass off to provide for his wife, my mother's biological aunt (who didn't go to college either. She had a degree in interior design from a correspondence school)

My dear tia (may she rest in peace) never seemed to be comfortable among her own family (much like my father). She was for years the only family of color in her Suffolk County neighborhood (until her sister moved down the street). When I was growing up, especially after my parents separated, leaving me wanting sometimes for basics like socks, I swore that my Titi and Tio and Long Island were rich. They had a big house with many bedrooms and a big yard. The house was furnished with French style furniture. For awhile I told all my friends in elementary school that I wasn't Rican but French based solely on this fact. It didn't help that my mother's side of the family created a myth about a connection to Corsica which is still unclear to me (it seems that perhaps my maternal grandmother as a child lived on a plantation where her father worked in the fields and that the owner was originally from Corsica- I have to do more research on this). In that big Long Island house, my Titi reinforced a sense of nostalgia for Europe by pulling out books pointing to mentions of my last name that belonged to Spanish conquistadors.

It was here that class, race, and nationalism began to fight in my head.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Take out Your Calendars

Porque this is something people should go to:


Latest PROTEST VIGIL in support of the Pastors for Peace campaign to free the Computers bound for Cuba that were seized by US Customs

Wednesday August 24th 4.30 till 6pm

At the Federal Building, 26 Federal Plaza
on Broadway between Duane and Thomas
nearest subways - City Hall on 4,5,6,R,W

Background: On Thursday July 21st in Hidalgo Texas, US Customs and Border Protection officers, acting on instructions from the US Department of Commerce, seized 43 boxes of computer equipment - toner, cables, calculators, modems, keyboards, 2 printers, and a dozen computers - intended for Cuban children with special needs, from the 16th Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan.

A group of caravanistas are currently traveling from Texas to Washington DC in a caravan school bus containing other computers that customs would not let pass. They are visiting many cities on route to build additional support for an international campaign to free the computer equipment for delivery to Cuba. They will arrive in DC on Wednesday 24th

For more information contact IFCO/Pastors for Peace 212-926-5757

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I Think I probably Need a Website

Besides this blog. What do you all think? Anyone have experience in this sort of thing?

Friday, August 19, 2005

I is Back

Today with much glee and excitement, my new laptop arrived. I swear I almost made out with the UPS man I was so excited to see him.

With that I will again be making regular (gonna try for daily) updates on the blog, as well as a redesign. Any comments or suggestions would be welcomed (as long as they are constructive).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

With Fans Like These

Note: because of my computer meltdown my posts will be sporadic until my computer is fixed (within the next two weeks) if it can be fixed or until my new 'puter arrives (sometime next week). Thanks for your patience and understanding.

On August 6 I was featured in la Hora Hispana , a free Spanish language weekly distributed by the NY Daily News, in an article about Latino bloggers. From that article , which I had to request because I don't live in an area with enough Spanish language speakers/readers, I've received some wonderful feedback. I've also received what I will call "interesting" feed back in the form of emails from gentlemen in the NYC area. These emails are filled with compliments, mostly regarding photographs that can be accessed through this blog, not what I write about. One email even included a phone number.

While I am flattered, really. I mean it's a lovely feeling to be desired, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. But something about these emails also disturb me. It makes me wonder, who exactly is my audience? When I began writing this, I never thought about who was reading the blog. As people I know and some I don't, began coming out it it shed some light and influenced how and what I write here. It's been a learning process.

One thing I do know, is that I am not using this blog as a way to meet potential lovers. So while I appreciate the compliments. Unless I know you already, don't expect a personal phone convo from me anytime soon.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What's a Writer To Do???

I have a morning routine. I wake up, write freehand in the journal then flip on the computer to check email and work on whatever writing project is turning me on the moment. This morning I turn on the computer and it turns on but no beep, no information is traveling from the computer to the monitor or even to my keyboard for that matter. This entry comes from my sister's laptop that I am using on the dl.

I think my beloved computer may have finally had it. Problem is, I was a bad bad girl and didn't back up so there is still stuff on that computer I need. And well damnit I need that computer period. I need email,blog and my writing. I am not in any position to buy a new computer (even though I have wanted one).

I'm somewhere between desperation and depression.

no se que hacer.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

First Comes Loves, But Does Barbie Really Need to Get Married?

As I write this, my daughter is in the next room playing Barbie with her friend. From my motherly eavesdropping I can hear that Barbie had just gotten married (to a male no less) and that they are going on their honeymoon. Then they will have a baby.

Since when did my daughter get so traditional on me, especially since well marriage actually isn't that traditional, at least not the way the mainstream and its media represents traditional? That's the argument of this book and well has pretty much been my life story.

When I used to play with barbie dolls as a child, my barbie dolls were always caught up in telenovela like dramas, dramas that also happened to be a reflection of what I saw the adults around me doing. So my barbies stole the husbans of the other barbies.

If we were to follow the logic that children play what they see and live, then why aren't my daughter's barbies single mothers?

Maybe it is because of my on conflicts with the idea of marriage. Most people including members of my family have a hard time picturing me married. Not because I am undesirable (although many of them would say that my being a mom lowers my stock value) but because they view marriage in a Latina Donna Reed sort of way. At my grandmother's house, for example, the men get served their food before everyone else (unless I am there, I just get up and feed myself and my child).

Domesticity is linked to subservience which is linked to wifeyhood. Don't get me wrong. Ask any of my serious boyfriends. I will happily wash clothes, iron, clean, cook and yes even serve my man a plate of food and I don't mind doing so as long as it's not expected of me. I wanna do it because I wanna do it and because I know that my partner will do the same and has done the same (partners that don't cook for me or clean or do laundry don't last very long, no matter how good the sex is).

Regarding the M word, I admit there's a part of me that is in love with the romantic ideal of a man getting down on one knee with a lovely ring and saying he wants to spend forever with me. I like planning things so the idea of planning a wedding and registering for gifts and having a big ass party after some sort of commitment ceremony (no churches for me under any circumstances) seems fun. But do I really need it? Do I need to celebrate monogamy and tax codes and something that other people can't have? Do I rejoice in something that was and is sexist and patriarchal?

Then there's the fear that no one will ever ask me to marry them or be with them forever and have babies and that maybe everything that my family says is right.


But back to Barbie. So Barbie got married today and was going on her honeymoon and planning on having a baby. I have to find out how the story ends because in real life there never really is a "fairy tale ending". That's why those are stories. Maybe I need to remind my daughter of that and all the options I have and she does too.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Slow Death of My Sunday Nights (Fluffy Post)

I don't watch television regularly. I watch enough or know enough about what's on the tube to keep up with pop culture conversation. There is one exception. Sunday nights between 9 pm and 10 pm (EST) people know better than to call me or even speak to me. That hour is my guilty pleasure. That time belongs to Six Feet Under. Yes it is melodramatic and "weepie" as was written in today's New York Time (although I really resent the notion that only women and gay men are weepie. Um stereotype much Ms. Virginia Heffernan?). But I think that's part of the point for me. Sick or not, I can relate to many of the characters on the show, their experiences and the emotions those experiences bring forth. And I will admit, I have the only crush on the now dead character of Nate Fisher. He reminds me of way too many men that I have dated and fucked. Self-assured on the outside yet confused as all hell on the inside and using that confusion to fuck over people along the way, usually by fucking them. When Nate flatlined last week I wept and yelled, " that's what you get asshole," all in the same breath. Why should my relationships with fictional characters be any less complicated than my real relationships?

"All men that cheat should die," I announces dramatically last night while watching Nate's funeral.
"There would be no men left," my mother told me matter of factly.
I laughed when I realized how for me that would be true. My father and even my current partner would have to be struck down ( and I don't want that to happen).

The only thing getting struck down soon is the show. With only two episodes left, I wonder what my Sunday nights will look like. Maybe I'll do something productive, like read or write. Maybe I'll concentrate on the dysfunction within my own relationships instead of the dysfunction of fake people.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

Each of our bodies, as Latina women, tells a story. I wear a scar on my left arm from an immunization. My belly is has Chile carved into it via an appendicitis scar received in Chile. The Chile on my bariga is surrounded by waves of stretch marks that curve down my hips and wash down to my belly button. These are from my MapucheRican, conceived in Chile. You wouldn't see these tales across my physical landscape unless you saw me in a bikini or even better yet, naked.
But we, as Latina women are told not to tell these stories. Not only we are told to verbally shut up and not use our voices to express our experiences but we are taught that the physical manifestations of out personal histories are ugly and should be covered up.

Yesterday I got to strip and tell my story and not in the same way I have with a lover or how I did for money. I had the opportunity to pose for an hermana of mine in front of many hermanas of mine, whom I had never met before today.

A talented and intelligent chica, whom I know from my early days as an activist, is a photographer. Her project LatiNatural
focuses on Latinas in the United States and the stories we all have and how the chapters of those stories are in our hair, our skin, and our scars.

I found out through a listserv that I am on that she was doing a last minute shoot for the project. I hadn't seen/spoken to the sister in years. Remembering her integrity as a Latina activist, I couldn't think of a better person to get naked in front of a camera for and a more interesting way to reconnect. In the years since I had last seen her, she had gotten married and even gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

I filled out a long online questionnaire about my body, my latinidad, my womanhood and the spaces where they connect before showing up at the studio with la MapucheRican in tow. I felt it was important for her to be a part of the experience as a Latina little girl who will one day be a latina woman.

When I arrived at the studio there were other women there already. One was telling the stories of the scars on her legs through tears. Then she slipped out of her clothes and into a white sheet before walking to the shoot area and proudly showing off her beautiful legs.

Another Latina, who had been photographed already, spoke about the scars she wore, caused by the bullet of jilted ex, a bullet she still carries with her.

A chicana with the most beautiful breasts , was photographed before me. She had brought a Lila Downs cd to give her strength and courage. She, a photographer, had just moved to New York City from Los Angeles a week earlier and now was among a sisterhood discussing everything from body image to motherhood to relationships.

I asked the hermana to leave the Lila Downs cd while I posed. I agreed to be fully nude, which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me even a little bit. I felt incredibly beautiful if slightly physically uncomfortable beneath the hot lights as I moved my limbs emphasizing my hips, my belly, my breasts.

As I exchanged numbers and emails with some of the other woman , another woman posed, she resembled nothing less than an ancient Greek statue, except she was Latina. When she walked out of the studio with me, we both were laughing and commenting of how wonderful we felt, like we were the hottest things on the planet, like we could do anything.

Soon I will see the pictures. Maybe my naked figure will be in a coffee table book or be on a wall at an exhibition, but what will remain even more than the image, is the amazingly empowering experience and sharing it with other Latina women.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Oh No She Didn't Just Say That ( You bet yo Ass I Did)

A warm gracias to all who attended last night's poetry performance at Queens Theatre in the Park, as part of its annual Latino Cultural Festival.
It was a pleasure to perform among other talented spoken word artists and to have such a wonderful reception from the audience.

Mi'jita, la MapucheRican, made me a bead necklace that didn't match with a damn thing I was wearing but since when does a good luck charm have to match?

I left with la fea before the rest of my entourage since I was supposed to be there early. Of course the trolley that is supposed to run between the subway station and the theatre wasn't running so I was late, which just added to my nervousness. Finally a guy in a beat up car drove us to the theatre. Ah but yes thanks to stereotypical Latino lateness, in being a little bit late I was really on time.

Once I got on stage my nervous energy turned into just plain energy that I directed into a performance I felt really good about. My only compliant was that I wasn't able to perform all four pieces I had prepared ( running time 11 min). I performed two poems then a few poets went up then I was called back up to perform a third poem. It was kind of tough because I had lost my flow and regained my nervousness and dropped my props (nametags) and didn't do as well as I should have.

My mother loved my performance and really reveled in watching how other people reacted to me. She broke out close to the end of the show, with la MapucheRican , who was rubbing her sleepy eyes. This morning my mother confessed to me that she wanted to stay to watch people come up and talk to me after the show.

Speaking of people's reactions, my mother also told me that at least two women, were utterly shocked and taken aback at my reclaiming of the word puta and daring to label myself as one. Hmmm I need to write a puta manifesto ( I think la Cherry should do it with me unless in her infinite wisdom she has already). I have witnessed artistas reclaiming and breaking down the spic label stereotype. White feminist are pretty much expected to throw around the word cunt and pussy. Pero god forbid a Latina artist dares to say the word chocha and puta, well hell may just freeze over. Imaginate if I had performed autobiography of a chocha??? Ay well there's always next year.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Pre-Show Jitters

In case you didn't notice, I'll be performing tonight at the Latino Cultural Festival in Flushing Meadow Park's Queens Theatre in the Park. Scroll down or read the sidebar for info if you wanna come.

I pretty much know what I'm gonna read/perform. I sort of know what I'm gonna wear but a rejection of a monologue I submitted somewhere recently kind of set off an unprecedented nervousness in my belly. It is somewhere beyond just butterflies. It's that voice of self-doubt and the voice of all the other people who hate how I write and perform. I mean maybe I am trite and cliched? Do I really need to curse so much? And does anyone really give a shit about my political announcements, my sex/love life, and how I translate?

Having my mother be in the audience for the first time in my 10 year performance history is tripping me out too. The last time my mother saw me on stage was when I was 18 years old at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. I read "Somewhere Between Bayamon and Bushwick", my first attempt at spoken word. She never told me if I was any good. Or is she liked it. Not to mention the fact that I was still a shy artista still, a far cry from the woman I am now, talking about my abortions all over New York City. Once when I was a high school sophomore my mother came to a Shakespeare competition I was in, where I had to memorize and recite a monologue. Of course I didn't win the competition and I forget about half the monologue but on top of it my mother on the subway ride home said in the most disgusted voice, " You had an accent". When I asked what she meant she informed me that I sounded in her words, " like an uneducated spic". Deep down inside me , I wonder if I still sound like that. And a part of me , despite my accomplishments, still feels like I have to prove her wrong.

On a sweeter note, El Cubano is finally taking an interest in my writing/performing life. Last night he asked me to read him one of the poems I was going to perform tonight, and before he went off to work this morning he called me to wish me good luck.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Shameless Self Promotion

In case you didn't notice the note on the sidebar, I'll be performing this Wednesday at the Latino Cultural Festival in Flushing Meadow Park's Queens Theatre in the Park.
The Poetry event begins at 8 pm, Wednesday, August 3.
The event is free but reservations are required. To reserve a seat please call 718.760.0064.

Directions to Queens Theatre in the Park:
By Car: Take the Grand Central Parkway to Shea Stadium exit 9-E; follow the signs for the Theatre. Park free in adjacent lot.

By Subway: Take the #7 train to Willets Point-Shea Stadium stop. Exit Shea Stadium side and take the free trolley to Theatre. The trolley runs continuously for one hour before and after all Main Stage performances.

I have no freaking idea what to perform. Ok I am certain of one thing only.
And I'm flipping out because my mother will be there and well what daughter wants to talk about her sex life in front of her mother?!!!!

Time Management Skills

I admit that I have none because if I really did I would find time to blog daily, even with teaching, writing, cleaning and being a mami. But I am going to try to do better. Really. I 'm going to try to take and hour out of my afternoon to update this blog, my livejournal and other online windows into my life.

That said (er written) here's an update.

El Cubano came and went. He was here for four glorious days of sex, eating out, tromping around the city, talking, and oh did I mention the sex. It was actually a wonderful trip with no arguments and some really good time shred just the two of us and the three of us (whenever la MapucheRican wasn't off with la Fea or my mother- props to the both of them for giving el Cubano and I time to fuck like animals). I know many of my blog readers are not fans of el Cubano, to say the least, but I do love him and was sad that I had to send him back to Los Angeles to start a new job today (good luck amor).

Speaking of Los Angeles, it looks like the City of Angels will have to do without la Mala, at least as a permanent resident. Unless el Cubano's new gig goes so amazingly well that he won't be able to part ways with it, el Cubano and I decided that NYC is the city best equipped to handle us as a couple. So the plan is when his lease is up out there, we will start a new one somewhere here. So if anyone knows of any 1-2 bedroom apartments in the NYC area up for rent in the new year of 2006 let a sister know. Of course as with everything involving my relationship with men, this is all subject to change. I'm not unhappy about staying here. I have my family here and my friends. Probably the only thing I'm not thrilled about is the cold winters because well I hate them.

I am writing some articles that will come out in the fall. Nothing of what I have written for the summer is out yet and um summer is almost over. But I really did write stuff. I swear!! I have some performances coming up so stay tuned for updates on those.

Un besote