Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Guagua means Baby and Polola Means Girlfriend

I love a Chilean accent and how words in Chilean Spanish have absolutely nothing to do with words in Puerto Rican Spanish. When I arrived in Chile oh so many years ago and asked where I could catch la guagua, I got some strange looks. Fresas became frutillas, tipas became minas, guineos became platanos, tea became mate, "pos" were attached to words and phrases and every sentence seemed to have a "cachai" thrown in there. It was an accent that eventually stuck to me and at times still mixes in with my Nuyorican Spanish just enough to confuse people and leave them wondering where I am from.

In Chile there were different labels to describe relationships. If you were just messing with a mino/a aka fucking around you were tirando. Casually dating = andando. Novios meant there was an engagement ring and a wedding date.

Last night (well really early this morning) on the corner of 42 and 9th the Chilean I'm dating asked (after a pretty intense night of conversation) if I would be his polola. It sounds like the silliest word in the world if you don't know what it means. Pololeando sounds even sillier. But last night it made sense to me. Cachai?

Monday, March 27, 2006

So You Want to Date A Single Mami

Congratulations! You are the proud new co-owner of a relationship with a single mami.
Dating is complicated enough with its unspoken (and certainly unwritten) rules and subcontexts. Well it's about to get more complicated. But don't let this fact scare you. Single mamis, especially artsy politically outspoken sex positive mamis, are wonderful people to be in relationships with. They are smart and responsible and truly enjoy spending their time with you. They don't demand too much. They are often just happy engaging in intelligent adult conversation although they love a good night out that can include but certainly isn't limited to poetry readings, dancing, drinking, dinner and of course sex. There are however a few basics that you need to become acquainted with in order to make your relationship with a single mami the best it relationship it can be.

1. A single mami's time is limited. She's not just dividing her time between you and mami'hood. Mamihood is hard work on its own. Single motherhood involves the mami working to support herself and her child (or children). Balancing all these factors can be hard. Understanding that means that the single mami cannot always be available when you want her to be. Even when the regular workday is done for you, she's at home making sure homework is done, food is eaten, baths are taken and bedtime is observed. Don't take it personally. It's not about you. In fact you need to accept that you will not be the number one priority. Her child is. It's not that she doesn't want to spend time with you . It's that sometimes she can't. Throwing in her face that she's never available before a certain time or asking how her past partners dealt with this are not recommended. They will make the single mother wonder if she should give you any time at all and generally make her feel shitty. If you want to be in a relationship with a single mami, be understanding and sympathetic. Not complainy and whiney. The single mother wants a relationship with an adult, not another child to appease.

2. If you make plans with the single mami. Stick to them . Don't be late or cancel at the last minute if you can help it. This goes along with #1. Since the single mami's time is limited, if she has set time aside to be with you, that means she has secured babysitting. If you do have to change plans or cancel , do so as soon as you can. Single mamis hate being left waiting with all their makeup on with the sitter and child.

3. Children get sick. This means that sometimes the single mami may have to cancel plans at the last minute or may be late because she's cleaning up vomit from her kids with the sudden stomach bug. No it's not fair pero it is what it is.

4. Don't assume. Don't assume that because the single mother lives with her family that that means that she has on-call babysitting services. Don't assume that if you invite your single mami to a weekend getaway or a month long jaunt in Spain that her family will take care of her child for that time. Maybe her family isn't supportive of her dating. Maybe everyone in the household works. This goes for your friends too. Educate them as to the realities of single mamihood so that they don't make her feel shitty at dinner parties when they shake their heads in disbelief that she didn't accept your offer to run off traveling with you.

5. It's a Family Affair. Love the single mami. Love her child. This means that you will not have exclusive rights. Expect that watching a video at home with your single mami may mean watching a cheesy kid flick and not the latest art house flick on DVD. Expect that day outings may have to include child friendly activities. Don't suck your teeth or complain that you never get to see just her during the day.

6. Single mamihood doesn't always mean there is a weekend visit from papi. Some single mamis don't have their baby daddy in the picture. Some daddies don't come and take the children away on weekends and alternate holidays. Sometimes it's just the single mami.

7. Don't complain about the lack of sleepovers. Trust me. The single mami would love to wake up with you after a night of making love or wild fucking. She would love that post sex morning after breakfast followed by more sex but she usually has to be home before the sun rises to make breakfast and send her child off to school.

If you remember these simple things then you are well on your way to developing a beautiful something with your single mami. If you can't (or don't want to) you may be missing out on something and someone wonderful.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cosita Seria And Her Bob

It's been a heavy weekend in terms of issues around here. La Mapu and I have been talking about transgender issues and political action. Last week it was all about pussies, vaginas, coocoos, chochas, cositas, and bob. Last year La Mapu, after hearing Pussy Manifesto, decided she wanted to call her vagina her pussy. Not a problem for me but I did have to explain how other people might react and why. She was uncomfortable with the word coocoo (the word my mother used with my sister and I). She said that sounded babyish and La Mapu is no baby. Vagina sounded too technical for her. Lately she's been experimenting with Bob. Yes my daughter has named her vagina Bob.

I tried my best to explain the issues of gender and transgenderism. We know some peeps in the trans community pero I don't think she really understood what the deal was , until she started asking questions this weekend. I think she's been seeing more trans images in the media and that has raised questions for her, She's been asking about the labels girl, boy, male and female. It shows she's thinking which is a good thing.

Then spurred by watching the movie Walkout (which was ok...I have some issues with it but I can find issue with everything!!!) She was asking about different ways people protest , especially in the Latino community. She was already thinking about these things , especially after she decided to do a Women's History Month project on Lucy Parsons. I suggested a group of radical women of color- I mean she's gonna learn about great white women all her damn life. She decided Lucy seemed the most interesting to her. At 8 she's not thinking in terms of labels like anarchism, socialism etc. But she's thinking about the ways people work to change things. My mother says I'm engaging in brainwashing. I say no more than her public school is also.

For example , two weeks ago, la Mapu asked about animal rights including animal testing and hunting. She decided she was going to go vegan. I supported her by taking her to the grocery store to purchase food that had no animal products. Her being a vegan lasted all of two days before she asked me for some pernil but the point is letting her find her own path and supporting it, so long as its not too dangerous or completely fucked up like going to a young republicans meeting or something. Ha!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Parent-Teacher Conferences : Does Not Translate

Students, with serious expressions clutched their small manila envelopes and followed their parents silently through the halls of the local public school. It was that time of year again, report card time and time for the parent-teacher conferences.

On a personal level, my meeting with the teacher went well. I like la MapucheRican's teacher. She's honest, open-minded and gets where I'm coming from, even when I'm complaining about how poorly the 37 1/2 minute extra period is being run or how conservative and useless the new HIV/AIDS curriculum will be. La Mapu is doing well. She is slowly learning to enjoy writing and her mouth in class is catching up with he speed her mouth has here at home.

Every time parent-teacher conferences kick into gear , I am kicked into service. The NYC Department of (mis)Education woefully neglects its non-English dominant parents. Besides translating notices of meetings into Spanish, throwing to side all sense of confidentiality, I translate for Spanish dominant families at the meetings. This means that before and way after meeting with my child's own teacher , I run around the school to where I am most needed.

I was called to a kindergarten class last night to translate between a parent and an old-school teacher.
"Your son should be reading at B level and he's reading at A level. You don't speak English so obviously no one can sit down and read the books I send home every Monday. If no one can help him read in English then I don't know why I should bother sending the books home with your son who is going to have to repeat kindergarten anyway". The teacher began and then looked at me to translate.

The mother explained she was trying. That she enlisted the help of her sister who spoke better English. The teacher responded by reading word by word to the mother a kindergarten level book as an example.
"Oh and your son doesn't know how to clean himself when he goes to the bathroom"

The mother's eyes filled with tears. A younger child sitting happily on his mother's lap grabbed a pen from the table. The pen was promptly grabbed back from the child by the teacher who sternly said, "Don't do that".
"Maybe you should take English classes. You can take class at a college or something." No specifics were given as to where these programs were or just as importantly , how much they cost. The family and I were quickly led out so another family could come in and I was left apologizing to the mother because I too had no resources to offer her.

This morning I inquired if teachers went through any sort of professional development or training specifically dealing with how to work with non-English speaking parents. Not surprisingly I was told they did not.

So much lip service is played to the diversity of the NYC public school system but no one is talking about how poorly non-English speaking parents are dealt with. No one talks about the way economic, race (because most of these are parents of color), and national privilege play out in the hallowed halls of education.

Yes this is an angry mami post...and my mind is spinning with how to turn it into action.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

La Mala in Latina

I'm not one to plug magazines, pero in April's Latina Magazine on page 32 there is a little blurb about this little blog. Mamita Mala is Latina's blogger of the month. Alas they didn't use a picture of me but I share the page with Eva Longoria, Juanes, Thalia and Michelle Bachelet.

Bienvenidos to all who stumbled here via Latina (the one with Salma Hayek on the cover).

HIV/AIDS Education for La Mapu

I originally heard the story on the news this morning as I checked the temperature before I dropped la Mapu off at school. When she came home this afternoon , one of the first things I asked her (after checking out her report card- she still is struggling at writing- haters insert your comment here)was "Did they talk to you about HIV or AIDS today?"

I've been bad about this. We know people who are HIV positive but it's never something I've discussed with la Mapu. I've discussed other illnesses. When Titi L. died of cancer, I explained cancer. What was I waiting for? For someone we know to die before I explained HIV and AIDS? Nice little privilage trip I had going for while.

"No they didn't talk to us about HIV or AIDS in school today." la Mapu explained.
"Well what do you know about HIV or AIDS?" I asked.
"It's a sickness" she answered.
"Do you know how people get sick with the HIV virus?" I asked.
"Not going outside?" she asked, shrugging her shoulders.
Clearly I have failed as a parent.

I began reading the information sent home regarding the new expanded HIV/AIDS Education program. As a third grader my daughter will be taught to wash her hands and cover her mouth when she sneezes. Sex won't be dealth with until she's in fourth grade with an emphasis on abstinence. I have heard from parents in the local public school that in sex ed the word sex can't even be used so this new education programs should be fun ::rolling eyes::

Tommorow there will be a meeting for the parents about the new program. I am thinking of bringing condoms to hand out.

P.S. : This morning as I walked la MapucheRican to school she turned to me and said:

"Mom, you forget everything. We talked about HIV and AIDS and other diseases you can get from sex and drugs. But I don't want to get into it now. "

Ok so maybe I'm not failing that horribly.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Not for Love: Just for Breakdowns (of Communication) and Other Poor Excuses

I was asked if my absence from the blogging world, my inability to keep true and come through with the Radical Women of Color Carnival and numerous other responsibilities that have fallen to wayside, was because I was in love. Ha! Hardly. Just a preponderance of work and depression could keep me from here, locked away in dark corners doing just the bare minimum so that la MapucheRican can eat and get sent off to school everyday.

I wish I had an excuse like love, but all I have is this life as an excuse and with that an apology to all the amazing mujeres who I let down by not coming through with my end of the Radical WOC Carnival. I bit off more of life than I could chew and didn't know how to deal. I will accept my public flogging now and attempt to read through the 300 some odd emails in my inbox.