Archive Page 3

27
Feb
10

An Interruption

You’ll have to trust me when I say that I had a witty and urbane post scheduled for today’s update. But I’m deviating from my usual set-in-stone, overly planned life to write a quick update on yet another devastating earthquake to hit Latin America. If you haven’t heard already, a monstrous 8.8 temblor nailed Chile early this morning.

This quake was hundreds of times more powerful than the one that devastated Haiti just a few weeks ago. Upwards of two hundred people are feared dead, and parts of the country are in ruins. This shift in tectonic plates was centered not far from the biggest earthquake ever recorded, a 9.5 horror that struck in 1960.

As you know, the focus of this blog is on Hispanic culture in the United States. However, when something this major happens in Latin America, it can’t help but affect Hispanics here. Indeed, I’m sure many Latinos with family in Chile are going to have very long days ahead of them.

And if I really want to push the American angle, it has crossed my mind that my new home state of California may be due for some major earthshaking soon. It seems to be a trend. In that case, many American Latinos, including yours truly, may be woken up in the middle of the night by a most unsettling feeling.

I’ve been through one significant earthquake, a 6.1 when I first lived in LA years ago. It’s not as fun as you might think. However, that tremor pales in comparison to what just hit Chile.

The country is  going to need some serious assistance. Once again, if you can help, please do.

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24
Feb
10

One Big Dysfunctional Family

I’ve written before about our peculiar drive to separate the various races, ethnicities, and tribes that constitute the human kaleidoscope. I’m not talking about the cultural or social differences that make life interesting (indeed, that’s the whole point of this blog). I’m referring to the common perception that there is something fundamentally different, even wrong, with people who don’t share our skin color or eye shape or nose width or whatever.

Many people insist upon accenting these differences, as if they were truly meaningful. This is despite the fact that scientists say that any two humans have at least 99% of their DNA in common. That’s basic biology.

So I was intrigued to read about the “Faces of America” series on PBS. The creators of this show “used historical archives and cutting-edge genetic research to trace the ancestry of a dozen famous Americans.”

They found out, of course, that Americans are the ultimate immigrants, and that even random people of vastly different races have common ancestors. To drive home the point, the show profiles Americans of different ethnicities.

The Hispanic representative is actress Eva Longoria Parker. The show reveals that she is a distant cousin to cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Their relationship does more than link the Latino and Asian cultures. It also does more than provide a funky six-degrees-of-celebrity anecdote.

The fact that Longoria Parker and Ma are cousins provides our missing link between high art and pop culture. Yes, their common ancestor passed down the talent to perform beautiful, complex musical passages of incredible intricacy. But he/she also bequeathed the ability to look hot while lounging courtside at LA Lakers games. We’re talking about a truly fascinating individual.

In any case, perhaps the best summation of the “Faces of America” project is from Henry Louis Gates (of the infamous Beer Summit, which I wrote about previously). Gates says, that when it comes to Americans, “We are all mulattos.”

It’s a good observation. And it is perhaps appropriate that he used a Spanish word to make his point.

17
Feb
10

Machinations Behind the Scenes

First, let me thank Louis for his comment on my post “Business Time.” Also, I’m pleased that Nellie found my post “Mazel Tov” to be relevant to her efforts to raise JewRican children. Check out her comment on that post; it’s most cool.

Next, I have to remind you that I occasionally take a break from posting new articles when something pressing comes up, be it a vacation or a move across country or an attack by Martians. None of those things are happening at the moment, but there’s still going to be a short gap between posts. I figure it will be a week, tops, so don’t abandon me for all those other cynical Latino bloggers you have bookmarked.

The reason for the brief hiatus is a combination of personal demands (I’ll be away from the computer for a few days) and the effort required to make improvements to this site. With hope, those improvements will be implemented soon, and they may surprise and delight you, or they could repulse and terrify you (by the way, that’s what we call a “teaser”).

To keep you entertained in the meantime, here is a video of my favorite breed of dog (a boxer) going crazy on a trampoline. Enjoy, and be sure to check back, because new updates will be coming soon.

13
Feb
10

Accent on the X

I don’t have an exact source for this one, a sloppy exception to my usual sterling journalistic standards. The factoid appeared in one of those guy magazines – “Maximum Details of Stuff,” something like that. I only browsed through it because I was stuck in the dentist’s waiting room, so give me a break.

In any case, the magazine polled its readers (all red-blooded American males) to find out what they think is the sexiest foreign accent. To my surprise, most guys said Spanish. I guess there’s something about trilled R’s and stressed “ch” sounds that drive men wild.

Now, although this information might make recent immigrants feel better about themselves, it has limited relevance to me. The poll doesn’t say which accent American women find sexiest (my guess is Italian), and in any case, I’m married and couldn’t use the advantage even if it were relevant to my speech patterns.

The poll results don’t even help the women in my family. Most of them were raised in the Midwest like me, and they speak English in a flat cadence that is far removed from the sultry drawl of a Salma Hayek.

But as nice as it is that Hispanics can win some kind of popularity contest (for once), and at the risk of offending those readers who have the sexiest accent in America, I must disagree with the poll results. I mean, come on, what’s hotter than a British accent?

Compare Rachel Weisz with our friend Salma, above.

See what I mean? I thought so.

But regardless of what verbal tones and inflictions you prefer, let me call a truce and wish everyone a happy Valentine’s Day. It’s the weekend for what we diplomatically call “romance,” but I think we all know what we’re really talking about. So stop reading this blog, grab your sweetie, and get to work.

10
Feb
10

Mazel Tov!

A few years ago, I took one of those internet quizzes that pinpoints your real religion, based on your actual beliefs and not the lip service that you espouse. Like all internet quizzes, I’m sure it was of dubious validity and reliability, and it probably had a questionable theological basis on top of that.

Still, I couldn’t argue with the result, which said that I was, in reality, a Reform Jew. By the way, the religion of my childhood, Roman Catholicism, ranked around twenty-eighth or so on my personal scale, which sounded about right (but I’ll refrain from picking on Catholicism just now).

These days, I consider myself more of secular Buddhist agnostic. But the Jewish angle isn’t that far off.

I’m not sure why I relate to Judaism. It’s not like I had a lot of Jewish friends growing up. My neighborhood was primarily Hispanic (and therefore, incredibly Catholic) while my home state is overwhelmingly Midwestern white (mostly Protestant). So not a lot of Goldbergs and Silvermans appeared on the scene.

Perhaps I picked it up when I lived in New York City, where Jewish culture is everywhere. Within just a few years of arriving in NYC, I was ordering bagels with lox and talking about people’s chutzpah and obsessing about death. So maybe that’s why I came up Jewish on the test.

But I think there’s a larger issue. It seems that Hispanics and Jews have always gotten along pretty well. Perhaps both groups know what it’s like to pass for white, but not really. Maybe our mutual focus on family lines up nicely. Or perhaps we just admire each culture’s long history of suffering.

Regardless, I was intrigued to read about a group of Hasidim Jews in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. A small but thriving population traces its ancestry to Spain and Latin America, and as such, members of this group consider themselves Hispanics.

Spare me your jokes about Juan Epstein, the NYC Puerto Rican Jew from “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

There’s a man in Crown Heights with a real-life cross-cultural headspinner of a name, Moshe Nunez, and he says that “There are a lot of Latin American Jews here…. Many non-Jewish Latinos are surprised to see Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn who speak Spanish and carry on their Hispanic traditions.”

I suppose that would be an attention-getting sight. But still, I’m not really shocked that some people would adopt both cultures. The overlap goes back decades.

For example, when my mother moved to America, back in the 1960s, her first job was helping out an old Jewish woman on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The woman was a Holocaust survivor, and she brought that horrific period to life for my mother by rolling up her sleeve and showing the number branded into her arm. This simple display provided quite the education for a young woman from Latin America.

The old woman was very kind to my mother, and she introduced her to the opera and nice restaurants and the finer things in life. According to my mother, the old woman was adamant that bigotry against any group was evil. She said that anyone who would discriminate against a Latino would bash Jews as well.

In the old woman’s mind, we’re all one and the same.

06
Feb
10

Creating a Buzz

Like many people, I check out PostSecret weekly to see what kind of freaks, weirdoes, and social deviants are out there. For those of you who don’t know, PostSecret is a wildly successful website where people send in postcards detailing their dark secrets, obsessive thoughts, and big regrets.

The site is designed to bring us together, an online therapeutic effort to help people see that others share their fears and hopes. I’m sure it does that for many readers. But I imagine that for many others, it just provokes a voyeuristic “Wow, that guy is nuts” reaction.

Every now and then, I read a submission that resonates with me. For example, the following was in this week’s batch of new secrets:

I must admit that I’m annoyed. Sure, it’s offensive that somebody believes that a violent act is representative of Latino culture. And yes, it’s an odd and pathetic response for a victim to dwell on the mugger’s race (to the point of becoming “obsessed”).

But what really pisses me off is this: I’ve spent a lot of time writing about Latino culture, trying to express the nuances and intricacies of Hispanic thinking, when all I really had to do in order to get someone’s attention was to punch him and steal his wallet. That would have been substantially easier (and while we’re at, much more profitable).

So I’m sure you understand why I will refrain from any further efforts to publicize this blog via social media, google analytics, keywords, SEO marketing, word of mouth, or other techniques that are oh so inside-the-box thinking. I will also pay substantially less attention to quality writing and original insights, because that clearly doesn’t matter much.

Instead, you will find me wandering the alleys and badly lit streets of America, ready to pop someone on the head and then mention, while I’m counting their cash, that I’m Latino. That should get them good and interested in Hispanic culture.

By the way, one interesting thing about PostSecret is that the site doesn’t accept advertising. They’re actually a little smug about it. Of course, this blog has been ad-free from the beginning, so who could blame me if I finally wised up and added a couple of revenue enhancers? That’s just conjecture, of course, because any ads you see here will just be figments of your imagination…

03
Feb
10

Business Time

Not too long ago, I wrote about the Empowerment Experiment. This social movement was started by African Americans who want to help black-owned business thrive. I asked whether Latinos should consider undertaking a similar project, or if it was all just racial politics.

Regardless, in that post, I wrote about how Latinos’ economic power lags behind that of African Americans. It’s not just that blacks do better than Hispanics statistically. It’s that black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs seem commonplace, while identifying Latinos in positions of authority is a little trickier.

For example, what is the largest Hispanic-owned business in the United States? Unless you work for it (or took a few minutes to google the question) you probably don’t know that, according to Hispanic Business.com, the biggest Latino-run organization is the Brightstar Corporation.

In addition to holding a spiffy, optimistic name, this company “is a solution provider and value-added distribution and manufacturing services company.” No, I don’t know what that Dilbert-inspired corporate doublespeak means either.

I was going to suggest that we all buy Brightstar products or employ Brightstar consultants or use Brightstar for all our networking/culinary/communications/porn-access/whatever needs. But like I said, I can’t tell what the company actually does. I just know that it’s big. For all I know, they manufacture toilet seats.

But isn’t it great to see that Latinos can create a mystifying corporate identity and spew business jargon that is just as vague and uninspiring as white America can? Yes, it’s a brand new day.




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