Please don’t call me “super liberal” Here’s why…

I’m the first to admit that I didn’t start voting until I was 28. I don’t really have a solid reason. I wasn’t anti-politics or making our nation and communities a better place. I could blame it on my parents since they couldn’t vote because they weren’t citizens, but I’m past that. There was definitely a side of me that didn’t feel a sense of conviction when it came to voting. I wasn’t moved to vote. I fit that national statistic that describes Latinxs as not voting. It would be embarrassing–in feminist circles— to say that I started voting because my husband convinced me to go ahead and vote in 2004. Unfortunately, for his sake, we cancelled each others votes and it was in that presidential election where I was forced to ask myself where I stood on the political party lines. Honestly something I had never really considered. Since then I know where I stand on the political spectrum, but I still don’t feel a strong conviction to say “I am Democrat.” Here’s why.

I’m not trying to maintain a privileged status quo. When I advocate for issues that matter to me I am speaking for marginalized communities. More personally, when I advocate for certain basic human rights I am doing so because parts of my identity are being attacked. I am an immigrant. I identify as female. I am Latina and I am bilingual. These aren’t parts of me that sort of just emerged or parts of me that say “I have a right to spend my money this way or speak only this language.” I’m just trying to be me; who I have always been since birth. So when someone says “You’re super liberal or You are so progressive!” a part of me cringes a little. I’m just trying to be me. I’m just trying to advocate for the parts of me which represent large and marginalized communities so that we can continue to have basic human rights. I’m not asking for tax break. I’m not asking to be able to take my kid to some prestigous private school with a voucher. I’m not asking to maintain my status quo. I’m asking to break down the walls that keep parts of my identity (and others who identify the same way) marginalized.

So, please, don’t call me “super liberal.”

I’m just trying to be me.

#chingona #Latinx #immigrant #bilingual

Our Multilingual Journey: Spanglish, Spanish, English, & Mandarin.

It’s not uncommon to walk into my home and hear a multitude of languages being spoken at any given time. Our 3 year-old, so far, is becoming prolific at translanguaging between Spanish, English, Spanglish, and Mandarin. She has a great role model of how to translanguage, her big sister! Sabrina has been translanguaging since she was at least 2 years old.

Depending on your background and familiarity with languages you may or may not grasp all that goes on in what  may seem like a linguistically chaotic home. At times you may hear, “Mama, poo tao (which is Mandarin), por favor?” which means, Mama, uva, por favor, in Spanish or Mama, grape, please, in English. Other times you may hear, “You have to chup it! Mama she’s not chupping it!” which translates to You have to suck it! Mama she isn’t sucking it!  You could also hear, “Que vas a hacer?/What are you going to do” with a response in English, “I don’t know. I can’t sleep.” This is our everyday. This is our normal.

We started on this multilingual journey in 2009 when I was pregnant with our first child. I had to convince my husband (a bilingual) that we could do it and that we just had to be consistent. So far the journey has been amazing and nothing like I expected. I have learned that in many ways we have it easier than other parents because we both are bilingual in Spanish and English. That being said, in many ways we don’t have it easier. We both feel more comfortable in speaking English than we do Spanish, although we grew up with both languages. The key difference between us and those parents who were possibly born and raised in a Spanish speaking country is that both my husband and I did not go to Spanish-speaking schools. Spanish has colored our lives in social and cultural ways because we are Latino. Growing up my parents spoke Spanish at home and most recently we got to live in Ecuador, where my husband’s family is from, for 1 1/2 years.

Up until last year Spanish, Spanglish, and English were the three languages that ebbed and flowed between us. In August 2016 our 3 year old began going to a Chinese immersion school and it has influenced our lives in dynamic ways. This experience has taken us out of our linguistic comfort zone and introduced us to a culture we weren’t all that familiar with. For example, when we drop our daughter off at school she switches to her inside shoes–as is customary in some Chinese homes. We also celebrated the Chinese New Year for the first time and learned that children are given red envelopes with “money” or as a symbol of good fortune. I have found myself using Spanish, English, Mandarin, and Spanglish simultaneously when helping my daughter with Chinese homework or when trying to figure out what my 3 year old is asking for.

I have learned that when we decided to have our daughters be part of a Chinese immersion program we also became observers, learners, and guests of a new community. I learned that as an “outsider” I had to respect certain ways of communicating and doing things. These are behaviors and ways of communicating I took for granted as a bilingual Latina when dropping off my daughters at their Spanish immersion schools. For parents who are deciding to put their children in a language immersion program, if I could offer one piece of advice it would be to consider how your presence can influence the dynamics of a program where you are considered the “outsider” of the minority language being learned or spoken. Try being an observer, a guest, and someone who is also learning to be a part of community you may not have had access to had you not decided to be a part of a bilingual school.

 

Living in White (Public) Spaces

It never fails. I’m sitting in a cafe working away. Totally focused on my next writing project when I do what I always do. I look around the cafe (sometimes restaurant or store) and see who is present? Who is accounted for? Who is there? Who has the privilege of buying the food I’m buying. Many times I navigate White spaces. Most people around me are White and speaking “standard” English. It really should come to no surprise then that my 6 year old prefers her lighter skinned dolls than her brown or darker ones.

I keep wondering if I can break this cycle of living in White spaces. If I can purposely go to the other side of town (now gentrified or being gentrified) and find a space where I can write or work where I see people that look and speak like me. Ive been to those kind of places in New York City, for example. I remember going to a bar with friends in NYC and seeing people of color, much like myself, simply relaxing and enjoying a few drinks in a very modern and hip place. I want to go to that cafe where people of color are the majority and we are translanguaging–to me that would be a place where I can feel like I belong.

Exploring Cuba. #cubalibre ¡Vamos a Cuba!

The first time I went to Miami, Florida I was in my 20’s. I fell in love with the city because a part of me felt like I was somewhere in Latin America or the Caribbean. It was in Miami where I learned how mojitos and cuba libres are supposed to taste and how REAL salseros actually don’t mirror their partners steps (east coast west coast salsa, I get it). There was something spectacularly intriguing to me when I danced with a “Cubano de Cuba.” I’ll never forget how it was described to me, “There’s nothing like watching two Cuban people dance salsa.” After that comment I never saw ANY two dancers the same. In fact,  I think when partners dance they tell a story. Their story to be exact.

My trips to Miami always included the same routines: pastelitos de guayaba y cafe con leche (then the BEACH for hours), a sandwich from Publix (a grocery store) for lunch, rest and a nap, THEN dinner (something Argentine or Peruvian many times), then DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, SALSA, SALSA, SALSA until the break of dawn!

It was through these experiences where I heard immigrant stories about leaving Cuba. Sometimes first hand experiences, but mostly from 2nd generation Cuban immigrants. We shared things in common in that my parents had also immigrated a generation ago (but from Mexico) and in those ways I connected with them. It has been 15 years since I first went to Miami and 15 since I decided that one day I would travel to Cuba.

I’m on a journey now to plan our first trip to Cuba and, as it turns out, this planning also coincided with the passing of Fidel Castro. I am so curious to hear stories from the people that actually live in Cuba, to see how a world so close to us lives in such a different way.  If I state that I am going to “support the Cuban people,” then what kind of proof do I need to show when returning to the U.S.A that I did that? Would staying at a “casa particular” be enough? I have also thought of contacting professors at a local university in Havana to express an interest in planning an educational trip with my university students, but am not quite sure what the first steps involve in trying to do just that?

I would love to hear from my readers who have traveled to Cuba. #cubalibre #vivacuba

 

 

Sometimes Spanish does not come first!

Even before I had Sabrina I was scoping out our foreign language schools options. I got on several waiting lists and eventually got into all of them! In fact, I keep my nena on a rolling waiting list because you never know. I was so set on foreign language exposure that I did not even bother looking into English child development (aka day care options or mothers-day-out programs). I had my heart and eyes focused on the foreign language component that it, unfortunately, blurred my sense of vision. I lost sight of what was really important — my daughter’s well being, her happiness, and what she needed in school.

As I scoped out language schools I started to notice a trend. Most of them seem to have a stricter and more regimented program for teaching and taking care of children. I started to wonder if this had something to do with the ways children are taught and cared for in Latin American countries. I know that western/North American child rearing practices can be very different than other parts of the world, so surely this, too, affects the way children are regarding in Latin American day care centers and schools.

As I have mentioned in other posts, we love the little school Sabrina is enrolled in now. They value linguistic diversity and that, to me, is priceless. We have had to consider other options because it was now too far from our home, but to be honest, I was not entirely happy with the stricter and more regimented schedule they have in place. I won’t get into details, but I will say that I recently checked out an English school in town and walked into a whole new world.

The child was at the center of their “play-curriculum.” If my baby girl wants to paint, she can; if she wants to play with shaving cream in a water table, she can. The place seemed happy, the kids were happy, and most importantly, they were doing things that 2 and a half year olds should be doing—socializing and playing. In other words, they don’t have to wait for art time to happen in an organized, sitting in their chair, and waiting their turn fashion.

Read: Is Bilingual Education Right for Us?

Taking the initiative to look at English schools may have happened out of necessity, but deciding that sometimes Spanish does not come first was a process. We have been speaking in Spanish to Sabrina since the day she was born and have been really consistent about it. She probably knows about 90% Spanish and 10% English.

My heart was aching and tears were swelling up in my eyes when I was forced to take a closer look at the decisions we were making about exposing my daughter to Spanish almost 100% of the day. I realized that the decisions we had made were possibly costing her opportunities to just be a kid. All she wants to do is play, socialize with other kids, and do creative things. Sure she would stay in her seat, listen to the teacher, walk in a line with her hands behind her back, but she is too young to voice her opinion or even know that there are other schools available where being a 2 ½ year old comes first, then learning Spanish.

I’m curious, what are foreign language schools/day care centers like in your city? Have you compared English versus Spanish schools? If so, did you notice a difference like I did? How are you weighing your options?

*Originally published on the Spanglish Baby website on December 26, 2012

#race #whiteprivilege #blacklivesmatter #whitefragility #socialjustice #workingtogether

An [informal] open letter to those offended by hashtags related to #race,

It has been brought to my attention that my posts, comments, and ideas about #race offend people. Let me be clear about something. These posts and comments are not about you personally. If you think they are, then you should ask yourself why you feel this way and redirect your anger, uncomfortableness, and difference of opinion to a larger issue—like actively working to change things in society and not me, per se. I am not your problem—the way society has shaped you is the problem. Again, I am not referring to anyone personally because I am not sure who those “people” are exactly. I have never had a face-to-face interaction with anyone who has blatantly said, “What you said about #race #whiteprivilge #whitefragility offends me. Can we talk about it?”

I was going to write a post that would describe and break down what the hashtags above mean, but I never intended this blog to do that. This blog was meant to provide an “interpretation of MY bilingual life,” how I have navigated life as a #bilingual person of color. If MY experiences offend you, my very REAL experiences, things people (usually White) happened to say to ME offend you, then the problem lies within you.

I find it particularly interesting that most White people have not had to talk about their White skin and when we, #POC, bring up #race (even comically) it becomes a “Why are you so angry at us?” or “Isn’t that racist [of you]?” dialogue. I don’t remember a time I haven’t talked about my brown skin and #bilingualism.

For the record, I’m not an “angry Latina with an attitude.” I am simply open to discussing with others issues that are related to language, class, and race in order to gain a better understanding about each other. In fact, I am so interested that I wrote a 300+ page dissertation focused on those issues—so see, my posts about #race are not about YOU—they’re about making this world a better place for Latinx children who come from marginalized communities. I wouldn’t waste my time and energy writing about #whitepeople—history has already done that for us.

Sinceramente,
#letstalk #latinaPhD #racematters #worktogether

Co-authored a Huffington Post Article about CA’s Proposition 58- LEARN

Please help me in spreading the news about California’s Proposition 58 – (Language Education, Acquisition and Readiness). It will be on the November ballot and we must get California residents to vote YES. Voting YES means ALL students in the state of CA will have the opportunity to receive a multilingual education. This isn’t the first time I have urged the public to become advocates for bilingual education, so please take a moment to read about the proposition and share it with friends, family, and colleagues that can vote in the state of California.

Some may ask why I have an invested interest in seeing this proposition pass. I grew up in Southern California and in a bilingual community up until 8th grade. I personally did not benefit from bilingual education, but would love to see it an option for all students, but, especially students who come from bilingual homes.

Please click on the link below to read the Huffington Post promoting CA Proposition 58.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/american-anthropological-association/save-ca-residents-from-a_b_11387726.html

My Toddler’s Bilingual Development

I have been recording (mostly on Facebook) my daughters’ bilingual development. The following conversation took place when she was 1 year and 11 months old.

Me: Sabrina, ven a comer los frijoles.
Sabrina: No, jole!
Me: Ven aquí.
Sabrina: No ven
Me: Si
Sabrina No, si!

As you can see  her words are “fragmented” and she echoed what I was saying, yet all in Spanish. It has been an amazing journey that not a single person could have described to me prior to deciding to raise my daughter with 2 (at least) languages. I have seen her change from a predominately Spanish speaker at 2 and a 1/2 years old to having a strong command of English within 6 months of being immersed in an English daycare. Today, at 4 years old, it can be difficult to tell which of the 2 languages she speaks “better.” Just the other day the following conversation took place between her and a new friend:

New Friend: Sabrina, por que hablas ingles?
Sabrina: En Austin hablamos espaniol y in Ecuador we speak English!
Me: That’s right, honey. You are bilingual and your friend is becoming bilingual just like you!

In fact, one could argue, based on that single sentence she uttered above, that she has a strong command of both languages because she managed to code-switch while maintaining the grammatical structure of both languages!

When it comes to raising a bilingual child it seems like, as I have said before, there are many trials, joys, and tribulations. Having moved to Ecuador recently we switched to speaking English with Sabrina for the first time in her life! She refused to speak to us in English for about 2 months UNTIL she came home from her first day at a Spanish school. The teachers and classmates were so impressed with her American English that she, what I assume, felt proud. Since that day she speaks mostly in English to us. It was a complete shock to me to see how drastically she switched all due to what her peers thought. Now, as I mentioned, my biggest concern is asking her to switch back to Spanish IF we ever decide to move back to the U.S.

Have your children successfully switched back to the original language you had spoken after moving back to a country of origin?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who makes it to the rooftop? A perspective of how social class and race play pivotal roles in shared experiences.

The following post was inspired by two other blog posts and an assignment by one of professors in graduate school. In other words, as you have seen on my blog a lot of my stories interweave with each other. They all contribute to the dense fabric that makes up  my ever-evolving, never static identity. ENJOY.

As I was sipping my delicious peach cream martini from the rooftop of a prominent bar in Manhattan I glanced around and noticed that most people, lucky enough to enjoy this experience, were, or appeared to be, white. It’s truly a small percentage considering the hundreds of people that walk the streets of New York City, not to mention the amount of diversity amongst pedestrians! There are obvious factors to take into account, such as the possibility that the faces making an appearance on the rooftop are mostly those of tourists, although I think I can still pose the same question. This thought exactly is one of the reasons why I am pursuing a PhD in bilingual education. Analyzing how certain individuals make it, to say a rooftop to enjoy a view and cocktail, seems to have always permeated my mind to the point of frustration, making me wish I could see beyond the “benefits” of race and social class (i.e., gender, immigrant generational status, ethnicity). In other words, sometimes I wish I knew less, questioned and analyzed less. Frankly put, sometimes I wish I could change the way I interpret life; sometimes ignorance is bliss.

The theoretical concept of intersectionality has forced me to reconsider the aspect of my identity I have honed in on for most of life: ethnic/racial identity. The readings and critical class discussions have made me realize how much the other aspects of my identity have influenced how I participated in the construction of my overall identity.

This paper will address how my ethnic/racial identity has been shaped by the intersection of my other identities: gender, class, & immigrant generational status. My multiple identities were partly shaped within the context of the school setting. In other words, the social location from where I will deconstruct my overall identity comes from one context that has resonated with me the most: the academic school setting.

The concept of intersectionality describes identities in relation to each other where each one constitutes the other. An individuals’ social location within this intersectionality helps shape the experiences we have within certain contexts (Moya, 2002). For instance, if we think of my ethnic/racial identity in relation to my immigrant generational status, gender, and class in the context of a school setting where the majority of the students share a similar background one could argue that my positionality carries nearly equal footing with others. In a completely different context, where my social location (as previously described) is completely different from my peers one could argue that my positionality has also changed. According to Holland, Skinner, Lachiotte, and Cain (1998), “Positional identities have to do with the day-to-day and on-the-ground relations of power, deference, and entitlement, social affiliation, and distance—with the social-interactional, social-relational structures of the lived world.” (p. 127). This analysis will explore how aspects of my identity were negotiated and mediated using cultural artifacts or tools to (re)position where I stood on the hierarchy of social relations (Garcia, 2012; Holland et.al, 2008).

In the eighth grade my family moved from a predominately Mexican and working class city (Santa Ana, C.A.) to a predominately White and middle to upper class city (Mission Viejo, C.A.). By moving to a very different city aspects of my identity and how they related to one another also seemed to change. Additionally, there were several pivotal changes that occurred almost simultaneously. My father passed away changing the way our home was organized. In retrospect, this is when my mother gained her sense of agency as the matriarch of our now entirely female home. My identity as a female, though I did not realize at the time, was now being shaped by my mother’s transformation from a devoted wife to an independent woman who really wanted to see her three daughters take on more feminist roles in society outside the home.

Due to my father’s passing (cerebral aneurysm) our economic status changed because he left behind several life insurance plans. My mother saw this as an opportunity to try and provide us with a better education and safer neighborhood to live in. The ways my change in class intersected with other aspects of my identity was influenced by the new context (as mentioned earlier) I found myself in a predominately white, middle to upper class neighborhood.

The aspects of my identity that seemed to have changed the least as a result of the move included my ethnic/racial identity and my immigrant generational status. Interestingly, it was those two aspects that seemed to have also changed the way the school setting positioned me. In Santa Ana I was positioned as the smart student by teachers and by my peers and in Mission Viejo I was placed on a remedial track. Slowly and painfully I began to see myself as just that: remedial. When I graduated from high school in 1994 I had an academic GPA of 2.49 and I ranked 226 in my class of 367. Most, if not all, of the courses I had taken were not college prep. They were courses for students who, as one teacher described, “designed for those who will go straight to work” after graduating.

This remedial status followed me through community college and my first semester at UT. I started community college with high hopes of exiting the remedial reading, writing, and math courses I was placed in (again!), which I did within a few years. Once transferring to UT I failed my first semester and was put on academic probation due to my 1.5 G.P.A. During my second semester I was removed from academic probation and I wish I could say the rest is history, but it wasn’t. I still felt like that remedial student and in many ways it has prevented me from exploring other aspirations.
Fortunately or not, it took pursuing a doctorate to understand what happened to me and how I really am not the person the track I was put on labeled me as. This past academic year (which is also my fifth year in a doctoral program) I have repeated parts of the following mantra to change this perceived remedial student identity of which I have carried the weight of since junior high (1989):

My Identity Mantra
I am not a remedial student.
I’ve got this.
I can write and articulate just as well as privileged peers.
I am not that other(ed) person.
I have agency.
I can create spaces of agency.
I know when I am living in a figured world that oppresses me.
I know how to mediate and negotiate oppressive spaces into agentive ones.
I can identify and counter discursive practices that position me as weak, dumb, quiet or submissive.
I have tools that will help me construct the identity I need to achieve my academic goals.
I am not that person.
I am who I say I am.

Holland and Lave (2001) described how individuals or groups enact their sense of agency by acknowledging their histories. By learning about and coming to the realization of how the school system can track immigrant and minority students I have come to terms with the fact that our public school system is not perfect. One of the ways I have been able to create spaces of agency within oppressive setting like the classroom (in public schools and higher education) is through the use of cultural artifacts. Holland et.al (2008) described these artifacts as occurring in the moment whether they are “verbal, gestural, [or] material productions—emerging from the situation” they are taken up by individuals and used as tools to navigate and reposition oneself in order to open spaces of agency. Reflecting on my academic trajectory and how my ethnic/racial identity has, and will continue to change, I have to admit that I cannot pinpoint exactly how I was able to reach my current social location as a privileged, middle to upper class Latina pursuing a doctorate. Perhaps I am in many ways like the woman who climbed up the house (Holland et.al, 2008) and was able to perform a great deal of how I navigated the academic institution that positioned me as remedial for many, many years.

The Bilingual Connection in Texas(Tejas)

The other day I was speaking in Spanish, like I always do with my daughter, and in English, like I always do with my sister. Somewhere between talking to my sister about her studying for the GRE while at the same time chasing my baby girl around the room, I ended up blurting out to my sister, “Toma your pencil.” After I had grabbed it from my 17 month old as she attempted to put it in her mouth, which is nothing out of the ordinary. This is how she explores her world. Apparently, this is how my bilingual world connects, sometimes. They meet in the middle of a sentence. It should really be no surprise that so many people in Texas code-switch, blend Spanish and English, sometimes making a new word using the 2 languages.

This is the bilingual connection. This is Texas!