Archive for September, 2007

September 12, 2007

shame meme.

by la rebelde
Mexican Repatriation, Los Angeles,circa 1931.
Image from
Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.

A number of bloggers have been discussing the idea of shame, a conversation that was started by Professor Black Woman and continued by others, such as Profa Cero and Kitta, as a meme.

* * *

Once a week I park near Placita Olvera and make the 10-minute walk through the mercadito to meet my Spanish tutor downtown. In the morning the shops are just opening up, the smell of chorizo con huevo frying on the griddles, the colorful doors that lock the vendor booths at night are still closed and the gueros haven’t yet arrived en masse with their cameras. On the walk back to my car, I avoid the crowded mercadito and walk down to Los Angeles Street and then past Union Station. Los Angeles Street used to be called “Calle de los Negros” by the Spaniards and later, “Nigger Alley” by white Americans seeking to fulfill their “Manifest Destiny.” As I stroll down the hill from la placita, the site of INS raids aimed at the deportation of Mexicans, I look down on Union Station, whose construction displaced Los Angeles’ Chinese community. This is the site of the story I’m telling in my dissertation.

Today, as I approached the traffic light to cross toward Union Station, I saw that a crowd had gathered at the corner. A Mexicano around my papá’s age was lying on the ground, his head propped up on his backpack. He had fallen and was surrounded by white people who had already called 911. I stopped to see if I could help, but he seemed overwhelmed by the crowd and wasn’t responding to the woman who held his hand. It occurred to me that the man only spoke Spanish.

A brief wave of panic washed over me—because I wanted to help, but my Spanish isn’t that good. Because I was afraid I wouldn’t know the words to comfort him, to explain that help was coming. Because I might not understand him. And if he’s undocumented, he must be terrified. In the second that it took me to think all these thoughts simultaneously and to step forward to say that I would try to speak with him, another Mexicana walked up and said she could speak to him in Spanish. As I breathed a huge sigh of relief that someone else could help him better than I could, I heard the sirens of the ambulances rushing to the scene.

On the way home I was reminded that I choose (and yes, it is a choice) to continue living in a country that, especially today, defines itself by it’s struggles for “freedom” when undocumented peoples cannot get healthcare without fear of being violently deported, their “freedom” denied. I was reminded that there are many who I call my “colleagues” who call themselves liberals, who are “experts” on race, class and gender inequality, who refuse to recognize their roles in these systems and who (although they won’t say out loud) are against affirmative action and probably immigration too. I was reminded that there are people who I rely on for academic support who have only stopped using words like “Oriental” because it’s not p.c. and who refuse to understand why that’s fucked up, despite their profession in history. I was reminded about how mi papá was shamed for speaking Spanish in school and decided not to teach his children the language–and how I’ve inherited that shame. And how I’ve been shamed for being a Latina who did not grow up speaking Spanish, for being a mixed person and therefore only “half Chinese “ and “half Mexican” (never a whole person), and how I’ve internalized that shame so it manifests as panic in moments of emergency. Professor Black Woman’s post reminds me that shame is linked to historical processes that structure power in all aspects of our lives and that we make choices daily that are informed by, uphold and challenge power.

As Professor Zero says, “Now everybody tag your own self”!

September 7, 2007


by la rebelde

A few weeks ago, Jennifer, Olga and I went to see El Cantante at a theater near my place and we saw the preview for American Fusion. Jennifer pointed out how all the previews were well-suited to the local audience. And I was excited to see it because, well, how often is there a movie in which Chinese people and Mexican people date? And also because it co-stars Esai Morales, who is so, so beautiful, even with his canas (and even though I heard he’s a wife-beater, which, if true, makes him a bad person, but still nice to look at).

So I went with another amiga to see it tonight. The movie was cute and entertaining, but not at all deep. I appreciated the ways in which this multi-generational Chinese American family confronted stereotypes about Chinese Am masculinity and gendered racialized identities, even as they dealt with their own stereotypes about other peoples of color. However, I could have done without the we’re-all-the-same-on-the-inside kind of “colorblind” b.s. I should have seen it coming, especially considering the title, but I’m surprised by it every time. At it’s best, I thought the narrative might be an example/critique of how Chinese Ams, in particular, continue to maintain racial boundaries between themselves and Mexicans (and Blacks too) in this area of Los Angeles—the area where I live. I just wish all of this could have been developed more.

Of course, I got a big kick out of the scenes where cars were zipping down Valley Blvd and the Chinese viejitas were hanging out by the Ranch 99 where I sometimes shop. The funniest part was how the grandmother kept thinking that José (Morales’ character) sounded like hóu zi (which means monkey). It cracked me up every time!

September 3, 2007


by la rebelde

Today, el 2 de septiembre, marks the one-year anniversary of my dramatic move to el Pueblo de los Angeles. Time has gone by quickly. I’ve gotten lots and nothing done. I feel comfortable but lonely here. I hate the heat and love the sunshine. I love the diversity but hate the stark boundaries that come with it. I’m nervous and excited for the next year, for my research and my dissertation, which is why I’m here in the first place. Right now, I do not wish to live anywhere else.

I’ve lived many personally transformative moments here because of all of these seemingly contradictory feelings. But maybe they’re not contradictory, only simultaneous. Some moments are still on-going. Sometimes moments do not have an ending.

September 1, 2007


by la rebelde

I know I’ve complained about the heat before, but, dude…it’s HOT. It’s seriously fuckin’ hot. The kind of hot that clouds your thoughts, makes your brain mushy, so you can’t concentrate or focus. The kind that makes your bangs stick to your forehead and your sunglasses slide off your nose. The kind that makes you think you’d rather be stuck in traffic than in your apartment because your car has a working air conditioner. Yes, it is that hot.

This afternoon I packed up my paperwork and my ‘puter and took my ass over to the tea shop to grab a bite for lunch and finish up this article submission. (It’s due tomorrow, btw.) So I get seated, I spread the pages of my draft on the table, get my red pen out, order my iced lychee black tea and fried tofu and get to work. It’s always slow-going at first, since I’m not very good at eating and concentrating at the same time. (Sad but true.) Just when I finish eating, the manager comes up to my table and fiddles with the air conditioner control box located on the wall over my head. It was 85 degrees at that moment according to the box. And I was feeling GOOD–much cooler than in my apartment and not freezing cold (like how they like to keep the temp in tejas). Next thing I know, they open all the doors. The a.c. was off/broken. When it hit 93, I had to bounce.

I drove to Pasadena and window-shopped in Barnes and Nobles for the next 2 hours. It was heaven, but it didn’t help me get work done. I did buy a little card for my tío in nuevo york though.

There have been warnings about the possibility of a brown-out. So everyone has been urged to conserve. And I certainly have been–no forgetting to turn the fan off when I move to the next room. No standing with the fridge open for unnecessary time. No leaving lights on when I don’t need to. If there’s a brown-out, I’ll be really pissed that my fan doesn’t work because a whole buncha assholes (like those corporate lawyer fools in NYC) decided to keep their air-conditioning set at like 70. I really NEED my fan to work, for realz.

Or else I’ll have to make a spur-of the-moment trip to ‘burque–manito’s got a super energy-saving a.c. situation in his casita. When I get a job, I’m gonna get me one of those too!