Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Echoic Childhood Memories

Of all the sounds I remember growing up around as a kid, the music my father played in his drunken stuper's late into the night. Most Latinos/as and working class folks know what I'm talking about. Unless you didn't have a father figure in your life, which just makes this post awkward. Anyway, drunken father figures playing music really loud, yeah.

Growing up I wondered what the hell was going and why he needed 4 ft tall speakers to blast music I had no comprehension of, till now. Acting like a delayed recording that is only now kick in for various reasons, I find myself latching on to anything that plucks the strings of nostalgia. However, a lot of those romanticized memories come with the kind of emotional baggage and trauma that can slap you out of no where.

As a kid, I knew that my father getting drunk meant a few different things. It meant that random people would be over to the house, there would be barbecue on deck, a beer run to a store that also mean getting to buy a bunch of junk food and soda. That they would go late into the night talking about all sorts of random things while simultaneously playing music so loud that you can't hear anyone talk. And no matter how hard we pleaded with him to turn the music down or to go to sleep, it would just make it worse.

While I'm able to comprehend the situations I was in growing up with an alcoholic father, I find myself mirroring his behavior, for better or for worst. While I don't have kids to emotionally scar nor four foot speakers to blast music from when I'm drunk. I only have four inch speakers attached to a back pack, but some of the music is the same though. Sort of.

Rediscovering those tunes I heard in the middle of night as I tried to go to sleep have a different meaning now that I'm older and sober. I have a choice in how I can remember this music and I chose to enjoy it for what it is, music about heart-break and romance. Needless to say that my current binge of musical taste was inspired by real life events, but that's for another time.

Music today doesn't hold a candle to oldies and classics like Los Angeles Negros. It was another time and era, but their music is timeless. I literally spend hours listening to albums and playlist to rediscover as many bands as possible. And while my current obsession I'll eventually give way to heavy metal or wu-tang, I'll continue basking in them.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Of What Could Have Been

Often times, I find myself in spaces in which I wonder how I got there. Not so much that I'm lost and I'm somewhere I don't know where I am, but that in the scope of everything in between friendships and acquaintances I find myself in unique spaces. Lot of it has to do with networks and the spaces I put myself in. Art shows, concerts, political rallies etc. And every once in a while I look at where I am and I ponder of what could have been. Finding yourself surrounded by professionals and more college degrees than I can shake a stick at.

That kind of stuff comes to my mind not only because I'm observant of my surroundings, but because I've recently been dwelling on the fact that I am a college drop out. When I started out in school, I wanted to get a journalism degree and graduate with that. For all those years I've spent at my community college and then getting politically active with the DREAMER/undocumented student movement, I reassessed those journalistic endeavors and decided to focus those skills somewhere else.

So what does it say when I find myself in spaces that celebrate institutional success in academia, politics, and other high end professions? I like to think that it's a combination of the work I do mixed with those I know and sprinkled with a little bit of actively putting myself in these spaces. Comparisons and wondering what if can't be helped in terms of self reflection. I goes along with the territory. But it's something I don't dwell on much.

For everything that could have been and is yet to be, I'm proud of who I am and how I got here. I respect friends who put in their time in academia for years and they work hard for their hustle. Game recognize game if you will. I like dwelling in these moments every once in a while because they provide an opportunity to continue to analyze my own personal growth and to keep it at 100.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Never Tell My Story The Same Way Twice

Recently, upworthy, a click-bait wed site, decided to highlight an old-ish documentary I was a part of, Limbo. I for one thought it was hilarious how they dug it up and got some clicks out of it. There was a cool minute of folks seeing it for the first time and recognizing me. I'm proud to have done this documentary and I'm always happy to share it when appropriate with others, but something about Upworthy just bugs me the wrong way. It feels like my work is being taken for someone else's purposes, as if they're not sharing it correctly, that make sense? Nother thing I started to think about was how I never told the same story twice. I catered to different crowds, but more than anything I just got at "telling my story." I've practiced it so many times that I knew which points to hit and at what crowds to not only engage the audience, but to fuck with people too. They expect you to be all sob story and inspirational because you've over come adversity, but I'd be up there telling jokes and being all casual about it, because that's how I am. For example.....

In this video, which was made a year ago, I am completely being myself and purposely doing what you see me doing in those pics. Why? cause fuck it, that's why. I'm not trying to look "cool" or show off, nah. At that point I was just tired of the same old rhetoric that is that of the "DREAMERS" movement. I've since long stopped identifying that way and have moved beyond it because of the complexities of the human experience. But I ain't gonna lie, I ham that shit up hahaha

Monday, September 01, 2014

Life Lessons from Riding a Bicycle

I've had a bike for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I would ride around the neighborhood with friends until I was called home. I would go around knocking over garbage cans on pick up days. I would go to the store or just ride around the block. I've also had numerous bikes on the count that I would be careless with them. It wasn't until I got tired of skating that I became serious about riding. What started out as a need of being able to get around, blossomed into a love for everything cycling.

I was beginning to connect with friends and spaces that used bicycles as a point to connect to larger, systematic issues of in equality, harassment, lack of equal representation and advocacy. I never heard the phrase 'accidental environmentalist' until I started becoming part of those spaces and I realized how just riding my bike was another tool to organize with.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Family Visit

Every time I visit my family I notice how I'm taller than my parents, aunts, and uncles and my nieces, nephews, and cousins keep getting taller than I am. My immediate family, along with most of my extended family from my moms side, have been living in the state of Utah for the last seven years. Cheaper cost of living. I use to visit every summer, but over the years I've stopped going all together. I've seen my family here and there when they come to Los Angeles to visit, and this weekend was the first time in a long time that I've made the trip over there.

Before, I would make a summer trip out of it. I'd take a week off from what I'm doing and take Amtrak over there. This time around though, I'm better off financially than I've ever been and I can afford to fly over taking the bus or train. While I only spent two days over there, it was more than enough for me. While the more things change, the more they stay the same for the good and the bad. 

I've missed out on a lot of things in terms of my family and I've been ok with that. When I decided to leave I knew it was for the better and what I needed. Standing here now and being able to tell them how good I'm doing puts all those sacrifices in perspective. I've missed seeing my sisters grow into young women and into mothers. As much as I wanna pick up and hug my nieces, they're still to young to understand that they have an uncle who cares about them. Seeing them turn away and cry when I reach out to them sums it up nicely. 

In the past, it was distance and time that kept me away from visiting. Now a days, what keeps me away is more of a cultural divide. My parents have always know I was going to be different from what they expected, if they expected anything at all. They thrusted me into American culture without hesitation that there's no way for me to be anything else but Mexican American. Here in LA, I cherish and protect that which reminds me of the home I shared with my family growing up and the one I left at seven years old to come to the US. 

I'll go out of my way just to reminisce about something because I look through a romanticized lens. I think back on how good it was the first and no matter how hard I try, it's just not the same. That's how I am with my family. I've grown and changed dramatically from how my family pictures me. I know this cause they were surprised to see me karaoking to Selena and dancing cumbias. They've never known me to do any of that kind of stuff, let alone bask in it. 

My family ask how I'm doing, and me saying "good" is enough for them. Being there again for my least favorite sisters' wedding felt like being in a bubble, mostly because that's how things are over there for them. My sisters may be moms now and are moving out to live with their partners, my parents keep getting shorter the older they get because they're from the old world like that, along with all those aunts, uncles, and cousins who suddenly have a hard time remembering me because of my facial hair. 

During the party on Saturday night, it hit me on what I was missing out on by not being there. I shared my first dance with my mom, along with one of my nieces. I shared drinks with men who I use to literally look up to. I saw how through years of family drama, almost everyone was still keeping it together and supporting each other. All those familiar faces from parties of yesteryear were still there and it seemed like I never left in the place. Kids are running around everywhere, boy and girls separating to do their own thing while the teens try and look all cool and grown up with each other. 

I really wonder what idea and/or image they have of me. I rarely talk about the kind of work I do, let alone that I'm active in organizing and social justice spaces. But I know they've seen or heard something or other cause my parents would probably say something when asked about me. That and the fact that I use to be on spanish news segments every once in a while back in the day. Those are the kinds of conversations I use to be around as a kid. I always hated them because despite being right there in front of them, they would talk about you in the third person. 

Then there's inkling in me to want to talk to my older cousins, nieces, and nephews about what they're doing and what they might have planned. I wanna ask them how they're doing in school and if they are even thinking about college. To offer myself and all of my resources to help them get to where they wanna get. To leave the family behind for a while and go do their own thing. But I don't know them like to be asking anything other than if they remember me.  

There's a lot of lamenting on my part for what could have been and for what isn't. I move forward knowing the choices I made can't be change, but they can be mended. Once my nieces get older and can speak in full sentences, then maybe that's when I'll start visiting on a more regular basis. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

DACA Two Years Later

As someone whose gone through the DACA process and is actively benefiting from it, almost everything I read about the program having failures and faults is nothing more than sensationalism from institutions and non-profits. While DACA is talked about in the media through the same sensationalist lens in explaining why a program that should benefit millions, has only about half a million individuals approved. There are actual studies and hard numbers that go into the numerous obstacles that come when someone can qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but ultimately don't apply. Those that have applied for DACA and by extent, anyone else whose gone through the immigration process here in the US understands first hand how overwhelming it is and how easily one mistake can ruin the entire process for an individual.

It should be clear to most that have a basic understanding of these processes that having the money to apply is the first and sometimes, the biggest hurdle one has to go through. $465 is a lot of money for a working class family/individual, specially when there's a possibility of not being approved for DACA or any other status that has an application fee. After the money, having the right documents to submit is the next biggest hurdle. I didn't apply for DACA until a few months after the program got started, and part of that was collecting evidence. I got lucky and found an old receipt from a lost library book I paid for and my dog's license from the city. If it wasn't for that, my chances of getting approved would have been substantially lower. However, I had the privilege of applying through a non-profit and had lawyer support in case anything took a turn for the worse, a resource only those of us in the "movement" have.

There's an endless list of why an individual who qualifies for DACA won't apply for it. From fear of the government, cultural norms, lack of resources, lack of information, and scheming lawyers are just some of those hurdles. The odds keep stacking against you from there. Unless you're one of those folks that's featured regularly in news stories on being undocumented and doing something that's not common place like being in a Doctorates program or studying some other high class profession that doesn't lend itself to working class/poor immigrants, the government doesn't see you as a priority. The government wants those that will contribute more versus those they see as not being able to contribute enough or nothing at all. It's the kind of rhetoric used by non-profits and movement celebrities.

When the program first rolled out, everyone and their momma were talking about. You'd see everyone coming outta the wood work to take advantage of this new situation. From crooked lawyers and organizations, to non-profits that rolled out their own programs to help their members. All of a sudden everyone was overwhelmed because of the demand for information regarding the program. From how much it would cost to how one would qualify or if it was necessary for one to seek legal help in filling out the application.

I imagine this is how everything went down in the 80s when Regan rolled out his immigration amnesty. Everyone and their mom, clamoring to take advantage and come up in the world. I saw a lot of that through DACA. A surge of individuals who have never been part of movement and/or organizing spaces for one reason or another. They all wanted help with DACA with an urgency that I've never seen before. Everyone wanted to get theirs and peace out, which I can understand. While it may require pulling some teeth, if someone can qualify for DACA, they'll find the money and resources to apply, there's no doubt about that. They will lie on the application to cover up anything that may cause trouble and go to crooked lawyers and notaries to make it happen.

The only times I hear talk of an individual not applying for DACA on some moral principle or because of the politics involved is someone who claims they're "radical" or "revolutionary." If you're anti-government, anti-DACA or basically anti-anything that is short of demanding unrealistic changes the US government will make, then you need a pie to face. But that's just a waste of a good pie. They all talk big game to the point of saying something to the affect of
 rather dying on their feet than living on their knees. It's just like the Dave Chappell skit "when keeping it real goes wrong." 

At the end of the day though, all I see is everyone is fighting with themselves in trying to take credit for whatever happens and being at the metaphorical table when it's being talked about. People will get screwed and left out will others will be thrusted into the lime light as examples of how whatever happens can affect individuals positively. It comes down to nothing more than a show and tell when you get to that level of working with institutions and non-profits, which is more often than not a mirror for those that work in those spaces.

My DACA renewal is already coming up toward the end of the year, I will be applying again and I know that I will be approved. For someone whose been a straight arrow on paper and with legal resources at my disposal, it's something I don't even think twice about. I haven't done anything that will disqualify me from re-applying and have been working three different jobs at the same time. Again, I'm an exception to a lot of things not because I'm above average or anything of the sorts, I have resources from being in movement spaces.

I had a kind of stability before my DACA kicked in, and when it finally came through, I didn't go through a dramatic process or change. I was 29 and my reactions would have been worlds apart if I had gone through this 10 years ago. Getting DACA wasn't life altering, it just made things easier for me. To work in spaces that previously had difficulties because of my lack of legal status. I've been undocumented for 23 years and I know how to navigate the system to do what I need to do. Those that are younger aren't as wily for different reasons, most prevalent is that they'll no longer have to be.

There's a stark difference in how the immigrants rights movement looks now and how it looked 10 years ago. Things have gotten better for the few and have gotten worse for the rest. There's no doubt that DACA will continue on for the foreseeable future and that other stuff will happen in-between. Do I have any fears or worries about the DACA program being terminated and being assed out again? Sure, just like I wonder if I'll be hit by a bus on my way to work, but that doesn't stop me from moving forward.

I've come a long way from the days of being scarred to share my real name online because I'm undocumented. If DACA were to end tomorrow, I know there would be an alternative or a kind of compensation for those in the program. As fucked up as the government is, I doubt it would do anything to those in the DACA program if it came to an end. If anything, there'll probably something along the lines of being permanent residency because of the redundant system that is in place and the government doesn't want all these new tax payers going any where.

I've taken full advantage of having DACA short of being able to qualify for health insurance. I still have to hustle, but I have the space to do other things I want here and there. While I've detached myself from being active in immigration spaces, I have been more active in other social justice spaces because of what I learned all those years in the Dream Act trenches.

I'm not the kind of person to plan too far ahead into the future. The older I get, the more emphasis I put in things that are personally rewarding for me and by extension, those around me. The options of always working toward something greater in terms of finishing college and beyond are always there, but that's not me. I'm not one for academia or being institutionalized like that. More power to those that can and have worked those systems, but that ain't me, yet I'm not completely closed off to such aspirations. I just like taking things as they come.