Grand Central Market

Te recuerdas de nuestro barrio, mijo?
Ahora, este es tu barrio.
Y es muy diferente al mío.
Dime que te recuerdas de nuestro barrio, mijo, por favor.
Te recuerdas?

I don’t, Apá.

No te recuerdas de Doña Linda? La tamalera?
En su carrito de compras, brillando en el sol
Como sus dientes de plata?
Su piel morena, marcada por el sol
Cada hora de trabajo evidente en su piel
En su voz ronca, por los gritos de cada mañana
En sus pies hinchados, por caminar doce horas al día?

Tamales de puerco y pollo y dulce
Champurrado, también.
Solamente un dollar.

Te recuerdas, mijo?
Dime que te recuerdas.

I don’t, Apá.

No te recuerdas de Don Ángel? El hombre de negocios? El trancero?
El que vendía joyería fuera de su camioneta, puerta a puerta?
Su camisa blanca, estirada sobre su barriga, y amarilla de sudor?
Su cabello fino y grasoso?
Su cara roja, traicionando sus mentiras?

Collares de cobre y pintados de oro.
Collares que resultan en salpullido.
El cuello pálido de tu mama,
Rojo y cubierto en ronchas dolorosas.

Te recuerdas, mijo?
Dime que te recuerdas.

I don’t, Apá.

No te recuerdas de la familia Fernández?
Los de la tienda de liquor?
Don Mario y la Señora Araceli?
Sus hijas Marcela, María, y Mónica?
Su hijo Manuel?

Los seis trabajando todos los días.
Vendiendo en su tienda de liquor.
Cerveza y vino,
Tomatillos y limones,
Leche y cereal.

Mario y Araceli dando ordenes
Que caen en oídos sordos.
María y Mónica chismeando
Detrás de la caja registradora,
Manuel y Marcela en el piso, jugando a la lucha libre.
Y el carnicero, el Señor Omar.

Te recuerdas, mijo?
Dime que te recuerdas.

I don’t, Apá.

No te recuerdas del Mercado Central?
De nuestros desayunos ahí,
Cada domingo después de misa?
Del restaurancito de Doña Inés?
Donde servían —

I remember, Apá!

Si, mijo?!

Yes, Apa! Grand Central Market!
Eggslut and gluten free pizza,
Kale smoothies and green juices,
Foreign cheese and fresh smoked salmon!

Perdón?

Come on, Apá! Grand Central Market!
Down the street from Planet Fitness,
Where feet burn against yoga mats.

Two blocks down from Starbucks!

Grand Central Market, Apá!
Right by the Urban Outfitters!
You know the place, Apá!
The Outfitters used to be the local church!

Three blocks up from the other Starbucks,
And six blocks from the Starbucks on 12th St.!
Come on, Apá! You know the Starbucks!

Apá, you know Grand Central Market!
………………………………………… Right?!

Conocía al Mercado Central,
Pero ahora no.

?!?!?!?!

Mi barrio ya no es el tuyo, hijo

Mi barrio y tu neighborhood,
Son muy diferentes.
Son different.

Tenía razón, hijo.

Night of Cultura

A woman shrieks in the dead of night. A man strumming on his guitar offsets a serenade of melodic voices. Cussing intervenes the music as drugs are dealt.

This is Night of Cultura at UCLA.

In 2004, a group of Latina/o students came together to establish a creative space for the expression and celebration of Latin American culture through performing arts. The nonprofit, completely run by UCLA students, has since worked toward staging theater productions every spring quarter.

Night of Cultura’s Executive Director Ricardo Ayala, a third year psychology student, describes the essence of the organization as the interweaving of the arts and social justice, “bringing up issues relevant to those in Night of Cultura as well as the communities we represent.”

As stated on their official Facebook page, Night of Cultura aims to “[establish] a creative space that allows students the opportunity to participate in political advocacy, social advocacy, and cathartic expression. Through performing arts, [they] aim to educate the audience for the betterment of the Latin-American community at UCLA.”

Their mission statement was evident during Monday night rehearsals, held on the Tom Bradley International Hall patio from eight to ten. They are a chaotic combination of live music, impassioned arguments, remnants of a past romance, and excruciating loss.

Among this year’s featured productions is art history graduate student Carlos Rivas’ monologue “1932,” inspired by the often overlooked genocide of Salvadoran indigenous peoples.

“Last summer I spent a week in a little town called Nahuizalco in El Salvador. I stayed with an indigenous community with the grandchildren of the grandchildren of the people who were murdered. I was very inspired by [this experience]. I came back and wanted to share the knowledge,” says Rivas. “I was already a part of NoC and [this] fit in with the theme of Latin American culture [while] also still raising awareness for social activism.”

Fourth year Spanish literature student Roberto Reyna’s El Swapmeet takes place closer to home near the border.

Reyna credits his upbringing and experience of selling at his local swap meet alongside his mom as inspiration for his play.

One of the critical themes present throughout his play is the role of money.

“Money is an actor in every Latino’s life. It transforms us,” says Reyna.

The influence of money is evident through his memories of being at swap meets as a kid.

“I think I saw some kids in the swap meet selling by themselves and I said, ‘What got him to selling?’ This kid goes to the swap meet all by himself and he thinks he’s all badass. I wanted his backstory,” says Reyna. “It’s the backstory of a lot of people, to try and work and to earn something out of anything. The journey of the hustle.”

Reyna expresses the journey of the dual culture of border towns and the people who live there through his use of bilingual dialogue. His use of English and Spanish reflect the dichotomy of money and happiness present within El Swapmeet.

Bringing it even closer to home is Giovanni Núñez’s Unbreakable.

Set in a neighborhood similar to South Los Angeles, Unbreakable stars second year sociology major and theater minor Liz Perez as Janet. Núñez’s play chronicles Janet’s transformation as she navigates through her neighborhood and the tribulations of everyday life.

“Throughout the play there’s a change of character within Janet. She herself believes that she is unbreakable.Throughout the play she thinks that she’s invincible and that nothing can hurt her,” explains Perez. “She becomes more critical of her environment.”

This year, Night of Cultura will take place on May 30th-31st in the Northwest Campus Auditorium at 7:00 PM. Admission is free.

Serving as Creative Director, Reyna is confident in the work of his writers, actors, and the entire work force behind Night of Cultura.

“Honestly, I’m confident. There’s a reason why I chose Giovanni, there’s a reason why I chose Carlos. No one’s getting paid. Everyone’s on their own time, everyone’s on their own schedule. It’s just like any other club, it’s a passion, it’s a dedication. The most rewarding part is for us to perform for someone. The rewarding part is the night of the show, the wrap. That’s what makes all the headaches worth it.”

Note: This blog is the first of a three part series following the NoC productions. Look out for the next blog which will be covering the actual production of NoC on May 30th and May 31st. See you there!

Hole in the Wall: The Honey Tones

The rain quickly falls on them as they run up the Kerckhoff steps. They hurried across the wet concrete, making sure not to fall or drop any of their equipment. Some used their jackets to cover their amps, some took off their shirts. All of them were trying to avoid as much rain as possible. This is how The Honey Tones came to our office. Soaked, but with a sound so sweet, it went beyond their name.

With a dapper air surrounding them and a weird kind of grace, they struck off the set with their signature oldies infused with their unique indie sound. With Crystal Cerecedes as vocalist and guitarist, April Jimenez on keyboards, Omar Praslin on bass, and Jesse (Stewey) Mendez on drums, they dragged us into their melodic, charming sound, taking us somewhere carefree.

“I think every time we’re asked what our sound is…” April begins to explain.

“It’s lowrider music,” Crystal jokingly chimes in.

“We’re dream pop,” Omar exclaims.

Each member idled with various music groups; Crystal use to play in a funk group, April was in a surf rock band, while Stewey was part of the metal scene. Despite these vast differences and even though they don’t hang out as much, they cohesively work together.

“We all come from different musical backgrounds… We all meshed into one,” April says.

“As a band, we don’t hang out at all… But see, everybody has a job and a different life. It’s time to grow up. This is more like a hobby,” Stewey explains.

This mesh of a group began with Crystal Cerecedes’ desire to create an all girl band. When that didn’t become end game, they continued on with The Honey Tones, wanting to add something different to the booming backyard Los Angeles music scene.

“I guess basically its wanting to do our own thing. I’ve been in the shadows of other musicians… Most of them are dominant male bands… So, that’s kind of refreshing that Crystal wanted to start her own thing,” April says.

And though the intensity of life gets them down from accomplishing mainstream success, they manage to do what they must do to survive this kind of lifestyle.

“Cos we’re working class, we got to work our way to the top. And it’s hard cos you’re trying to make ends meets,” April says. “It’s just a balancing act to be honest. Because when we find time, the little spare, scraps of time we have, that’s when we meet up and try to make something. It’s difficult.”

“It takes a lot of drugs to keep up,” Omar says, laughing.

They continue to believe in the music they produce and greatly appreciate those that recognize their work.

“We want to make it but at the same time the biggest reward would be the music,” April says. “And I know it sounds really cheesy, but when a fan comes up to us, that makes it worth it.”

Catch them at local shows around Los Angeles and follow their Instagram (@thehoneytones) for updates.

Latino Representation in SuJu’s “Mamacita”

This past year, the Korean Pop group Super Junior (SuJu) released their seventh album with the words “Ayaya Mamacita” on their cover. After only three days of its release, SuJu’s album topped the Billboard World Albums Chart. Their music reached fans outside of Asia and they are now considered the “veteran boy band” that stayed together since their debut in 2005. SuJu is now an iconic group from Korea, thanks to their fans throughout the world, who refer to themselves as E.L.F.s (EverLastingFriends).

In Korea, large music labels, like SuJu’s SM Town, continuously produce new boy bands formed by young teens after years of practicing to become KPop stars. Although many teens are chosen to train, not all trainees debut in a group. Because there are frequently new groups debuting, it is difficult for each group to keep the spotlight while competing with other talented groups. Despite these obstacles, SuJu has been able to maintain their popularity amongst fans and held a world tour in 2013, which even included Mexico City. SuJu’s world wide fame means that fans from different countries are exposed to their videos and the messages they send. SuJu has the power to send positive messages to their fans through their music and videos, but they also have the power to spread racists stereotypes through videos like their newest hit, “Mamacita.”

In the attempt to create a new commercially successful album for SuJu, their seventh album incorporates references to Latin culture. Unfortunately, the references the album uses are racist stereotypes that come off as offensive to Latino communities. At the beginning of the “Mamacita” music video, the camera shows a “Wanted” flyer written in Spanish that says, “Se busca vivo o muerto. Recompensa $5,000.” This flyer written in Spanish implies that the video is taking place in Mexico or a Latino community. But the video also has signs written in English, which is confusing because it becomes unclear as to where the video takes place. In fact, the newspaper that comes out in the beginning is also written in English, but contains stereotypical Latino names like “Lopez.” The costumes used by SuJu members Siwon and Leeteuk, the sheriff and criminal in the video respectively, include a poncho, boots, and a fake mustaches. The fact that the video uses these clothing stereotypes is disturbing because the video suggests that wearing boots and growing a mustache makes one Latino or Mexican. There are many Mexicans who grow facial hair or prefer to dress in Ranchero clothes, but this alone does not define what it is to be Mexican or Latino. These stereotypes used in the video limit the scope on Latino culture and heritage, and they create a biased perspective towards Latinos. The stereotypes the video suggests do not apply to all Mexicans, nor to all Latinos. Although SuJu’s song “Mamacita” is catchy, the music video and lyrics fail to correctly incorporate Latino culture and terms like “ayaya” into the song. The fact that KPop music artists like SuJu are attempting to use Latino traditions into their music is amazing because they have taken the time to adopt cultures outside of Asia, but their misrepresentation of the culture is disappointing because they are portraying a racist image of Latino culture to their fans worldwide.

 

The Price To Pay in Keeping ICE In LA (or ICE Out of LA!)

On March 3rd earlier this year, former Los Angeles County District 1 Supervisor Gloria Molina failed miserably in her attempt to unseat City Council District 14 incumbent Jose Huizar. After decades of sitting in office as one of the “kings and queens” of the L.A. County, Molina was forced to face the reality of her standing with the immigrant community.

Huizar, born in Zacatecas 46 years ago, obtained 65.7% of the votes while Molina only received 23.9%. No one thought that Molina, whose political career began in 1982 in the state assembly and ended last year in the county board of supervisors, would even nip at his heels. Molina was not only out of touch with the impact issues that many L.A. residents face daily, but she also decided to go against the wishes of her community by spearheading the passage of the 287(g) MOA renewal as a last move in her role as Supervisor.

We entrust our local officials with the power and influence that they hold because we believe that they wield it in the interest of the community – both its safety and its progression. When members of our community are working to pay the rent or driving from point A to point B, the last thing on their minds should be whether they or a family member is going to be torn away from the life they have tirelessly worked to build. When a member of our community is seized by a local official, it must –without exception – be in accordance with the Fourth Amendment right afforded to each and every one of us in the constitution. Unfortunately, in LA County, this is not the case for immigrants who are the victims of the collaboration between Sheriff’s deputies and immigration officials.

LA is one of two counties in the state of California (Orange County being the other) that continues separating families through its cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the form of a 287 (g) agreement.

The 287 (g) agreement, in which LA County is still engaged with, means that local law enforcement can  receive training to do the work of  ICE officials. For years, this agreement has maligned the relationship between the police and the people they are sworn to protect.

In 2013, a study by the University of Illinois found that 70% of undocumented Latino immigrants and 28% of Latino U.S. citizens were less likely to contact law enforcement if they were victims of a crime for fear that police would inquire about their immigration status or the immigration status of people they know. Aside from depleting the trust that community members have for law enforcement, 287 (g) has been denounced for its inefficacy by organizations like Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, and even ICE itself.

With this picture, one might argue that the 287 (g) is rationalized in this day and age by the money it brings to the county. However, even going by the numbers proves 287 (g)’s case is becoming increasingly harder to justify because the funding has been sharply cut from $13.9 million in 2004 to $3.4 million in 2014. These arguments only compound the irrationality of programs like 287 (g) – programs which have been proven time and again to invite the acrimony of racial profiling.

Despite the failure of 287 (g) agreements in counties all across the country, there have been policies all too similar in nature over the past years that have terrorized communities like ours. Possibly the most infamous is the defunct now ‘Secure Communities’ program. Secure Communities, (S-Comm) is a federal program that adds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to information-sharing chain after the FBI. S-Comm allows ICE to access fingerprints taken by local police pre-conviction, to screen detained individuals for immigration status and to request that law enforcement agencies hold them (this hold is known as a “detainer”) for an additional 48 hours if they’re found to be undocumented. The program soon proved to be a detriment to the communities of California for various reasons. First, studies after studies showed that S-Comm was used as a major vehicle for mass deportation with only 12% of deportees under this program during Fiscal Year 2013 having committed a serious offense. In fact, many of them were deported for having committed infractions. Even more troubling is the fact that, under S-Comm, fingerprints are taken and scanned by DHS pre-conviction.  This means that people could be deported without having been convicted of any crime.  This raises incentive for racial profiling because undocumented people can be falsely accused of a crime and be deported even if they’re not guilty.

Lastly, a 2011 study conducted by a commission consisting of national and community-based organizations among them the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) found that contrary to its name, S-Comm threatens public safety.  In this report, local law enforcement officials explained that S-Comm “distracts police from their primary functions, it diverts [local] resources, and it destroys trust with immigrant communities by making police frontline enforcers of broken and outdated immigration laws.  Without trust, crimes go unreported, investigations go unsolved, decades of community policing efforts are destroyed, and we are all less safe.” To this chorus of the policy’s failure, Governor Jerry Brown signed the TRUST Act on October 5th, 2013. By doing so, he created clear guidelines on under what circumstances local law enforcement officials can issue a detainer.

This road brings us to the present. In 2015, there are sadly immigrants who know the paralyzing terror of deportation proceedings all too well from personal experience. Omara Gomez-Aviles, a devoted mother of three US citizen children who fled the civil war in El Salvador and a survivor of human trafficking and domestic violence, was deported on April 8th 2015. Her oldest son, Omar, is graduating from Roosevelt High School in June, and his mother’s absence will be a dissonance echoing over Pomp and Circumstance Marches. There is no arguing with stories like this. The conclusion is clear: Any and all collaboration with ICE separates families and victimizes immigrant communities. So long as LA county officials play a willing participant in this misguided cooperation, they will be seen as a predatory force looking to persecute rather than to protect. For law enforcement officials, this means dissolving its 287 (g) agreement and pursuing a model of community policing that will restore faith in the law. It also means not complying with the adoption of any new program like PEP that will replace S-Comm. We all need to stand against any policy that fractures our communities by letting local elected officials know that starting a dialogue with LA County immigrant residents begins with breaking the ICE.