La nariz como la de mi padre

En cada foto

En cada reflejo

En cada estremecer de caras

Mi cara y la de mi padre producían una encrucijada biológica

rechazaba la sobresaliente nariz

Como dos espejos temblorosos que jugaban conmigo

Metiéndome el pinchazo de la cruel claridad que inquiría a verme entre el espejito

Nariz grande que cuando pasaba mi dedo exigente por encima

Recorriendo se encontraba con el bache que resaltaba

Minuciosamente se cambiaba de forma condenada a corregirse

Ah me gusta este angulo!

Como si la mismísima mano artística de Dalí la hubiera pintado

La figuraba como sus relojes derretidos que me perturban

Distorsionada grande fea me delataba y me colocaba a la semejanza de mi padre

Mi cara discute la arquitectura de la cara porosa de mi padre

la misma nariz que me pertenencia

Como dos espejos temblorosos que me aflojaban

Entre la cruel claridad y la tenaz obscuridad

En cada sufrimiento repentino y en cada esfuerzo

El maquillaje no podía cubrir mi inseguridad

Me alejaba del espejo

Quisiera que mi reflejo fuese como las pinturas de los pintores impresionistas

Que niegan la claridad que me hace sufrir el espejo

Así es como mi mirada se iba aflojando hacia el suelo

Así es como mi mirada nunca es fija cuando te veo en la cara.

Esto soy.

Soy esta nariz.

AFSCME Labor Strikes: El Precio de la Pobreza–The Price of Poverty

Thousands of service workers across the University of California began a 3-day long strike on May 7, advocating for adequate wage increases and improved working conditions. The strikes were the result of delayed efforts by UC administrators to negotiate wages with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 union for almost a year.

Frustration among workers escalated after a study commissioned by the union showed growing income gaps between high- and low-wage workers and racial and gender hierarchies within UC’s employment practices, which fueled their decision to strike.

According to the AFSCME study, the share of payroll cost for the top 10% of earners at UC increased by 9% while the share for the system’s bottom 50% of workers decreased by 2%.

What’s more, Latinx and Black workers in the low-wage workforce at UC are paid starting wages that are about 20% lower than their white counterparts, and the latter is hired into higher-paying positions more often. Women are also often more concentrated in lower-paying jobs, with starting wages that are on average $2 less per hour than men.

UC proclaims it is committed to achieving diversity in the workplace. Still, it fails to accommodate the minority groups that make up its diverse climate and play an essential role in maintaining the academic excellence of its universities. Its inability to properly address income gaps and racial and gender disparities illustrates its disregard for the wellbeing of low-wage workers, many of whom are plagued by food insecurity and housing instability.

Indeed, UC has exacerbated the difficulties of living in increasingly expensive neighborhoods. At a time in which residents of Los Angeles and other major California cities are faced with rising rents and increased costs of living, UC has failed to allocate workers with decent wages.

“Cada día, la vida esta más cara, y los ricos son más ricos a costa de los pobres,” said Martha Cervantes, a striker whose husband is employed by UCLA Dining Services. “La universidad tiene los recursos para cerrar este contrato y cubrir las necesidades de estos trabajadores.”

Like Martha, many students at UCLA and across the system voiced their support for strikers by picketing and speaking out against the mistreatment of workers. This, of course, was all while many high-wage administrators reported to work as usual.

Sign from the UCLA Stein Eye Institute, thanking researchers and doctors for working despite strike. Photo Credit: Zoraya Aranda

“Researchers and doctors in my office have received food as the department’s way of saying thank you for continuing to work during the strikes,” said Zoraya Aranda, a third-year student and office assistant at Stein Eye institute. “It’s unfair because it seems like they’re rewarding them for not protesting in solidarity with their underpaid colleagues.”

Throughout the week, strikers faced some pushback from the public. On Monday, multiple UCLA employees were injured after an agitated van driver crashed into protestors near campus. Although the act was clearly done with malicious intent, strikes fervently continued during the entire day.

Some students also denounced the strikes, highlighting the inconvenience these strikes present in their day-to-day routine during midterm and final exams.

“They’re literally striking mid finals week here. I understand the issue but it’s a poorly timed thing if they want support from students,” says Twitter user @Tom_Sherry1, a student at UC Merced.

In fact, the poor timing of these strikes allowed the issue to attract widespread attention, as the lack of services during a stressful period emphasized the importance of service workers at UC.

Failing to realize the efficiency of the timing, these students instead illustrated their complacency with institutionalized wage gaps at UC. While privileged to be able to pursue a sense of self-actualization and fulfillment at one of the best public school systems in the world, they criticized disempowered workers that continually struggle to meet basic demands of living and survive in a country that depreciates their labor.

In order to adequately provide marginalized groups with equal advancement opportunities, UC must reimagine employment practices that neglect the livelihoods of low-wage earners. If UC truly values its service workers and seeks to transform gross inequalities that plague the country, it must be a trailblazer in targeting deeply ingrained structural problems that exacerbate socio-economic inequalities.

 

Spanish Translation: 

El 7 de mayo, miles de trabajadores de servicio de la Universidad de California comenzaron una huelga que duró tres días. Los trabajadores pedían aumentos de salario adecuados y mejores condiciones laborales. Las huelgas fueron el resultado de un año de falta de esfuerzos por parte de los administradores del sistema de la Universidad de California para negociar salarios con la unión Federación Americana de Empleados Estatales, del Condado y Municipal 3299 (AFSCME 3299).

La frustración entre los trabajadores aumentó después de que un estudio comisionado por la unión mostró un aumento en la brecha de ingresos entre los trabajadores mejores pagados y los trabajadores menos pagados y entre las jerarquías de género y raciales dentro de las prácticas de empleo reforzadas por la Universidad de California. Esto ocasionó la decisión por parte de los trabajadores de llevar a cabo esta serie de huelgas.

Según el estudio conducido por la unión, AFSCME, la proporción del costo de la nómina para el 10% de individuos con los ingresos más altos en la Universidad de California aumentó en un 9%, mientras que la parte correspondiente al 50% de los trabajadores con salarios más bajos disminuyó en un 2%.

Además, los trabajadores de las comunidades Latinx y afrodescendientes que suelen tener un ingreso mínimo en la Universidad de California, reciben salarios iniciales que son aproximadamente un 20% más bajos que sus contrapartes blancos, los cuales tienen los salarios más altos y son contratados en puestos de mayor paga más a menudo. También las mujeres suelen estar más presentes en trabajos con menor paga, con salarios iniciales que en promedio son $ 2 dólares por hora menos que los hombres.

El sistema de la Universidad de California proclama que está comprometido con aumentar la diversidad en el lugar de trabajo. Aún así, no logra acomodar a los grupos minoritarios que conforman su clima diverso y juegan un papel esencial en el mantenimiento de la excelencia académica de sus universidades. Su incapacidad para disminuir la gran brecha de ingresos y las disparidades raciales y de género, ilustra su indiferencia por el bienestar de los trabajadores de salarios bajos, muchos de los cuales sufren de inseguridad alimentaria y de inestabilidad de vivienda.

De hecho, la Universidad de California ha intensificado las dificultades de vivir en lugares cada vez más caros. En un momento en el que los residentes de Los Ángeles y otras ciudades importantes de California se enfrentan a aumentos de rentas y mayores costos de vida, la Universidad de California no ha logrado asignar salarios decentes a sus propios trabajadores.

“Cada día, la vida está más cara, y los ricos son más ricos a costa de los pobres,” dijo Martha Cervantes, una participante de la huelga, cuyo esposo está empleado por los servicios de comidas de UCLA. “La universidad tiene los recursos para cerrar este contrato y cubrir las necesidades de estos trabajadores”.

Al igual que Martha, muchos estudiantes de UCLA y de todo el sistema expresaron su apoyo a los huelguistas por medio de protestas y uso de voces contra el maltrato de los trabajadores. Esto, por supuesto, fue todo mientras muchos administradores con los salarios más altos informaron que llevarían a cabo su trabajo como de costumbre.

Firma del UCLA Stein Eye Institute, agradeciendo a investigadores y doctores por trabajar a pesar de la huelga. Crédito Fotográfico: Zoraya Aranda

“Investigadores y doctores en mi oficina han recibido comida como forma de agradecimiento por parte del departamento por haber continuado su trabajo durante las huelgas”, dijo Zoraya Aranda, una estudiante de tercer año y asistente de oficina en el Instituto Stein Eye. “Es injusto porque parece que los están recompensando por no protestar en solidaridad con sus colegas que son menos pagados/as.”

A lo largo de la semana, los huelguistas se enfrentaron a ciertas malas reacciones del público. El lunes, el primer dia de la huelga varios empleados de UCLA fueron heridos luego de que un conductor de una camioneta SUV chocara contra manifestantes cerca de la escuela UCLA. Aunque el acto fue hecho claramente con intenciones maliciosas, las huelgas continuaron fervientemente durante todo el día.

Algunos estudiantes también criticaron las huelgas, destacando la inconveniencias que estas huelgas presentan en su rutina diaria durante los exámenes que marcan la mitad de período y exámenes finales.

“Aquí, están literalmente en huelga a mediados de las semana de exámenes. Entiendo el problema, pero es una cuestión de huelgas sin mucho aviso si quisieran tener más apoyo de por parte de los estudiantes “, dice el usuario de Twitter @ Tom_Sherry1, un estudiante de UC Merced.

De hecho, el mal momento de estas huelgas permitió que el tema atrajera una gran cantidad de atención, ya que la falta de servicios durante un período estresante sacó a la luz la gran importancia que representan los trabajadores de servicios en las Universidades de California.

Al no darse cuenta de que este era un buen momento para llevar a cabo la huelga, estos estudiantes en lo contrario ilustraron su complacencia con la brecha salarial institucionalizada en la Universidad de California. A pesar de que estos estudiantes poseen el privilegio de perseguir un sentido de auto-realización y tienen a su disposición las ventajas de asistir en uno de los mejores sistemas escolares públicos del mundo, ellos criticaron a los trabajadores que luchan continuamente para satisfacer las demandas básicas de la vida y sobrevivir en un país que no aprecia su trabajo.

Con el fin de proporcionar adecuadamente a los grupos marginados las mismas oportunidades de avance, la Universidad de California debe reimaginar las prácticas de empleo que descuidan los medios de sustento de los trabajadores con bajos salarios. Si la Universidad de California realmente valora a sus trabajadores de servicios y busca transformar las grandes desigualdades que afectan al país, debe de servir como un pionero en la búsqueda de soluciones para reducir problemas estructurales que están profundamente arraigados y que aumentan las desigualdades socioeconómicas.

Translation by Maria Amaya, Content Editor for La Gente

 

This article was originally published on May 13 and was updated May 24 with a Spanish translation. 

Mujer Monday: Soraya

“I know there are many questions without answers, and that hope doesn’t leave with me, and above all, that my mission does not end with my physical story”–Soraya

By the time Soraya conveyed her final words to the world, the career she single-handedly built was already affixed by a decade of socially conscious and melancholic music that prevailed her as a Latin Songstress and as a key activist for the awareness of breast cancer. A decade later, she remains an unforgettable force who is indisputably present across Latin households, where her music backdrops itself as the soundtrack of a new growing generation.

Fleeing the harsh and scanty life of Columbia, Soraya’s parents eventually migrated to the United States where she was born as Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. By the age of five, Soraya was already categorizing herself as a prodigy, picking up and excelling in both violin and guitar. Her first spark of inspiration occurred in watching her uncle play the tiple while reciting the song, “Pueblito Viejo” — a traditional Colombian folk song by native composer Jose A. Morales. Later, in her high school years, she joined the prestigious N.Y.C Youth Philharmonic where she had her first orchestral performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. When Soraya graduated high school as valedictorian, she began to craft her musical skills, composing and writing her own music before attending Rutgers University.

As a hopeful musician, Soraya would stray from coffee shops and rallies across campus to shed away her anxiety of performing in front of large crowds. As she slowly triumphed over her fear, Soraya was eventually discovered and offered a recording contract with Island Records in 1994. However, before the release of her debut album, her mother suffered a relapse with breast cancer and eventually succumbed in 1992.

For Soraya, the presence of cancer was like an overcast shadow looming ever presently throughout her life. The illness had taken her mother, grandmother, and aunt all while she strived to achieve musical success. When her debut album En Esta Noche/ In This Night was finally released, it was dedicated to Soraya’s mother and included a tribute song of the same name. “It does not matter what is said, time doesn’t heal nearly everything” she dolefully sings in the first opening line. Soraya never strayed too far from this sentiment as she actively molded her career around the avocation and awareness of breast cancer. She eventually became the first Latin spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen foundation where she addressed the disease on multiple fronts advocating for research, global outreach, and the need to remove the stigma associated with breast cancer.

As her passion for advocating for breast cancer survivors and sufferers grew, so did her musical career and success. Her first single, “De Repente/Suddenly” reached number one on Billboard Latin Pop while her album spent ten weeks on Billboard’s Top 10 Album Chart. Her musical appeal stemmed from her effortless blend in incorporating both English and Spanish into her songwriting and using her bilingual ingenuity to bring differing communities together. By the release of her second full-length album, Torre de Marfil/Wall of Smiles, Soraya had reached climactic success, achieving worldwide recognition from Latin America to Europe.

In 2000, while in the midst of promoting her newest album Cuerpo y Alma/Body and Soul, the imminent shadow of illness encased all around her as Soraya was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. Being that it was a particularly aggressive form of the disease, Soraya immediately put a hold on her career while she underwent a mastectomy, breast reconstruction and a year of radiation and chemotherapy.

As she pursued her aggressive treatment plan, Soraya created a video revealing the truth of her illness to her fans and started an open dialogue, particularly among Latinas who struggled with self-body issues after undergoing mastectomies and the physical implementations that spawned as a result from chemotherapy and harsh radiation treatment.

In a period of remission, Soraya returned to the music scene, releasing the self-titled album, Soraya. The songs were a direct translation of her resilient journey against breast cancer and her beliefs about faith and love. Songs like “Casi/Almost” detailed the universal struggle of losing faith while falling apart and asking “Why me, why now, why this?” Soraya received her first Latin Grammy for her self-titled work in the Best Singer-songwriter category and was later awarded by Billboard as they honored her with the Spirit of Hope Award for her strenuous work in raising awareness on the prevention and cure of breast cancer in the Latin community.

Soraya died of breast cancer on May 10, 2006, at age 37. Days before her death, she posted her final words to her fans online. She reiterated that the world will always have more questions than answers it can compile, so why add to the never-ending mass by asking such a futile question as “Why me?” Her mission does not end even when her physical state has. She is vicariously living on through her achievements and through the Latin women she was able to uplift not only with her art but also with her persistent and unshakable hope.