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I obtained a second citizenship from my home country, and you should too

Illustration by Jonathan Valenzuela Mejia

I’ve always been aware of my Guatemalan nationality, as my parents often told my siblings and I to embrace that heritage and be proud of our origins. I hadn’t really thought about ever needing another passport until I realized that the United States isn’t in the best position right now, and I realized that I might want to move to another country in the future.

Although Guatemala isn’t the most stable country either, it’s my ancestral homeland and most of my family still resides there. I figured it wouldn’t cost me anything to look into becoming a citizen, given that both of my parents are Guatemalan citizens. As I looked into the process, I realized that it wasn’t as hard as I had initially believed, and by becoming a citizen of Guatemala, I would have a Plan B in case things go sour in the United States.

All Latin American countries base their citizenships on two standards, jus soli (right by soil) and jus sanguinis (right by blood). Most countries in the Americas give citizenship to anyone born within their territory but all countries in Latin America grant citizenship to those born abroad. Guatemala, in this case, grants citizenship to the children born to their citizens abroad; in this situation, my siblings and I. The Guatemalan constitution states that I have the right to claim Guatemalan citizenship and that I only had to follow the procedure in order to claim it

This is the situation for most, if not all, Latin American countries- from Mexico and El Salvador to Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia. Basically, if your parents or grandparents emigrated from a Latin American country to the United States, you likely have the right to get citizenship from your ancestral country. But why go through this process? For some countries, the process can be a long bureaucratic mess and it would have been for me as well if I had started this process after I turned 18. I did most of this process at 17 which simplified it and allowed me to use the process available to minors. In some countries, like Costa Rica or Bolivia, and in my case, Guatemala, there are simplified processes available. My parents just had to register me at the Guatemalan consulate and bring my birth certificate, their birth certificates, and Guatemalan identity cards as well as proof of local residency. The process was free and took only a little over an hour. However, I did have to wait a few months to be registered in Guatemala, as they sent the paperwork from California to Guatemala City. Afterward, I received my Guatemalan birth certificate, which eventually allowed me to get my Guatemalan passport and identity card. 

Again, why go through the process of obtaining dual citizenship? 

1. You have another country you can go to in case of any emergency that may encourage you to leave the U.S. You truly never know what tomorrow will bring and with another passport for a different country, you’ll have a Plan B already lined up.

2. You can get another passport! Some countries allow you to travel for less or even without a visa which is not always the case with the American passport. For example, the Guatemalan passport for the most part is “weaker” than the American passport, meaning that you can enter fewer countries without a visa. However, holding dual citizenship has its own benefits. In some cases, entering a country with your second citizenship can be more affordable than using American citizenship. For example, it’s cheaper to enter countries like Paraguay or Turkey as a Guatemalan instead of an American citizen

Be warned though! The United States allows you to have multiple citizenships and passports but you have to enter and exit the country with your American passport! So if you do end up getting another passport, make sure you always leave and come back to the United States with your U.S. Passport.

3. Holding citizenship in your familial homeland also allows you to have rights to any inheritance that your family may leave you. For example, in Mexico, it’s harder to inherit land as a foreigner than a citizen. If your parents or grandparents have property in their native homelands that they want to leave to you, it’s beneficial to be a citizen of that country. Oftentimes, many countries make it more difficult for non-citizens to own and retain land. Again, in Mexico, foreigners alone can’t own land within “restricted zones” but citizens can own land anywhere in the country. Obtaining dual citizenship would allow you to inherit those properties with less bureaucratic issues.  

4. Obtaining dual citizenship is not a huge inconvenience in the case of most countries. Even with some bumps in the road, it’s something that is worth pursuing. Some countries like the Dominican Republic, Panama, or Cuba do charge quite a lot to do this process. Others such as Chile, Peru, or Argentina charge nothing at all. It all really depends on what countries you have ancestry from. Wealthy people often buy citizenship with other countries in order to have a different passport by hiring companies like Nomad Capitalist. You, on the other hand, have the option to do so without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5. Do it for your ancestry and family! Being a citizen of your home country may give you a closer connection to your homeland and make you more proud of your own roots. Personally, whenever I see my Guatemalan passport, I feel directly connected to my roots.

6. A bonus to having dual citizenship in a Latin American country is that if you ever want to move to Spain, you can obtain citizenship in two years! According to the Spanish Ministry of External Affairs, “nationals of Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or persons of Sephardic origin” can obtain Spanish citizenship by residency in two years. This means that if you are a citizen of a Latin American country, you only have to legally reside in Spain for two years before being eligible for citizenship. However, do note that studying in Spain does not count towards the two years, so you’ll need to have a job or some other valid residency in Spain. 

Ultimately, do keep in mind that for some, the process of obtaining dual citizenship may not be easy. Although my process was relatively simple, if I were to have started the process after I turned 18, it would have required the assistance of a lawyer in Guatemala and a lot of additional paperwork. Regardless, it’s vital that you do your research on your country or countries of origin and see what procedures they have in place for obtaining citizenship. For most countries, the citizenship process starts at the country’s consulate, so use your nearest consulate as a valuable resource and contact them through their Facebook, phone number, or email.

Overall, I don’t regret going through the process of obtaining dual citizenship. It’s cool to have a second passport and once travel reopens, it’ll become a lot more useful. Do yourself a favor and go get your second citizenship!

Atrapado en un círculo: una apropiación de aros

Illustration by Jessica Martinez

 

Written by: Sandra Ocampo

Translation by: Claudia Ledesma Rodriguez

 

Oro, plata, grande, pequeño, borlas, y decoraciones: los aretes de aros vienen en una variedad única de representaciones y motivos coloridos.

Enraizada en la cultura Latinx, los aros representan la “sazón” de los grupos minoría que usan estos accesorios para significar y representar su solidaridad hacia su cultura e identidad. Una vez vistos como de clase baja y desagradables, los aretes de aros ahora han emergido como una tendencia popular entre celebridades y desfiles de moda. La élite de la moda ha cultivado los aros como provocadores, elegantes y de moda mientras las minorías eran subestimadas por sus elecciones de moda “desagradables.”

Desde Hailey Bieber a Taylor Swift, estas celebridades han formado parte de la tendencia de los aros y han sido etiquetados “elegantes” como resultado. Considerando a aquellos que han sido venerados como participantes de una nueva tendencia (mayormente mujeres blancas), uno debe hacerse la pregunta: ¿Por qué es aceptable que ellos usen aros, mientras que los grupos minoría son escudriñados por sus aros?

En un artículo por Refinery 29, la historia de los aretes de aro se dio a conocer desde la época de 1500 A.C. Egipto, continuando a una “época dorada” de piratería donde piratas se adornaban con aros. Sin embargo, recientemente, los aretes de aro han sido asociados con la subcultura Latinx “chola.” La subcultura “chola” nació de los vecindarios mexicanos de clase obrera en el sureste de California e incorpora los aros como una identidad; también fue una parte esencial de otras comunidades de la clase obrera, como los de las comunidades Latinxs y Negras. A través del tiempo, los aretes de aro han grabado su importancia a través de grupos subrepresentados, cimentando su presencia en la historia al demostrar que han existido mucho antes de que fueran “tendencia.”

En su artículo del New York Times, Sandra Garcia cuenta una historia similar. Garcia cuenta cómo se sintio empoderada con los aretes de aro, “aros de oro – grandes, anchos, estilo bambú, pequeños o delgados eran una extensión de nuestra chispa, nuestro estilo y de nosotras.” En un giro inesperado, frecuentemente Garcia perdería un aro y llevaría una colección única de aretes de aro sin par y usaría aretes que no coincidían. Ella creía que durante la época de 1990 los aretes de aro que no coincidían “estaban de moda.” Aunque a medida que ella crecía dejó de usar aros. Su decisión provenía del miedo de que los aros pintaran a Garcia como “demasiado ruidosa, muy visible, muy ‘ghetto’ muy negra.” La dicotomía entre Garcia sintiéndose empoderada contra sentirse cohibida sobre los aros demuestra cómo la sociedad arroja una luz negativa sobre identidades culturales. 

Las preguntas obvias que se presentan son entonces: ¿Por qué no es aceptable que las mujeres de minoría practiquen y proyecten sus identidades a través de los aretes de aro?, ¿Por qué cuando una mujer blanca usa los aretes de aro se dice que son hechos para verse bien, chidos, o de moda? 

Ruby Pivet, una escritora Latinx, repitió estas preguntas en su artículo para Vice. Pivet menciona que la revista Vogue declaró los peinados recogidos y aros como el “mayor duo del verano”, mientras le dió el crédito a una mayoría de modelos blancos. Pivet dice, “Mujeres blancas no crearon la ‘tendencia’ de aretes de aros sobredimensionados y todavía son quienes están siendo elogiadas por poner el estilo ‘atrevido.’” En contraste, mujeres de color enfrentan detención y estereotipos raciales por retratar sus identidades en la forma de aros.

En el 2015, la colección de verano Givenchy consistió de modelos adornados con aretes faciales, aros, y cabellos de bebé. En una crítica por la revista Vogue, el show de modas fue referido como inspiración de “Chola Victoriana.” Ninguna modelo se identificaba como Latinx y la mayoría de ellas eran mujeres blancas. Al show le faltaba la representación de la tal llamada inspiración del cual basaron alrededor su show. En referencia a los cabellos de bebe usados en el show de moda, Philip Picardi menciona que, “el mensaje que esto envía, aunque con suerte sea inadvertido, es que los cabellos de bebé pueden verse ‘chic’ en mujeres blancas, pero aun ‘hood’ en Latinas y mujeres negras.” La misma ideología puede aplicar a los aretes de aro en el sentido que aros en mujeres de color son vistos como “ghetto,” mientras que en mujeres blancas están en “estilo.”

La cultura moda Latinx, fuertemente malentendido por grupos dominantes privilegiados, ha sido disecado para erradicar las fuentes originales de objetos de moda. Francis Solá-Santiago expresó en su artículo para la revista Glamour que vio previamente a los aretes de aro como un rito de paso y como reliquias pasadas por generaciones. Sin embargo, se hizo aparente que con el fin de parecer “pulida” o tomada en serio ella tendría que en su vestir, reprimir sus accesorios. Esta idea equivocada fue desafiada por Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, una demócrata puertorriqueña del Bronx, cuando ella fue juramentada en el congreso. Ocasio-Cortez uso lápiz labial rojo brillante, un traje de pantalón blanco, y sus aros. A través de este acto ella revirtió el estigma detrás de los aros al adueñarse de su herencia y transmitió el mensaje que los aretes de aro son poderosos. En una declaración de Twitter Ocasio-Cortez dijo, “La próxima vez que le digas a las chicas del Bronx que se quiten sus aretes de aro, pueden solo decir que se están vistiendo como mujeres del congreso.” Como mencionado por Solá-Santiago, Ocasio-Cortez desafío el estatus quo y demuestra que las mujeres Latinx “no deben sacrificar su identidad por el éxito profesional.” Congresista Ocasio-Cortez representa que las mujeres Latinx pueden tener posiciones de poder sin sacrificar su cultura independientemente de divergir de lo que es convencionalmente visto como profesional. 

Los aretes de aro pueden aparentar insignificantes, pero representan más que una simple tendencia. La cultura detras de ellos vienen de una historia de opresión y exclusión para mujeres de color quienes los usan. Los aros representan resistencia contra la apropiación que convierte la expresión de cultura en moda. Sin importar, la cultura de la moda dominante pasará al siguiente objeto de apropiación, pero depende de la mujer que usa aros reclamar la cultura que forma sus identidades. 

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Abyss

Illustration by: Haven Jovel Morales

 

Submerged myself 

Into your waters. 

Baptized in a pool 

Of sorrow. 

 

Cement filled scars 

Sink me 

Into the depths of 

        y

              o

                    u

                             r

         Cold, 

Dark

Lifeless

                w

  a

          t

                            e

                          r

                                 s. 

        

I scoured for pockets 

Of warmth, 

But still cold nothingness

Was commonplace.  

Deafening silence filled that abyss,

But still I sought to find warmth. 

 

Beams of light 

Glitter in

 jad/ 

/ed 

pixels.  

Skimming the water’s surface. 

I emerge from you, 

My love,

jad/

/ed.

You, My love,

                                                   Who has hurt me.

 

I emerge from your abyss 

Lonely 

and

 bro/

/ ken.

Doom Scrolling through the Darkness

Illustration by Haven Jovel Morales

 

Throughout the pandemic, there have been way too many instances where I’ve found myself endlessly scrolling through the disheartening cycles of COVID-19 news. This phenomenon, often referred to as doom scrolling, became more and more common during the pandemic, as staying caught up on news about the virus became essential to our safety. While staying informed is important, constantly being reminded of the tragic events happening around us when we log onto social media can have a negative effect on our mental health. 

First of all, it’s important to note doom scrolling is not our fault. Gathering information is part of our brain’s natural response to stressful situations. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Amelia Aldeo, our minds are set up to look for potential danger and “the more time we spend scrolling, the more we find those dangers, [and] the more anxious we get,” which leads to more time spent looking “for information to confirm this anxiety.” This, in combination with the way that social media platforms are designed to keep us engaged for as long as possible, makes it difficult not to doom scroll, as we lose track of time scrolling through our phones. 

Doom scrolling can be harmful because it can lead to heightened feelings of stress, anxiety, and helplessness. It can also cause stress-related physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, or trouble falling asleep. On top of this, falling into a news rabbit hole in the middle of a school day and absorbing heavy information in the process can make it extremely difficult to return to work and keep focus. 

When I noticed that doom scrolling was beginning to negatively affect me, I started looking for ways to consume news mindfully, instead of helplessly. 

Here are some of the tips I found to consume news mindfully: 

  1. Check in with yourself. When looking for information about COVID-19 or anything else that could be seen as stressful, periodically ask yourself if you have found the information you were initially looking for. If the answer is yes, stop looking! Be careful not to fall down the rabbit hole!
  2. Set Limits. Delineate specific times during the day to consume news. Set a timer for how long you will read the news for. 
  3. Curate your social media feed. Oftentimes, social media platforms such as Instagram or Twitter act as news outlets. Although these platforms can be helpful ways to stay informed, sometimes we can see negative news when we aren’t ready for it or consume opinions instead of reliable news sources. Mindfully following sources who provide reliable information and making sure to balance your social media feed with low-stress accounts that make you feel good can be very important.
  4. Set yourself up for success. Identify the times of day that you are more likely to spend time doom scrolling. For example, if you are prone to doom scrolling before going to sleep, try to set your phone down before getting into bed. 
  5. Consume different types of media. Nowadays, news sources are focused on getting information out as soon as possible. When speed is a priority, some information may be incomplete or inaccurate, as it takes time to investigate the full scope of a situation. Consuming “just in” news sources may be overwhelming; looking towards “slower” sources such as newspapers or news magazines may be a way to avoid the initial panic of an event and read news without falling into doom scrolling. 

 

As the pandemic continues, shifting our focus from doom scrolling to mindful consumption of news is an important way that we can protect our mental and physical health. Identifying areas where we can set boundaries within our own lives has never been more important, as we continue to confront new challenges.

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Killer Hospitals and COVID-19 in Mexico

Illustration by: Haven Morales

 

CW: death

Mexico is currently facing a crisis that will only get worse as COVID-19 continues to impact the country. After years of neglect, the Mexican healthcare system has been facing an onslaught of COVID-19 cases that the hospitals are not properly equipped to handle. With the rising need for medical attention and a lack of resources, hospitals are seeing an overwhelming amount of death. 

 

Mexico’s healthcare system consists of both public and private options. The Mexican government itself offers three public systems: the Instituto de Salud para el Bienestar (INSABI), the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado (ISSSTE), and the Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social (IMSS). INSABI is the 2020 revamp of the Seguro Popular, the former healthcare system that was meant to provide healthcare to low-income Mexicans. ISSSTE is a program designed to provide healthcare and social security to federal employees and their families. IMSS is the organization that provides healthcare to private-sector employees and foreigners working in Mexico. In both the IMSS and ISSSTE, contributions must be made by the employee so funds are discounted from employee’s salaries to maintain healthcare coverage.

 

Government spending on healthcare is extremely low within Mexico. In 2019, the Mexican government only spent 2.8% of its GDP on the domestic government health system. This trend would continue, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, amid a global pandemic in 2020 in which Mexico has lowered this down to only 2.5%. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is the regional office of the Americas for the WHO, recommends that countries dedicate a minimum benchmark of 6% of GDP to the public expenditure on health. 

 

While Mexican government spending on healthcare has declined, the population has maintained a steady increase, growing by over 15 million people this last decade. COVID-19 has hit Mexico hard with over a million cases reported and over 140,700 deaths as of mid-January. The World Bank also noted that there were only 1.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people in 2015 and 2.4 physicians per 1,000 people in 2017. These statistics have been further exacerbated by COVID-19. The combination of increased demand for hospital beds due to COVID-19 and the lack of sufficient funding for the healthcare system has led to inadequate medical attention and, in many cases, medical negligence. 

 

In early November of 2020, El Universal reported that 10% of COVID-19 hospitals in Mexico were at full capacity. This report stated that a minimum of 94 of the 949 hospitals were reporting that they no longer had any beds, respirators, or spaces in their intensive care units available for new patients. Reaching their full capacity has become a problem for both public and private hospitals. 

 

In a complaint shared with Metropoli, a group of ISSSTE hospital staff reported that the hospital they worked at was a hotbed for COVID-19 infections as COVID-positive patients were being mixed with patients who had not been exposed to COVID. The hospital was also not being disinfected properly. In an article by the New York Times, several doctors and nurses admitted that there were many cases of preventable deaths that had been caused by negligence. They also recounted cases where patients died due to inexperienced staff members accidentally unplugging life support equipment, neglecting vital signs, and abandoning hospital beds.

 

Before COVID-19, complaints of medical negligence were already common in Mexico. According to the National Commission of Medical Arbitration (CONAMED), 2019 saw 17,358 official medical negligence complaints made to the commission. The 2019 figure shows a 22% increase of complaints since 2016 and this only covers the official complaints recorded. An interview with Fernando Aviléz Tostado, the president of No More Medical Negligence, noted that these figures are extremely low estimates of the actual number of cases of medical negligence as many go unreported due to people’s fear or lack of knowledge about their rights.

 

People in Mexico are dying and it’s not just because of the pandemic. Mexico is battling two deadly diseases: the vicious spread of COVID-19 and the insidious lack of quality healthcare. The lack of proper funding is creating a scenario where hospitals are reaching total capacity and patients that are admitted are facing complications or death from preventable errors. Until adequate funding is given, people will continue to suffer in these killer hospitals.

The Real Faces of Los Angeles: East LA

Luka Gidwani’s graduation picture at Belvedere park. Submitted by Gidwani.

 

TW: Sexual assault, molestation, domestic abuse, depression, PTSD.

 

One way you know you are growing up is when you learn new things about the world you thought you already knew. This was the case for me when I first started UCLA. I was born and raised in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in East LA. I already knew what LA looked like to me, but when I first arrived in Westwood on Move-In Day, my idea of home became different. 

East LA is the east side of Los Angeles that consists of predominantly Latinx, undocumented, and low-income communities. Though East LA has heavily influenced LA culture, it is often neglected due to the idea of “Hollywood LA,” the idea that Los Angeles is a city where only rich, boujee, white, elite people with easy jobs such as social media influencers, successful YouTubers, models, and actors live. This idea has been ingrained in every non-LA native as they pursue an unrealistic, industrial, BIPOC exclusionary lifestyle that harms and erases racial and ethnic communities such as East LA. 

Many don’t know this, but Los Angeles once belonged to Mexico before the United States owned it. Even then, Los Angeles was home for many Mexican and Chicanx people and continues to be. Chicanx culture and lifestyle play an enormous role in modern LA culture. Yet, many don’t recognize it and even oppress Latinx communities in Los Angeles because they don’t fit the “Hollywood LA”culture white elites have created. 

To reclaim power and space, East LA natives speak about the real Los Angeles they grew up in: East LA.

 

Ariel Miranda sitting on top of a hill in El Sereno, East LA. Taken by Jerylee Perez

“I think that’s one of [the biggest] misconceptions, [LA people are] all just superstars, we’re all from Beverly Hills, we all have cleaning ladies… when actually our families are the cleaning ladies.” 

Ariel Miranda (he/him) is a Chicano, LA native who was born and raised in the East LA neighborhood El Sereno. His family arrived in El Sereno when his mother migrated from Zacatecas, Mexico to East LA, where she met with her childhood friend and settled in the neighborhood. He now attends California State University, Los Angeles, and is pursuing a B.A. in English.

“When I think of whitewashed LA, I think of victims of gentrification. I think of places like Highland Park, Echo Park, Silverlake… My dad lives in Cypress, near Highland Park, and I remember going there when I was younger and it was nothing like how it is today, you know? I drive by there today, and there are little coffee shops that also teach yoga. There are fusion restaurants. I mean, c’mon, that’s white people stuff.” Whitewashing LA is essentially modern colonialism, as luxurious, expensive establishments are imposed in the communities of BIPOC that erase the cultures, lifestyles, and people of those original neighborhoods. Because BIPOC don’t have access to these luxuries, they are erased from Los Angeles communities they once called home

Ariel shares that “a lot of celebrities see living in our neighborhoods and communities as tough, but that Hollywood will do something to improve their image, like ‘look at me, I’m in a tough neighborhood.’” For [celebrities], we’re just a backdrop for a three minute music video, but for [us] it’s [our] actual life.” Ariel highlights that people who live the glamorous LA lifestyle use Latinx neighborhoods for these purposes. They use LA as something they can gain from, but never stop to think about how they can uplift and represent our communities and voices in the media accurately. 

 

Mia Berber leaning on the street signs she grew up in East Los. Submitted by Berber.

“They only see West LA, they only see Beverly Hills, they only see Rodeo Drive, they don’t go within our communities and actually see the true representation of what LA really is.” 

Mia Berber (she/her) is a born and raised East Los Chicana who is also an LA native. Her family settled when her grandmother migrated to East LA from Puebela, Mexico, and met her husband, a Chicano from Boyle Heights. The two then had Berber’s mother, who is also an East LA Chicana. Her mother met her father in East LA, and the rest is history. 

Berber is currently a performing artist studying dance at UCLA, so she has experience in the dance industry. Since she is also an LA native and East Los Angeles native, she knows how fake and harmful industrial LA propaganda can be towards BIPOC. “The biggest misconception… is that LA is fake, that LA is full of boujee people who are rich… That’s so annoying to me because that’s not LA. I think there’s LA industry culture, and then there’s LA culture. I think LA culture is Black and Brown culture and community, and understanding that as a community of color we have each other’s backs, and the fact that us POCs created LA culture.” 

East LA communities are often neglected from the idea of Los Angeles because it doesn’t fit the elite narrative people have created. Not only does this not recognize Latinx, Chicanx, and other BIPOC influences on LA, but it also creates negative, stereotypical ideas where our neighborhoods become known as “the ghetto,” the “bad side of town,” and seen as “dangerous.” However, many East LA folk see beauty and strength within their neighborhoods. Berber shares a description of her home and smiles, “The moment I get off the 770 bus, it smells like flowers, fresh flowers from the people selling them around the corner. It’s just bright. I feel like when I come home… color just stands out more. The sun seems like it’s shining more. There are just flowers everywhere. That’s what I love. It’s busy because we’re hustlers… East LA is full of nothing but hustlers who work for their shit. It just smells fresh to me. When I come home, I feel refreshed.” 

 

Luka standing in front of their home in East Los. Submitted by Gidwani.

“First thing [East LA] is very lively! During certain times of the year, like New Years or January all the way to Fourth of July, it’s just fireworks… You’ll always hear parties or music playing… My favorite [thing] is that there’s lots of stray cats and dogs!” 

Luka/Isa Gidwani (they/he) is a UCLA transfer student who graduated from East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Luka has lived in Belvedere Gardens for about 8-9 years but originally lived in Hollywood until their family moved for housing security and safety. Luka also spent most of their childhood in Highland Park/Montecito Heights.

Like many, Luka appreciates and admires East LA for its beauty, culture, and how it has shaped who they are. Specifically, Luka appreciates the programs and institutions East LA provided for them. ELAC is a community college in the Monterey Park area, a middle-class neighborhood next to East LA. Still, many East LA residents attended the school and took advantage of the resources and opportunities there. For Luka, ELAC introduced them to classes relating to their identity the most: Chicanx and gender and sexuality courses. Luka is now majoring in philosophy, which Luka says is “super dominated by cis-hetero, men, which is just like, literally the opposite of everything I am!” Still, Luka is motivated to pursue this major. “Because of all the experiences I had at ELAC, it made me want to kinda change that and bring different perspectives to philosophy. It’s very white centered, when I don’t think it should be.”

Additionally, ELAC introduced many community programs that have inspired Luka. Luka experienced sexual assault and different forms of molestation growing up, and when they attended ELAC, their depression and PTSD hit hard for them during this time. “I joined the honors club… and through [it] we would partner up with other clubs at ELAC. Through them I found out about the East LA Women’s Center… They have this annual candlelight vigil… its an honor of people who have survived and have been victims of domestic violence and other forms of sexual violence too. I participated in that as a volunteer and it was really cool because I ended up leading the chance and leading the walk… it was really cool just experiencing that and the community getting together in support of people who have experienced domestic violence. It made me feel very empowered, and that experience really pushed me to… [transfer] to UCLA from ELAC… that’s how [East LA] has positively impacted me.” 

East LA is a crucial part of Los Angeles that many people tend to forget since the people, culture, and lifestyle don’t fit into the capitalist, white, rich ideas many have created. However, we exist. The hardworking people exist. A beautiful culture exists. 

“I take pride in who I am, and love myself. I think that’s a good form of resistance against the whitewashing of LA and misconceptions about LA.”

The Hidden Gems of Mexico City: Entry 1

My name is Emilia Acevedo and I was born and raised in Mexico City until age 15 when I moved to California to attend a boarding school. I remember at school when I told a friend that I was from Mexico, he asked if we have Domino’s Pizza or Amazon. Of course, my immediate response, in a slightly offended tone, was “Yes. Yes, we do. We also have McDonald’s and Starbucks,” to which he responded, “Wow, that’s amazing!” while looking like a five-year-old at Disneyland for the first time. It is easy to forget that a lot of assumptions are made about Mexico – its food, its people, and what others think it is despite not visiting it (or not doing so properly). There is a very particular feeling to it when you’re around the people or are in the places you never even imagined existed there. I have found that most often, it is very convenient to have someone who lives in Mexico and knows its particularities and non-touristy features to show you around in what my dad calls, “The Real Mexico.” 

Since I left, I have never been able to look at Mexico the same. By being away, I realized all of the special aspects of my country and its people, qualities that you cannot find anywhere else. Because of this, I choose to write about the special, unknown places of Mexico City to share some of the hidden gems of this beautiful country – and what better way to start than with food! Now, I know I said that a lot of assumptions are made about Mexican food, but the dish I will tell you about today is very much “worth the hype.” No, it’s not tacos, but quesadillas – the easy, number one, go-to meal that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. There isn’t much to quesadillas. Most of the time, they are just a folded tortilla with melted cheese inside. But, oh my, can they be different depending on who makes them and how they make them. 

Behind one of the most visited churches in Mexico, La Parroquia de San Juan Bautista, and in one of the colonial municipalities of Mexico City, is a literal hole-in-the-wall called “Mercado de Comida Coyoacán” that has up to a dozen small stands where most sell quesadillas. 

The outside of the Mercado de Antojitos de Coyoacán from Google Maps

My favorite stand, owned and run by la Señora Irma and her family, used to have at least 20 people around it at all times before the pandemic, with everyone attempting to take a seat on the benches around the stand or simply eating while standing up. However, due to the pandemic, they were forced to close with no income from April to June. Today, only six customers are allowed per stand at all times, but la Señora Irma and her family said they are just happy to be back and working.

Photo by Francisco Moned on TripAdvisor

To order your quesadillas, you write on a piece of paper what ingredients you want inside of the tortilla. Within five minutes of placing your order, you’re served your quesadillas freshly made with the most beautiful cheese pull you will ever see when you take a bite. 

Photo by Laura Bernhein on Matador Network

They have two different types of very spicy salsas, a bowl of cheese, and a bowl of sour cream on the counter to put on top of or inside of your quesadilla with a fridge full of popular sodas like Coca Cola, along with noncarbonated drinks like guava or mango concentrate. The list of ingredients you can add to your quesadilla, and their translations/descriptions, are as follows (you can add cheese to any of the ingredients for the quesadillas or pick your own two ingredients to mix);

QUESADILLAS:

  • Flor de calabaza (zucchini flowers)
  • Pollo (chicken)
  • Sesos (cow brain)
  • Chicharrón (pig skin)
  • Requesón (a cheese similar to ricotta)
  • Huitlacoche (a parasitic fungus that develops on young ears of corn)
  • Rajas con queso (poblano pepper with cheese)
  • Frijoles con queso (beans with cheese)
  • Panza (cow stomach meat)
  • Carne (beef)
  • Queso (cheese)
  • Hongos (mushrooms)
  • Papas (potatoes)

The food sold here is given the name comida corrida. Its closest translation being “running food” since it is served quickly for the people that work in the area and have a short lunch break. Comida corrida is terribly underrated, often thought of as dirty or low quality, but Señora Irma‘s quesadillas are most definitely not dirty nor is her food low quality. I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that on most days I would much rather eat there than at a high-end restaurant. Unfortunately for me, if I did, I would most likely end up gaining a pound or two since their dishes are made out of very heavy corn dough. The cheese that is used for quesadillas is called Queso Oaxaca, and it is a moist, mozzarella-like cheese, only saltier. It also contains a lot of oil so it is certainly not the best for people who like to count their calories, but if it’s your cheat day, it’s definitely a must. However, you can choose whether you want your quesadilla fried or simply cooked on a comal (a flat griddle) as they have a menu called Las Dietéticas (the dietetics). Overall, Mexican food, and especially comida corrida, is not very diet-friendly, but if you’re traveling all the way over here, then why not have it? I promise you, it’s worth it.