Mexican immigrant parents: From my shame to my pride

dignidadlaloWhen I first applied to UCLA, I wrote in my personal essay that I didn’t have any positive role models in my violent neighborhood.

Having grown up in East Los Angeles’ Ramona Gardens housing project, I wrote that most of the adults represented gang members, drug dealers, thieves, tecatos (heroin addicts), alcoholics, felons and high school dropouts (or push-outs). I also wrote about my disdain for housing authority officials and government workers for behaving like prison wardens and guards toward us: project residents who depended on government aid or welfare.

Moreover, I decried the police abuse that I had witnessed and experienced, like the time when a cop pointed a gun at me. My crime: being a 15-year-old making a rolling stop while learning how to drive.

Mas…Mexican immigrant parents: From my shame to my pride

Can you spot the Latino in this photograph?

salvadorlitvakI’m pretty sure I was the only redhead at the NYU Latino Law Students Association Gala in the spring of 1990. The food was delicious, my date looked stunning, and I was glad I had jumped on the opportunity when I received the LALSA invitation.

My journey to that moment began 25 years earlier. I was born in Santiago, Chile in 1965: a third generation Chilean on my father’s side (whose people came from Odessa), and first generation on my mother’s side, who arrived when she was 12 from Hungary.

We left Chile in 1970 after the election of socialist president Salvador Allende. For Mom, socialism was close enough to the Soviet regime she’d fled in Hungary.

I started kindergarten at P.S. 81 in the Bronx. With a curly mop of flaming red hair and speaking only Spanish, I immediately embarked on a lifelong career of not fitting in. I learned English fast, but I still felt like an outsider. I got into X-Men comics because I identified with the mutants.

Mas…Can you spot the Latino in this photograph?

True Story: I was a teenaged guera, white like Jesus too

bigblondejesusIn 1969, my mother registered to vote as a member of La Raza Unida, an independent “third party.”

When she came home and shared the news with her father — declaring that she was a “Chicana” — he grew angry.

He told her never to use that word, since “Chicano” was a derogatory term when he was growing up.

Despite my mother’s defiance of the patriarchal family regime that day, she never talked much about the importance of our Mexican heritage or exploring the values of Xicanisma.

Mom did send me to an all-girls Catholic high school, however, and maybe that was an attempt at showing me empowerment for women. The school was in 75% white Glendora, though, so our Jesus statues were white (photo, above), just like our feminism. 

Mas…True Story: I was a teenaged guera, white like Jesus too

Al Madrigal is a coconut on a quest for identity: ‘Half Like Me’ (video)


alcoconutPOCHO Migrant Editor Al Madrigal’s epic quest for identity — Half Like Me — debuts on FUSION next Thursday.

Coconut Madrigal (white inside, brown outside) knew turning an intensely personal journey into a docu-comedy wouldn’t be one easy trick, but he never anticipated what happened next.

“I set out to dial down my pocho level from a ten to a five,” he told POCHO in a text message Tuesday night, “and ultimately something much greater and unexpected happened. I ended up not giving a shit.”

“I encourage others to try it, feels great.”

Al got some help from three mostly-reliable sources:

Mas…Al Madrigal is a coconut on a quest for identity: ‘Half Like Me’ (video)

What’s in a trend? Google tracks ‘Latino’ and ‘Hispanic’ over time

ngramHispanic or Latino? This question comes up all the time, and not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, which we insist on calling Latino Heritage Month.

Is there a trend? We asked the Google NGram Viewer to search their big index of published books to see how many times the word “Latino” and the word “Hispanic” were used over time.

Mas…What’s in a trend? Google tracks ‘Latino’ and ‘Hispanic’ over time

Local Chicano decides to start calling himself ‘Hispanic’

hispanicguy(PNS reporting from IRVINE, CA) Roland Vega, 33, formerly known as “Rolando,” has come to an important moment in his life: He’s transitioned from a “Chicano” to a “Hispanic.”

The decision to change the way he self-identifies came as somewhat of a shock to his family and his homeboys, but not necessarily to Vega’s former Hispanic fraternity brothers.

He made the announcement on Facebook Sunday night.

“You know, Roli — er, I mean, Roland — was always the most radical Chicano in the fraternity, but c’mon man, he was studying accounting. I kinda always knew he was going to end up a Hispanic,” said Ed Taboada, Vega’s college roommate.

Mas…Local Chicano decides to start calling himself ‘Hispanic’

White Boy ChIcano (a poem)

whiteboychicanoWhite Boy Chicano

It’s an identity crisis

My parents are Mexican migrants, who stay busy all the time

Spanish is my first language, then almost losing it because of time

My TV only showed Mexicans involved in crime

The stereotypes didn’t represent me

My school peers didn’t believe me

I wasn’t Mexican or White

Being a gringo and Mehican left me asking,

Who am I? Where do I belong to?

Pinche White Boy

Mas…White Boy ChIcano (a poem)

Census Bureau considering new race/ethnicity questions

2010censusraceproposednewcensusraceThe tricky choose-your-own race/ethnic questions in the 2010 United States Census didn’t work out as planned.

“As many as 6.2% of census respondents selected only “some other race” in the 2010 census (photo, top), the vast majority of whom were Hispanic,” the Pew Research Center reports.

The 2010 Census form asked two questions about race and ethnicity. First, people were asked whether they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.

Then they were asked to choose one or more of 15 options that make up five race categories — white, black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.

A separate question about Hispanic origin has been asked of all households since 1980, and the census form specifically instructs respondents that Hispanic origins are not races.

To address concerns about a rising share of “some other race” selections, a combined race and ethnicity question is under consideration for 2020 (photo, bottom), in which people would be offered all the race and Hispanic options in one place.

They could check a box to identify as white, black, Hispanic/Latino/Spanish origin, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander or some other race or origin.

Mas…Census Bureau considering new race/ethnicity questions