Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Violent Christmas


Millions of Americans lay tucked in their beds, while images of sugar plums danced in their heads. On this Christmas morn', I awoke at 1 am to to sounds of reverberating shot gun fire and small arms fire dancing in the air. As I lay tucked in my bed, I counted 12 shot gun blasts echo off the El Paso Franklin Mountains swooping down into the valley, my neighborhood, below. I knew these were not the traditional celbratory shots fired on Christmas eve, but the violent and deadly messages the drug caretel have been sending for months to those living along the border. How grim to know that at the end of each blast, a man or woman lay dead in the streets of Juárez. I closed my eyes and said a prayer for the families each of the shot gun blasts would effect. They will not be having a Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo.

I have been silent on my blog for months because I have been busy with writing and researching for my disseration, but equally as much, I have been speechless about what is going down just a stone´s throw from my home, the university, the place I call home.

For months, the violence has escalated to 12, 15, 21 murders EVERY weekend. The media quotes numbers at 1,400 or 1,500 people that have died in neighboring Juárez, but I believe that the number is much higher. Unmarked graves, a poor tracking system of the people, and an indifference for the Mexicans living on the border hinders an actual count of the people who have lost their lives. Just in the last two weeks, the cartel killed the chief of police of Juárez. The cartel has no respect, no care, no scrupels for the lives of anyone. This week, members of the cartel were throwing the decapitated heads of their latest victims from the window of their trucks! When will this end? The people of Juárez, Mexico cannot defend themselves because weapons in Mexico are illegal! Only the criminals have the guns.

I question the attention this issue has received from not only the American press, but also the American government. A war rages in a country neighboring the United States, and their response is to build a wall. The United States continue to take an indifferent stance toward the suffering and serious issues raging just across our borders. Many people feel may feel think "the killings and drug cartel are their problems." More than we know, the killings and drug cartel are our problems. Why? Fifty percent of the drug consumption in the world occurs here in the United States, for marijuana alone, there are 14.6 million drug user in the United States (www.medicalnewstoday.com). Yes, the killings in Juárez, a drug war fighting for the passage ways to sell their product in the United States, IS our problem.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dr. Scott Lunsford's Dissertation Defense - Public Corrections: The Discipline of Lynne Truss


On Monday July 14, Scott Lunsford defended his doctoral dissertation in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Lunsford's excellent dissertation, Public Corrections: The Discipline of Lynne Truss, centered on the grammar book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. Truss, Lunsford argues, erroneously positions literacy as a narrowly defined universal skill, not allowing for alternative literacies. The following is from Scott's dissertation abstract: I look through two lenses to glean what many in popular and academic discourse say about several objects of study that the field of Rhetoric and Writing Studies takes on throughout its own scholarship and practice. First, by appropriating and synthesizing genre theories, I examine the generic function of the book: How does she characterize her own book? Who are Trusss intended readers? What does she intend for those readers to do with the book? What are her assumptions about various issues of writing studies, for example, literacy, grammar, and language standardization? Second, through critical discourse theory, I explore many of the reviews and other commentary by authors writing in popular newspapers and magazines, as well as those in academic journals: How do they characterize the book? How do they identify with Trusss call for better standards in English? What do they assume about various writing issues? I conclude by discussing some of thedisconnects that continue to separate public and academic attitudes toward writing issues such as literacy, grammar, and the like." Scott's presentation was informative, stimulating, and novel. More importantly, he represents the FIRST graduate of the rhetoric and composition program at UTEP. (His committe below from left to right: Stacey Sowards, Communications, Scott Lunsford, Rhetoric and Writing Studies (RWS), Kate Mangelsdorf, RWS, and Helen Foster, Director of RWS.)


Professional accomplishments aside, Scott and his wife Cecile have been a true asset not only to UTEP but the community of El Paso. Scott pulled off the two most difficult milestones in one's life during the doctoral process: get married and start a family! And then, add the third most difficult thing one could do in their life, get a Ph.D., and that spells all-out insanity. But Scott is a go getter and he accomplished this impossible feat. His wife, Cecile, worked hard with a local high school in the theater department putting on plays for the better of the community. Scott was a great supporter in all of Cecile's endeavors. She even recently completed her Masters degree. Yeah, Cecile. But Scott has compressed all of these milestones, challenges, and hidden opportunities together and created a polished diamond!
I had the privilege of taking some of the same classes with Scott (Dr. Foster's Post-modern class - man that was a tough one - I'm still tired from it..ugh), and learned a great deal from him. Scott is a scholar and an excellent person to boot! James Madison University is certainly lucky to be getting such an outstanding individual as Dr. Lunsford. We (and I feel I can speak for all the faculty and students in the rhetoric and composition program and English Dept.) are so proud of Scott. We know you will not only succeed, but excel where ever you go. We wish you and your family(Cecile and little Lexi) all the best in Virginia. Keep in touch, and you and your family will always have a place here in El Paso.


CONGRATULATIONS, DR. SCOTT LUNSFORD!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Bhutan Connection in El Paso, Texas









On my daily rides onto the University of Texas at El Paso's campus, I can sometimes take for granted the unique architecture that surrounds me. UTEP's architectural design is based on the simple yet elegant structure of the Bhutanese building with long slopping walls given dimension by the deep windows and over hanging roofs. The buildings are accented by colorful mosaics of tile along the facade of the building. (See the website below for pictures). Because of the heavy Bhutanese connection, UTEP has developed a close relationship with the people of Bhutan. This past Tuesday, July 8, El Paso was privileged to have the Bhutanese Royal Academy of Performing Arts present their cultural dances and songs. My husband and I went, and we were pleased to see such beautiful costumes and hear hauntingly sacred sounds in the music. The philosophy of the people, which places happiness in life at the center of their existence, is reflected in the colorful costumes and intricate dances. Some of the costumes even reminded me of the Mexican culture's costumes they use for such dance as "El Baile del Venado" and the skull figures from Dia de Los Muertos.
El Paso and the university are blessed to be connected to such an incredible part of the world.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Building a Better Future: Community Service


Since Barack Obama began speaking to the American public, one of the messages to his audiences has been - giving back to our communities fortifies our nation. He has said on several occasions, "Through service, I found that my own improbable story fit into a larger American story. Through service, I found a community that embraced me, a church to belong to, citizenship that was meaningful, the direction I'd been seeking." Community service is not always easy because of our hectic and busy lives, but if we can substitute the time in front of the television for time with our fellow citizens, we just might find jewels waiting to shine.
Last night my YWCA leadership group, The Positive Gals, culminated our efforts to give away two $1000 scholarships at a local resteraunt. Rudy Chavez from San Elizario, Tx. and April Soto from El Paso, Tx. received their awards last night. Five hundred was given to them directly, and the other $500 goes directly to their school as credit toward classes. Student applicants to the scholarship had to write an 800 - 1000 word essay from the prompt "Be the architect of your life."
Rudy Chavez said that he heard about the essay contest from his sister who was taking Teresa Nevarez's class at El Paso Community College. She brought it home, and Rudy thought he would give it shot. His efforts paid off. Rudy shared with us some of the experiences that have been the building blocks of his life. When he was in the 8th grade, his father brought home an old 1967 truck that he paid $300 for. His dad told him that it was now his truck and he could drive it if he fixed it up. The truck became a several year project for Rudy and his dad. It's now a painted, classic truck that sits in their drive. People stop at their house, knock the door, and ask if he's willing to see his truck. He said, "I'd never sell it." He appreciates the time and effort he put into it too much to get rid of. This young man's attitude is in stark contrast to many of our youth today who are "given" everything, and were not required to work for what they have. Rudy plans to start in the fall at Western Technical to learn auto mechanics. He currently works days with his father at their new business, Ydur Tires, and at night he works at a Limosine Service. Congratulations, Rudy!!
April Soto heard about the scholarship through community outreach. As an ex-teacher at El Paso High, I was generously given access to some of the English teacher's classrooms. Mr. Denny allowed me some time in one of his classes, and April was one of the students in his class. The students in his class didn't seem so enthusiastic about possibly winning $1,000, but the prospect caught April's attention. She worked for several weeks on her essay never giving up hope that she would get the scholarship. Some of the building blocks of her life have come from visits to her grandmother in a small pueblo in Durango, images of sick children in poor communities on PBS, and giving of her time to elderly homes. She wrote in the conclusion of her winning essay, " I believe the best way to predict the future is to build and create it yourself. The experiences from Mexico and my grandmother’s place have contributed to my decision of becoming a nurse. Even the worst experiences like seeing an innocent child dirty and sick on the streets of Juarez have helped me create my future plans. I have chosen to not dwell on my helplessness in these situations, but use them for making me stronger and as the bricks, wood, and cement to build my future." April is currently working at Burlington Coat Factory, and will start classes in the fall at El Paso Community College at the Rio Grande campus. Congratulations, April!


As a group, we owe great thanks to Community Center Empowerment Systems here in El Paso, Tx. who matched our funds of $1000. A big thank you to all the people (more than I can mention here) who donated money to help make the scholarships a reality. Also, a big thank you goes to Karen Marasco at Sunland Park Barnes and Noble for donating $50 worth of school supplies, pens (really nice ones!), notebooks, and planners for April and Rudy.


We wish April and Rudy all the luck
as they start their college and life careers!
Pictured above: Left to right: Maribel Villalba, Yolanda Alameda, Terry Valero, Lucia Dura, Claudia Cochran, Bonnie Apodaca, Rose Galindo, Cristina Ramirez, Terresa Nevarez.





Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mestiz@ Scripts, Digital Migrations, and the Teritories of Writing



Damián Baca´s book on mestiz@ rhetorics was just released this past week. I'm kicking back with a cold glass of jamaica and reading his book. He provides a history of the conquest of the indigenous peoples of mesoamerica. As well, he argues that the people were not a barbaric civilization in need of "civilizing." He shows how the people in mesoamerica before the conquest had established a highly complex system of governance and communication throughout the land. Challenging the main stream view of what accounts as rhetorical texts, Baca presents examples of indigenous dance and pictographs as rhetorical.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Researching at the Benson Collection for Writing, Rhetoric, and Latinidad

This past week I was in Austin, Tx conducting research for my disseration on Mexican women journalists. I've geared the first chapter of my disseration to answer one of the main questions in the special call for paper submitted by Damián Baca and Victor Villanueva: How do we being to understand a broader history of rhetoric within the Americas? I am planning on answering this question through the discourses of Mexican women journalists and how they played into constructing a national Mexican identity in the years 1876-1920. Enjoy my pictures from Austin and the Benson Collection.



The Benson Latin American Collection in Austin is the largest collection of Latin American writings next to the Library of Congress. Doing research is not easy and be quite exhausting. When I arrived in Austin at 7:30 am I hopped on the Flyer 100, the .50 cent shuttle to downtown Austin. I checked in my hotel and headed to the archives. I was greated by a cool breeze of air conditioning. Austin was experiencing really hot and humid weather. Entering the library and getting oriented, I noticed how big the library really is. The wings of the library are separated into rare books and then regular books that can be checked out. On the third floor they have an extensive collection of microfilm. I located some great materials that will enhance my dissertation! I hope my research will make a difference!



College English -- Call for Submissions
Call for Submissions
For two special issues of COLLEGE ENGLISH, we invite submissions, which should be sent electronically to the journal’s office at cesubs@indiana.edu by July 1, 2008:

Lincoln in English Studies: In February 2009, historians will celebrate thebicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Why and how should our disciplinestudy him, too? Besides his own rhetoric, contributors might examine how hehas figured in works of fiction, visual culture, English courses, orEnglish scholarship.

Writing, Rhetoric, and Latinadad (guest editors: Damián Baca and VictorVillanueva):

With Latinas and Latinos comprising the United States’ largestlinguistic and ethnic “minority,” this issue will consider the historicalknowledge that the field of rhetoric and composition needs to constructsocially relevant pedagogies. Particularly welcome are essays that defineLatina/Latino rhetorics in comparison to Greco-Latin ones. How do we beginto understand a broader history of rhetoric within the Americas, forexample? How can Latina/Latino rhetorics that pre-date the teaching ofEnglish in the Americas transform composition studies? How might resistantand de-colonial Latina and Latino rhetorics challenge Eurocentric historiesand historiographies of writing and writing instruction? How can greaterunderstanding of the unique historical trajectories of indigenous, Spanish,and English rhetorical ways affect our current attempts to include Latinoand Latina language experiences in our composition classrooms? What arehistoricallinks among AmerIndian rhetorics (i.e., those of Latin American andCaribbean indigenous peoples as distinct from their more Northern brothersand sisters)? How would these have affected, and been affected by, Spanishcolonial rhetorics?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Guest Blogger: A Rhetoric of Argument and Life

Isaac Campos 05/09/2008

And so it is that the Spring 2008 at UT El Paso has come to a close. The time has finally come to take a deep breath and ask the ourselves “did we learn anything?” The answer is a straight yes when it comes to English.

One of the most notorious, and sometimes annoying, aspects of this writer is his tendency to be critical about just about everything. Almost in every action, almost, I usually like to take a few seconds and think, “why am I doing this?” This question has lead to many astonishing conclusions which sometimes denoted the lack of purpose I had while performing some activities; classes are not any different. When I’m sitting in my room memorizing for the third straight year in high school the same birth date of the same person, I have to wonder, “why am I doing this? And more importantly, “How is this helping me at all?” The answer is, that it is not helping at all.

Eventually the time came for me to wonder, “Why am I in this rhetoric class?” The answer, unlike the history classes in high school, lead me to realize just how much I was learning about writing and the forging of strong arguments. As I read my papers, they did not sound as just an unguided train wreck anymore, but as a real argument. The advantage of using the techniques taught in Mrs. Cristina D. Ramirez’s English 1312 class was clearly seen in my essays.

One of such techniques that bettered my writing was “Stasis Theory” which is a way in which to develop a conclusion. When I included it in my final paper, it was very notorious that the conclusion had greatly improved compared to the regular conclusion I developed for my essay. Stasis theory is only one of the many argument-strengthening techniques I learned in English 1312.

Besides improving my writing, the class also taught me to be more aware my surroundings. How so? Well, for one thing, it may be become more aware of the deluding arguments advertisers sue to convince us to purchase their product. Understanding these arguments allowed me to become nigh “immune” to their rhetorical techniques. Another aspect of the class that made the most impact on this writer would be the way in which rhetoric impacts and can impact our lives.

Back in the age of the Greeks, some of the wise ones of their time set themselves to propagate rhetoric throughout the land. They wanted to do so to provide the people of their time with the means to defend themselves in the everyday life. This class has accomplished so by providing the techniques that allowed this writer to canalize the feelings and sentiments inside of him and make them a convincing argument. This aspect is very much crucial for any conversation or form of writing; being passionate about a subject will only get you to a certain place, but not towards victory over the opposite side, which what we all want, right?

Besides all of the techniques, which already justified the class, I can most certainly attest that I greatly enjoyed the time I spent writing about the rhetoric of video games. The way the general consensus is right now, few if any teachers would have allowed me to write something about video games; I was allowed to do so in this class. What better thing to write about than my favorite hobby?

Hence, because of the ample amounts of useful information that I learned, and because of the great time I had all throughout the semester, let us conclude that the class was a success. 1312 not only changed my writing, but it also changed the way I looked at my surroundings. Hence, it is also possible to conclude that English 1312 was indeed rhetorical.



Monday, May 5, 2008

Guest Blogger

Oscar Veliz. 05/05/2008
Already the end of the semester has come leaving some gladness and some sadness. Gladness being that I'll get my Saturdays back and will be able to sleep in after the long week. Sadness being that I'm going to miss Prof. Ramirez's unique English class.



It is not very often that I'm shocked at what is in my syllabus because normally they all read the same. Quiz this day. Paper due that day. Test in a week. And Final on whatever future day. This class had something that I did not expect out of the gate, a blog. At first I was apprehensive with creating my own blog, thinking "What am I going write about?" All I really needed to do though was take the plunge and set up an account on Google. Once I started using Blogger and realizing how simple it was to use, the blog pretty much wrote itself. Visit my blog here.

Of course we had class as well with some required readings. Most of all of which were about rhetoric. Go figure. An actual definition of the word is hard to nail down because I have my own that I'm used for my research paper, as does every other member of the class. As a whole, we created a working definition that stated "rhetoric is an epistemic art created by a rhetor for the purpose of change." As a class we learned about ethos, pathos, and logos; which we've all learned about in high school but not nearly the level that we utilized it in this class. The easiest element for me to grasp was logos/fallacy mainly because I'm a computer programmer so I use a lot of logic to solve problems and write programs. Pathos and Ethos I still mix up from time to time even though Prof. Ramirez hammered them into my skull.

I think that the part of the class that sticks out in my mind is that we always used technology. Whether it was the simple use of a projector for notes or posting syllogisms on WebCT, listening to NPR to analyze an article's rhetorical elements, reading New York Times articles, doing research for our research paper, etcetera. We each created a video essay representing the change in our topic over time, for our research paper, using PhotoStory.

Speaking of research papers, mine is on Sherlock Holmes and how he is rhetorical. Surprisingly, even though Sherlock Holmes is found in the world of fiction, he is very much real to many people all over the world from the United Kingdom to the United States to Japan to India to Russia. There are Sherlock Holmes societies everywhere devoted to studying Sherlock Holmes Canon and have scholarly discussions regarding him. In the US there exists the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI), who publish a quarterly journal with various scholars submitting articles. I selected one of the articles in this publication to analyze its rhetorical elements for this class.

After the middle of the semester I'd started noticing that almost everything I saw, read, or heard had some sort of rhetoric in it. Whether it be bottle water advertisements or segments I'd seen on the news. More often, I started to question if everything I heard is valid. Normally checking a statement for fallacies or one-sidedness. In fact, I think I've always done that, but now I have a term, a definition for this analysis and I've come to begin thinking more critically.

As the semester comes to it's conclusion, I realize that this class has grown on me and that I may have grown because of it. Even still, I'm going to like having my Saturday's back.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dulce Recuerdos de mi Abuela: Ramona Gonzalez (Jan. 6, 1906 - May 5, 1994)


May 5 marks the anniversary of my grandmother's passing from this physical world.


I lived with my grandmother the last five years of her life. Every morning right at 6:45, she would get up, boil some water, make a cup of instant coffee, and sit down and eat a pan dulce. While playing cards later in the afternoons, she would look at me, a wild eyed and energetic college student, and confess "You know I steal energy from you." Silence. The click from the edges of the cards being placed on the table would resonate through the kitchen. Not once did she look up from her game of solitare. I glanced at her, noticing the white curtains catching the morning breeze behind her. I would answer, "Ah, si, that´s nice, grandma." I thought that she was a bit strange for saying that, but then again, I felt like taking a nap every day at around 1 pm. Hmmm, maybe she was.

My husband, Alex, says that we live in a disposable society, and that we keep the crap and throw away the valuable stuff. He comments, "As an American society, we are in such a bad place because we throw away our old people letting them rot in old folks homes. Our actions are a sad commentary on our society." Our elders are our connections to the past, and we break that connection when we forget about our roots. I will never forget my abuela, Ramona. She had a gift of knowing how to use language, and could hold a group of people in suspense with her cuentos and chistes.

The sweetest memory I have of my grandmother is my 21st birthday. For my birthday, I wanted to have a get together with my friends at my house where I was staying with my grandmother. Worried that grandma would not want to stick around, I asked her if there was anything I could do to accommodate her. She said no, and that she wanted to meet my friends. The evening of my birthday arrived and my friends started to arrive. Perched in her regular seat at the head of the table, my grandmother was the focus of attention as my friends entered the small house. Each of them approached her and greeted her with the utmost respect. After the food, and after the singing of "Happy Birthday," I cut the cake.

We all sat down at the table and watched as my grandmother said to my Swedish friend Tina, "Give me your hand." She put down her fork piled with cake and extended her hand to my grandmother. She turned my friend´s hand over, palm up, and brushed her hand over it. My grandmother murmured, "Hmmm, muy interestante," and a hush fell over my friends. "What is it? What do you see?" Tina demanded, with eyes wide ready to peer into her future. Grandma preceded to read the lines zigzagging on her hand and fingers. That evening, each of my friends touched my grandmother's hands letting her smooth over their palm and tell them about their future. With each hand she touched, she told a story, and all my friends listened. I think they forgot that it was my birthday party. But that didn't matter. My friends enjoying my grandmother's wisdom was the greatest gift.

Esa noche viene a mi mente hoy dia.

Abuela
- Cristina D. Ramirez

The fragile days I spent with you
the last years of your days
rushed by like the currents of el Río Bravo.
No estas aqui.

Puedo oír tus cuentos y dichos
In my mind
Like echoes through a canyon.
The memories of your words mix with the smells of guiso y calavasas
cooking on the stove.
The knowledge you imparted with me
chases away my ignorance
like the first signs of spring's arrival
on a winter’s afternoon;
Your wisdom resides in me.
Pero tu, no estas aqui.

Before, I would not let the wisdom in,
I thought it to be old-fashioned,
A tattered book with yellowed edges,
abandoned on a shelf unread.

Abuela, me has dejado un gran plato
servido con palabras y memorias
De tu juventud.

Abuela, I feel you now,
Como el sol en las espaldas
De una mujer sin blusa.
I embrace my memory of you
Like a child embraces her mother
For the last time.
Abuela, si estas aqui.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cinco de Mayo: Mexican History is American History

Cinco de Mayo seems to be a day for people in America to get drunk, party, have sales at department stores, or take a day off from work. Do they really know what they are celebrating? I don't think so. In 1962 the Spanish, English and French had come to Mexico on the pretext to collecting debt from the Mexican government. While the Spanish and English left, (the Spanish had been defeated in 1810), the French decided to stay. Under Napoleonic rule, the French brought the Prince of Hapsburg, Maximilian and his wife, Carlota. Napoleon's French Army entered Mexico undefeated in 50 years, and invaded Mexico with the finest modern equipment and with a newly reconstituted Foreign Legion. The Mexican people wanted to create their own nation, their own identity; they were not going to stand idly by. On May 5, 1962, a Mexican army of 4,000 sliders faced an army of French soldiers and Mexican traitors who joined the French equaling about 8,000 men.

General Zaragossa ordered Colonel Díaz (who would later become president and dictator in Mexico) to mark with his cavalry, the best in the world, meeting the French flanks. In response to the confrontation, the French did a most stupid thing; they sent their cavalry off to chase Díaz and his men, who proceeded to butcher the undefeated French army. The French did not give up. The remaining French infantrymen charged the Mexican defenders through thick, slippery mud, created by an ensuing thunderstorm, and through hundreds of head of stampeding cattle stirred up by Indians armed only with machetes. By the battles' end, many French were killed or wounded and their cavalry was being chased by Díaz's superb horsemen miles away. (Very interesting side note to history not many people know). The Mexicans had won a great victory that kept Napoleon III from supplying the American Confederate rebels for another year, allowing the United States to build the greatest army the world had ever seen. This grand army smashed the Confederates at Gettysburg just 14 months after the battle of Puebla, essentially ending the Civil War. Could Mexico defeating the French have given unity to our American nation? Nothing is impossible.

The French were not kicked out by any means after the battle. A year later, they occupied Mexico, with Maximilian as ruler. In 1867, Benito Juárez, the first full blooded indigenous national, and his men defeated the French again and expelled them from the country.


So this is why people celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The history connects Mexico and America in a show of force and patriotism that shaped both of our histories, Mexican and American. If we could only do the same today we would be a strong nation and people.
Pictured above: A basketball hoop post. This picture was taken in a colonia of Durango, Mexico.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

National Hispana Leadership Conference

Vision: Latinas as Ethical World Leaders
Mission: To develop Latinas as ethical leaders through training,
professional development, relationship building, and community and world activism.
Latina Empowerment Conferences
Camino Real Hotel101 South El Paso StreetEl Paso, TX 799018:00 AM to 12:30 PM
LECTURE 2008 Schedule


March 28
Tampa, FL
May 2 El Paso, TX
May 30
Detroit, MI
June 27
Jersey City, NJ
August 22
Seattle, WA
"The Harvesters" by Edward Gonzalez
This Friday I will be attending the National Hispana Leadership Institute. El Paso is lucky that NHLC will be stopping here. As a city situated right on theh border and so far west Texas, we usually get looked over and these conferences end up in places like San Antonio or Dallas. Thank you NHLI for supporting El Paso's Latinas! Thank you for the scholarship to attend the conference as well! ¡Ay nos vemos!
Please stay tuned, I will post pictures and analysis of the conference presentations.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Robert N. Gaines Scholarship Fund


Checking email on Monday morning usually means opening reminders for meetings, possible bills that are sent electronically, lists of requirements for the next semester. But this past Monday, I got an email from Ned O'Gorman Ph.D. at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign saying, "Congratulations! You have been awarded a one-year membershp to the American Society of the History of Rhetoric through the Robert N. Gaines scholarship fund."

I don't know about you, but I love getting emails that say Congratulations! especially on a Monday morning. Dr. Carol Clark, our History of Rhetoric I professor at UTEP nominated me for this honor. Thank you, Carol. And a honest, warm thank you to Professor Gaines (pictured above) who teaches out of the Communications Department at the University of Maryland for starting the scholarship. I am truly honored and accept the one-year membership.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The inspirational quote that appears daily in my google home space today read, "You are the sum of the five people you spend the majority of time with." If the sum of my being includes part of Anita August, author of Gut Bucket Blues, then my personage is blessed and augmented by her contribution Anita came back to El Paso, Tx this week from Washington, DC to promote her book giving interviews at KTEP with jazz expert Denis Woo (pictured above in sound room), and then presenting her book last night at a reading coupled with live jazz (book cover and program above) I sat in on the interview she had with Denis, and her true spirit emerged She talked about jazz music, art and her years at Cal State Art where she started the book. Unfortunately, Denis didn't read the book because it was sold out at the Barnes and Noble on the Eastside of town here, but he grasped the rythm and color of the book without reading a word.


In the interview, Anita spoke of where she gathered the inspiration for telling a story, and it wasn't from a grandmother or mother who told her stories of their past, but from the Bible. Growing up in a Christian household, she only had the Bible to read many times, and so she thumbed through its delicate pages. The story she recounts is the story of the the adulterous woman who was thrown in Jesus's path by men of religious standing. Jesus did not look up from the circle he was drawing in the sand, and asked the men that if they are without sin then they may cast the first stone. None could. And then Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Her inspiration, Anita mentioned, came from stories of people who are not perfect, who are flawed, who are freaks. Those characters attract this author because just below the surface, we are all flawed creatures, at times even freaks to those who know us, and to ourselves.

Anita's reading at the Union last night danced. Accompanied by the sweet jazz of Marty Olivas '91 and QBIZM, the guitar of Rembrant Aaron came to life on cue. Her voice at times was drowned by the music, but that made the audience listen even more closely. People were on the edge of their seats. She read... "When Rebrandt finish beating on his guitar he twist half way on the sweet potato basket and signify with 'em vultures eyes to Diamond Dick and Fingers like he ready to pick some bones clean, "Let's get this funk flying in here.

"That's all Diamond Dick and Fingers was waiting on - The Call. Before Rembrandt twist back 'round to the audience, Fingers done already lower the tone with his harmonica. The sad moaning of it pull you from the Butt-Hutt and drop you smack in the middle of the cotton field. An dyou cain't help but see some old niggah pulling a cotton sack down a row of Delta Pine with a busted back, bleeding fingers, and a demon sun standing watch over him" (43-44).

Last night her friends, profressors, and literary buffs celebrated Anita and her very important accomplishment. Her reading flowed like the blues singin' of her inspiration, Bessie Smith. If you like the music of Bessie, buy the book and you'll be treated to language that sings, purrs, moans, and shrieks all at once.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Abriendo Puertas Cerando Heridas [Opening Doors and Closing Wounds]



Have you ever had a dream, and the dream seemed impossible and too far away to reach? ¿Has una vez en tu vida tenido un sueno? Y el sueno se te hizo algo increible, algo imposible alcanzar? Two years ago I dreamed to going of Mexico and presenting my doctoral dissertation topic of Mexican women journalists at the turn of the century. My dream is on the road to becoming reality.




The second semester of my doctoral program, I was taking a class with Dr. Sam Brunk, an expert here at UTEP on the Mexican Revolution and Emiliano Zapata, leader of the southern movement. One day I get an email from Dr. Brunk, "I have a student who would like to write a paper on the women journalists during the Mexican Revolution. Could you help her out?" I write back, "Sure, send her over to me."

In the next couple of days, Celia walks into my life. I am showing her my research on Mexican women journalists from 1900. After I tell her about Juana Belén´s life she interrupts me, "I´m from Durango." At the end of 2006, I go down to Durango with her family and spend the week exploring and learning about Durango. I went completely unprepared...no digital camera, no computer with which to do research. I didn´t know I would find so much.


At the library where they house the Hemeroteca (newspaper archives), I found a newspaper called La Bandera Roja published in 1900. A communist leaning newspaper, the editors and contributors to the newspaper were all anonymous using names of past revolutionary liberalists from Mexico such as Ignacio Zaragoza and Melchor Ocampo. In the newspaper, I found a section where Juana Belén had written to the staff congratulating them for their contributions to the liberalist cause. On that same trip, I made it down to San Juan del Río, Durango, the town in which Juana Belén was born in 1875. During my one day visit, I found Juana Beléns baptizimal records which show she was not given the name of Juana Belén, but María Juana Francisca Gutierrez Chavez. This will be a significant find for my research. With that trip, the Rodriguez family opened doors for me by showing me the ins and outs of the city, and providing a free place for me to stay whenever I am there.

On my last trip to Durango, Mexico (Monday, March 31 - Thursday, April 4), I met with several people who will help me advertise the historical importance of Juana Belén. One the persons I met was totally by chance. On Wednesday afternoon as I was leaving the library, I ran into (literally) a much older caballero by the name of Gonzalo Salas. He was looking through his immense collection he had donated to the library years early for a picture of a Mexican politician on whom he is going to write an article. It turns out that Gonzalo Salas has had an illustrious career in Mexican politics under the PRI and is now the President of Cultural Studies of the city of Durango. He publishes a journal through his department and initiates presentations throughout Durango on history, cultural studies, and more. He invited me for a cup of coffee down the street in Durango. After I told him about my reason for being in Durango, he showed great interest in helping my cause. The next day he met with me with Maestro Óscar Luna, Ramiro Corral, and Miguel Ángel Ortiz. These gentlemen head the Festival of Culture they hold every year in February in Durango under the auspices of La Universidad Juárez de Durango. In our meeting, they expressed interest in publishing my dissertation as well, they would like for me to participate in the Festival de Cultura in February by presenting there at UJED and also in San Juan del Río, Durango. This is a fantastic opportunity to take my research beyond the walls of academe and to people who would truly embrace Juana Belén and her important history as an indigenous to their region. If this all does come to fruition, I would love for any of you come down to Durango for a couple of days and enjoy the beautiful pueblo of Durango.


The title of this post "Abriendo Puertas, Cerando Heridas" comes from Gloria Estafan's song "Refranes" on her new album 90 Millas. She sings about finding her abuela's [grandmother's] notebook that was full of poems and refranes [sayings]. Her abuela's words inspired her to be a better person, to love eachother, respect eachother, visit our family members, etc. Mi abuela also left me words and her spirit has inspired me to cross borders and join cultures reminding each other that we have something special in each of us.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Research Trip to Durango, Mexico


Durango is beautiful! I arrived early in the morning on Monday. Sleeping on a bus next to someone you don't know is never easy! It's all about personal space... Anyhow, as I got off the bus I was excited at the prospects of being here again. I was to have come last week, the week of March 23, but I learned at the last minute that the public library I needed access to was going to be closed due to extened holidays for Easter. My husband laughed at both my arrogance and ignorance as an American. We expect other cultures to conform to our ideas of business, and when it doesn't, we're put out of our ways and consider it an offense. But that's an issue for another blog!
On Tuesday I got up and went to the library, Biblioteca Central de Durango. They city had just come off of two weeks of vacation and were still asleep. Honestly, I did not come thinking to find something new in the archives to include in my dissertation, I wanted to make an effort to promote Juana Belén's voice here in her land among her people. As I was studying in the Hemeroteca (archive room), the director of the library El Maestro Óscar Jimenéz Luna came out to greet me. Let me here insert an cultural nuance about Mexico and its people. Contrary to American understanding, the people are VERY formal and polite. To be accepted in the circles of learning, one must present themselves as having knowledge about the culture and its everyday dealings. El Maestro (they address the director formally as the Teacher) came and greeted me inviting me into his office to speak about the completion of my dissertation. I wrapped up my studies and presented myself in his office.

El Maestro Luna certainly remembered me and my studies on Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza from the last time I had come to do research. In our meeting he proposed exactly what I had been hoping, to present next year here at la Universidad Juárez de Durango (UJED) during their Cultural Festival. Maestro Luna immediately got his secretary to call the director of the festival to set a lunch meeting for this Thursday at 12. I am hoping all goes well.

Festival de Cultura

Each year the UJED holds a month of cultural presentations from theater to music to poetry readings. I am hoping next year to reintroduce the city of Durango to their daughter, Juana Belén. Of course everyone, even outside of Mexico, know of Pancho Villa, born also in the same town as Juana Belén, San Juan del Río, Durango. But no one knows her name. I hope to change that sentiment. I hope to bring to light a forgotten history of Durango. I am going to propose several ideas at this meeting with these men of influence here in Durango. First, I am going to agree with Maestro Luna's invitation to present at next years Festival de Cultura. How exciting! (I hope that maybe some of you can come down with me... hgh huh...mom or dad!)Next, I am going to present to them another more lofty plan. As I was wondering through the Governor's Palace and taking pictures of the murals, I realized that Juana's painting as well should be on those walls. And then, another even loftier idea. I am going to suggest they have a bronze made of her and put somewhere in the city. I am going for broke. Tomorrow I will have the undivided attention of the men who move and shake this town. All they can say is no. But so far been very well received!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Be the Architect of Your Life Scholarship - Presented by The Positive Gals Leadership Group

(An intimate view of two columns of El Paso High School designed by architect Trost and Trost)

Several months ago I was nominated to attend a leadership conference sponsored by the El Paso YWCA group. The theme of the conference: Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women. The conference brought together an extra ordinary group of women throughout the El Paso region to learn leadership skills and amplify those we brought to the program. Participation in the leadership program was not a passive occasion. As a group (Positive Gals), we were required to come up with a community based project and execute it within six months. We started meeting once every Thursday to brainstorm ideas. Our original plan of presenting several half-day presentations to young high school girls on topics such as college admission, self-esteem, successful dress habits, and career options faded in the face of standardized testing priorities. Back to the drawing board!

Next, the group forwarded the idea of raising scholarship money to award to a deserving graduating senior. We agreed. After our last meeting on February 28th, we discussed and edited the flier for the scholarship. The scholarship will total $1,000, and the application criteria is broad enough to get the attention of any high school senior.

Qualifications:

  • be a citizen or permanent resident of the US
  • graduate by June 2008 from an El Paso County high school
  • be accepted into a community college or university anywhere in the US
  • plan on attending full-time or substantial part-time (min. of 9 hours)
  • carry a min. grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 on a 4 point scale
Student applicants are required to write an 800-1000 word essay based on the theme: Be the Architect of Your Life.

Each of the ladies in the project (about 10 remaining) have been charged to raise $100 each for the scholarship. Since Thursday's meeting, I have been thinking of how to raise the money. A bake sale? Hmm, no. Can't compete with the Girl Scout cookies this time of year. A car wash? I teach on Saturday afternoons, so that's out of the question. Well, as a doctoral student in rhetoric and writing studies, I know that discourse can alter and shape realities. So I'm gonna put discourse to work!

This blog entry represents my part of the $100. Each graduating senior who participates in the scholarship contest by writing an essay will contribute not only to the discourse of their life by writing into reality their imagined futures, but to the greater discourse of the YWCA program of Empowering Women, Eliminating Racism. I'm asking you, the reader, to donate five bucks. Five dollars. Cinco dólares. That´s it.

Please send me an email to cvdever@gmail.com with your home or work address. In a couple days, you´ll receive a self-addressed stamped envelope from me, Cristina Ramirez. Take what ever amount of money you feel you can donate, and seal it in the envelope I send, and mail it to me. After I´ve received the money, I will send off an email letting you know that I received the donation. Please keep posted to my blog because I will be updating the progress of the project.

As well, with my teaching skills in writing, I hope to be given access to a senior class or two in the El Paso region to present the scholarship and help students get started with an outline and introductory paragraph to their essay.

Let's see what this blog's discourse can generate! Hope to hear from you!

Cristina Ramirez - a fellow blogger

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chicanas Con VOZ

I´m always looking for contemporary Chicanas who have found their voice and are sharing it with others. Recently, I caught up with two Chicanas who are out there breathing life into their cultura. The first Chicana (at bottom), Candice "Chiquitita" Reyes, sings her heart out any chance she gets. I caught up with her a couple of Wednesdays ago at a sushi restaurant on the East side of El Paso, Texas where she sings with her ban "The Candice Reyes Quintet." I´ve known Candice "Chiquitita" for about 3 years now and has proven to be a chica with SOUL...con alma. One afternoon after swimming a couple of laps together, she insisted I go salsa dancing with her to an eastside joint. I expressed my concern, "Hijole chica, I´m not very good at salsa dancing. I´m more of a Tex-Mex kinda chic." And before I could say "otra vez," I had high heels on my feet and we were practicing salsa in my living room. At the dance hall/bar, her mom´s group, AZUCAR was playing some great salsa music. I didn´t dance much, but Chiquitita got out there and danced. Not only did she dance, she got on stage and sang a couple of songs with her mom.

Since I know she's into singing and performing, I asked her, "What do you think about the reality show American Idol?" (My take on American Idol is that it's a show in America that feeds our youth with the idea that people just show up to a try-out, sing a line or two from a popular song, and a couple months later be famous. This feeds the "anything worth going for can be accomplished in months...Wrong!). Candice answered by first telling me about the time she won the El Paso Idol and got a trip to San Diego to try out with Simon and his crew and represent El Paso. "What a crock.." she said about the show."It´s all political. It´s rigged. It´s a waste. People think that you can be a rock star without hard work." We continued our conversation. She stated how glad she was to have had the experience and learn that it's gonna take a lot more than a simple try out. This month, Candice will be applying at Southwestern State in Texas to the Jazz program to study music. She wants to be a BIG name someday, but she won´t fall for the lies of the American Idols. ¡Adelante, Chiquitita!

Next is Amalia Ortiz. She traveled from her home in California and presented her Chicana slam poetry at UTEP to raise money for women´s causes. Before the show, she had a writer´s workshop. It was more of a presentation about Slam poetry than a workshop, but Amelia presented her poem "Otra Esa of the Public Transit. " I went to the workshop just to meet her. Her presence as a poetisa is electrifying. Each word delivered during her poetry recital is carefully twirled, counted, and flung into the air with a true Chicana accent. She represents a voice in the world of Chicanas that lifts voices many times forgotten. In the video below, she presents her poem whose title I'm not sure of, but she repeats a line "Me acuerdo de mi hogar, la tierra, el aire, el mar..." Yo tambien me acuerdo, Amalia.

This poem carries a hint of Anzaldua and Little Joe! As well, it speaks of linguistic colonization! What theorists express in convolutions at times, Amalia expresses in poetry.

¡Adelante, Amalia Ortiz!

Nationwide spoken word sensation Amalia Ortiz remembers her South Texas roots.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mi Vida Mestiza...

"Indigenous like corn, like corn, the mestiza is a product of crossbreeding, designed for preservation under a variety of conditions. Like an ear of corn - a female seed-bearing organ - the mestiza is tenacious, tightly wrapped in the husks of her culture. Like kernels she clings to the cob; with thick stalks and strong brace roots, she holds tight to the earth - she will survive the crossroads."
Gloria Anzaldúa from the chapter of Borderland "La conciencia de la mestiza"

Memoria Mestiza

"¡Ya vamos ha comer! ¡Lávense sus manos!" my mother would yell from the back door of our house. Me and my brothers would come running in from outside ready to eat. We´d been running up and down the alleyways of San Angelo, Tx. on Tulane St. We played with kids named Trisha Holloway, Alex Tresler, Kim Cole, and Bret Miller. Running home each evening, I knew something was different about me and my brothers. As a young girl, I knew they didn't know the real me. I don´t ever remember telling them that my mom was Mexican and that we listened to Mariachi music like kids today talk about the Podcasts and music videos they watch. I don't ever remember wanting to tell them that we spoke Spanish at home, and that my favorite grandmother lived in El Paso, Tx, the Mexican border town. I knew some how that they would not understand. I knew somehow they wouldn´t think that it was "cool." We had the same skin color, but that was all me and neighborhood kids had in common. I just knew in my soul that I was different.

After serving the drinks and setting the table, we would sit down to dinner. My dad would choose one of just to bless the food. "Cristina," is all he would say and I knew to say the prayer on cue. "Nuestro bendito padre celestial te damos gracias por esta cena. Bendisela que de salud y fuerza a nuestros cuerpos. Te pedimos una bendicion para Gran´ma y Gran´pa Devereaux en California y tambien para Gran´ma Gonzalez en El Paso. Cuidalos y bendigalos. Tambien, bencie los hermanos y sus familias de la iglesia. Bendiganos mañana en escuela que nos valla bien. Te pedimos estas cosas en el nombre de Jesucristo...Amen." As soon as I said amen, the hands would shoot forward to grab the best chicken leg or to sip the Koolaid. The talk at dinner would go from school to who we were playing with that evening and what time we should come back after the meal. Dinner time was spoken all in English.

After the meal, my brothers would rinse their dishes and run back outside. I would scramble into the living room, sit down next to my dad in front of his homemade stereo and watch him select the music album of the evening. My father served a Mormon mission in the early 1960's in Mexico, right at the end of the siglo de oro. My father fell in love with the music, people, food, and culture. He brought that love home to us. Some nights it was Barry Manalow, and we´d buggy down to Copacabana, or Perez Prado and do a bit of Mambo No. 5. "Dad, let´s listen to some mariachi." Quiero oír Beatriz, o Lola, or Los Mariachis Vargas or Vicente or un Trio. My dad had all the masters in his collection. With the evening sun streaming into our living room, I was learning all about la música Mexicana. La música mas apasionado en todo el mundo.

And then other nights with the music playing in the background, I would creep into the family room where my parents had built a study station from left to right up and down against the wall. The shelves were stacked with books from American Literature to Encyclopedia Britanica. My favorite books were full of poems by T.S. Eliot, e.e.cummings, and Robert Frost. Poems written about dark things, winter evenings, and love. Poems carrying an Euro-Anglo tint. In my innocence, I didn't know about the radical nature of listening to Mexican singers such as Beatriz Adriana, Lola Beltran or Vicente Fernandez playing in the background while I perused through the pages of great American Literature. The cultural mixings in the evenings of my childhood have made me who I am today. I love good Am. literature (I got my undergrad degree in Am. Lit. and minor in Spanish), and I believe that the Mexican people and their culture live in me and form part of who I am in my memory, each memory of an after dinner time with my father, el profe Devereaux.

Below: Listen to Lola Beltran sing "Paloma Negra." This music stirs my soul... What stirs yours?


Monday, February 4, 2008

Changing the Realities of Downtowns: Alleyway Rhetoric







This past weekend I visited my hometown of San Angelo, Texas. With a population of about 88,000, it fell asleep for many years forgetting that it had such a rich downtown. Unfortunately, too many towns let their downtowns, the heartbeats of a city, fall into disrepair. Driving around, I pulled into some clean and inviting alley ways! Yes, alley ways. The rhetoric, both visual and verbal, the artists painted on the walls frame the downtowns in a new light. I found this alley way in a historic section of downtown that an artist or group of artists painted their view of what a downtown should look like. The picture with the leaning dilapidated bike shows street rhetoric at its best. The bright red wall reads, "More often than not, I would prefer to walk into the rear alley precisely for all those little hints of life, activity and transition which the placid visual arts of suburbia did their best to politely suppress or politely disguise." More and more, people are realizing that the continuous barrage of capitalistic competition in the form of commercials can wear on one's soul numbing them to life's beauty. And slowly, San Angelo is remembering that they don't have to look to Dallas, Texas for their inspiration and art and that they can grow as their own city.

As a young girl, I remember my father driving us through downtown San Angelo in our green station wagon. Out of the backseat window I saw nothing more than a sleepy central Texas town with tumbleweeds and dust blowing down the sidewalks. "Ugh! I live here?" I thought. "There's got to better," I thought plastering my cheek to the window and dreaming of some better place.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

San Angelo Journalism Conference




How better to honor former students by bringing them back to their alma mater to talk to current students on how they became so successful? On Thursday January 31, San Angelo State University held a Journalism Day for students to meet four former ASU graduates who have made a successful career for themselves in journalism and/or media. The former students invited were Dan Devereaux, NBC manager, Bhavech Patel a free-lancer audio-editor/producer in Los Angeles, Luis Rios, photo editor at the Miami Herald, and Satsha Pretto, a weekend host of Primer Impacto-Fin de Semana (First Impact -Weekend Edition) on Univision. As I type, all of them are up on stage in a panel answering questions from the faculty moderator and interested students. Each alumni presented power points and personal speeches individually and as pairs earlier to current university journalism and media students. The presenters covered issues of what it will take for current students to get jobs in the journalism or media field. The common thread touched upon by each of the presenters centers on the willingness to take risks. Risks to leave their comfort zones, risks to put themselves up for serious critique, and risks to loose. Each has their stories of sacrifice and hard work.

One of the most valuable assets of the panel rests in its ethnic diversity. Daniel Devereaux, although he has a French last name comes from a Hispanic family; Bhavesh Patel is from Indian descent, born in London and later coming to Colorado City, Tx.; Luis Rios is of Mexican descent also from Colorado City, Tx.; and Satcha Pretto came to the United States from Honduras. The diverse panel speaks to the success of minorities in the area of media and journalism as well as Angelo State University's effort toward promoting ethnic diversity. Bravo!

The panelist who struck me the most was Satcha Pretto. She left her home to attend Angelo State on the university's Carr Scholarship ready to learn and strive as an immigrant and a minority. Sasha listened on as an audience member the first time Dan Devereaux presented here many years ago. He remembered her because she was the only student who expressed serious interest and enthusiasm in a media career. Dan mentioned to Bhavesh years ago to "look out for an up coming talent of Sasha Pretto." And years later, today, she's hosting one of the most popular shows in the Latino market. As a Latina journalist and part time reporter, she holds her own with the three men on the panel bringing her own unique perspective to the struggle of making it in the world of media and journalism. Not only does she radiate beauty, but she also radiates confidence, articulates a mastered English, fearlessness, and a well-rounded education. I celebrate her accomplishments and hope they inspire other young Latinas/Chicanas to strive for their career goals... whatever they may be. ¡Si se puede chicas!

All the participants on the San Angelo Journalism Day panel are an inspiration for all who are searching to reach their goals and ideal positions in life. ¡Adelante!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Post-racial Era: I Want to Believe, But...


I almost rear-ended the car in front of me when I heard Daniel Schorr of NPR use the term post-racial quoting several journalists from the New Yorker and several others use to surmise the state of political landscape as well as our current young generation. The journalists are referring to Obama's surge for the White House and by the looks of the polls and votes, people in America are putting aside their once strongly held beliefs on race and voting for Obama regardless of his color. Many American people see Obama as wise, committed, intelligent, pro-active, idealistic, and honest. They are not blind. I see the same values and nature in Obama, and I cheer on his push to get the nomination. But I strongly question the term "post-racial." I want to believe that racism has slowly been eradicated to be true, but it has not. The media jumps to conclusions without looking at their own publications, quotes, and anecdotes from recent history. Hurricane Katrina opened the curtain on the reality on the inequities of this country. Have the journalists using this term so easily forgotten the scenes? They must live in bubble. Just because we see people of different races mingle peacefully in public places, that does not mean that we are post-racial. It is what we do not see; it is what is not made salient by the press that confirms the fantasy of the term "post-racial." If the fantasy of post racial is seen by people as a reality, then we are living a farce! As a society, we are so ready to see our problems solved, and so when Obama stands in front of our nation asking for presidential votes, we want to interpret his presence as a nation that does not consider race as an obstacle. BUT IT IS. Even his wife, Michelle Obama, stood in front of the nation on the campaign in trail in Nov. of 2007 saying, "I am not supposed to be here" (Obama Speaks with MSNBC's Mika Brzenski). The implicit message there is: "I am a black woman who is educated, and I beat the odds of racism and sexism to get to my position, speaking to you today." She knows it exists. Her material reality speaks of the truth.

Let us not fool ourselves that we have now entered a post-racial era. If we believe that the post-racial era is upon just because Obama won the Iowa caucuses and North Carolina, and that he was won endorsements from Kennedy and other prominent forces, we are blinded by what we do not see in our communities and streets. I maybe a pessimist, but if I believe that we are post-racial, then I believe that I don't have to fight anymore for our students to be aware of the issue, and then I would be the fool.

See also Uzodinma Iwala comments from the Los Angles Times

Saturday, January 26, 2008

En Memoria del Cumpleaños de Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza: ¡Por la Tierra y Por la Raza!











Hoy, recuerdo a Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza. She wrote in her autobiography, "Nací en San Juan del Río, Durango, el nevado amanecer del día 27 de enero de 1875. Este dato debe ser importanitísimo porque lo han anotado con minuciosa escrupulosidad en los registros de la cárcel, cada vez que he estado allí.... Trans. "I was born in San Juan del Río, Durango on a snowy morning on the 27th of January of 1875. This date must hold great importance because it has been recorded with exact scrupulousness in the prison records every time I have been there...." Juana Belén spent her life writing and speaking out against the injustices suffered by her people, the indigenous people of Mexico. This is why her name was recorded in the prison books so many times...her voice threatened the status quo of those who believed it just to abuse the indigenous people for cheap labor. She also spoke out against the inequalities of women in Mexico being on the forefront of the Mexican feminist movement. She lived an extra-ordinary life by traversing the boundaries of possibilities that were socially inscribed for women in Mexico in 1900.

Leaving her beloved homeland and mountain air of Durango, she followed her instinct to start her own protest newspaper Vésper: Justicia y Libertad (Vésper means evening star) and write about the injustices she witnessed growing up among the campesinos y trabajadores mineros (farmers and miners), and which were still plaguing the poor. In am incredibly symbolic action and show of deep dedication, she traded her goat "Sancha" for printing supplies to continue her newspaper in Guanajuato. After almost being arrested in Guanajuato, she fled to Mexico City with her two children continuing her fervent fight on the liberal front of Mexico.

Her sarcastic tone of voice and relentless desire to tell the truth as she perceived it, drew her into the circle of the most influential liberal intellectuals of her time: The Magón Brothers, Juan Sarabia, Librado Rivera and others. Later, she was accused by Ricardo Flores Magón of not upholding to the liberal ideas of the nation, and in a response in her newspaper, she displayed her rhetorical astuteness. "Las palabras que como lema lleva mi periódico, no las he puesto allí como adorno: las he puesto para que normen la conducta de mi pulicación. ¿Puede Ud. decirme que hay algo injusto o antiliberal en Vésper, creo que no." The words that my newspaper holds as a motto, I have not chosen them as adornment: I have published them as a guiding framework of conduct for my newspaper. Can you tell me what is unjust or antiliberal about Vésper, I believe not." Juana Belén held presented her own thoughts and perspectives in a time when women were only to speak on domestic issues, not political issues, let alone critique and personally attack the govern and its dictator, Porfirio Díaz. Her greatest legacy though rests in that she never was swayed from her beliefs; she claimed her discursive space and did not give it up. Politicians tried to buy her silence; but she kept her honor intact and accepted no bribe. She would later fight for the cause of the Mexican Revolution under Zapata who gave her the ranking of Colonel. Later, she was to work with the famous philosopher José Vasconselos as maestra rural leading the charge to educate the indigenous people and to prove to the people of the city that they were people endowed with dignity and strength.

The end of life summed up the gratitude that Mexico had for the efforts of women in the Revolution and social betterment. Juana Belén was forced to sell her printing press and ultimately her typewriter to buy medication for her young granddaughter. Eso no es la justicia ni la libertad. That ending is neither justice nor liberty. She has left us though with an abundance of words, knowledge, and history that on this day I celebrate and remember.

¡Viva México! ¡Viva!
¡Viva la mujer independiente! ¡Viva!
¡Viva el amor y bondad para el ser humano! ¡Viva! ¡Viva!
¡Viva la memoria de Juana Belén! ¡Viva! ¡Viva!
¡Que viva la raza, la jente de la tierra, y la jente que labora por lo bien! ¡Viva! ¡Viva! ¡Viva!

Pictures:
The pictures above: first to the left is a picture of Vésper´s title featured in the newspaper La Bandera Roja, the next picture is a skyline view of Durango, Mexico from the top steps of the public library, the picture furthest to the right is a mural at the Universidad de Juarez en Durango, and the bottom picture is a Día de Los Muertos altar that commemorates those who have passed.