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!

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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

An Islamic Feminist Wave?

As a Latina feminist scholar, I would be ignorant to ignore the struggles and successes of my other ethnic sisters. In celebrating other women rhetors, I celebrate the mestizajezation of rhetoric!

Listening to NPR this morning (as I always do) I heard the story of Seyran Ates, a German-Turkish Muslim women´s rights lawyer in Berlin who has been extremely vocal on the issues of Muslim women in Germany and beyond. In the past she has fought for Muslim women´s rights to be divorced from their husbands, all at the risk of her own life having suffered beatings and threats in the past. I wondered about the issue of women in Islam and how the world is beginning to deal with the brutal treatment of Islamic women that are no longer under the protection of an Islamic rule in an Islamic nation? I found several surprising internet sites that show Islamic women stepping out of their traditional roles, and asserting a new Islamic women's identity. At the same time, I found Islamic women reasserting their traditional roles, such as wearing the hijab in place such as England that has seen a surge in Islamic population. There are various websites and books out on Islamic Feminism. Shaheen Sardar Ali Human Rights and International Law: Equal Before Allah, Unequal Before Man? (2000); Nayereh Tohidi Women in Muslim Societies: Diversity Within Unity (1998). Is this a Feminist Wave that we are not noticing? Should we take note of these women and further their cause. Certainly, there will never be a true democracy in the Middle East nations if the government, local and global, doesn't take note of the suffering women are subjected to there.

The United States government seems to ignore the issue of human rights regarding women in the Middle East, where they merely see profits and oil. I hear very little from the main stream media about the women's suffering in the Middle East. It seems to me that the topic of women's suffering for many media outlets is a topic best left untouched because of the already tumultuous political situations.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

América Ferrera: A Latina´s Vote

Last night while watching Entertainment Tonight, (yes, we finally purchased a television after 5 years without one, but that's for another blog), I saw that America Ferrera, named in Time Magazine as one of the100 most influential persons for 2007, is out on the campaign trail with Hilary Clinton. I have heard several times through out the campaign in interviews with both Obama and Clinton, that they don't want voters to see their race or gender, but gender and race is at front and center in 2008. When candidates allow high profile celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and now America Ferrera to speak for them in public, it negates their statements that they don't want race or gender to be part of the issues. Having an influential white woman and black man standing before our nation and saying, "Vote for me!" there is definite change in the political air. It was only 40 years ago that Dr. King was fighting for the civil rights of the black community, and only 40 years or so ago that women declared the first wave of feminism. So how can this race NOT be about deeper issues of race and gender? Well it is. A Latina friend of mine asked me, "Why are you blogging on América Ferrera?" That's a good question my friend. I saw that she was part of the Clinton entourage and she caught my eye. I hadn't seen her on Ugly Betty because I didn't have a television at the time, and I usually don't watch sitcoms AT ALL. So I did some research on her, googled some of her pictures, and I was pretty impressed. First of all, her cultural roots are Honduran. But to focus on the surface stuff, she is not all glam that with so many stars is really a put on and a sham! Check her out! She's got carne on her huesos! She hasn't (and I hope she doesn't) gone out on these weight loss crazes to look anorexic or strung-out-on-drugs thin. She has stayed grounded. She knows who she is, a Latina (we are not toothpicks) and she's not going to change (again, I hope she doesn't). And what beyond her looks makes her a role model? She's not banking on her looks and Hollywood to carry her through life, she's studying International Relations at the University of Southern California (Miller, Estylo Magazine 35). ¡Adelante! América! More Latinos should take the example: stay in school and don´t get diverted by the false promise of flash and glam and the quick buck!
And so back to the issue of América Ferrera representing the Clinton campaign. Although I love América as a Latina, I have to agree with my husband (we discuss politics at home) and question the role of Hollywood in politicking. Should the movie stars be part of their campaigns? Should they represent a candidate trying to win over the votes just because promoter is famous a celebrity? Again, I have to agree with my husband, that that kind of celebrity representation makes the real issues invisible. What does América Ferrera really know about Washington and what´s going on in the world of politics and beyond? I may be sticking my foot in my mouth, but if she´s anything like most of my college students (or the typical American), not much. In the case of América supporting the Clinton campaign going door to door asking people to vote, it brings one issue front and center. The Hispanic, Latino, Chicano population (whatever you want to label us) has the strength in numbers to make a difference and politicians will do anything to get it! DO they know it? I hope so. But, once the lights are dimmed, and the votes are cast, will the Clintons, the Obamas, or the McCains remember those people they spoke to and shook hands with? Or will they be blinded by the temptation of large corporate giants and lobbyists and forget the people that this government was meant to serve? ¡Hay que ver! We shall see!

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Latino Vote!

This weekend in Nevada Latinos will have a chance to have their voices heard before the 2008 Election! NPR said today, "All of the candidates will fight over the Hispanic vote. Latinos make up 25 percent of the state's population, although only half of them can vote due to age or immigration status." I wish I could go out there and caucus. I have never had that opportunity. The Latino population of Nevada will have that opportunity this weekend. I know that la raza will have a strong showing and will provide a positive image for the rest of the nation! Latinos will break the stereotype! We are educated, informed, and concerned citizens of our great Nation. In the words of Juana Belén, "Hemos venido ha ocupar nuestro puesto!"

The pictures above are from the El Paso, Texas region. The top photo is a group of Chicanas learning English at AVANCE, and the next two pictures down show people at La Feria de Cuidadania, or Citizenship Fair. ACORN, a national non-profit organization, hosted a day where immigrants could get help filling out their N-400 form before the fee rose from $400 (I believe) to $695.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lydia Cacho: La Mujer Sin Miedo

Over the summer and last semester (Fall 2007), I was embarrassed to only having recently found out about Lydia Cacho. Lydia Cacho is a Mexican journalist and human rights activist who has been persecuted and threatened by some of the most powerful politicians in Mexico. I was listening to Latino USA and it was the first time I heard of Cacho, as well, I learned that the Mexican Supreme Court had ruled that against her in her kidnapping case. She contested that the government of the Mexican state of Puebla wrongly arrested (but really kidnapped) and jailed her. All this stems from her release of her book titled Los demonios de Eden (The Demons of Eden:The Power that Protects Child Pornography). In the book she reveals the names and history of several powerful businessmen and politicians that have been running a Cancún-based pedophilia ring. In the book she names Lebanese-born businessman Jean Succar Kuri who allegedly is the ring leader. "Her work portrayed a mafia-esque cabal of politicians, drug traffickers and businessmen who supported and protected the operations, among them Puebla textile mogul José Kamel Nacif Borge. Although Cacho did not level any specific charges against Nacif, in naming him as a friend of Succar, she implied that he too might be involved in the criminal activities" (Council on Hemispheric Affairs). About 7 months after the release of her book, she was kidnapped in Cancún and taken to a jail in Puebla. She claims that on the frightening trip to Puebla, her arrestors taunted her by pointing a gun to her face and threatening to rape her. She has been charged with libel and slander against the men she accused of pedophilia. This case became a local, national, and international outrage. I can´t recall the whole account on my blog, but you read the entire story from the Lydia Cacho link.
My research revolves around Mexican women journalists from the turn of the century in Mexico. Radical journalists such as Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza suffered some of the same persecutions as Cacho. Yet Cacho is different in that she has an international support team such as . Juana Belén didn´t have a support team such as Cacho does today. I am certainly not claiming that Cacho is an activist because she has a support group and body guards. She was activist first, not the other way around! Cacho is doing what many people fear to do, and that is to expose the truth about the corruption in Mexican politics. They still rule under old machismo rule of law doing whatever they want, ruining people´s lives (in this case young girls), and thinking they can get away with it. They didn´t count on someone like Lydia Cacho to be looking over their dirty shoulders, someone to gather the innocent in their arms and listen to them speak, someone like Lydia Cacho to stand up to their machismo and untouchable attitudes! God bless those that expose and exposed (memory of Juana) the oppression of the victims of violence and those who continue to put their lives on the line for others. ¡¡Adelante, Lydia Cacho!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back on line!

I've been away from my blog for a while now. Almost a year to be exact. Mi vida loca. Alice Walker says it best in "New Face," "The source appears to be be / some inexhaustible spring / within our twin and triple / selves; / the new face I turn up / to you / no one else on earth/ has ever/seen." I was in my last semester of a full load of doctoral classes and had doctoral qualifying exams ahead. I studied furiously all summer long. And at the end of it all, I received a high pass on the exams. Then the next semester started. I presented parts of my dissertation on Mexican women writers at the Feminist and Rhetorics conference in Little Rock, AK. When I came home around October 6, I collapsed. There is something that happens after one completes a long journey. Margaret Reckord, a poet from Jamaica speaks what I felt. "The Journey" Moon-soaked / she emitted / a cold radiance / that made all / who loved her / leave her alone / As well they might - / hers was the single silver track upmountain to the moon. I was exhausted, mentally drained from my studies. I had put everything I had into my doctorate. Has it given anything back? Well, that is left to be seen.
Right now, I'm checkin' in. I am back on-line and will be keeping up with my postings throughout the weeks. In this post, I'm leaving some pictures that are most dear to me. The first picture I am posing with Dr. Jacqueline Jones Royster at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, AK. When I saw her at the reception for the Fem. and Rh. conference, I made a B - line to her table to talk to her. Jacqueline is a wonderful person. She listened to me and my rambling. She has written several articles and books on African-American women of the nineteenth century. One of her books is Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African-American Women.
The second picture is of me presenting at the Literacy Center for Adults called AVANCE where I completed my internship for my Community Writing class. AVANCE teaches immigrants how to speak English and prepares them for jobs out in the community. My project connected my research of Mexican women writers to teaching critical literacy with the students. The students were mostly women, and they were all beautiful women. Beautiful Mexican women. I loved my experience there, as well, I loved working with Arturo Muro, the teacher at the Robert F. Kennedy school.