Friday, November 21, 2008

Underground Undergrads

The UC system accepts thousands of students that wish to aspire to obtain a higher education in order to further their ambitions and career goals.  While some students fund their education with the aid of their families, the majority receive scholarships and grants to reach their goal.  Once they complete their university career, a B.A. or B.S. is handed to them and off they go either obtain a job or continue their studies in graduate school.  A simple equation to obtain a fulfilling career:  high school diploma + B.A. or B.A. x scholarship = career.  However, that is not the case for all students.  For about 65,000 yearly high school graduates in California, going to college is but a dream; should they make it to the university, paying for college is the ultimate struggle.  These students are known as undocumented students: students who do not have legal status in the United States and therefore do not qualify for federal financial aid.  
One might ask: why do undocumented students come to the United States to obtain a higher education if cost is a factor?  The reason for such a high influx of undocumented student stems from the parent's arrival in the United States along with the children.  Thus, the majority of undocumented students are 1.5 generation immigrants in that they were born in another country, but the families immigrated to the United States and therefore where raised in the U.S.  The undocumented student at times did not have a choice about coming to the United States, and while they go through the K-12 grades as any other student, once college comes up, the struggle for higher education begins.  First and foremost, and issue that plagues the majority of college students is tuition.  Tuition fees have increased yearly at UCI for the past 4 years, and it seems eminent that tuition cost will continue to rise.  Luckily, Cal Grants and FASFA are scholarship opportunities that allow for students to fund their higher education.  However, and undocumented student does not qualify for those forms of financial aid due to their legal status.  So funding their tuition fees becomes and obstacle that limits undocumented students from applying to a university.
A recent bill was approved in California known as AB 540, which allows an undocumented student that meets certain criteria to attend a university or junior college and pay in state tuition rather than out of state tuition.  This was a big help and step toward potential future legalization of undocumented students; however, the bill does not allow for undocumented students to qualify for state or federal financial aid.  Hence, funding still becomes an issue in regards to obtaining a higher education.  AB 540 is hopefully a precursor to the DREAM Act, which will allow for undocumented students to obtain financial aid and will be allowed to gain legalization after completion of college.  The struggle to have the DREAM Act pass in California, and then nationally, is still at its beginning stages in that anti-immigrant sentiments thwart from such a law to pass.  

The first step to promote for the DREAM Act is to raise awareness of the issue of Undocumented students.  UCI organizations have attempted to bring the issue to light, most recently in a workshop presented at the Cross Cultural Center called Underground Undergrads. The workshop was presented by Angela Chen, a graduate student at UCLA, and Matias, a recently alumni of UCLA an undocumented student.  They presented two short clips of a documentary that presents undocumented students speaking in regards to the struggle of not only being a college student, but also being undocumented.  The book Underground Undergrads is also a compilation of stories of undocumented students and was put together by the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education.  The workshop not only brought awareness of the issue to the UCI campus, but also demonstrated a key factor that will aid in the passage of the DREAM Act: undocumented students are tired of not having a voice.
The undocumented status of an individual not only limits his or her privileges in the United States, but also limits their voice in regards to issues that affect the immigrant community.  Due to the status, many students are afraid to speak out for fear of being reported to INS.  However, education is a fundamental human right that should not be taken away from any individual.  While one might argue that a path to legalization for undocumented students rewards breaking the laws, one must consider the factors.  As mentioned before, undocumented students at times did not have a say in coming to the United States, and going back to the country of origin is not an option due to lack of knowledge of that country, economic or political reasons.  Undocumented students will only serve as an asset to the U.S. in that they will have a college or graduate degree that will contribute to the progress of America.

O.C. Immigrant Exhibit in UCI Langson Library

The UCI Langson Library hosts a myriad of exhibits in the main lobby through out the year.  Recently, they have a display called Immigrant Lives in "The OC" and Beyond; the display consist of photographs of immigrants' experience, articles that discusses the changes of immigrants through out the past century, and also memorabilia that represent movements that occurred in the 1900s.  When individuals think of immigrants in Orange County, the face of a Latino first comes to mind.  While the prominent immigrant experience is that of Latinos in Southern California, other ethnic minorities also share the same experience.  The exhibit portrays the various aspects of the immigrant experience in California besides that of Latinos, specifically in regards to Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants.  By understanding the commonalities between the immigrant experience, we are better able to understand the issues the lead to immigration in Southern California.

As you drive around in Irvine and Tustin, you will notice the fields of crops that still remain, and the Strawberry Farm on University Dr. and Michelson reminds us of how UCI was once surrounded by farms.  However, the idea of farm workers seems at time that the lifestyle existed in an archaic era that has vanished in such a metropolitan area.  However, the exhibit has articles and books that bring to light the Bracero Program, in which 70,000 Mexican, Filipino, Jamaican and Japanese came to work in the O.C. fields in 1943 and 1964.  As the Bracero Program flourished, O.C. areas began to notice an increase in urban communities that comprised of the farm workers.  Hence, Santa Ana now has an overwhelming population of Latinos, and Garden Grove sees an influx of Asian communities.  The reminiscence of the farm working community is noticeable through the youths that attend O.C. schools, even colleges and universities.  The exhibit also shows the development of the immigrant communities in that not all immigrants were farm workers.  Current immigrants hold a myriad variety of labor jobs in O.C.; one book of photography that caught my attention was a compilation of photographs of house cleaners in Orange County.  Typically, house cleaners in O.C. are Latina women, that tend to work on more than one house and provide cleaning services usually to upper middle-class owners of homes.  The labor is intense and the amount of tasks to perform vary; however, all money earned for the hard work goes to pay the bills and support their families.  
The immigration culture is close to me since I myself am a 1.5 generation immigrant--that is, I was born in Mexico but came to the United States when I was a year old.  Furthermore, my mother was also a house cleaner in Dana Point, a harbor city in Southern California; she too dealt with the struggle of not only completing laborious work, but also coming home to raise a family.  The hard work that my parents endured, and still go through, contributed to the development of the immigrant experience of Orange County.  Now, there is a rise in children of immigrants that are ascertaining a higher education and promoting awareness of the histories of their rudiments.  The exhibit promotes the idea of progress, in that the immigrant experience seeks progress for oneself and for the families.  The rise in educated children of immigrants correlates with the necessity to educate one's community of issues that arise not only in Orange County, but also in the national and global context.  The voice of the farm workers that cultivated the lands of Irvine and Tustin are still echo through out metropolitan areas through exhibits such as the one presented at UCI.  

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homosexuality in the Latino Community

The current passage of Proposition 8 in California this month marked a step backward in the progress of equality.  The right to get married is human right that, regardless of sexual orientation, should be allowed in order to demonstrate a union between two individuals.  Hence, denying homosexual couples to get married is promoting inequality in California and in the United States.  While the topic of homosexuality is taboo in the American culture, the issue takes on a higher level of controversy in the Latino community.  Religious and cultural backgrounds of the Latino community greatly influence the perspective that the community has in regards to homosexuality, and contribute to the lack of acceptance of the LGBT community.

The Latino community has a major influence from the Catholic religion, which condemns homosexuality.  As noted in the YouTube video Tal Como Somos/Just As We Are, being raised in a Catholic family makes the idea of coming out and expressing homosexuality an obstacle that one must battle through out their lifetime.  One of the couples in the video have difficulty coping with Catholicism in that while one has strong ties to the religion, the other resents the religion for not accepting who he is.  Growing up with a mentality that homosexuality is unacceptable and a sin affects how the youth interacts with the LGBT community.  As noted by David, his childhood consisted of being bullied for being different, which affected his idea of what it is to be gay and latino.  Homophobia is prominent in the Latino community due to the cultural identity of the Latino man and machismo.  The machismo culture of a Latino male negates feminine emotions and upholds the idea of a strong, firm, outspoken male that controls the household.  Therefore, homosexuality opposes the idea of machismo and creates a threat to Latino males who abide by such an archaic ideology.  The reality is that the homosexual Latino community does not pose a threat to Latino culture or society; in fact, it aids in the advocacy of equality.

Latinos deal with prejudice and racism in California and through out the United States; similarly, the LGBT community also deals with prejudice and shares similar struggles.  Ultimately, homophobia is the discrimination of an individual for being "different", which is the same for racism--there exist a fear or anger towards "different".  There is a larger population of gay Latinos that are coming out and bringing awareness of discrimination that occurs within the Latino community.  The Latino media greatly supported the vote for YES on Prop 8; television stations such as Univision and Telemundo and other spanish radio stations promoted the propaganda for YES on Prop 8 in order to "protect the families".  The media shows that the majority of the Latino community is still hesitant about tolerance for the gay Latino community.  Opposing the gay Latino community is another form of discrimination and prejudice in that one is discriminating another human being and negating equal rights.  For a community that has been, and continues to be oppressed, it seems hypocritical to promote prejudice towards the homosexual Latino community.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dia de los Muertos

A celebrated tradition that has rudiments from indigenous cultures of Latin America is Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.  The celebration involves 3 days of rituals in which prayer is given to those who have passed away at the end of October and beginning of November.  The ceremony seeks to pay respect and celebrate death as a natural process of life rather than fear death.  Furthermore, it reinforces the idea that an after life does exist, therefore there is something to look forward to.
The celebration stems from the indigenous culture of the Aztec, Olemc, Zaputec, and Maya.  Traditionally, they would create alters for the dead and pray to Mitectacihuatl, the "Lady of the Dead".  The alters are decorated with candles, images of the deceased, an object that represents those who have passes and pan de muerto, bread for the dead.  The typical flower used is the marigold.  Usually, Nov. 1 is the date in which the children are celebrated, and toys are placed on the alters that are either made at the cemeteries or in the household.  The adults are celebrated on Nov. 2 and that is also the closing of the celebration for the day of the dead.  

At my household, we have celebrated Dia de los Muertos since I was a child.  We usually focus on my grandfather who passed away about 15 years ago.  My mother also places some toys for the child she lost at birth about 32 years ago.  Due to the heavy Catholic influence in Mexico, the prayers that are said to the dead are Catholic.  Hence, the modern day practice assimilates indigenous practices with Catholic prayers.  Recently, last week, M.E.Ch.A. de UCI celebrated Day of the Dead on campus on Thursday, Nov. 13 at the Student Center Terrace.  We built alters that were decorated with flowers, candles, and sugar skulls.  We also had Aztec Dancers perform the dances and rituals to "call upon our loved ones" to come celebrate.  It is beautiful to continue a tradition that has existed for about 2500-3000 years in our culture.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Follow up to Rule 2 of Blog Rules

So, in order to follow up on Rule 2 of my blog Rules, here is an image of a preview of the next post in regards to Day of the Dead.  I will discuss the tradition and history that has been celebrated in Latin America for centuries. 

Blog Rules

Since the La Voz is dedicated to bringing about awareness of the Chicano/Latino community, I will use the following guidelines:

1.  The post must relate to political, social, cultural or educational issues that affect the Chicano/Latino community.

2.  The must be at least one piece of media along with the post, whether it is a photograph, YouTube video, flash, etc.

3.  Following up on Rule 2, since digital media will be presented, the post must also analyze and critique how the piece of digital media is utilized and its effectiveness to the topic presented.

4.  The post must in some way not necessarily be controversial, but rather ignite conversation among individuals that may have opposite opinions.  In doing so, the goal of the conversation is to reach an understanding of why someone may have a different opinion and comprehend the backgrounds that affect why an individual has a certain opinion.  I strongly believe that the more you analyze the opposite opinion, the more you will be able to analyze your own opinion and know its pros and cons.

5.  The blog will also provide links to sites that offer more information on the topic and quite possibly events in Orange County that are related to the posts.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fast for Immigration Rights

The immigration struggle gain momentum in 2006 with the marches held in April and May to defeat HR4437, which was a proposed legislation to make undocumented immigrants and those "assisting" undocumented immigrants felons. Typically, when anti-immigration laws are proposed, the public is informed and activist react. However, what made this movement different is that millions of individuals became activist as they took the streets to protest in the marches. It is estimated that about 750,000 protestors took to the streets of Los Angeles on March 25, 2006. The legislation was defeated, and many considered the marches a great success to spark social, political and economic awareness of immigration. However, the momentum has seem to have been subdued over the past two years.

With the upcoming elections, the candidate that gets elected will have a detrimental decision to make in regards to immigration policies. A new movement has arisen, a tactic that was utilized to promote awareness in the 1960s movements: hunger strikes. A pledge has been made to fast for immigrant rights, and 100 individuals will fast for 21 days to promote awareness for immigrant rights and also to promote Latinos to register to vote. While the movement has been announced primarily on Latino media, it seems that YouTube has been utilized as a medium to promote the movement. The YouTube video below has been strategically composed to not only convoke the audience through images and speech, but also words and phrases. The voice over and the words are presented so as to reinforce certain ideas of the movement and elaborate on the history of immigrant rights. At the end, the propaganda uses the “Are you ready...” slogan to encourage individuals to fast and promote awareness of the movement.

The fast for immigrant rights will be in vain if awareness does not arise from the movement. Utilizing YouTube is a strategic manner of outreaching to the youth, who have the most potential of spreading the word faster online. Now activism will utilize the powerful tool internet to bring about issues.