El autor y sus dos hermanas, (I a D) Ana, 6, Paula, 2, y Moisés (4) en el patio de la casa en Santa Filomena, Chile, circa 1986.
A Social Media Post: On Being Asian Latino (Or, On Becoming Gringo)
By Moisés ParkToday. I was both an alien y un gringo.
Hoy fue mi último día como alien en EE.UU. Desde las 10 de esta mañana soy ciudadano de este país. Por 18 años fui residente en Chile (y Bolivia y Brasil) con dos pasaportes verdes (coreano y brasileño) pero para simplificar las cosas siempre usé el coreano. Y claro... he pasado un total de 42 días en Corea en cuatro viajes separados y me encanta la música pop de Corea de los 80 y 90. #kpoptodaysucks #kpopdehoyesunamierda
Han pasado 18 años desde que vine a EE.UU. a estudiar como estudiante extranjero. Pero siempre había sido extranjero en Chile. En Patronato donde me decían “chino cochino” por las calles o si yo era (primo/hermano/hijo/nieto/clon de) Bruce Lee. Y en Corea nunca me sentí “en casa”. Será que como mis cuatro abuelos son del Norte (antes de la división) soy más del campo que de la ciudad y nunca conocí de verdad el campo coreano.
Prof. Park is speaking at a conference in New York City tomorrow, February 22, on “Intersections: Between Asia and Latin America" sponsored by the Graduate Center, CUNY
Mi número de identidad en Corea era 10.000.000 porque no era realmente ciudadano/residente allí, y como soy pacifista se me complicaba visitar y arriesgar el servicio militar. Sobre todo ahora que tengo dos niñitas. Me moriría si no las puedo ver. Perdí mi residencia permanente en Chile en mi cuarto año en EE.UU. porque no pude volver un verano. Por eso nunca pude y no he podido votar en mi vida. Mi hermana me mencionó el mes pasado lo raro que es tener 35 y no haber votado nunca y dedicarme a enseñar clases sobre (la crisis de la) democracia en las Américas.
Nunca pertenecí a ningún lado. Cuando vuelvo a Patronato, el barrio palestino-coreano-cada-vez-más-chino en Santiago, me siento turista, pero quizás siempre lo fui. De hecho, no sé por qué estoy escribiendo esto en castellano cuando la mayoría de mis amistades ahora no hablan castellano. Castellano = español. Es que a veces todavía digo castellano en vez de español. #itsachileanthing#alsoinspain#alsoinargentina
I became a citizen today and when I write this part in English, which I am not translating, I feel very different. My life in the US has been so different from the one in Chile. (I remember nothing from Bolivia and Brazil. I was a newborn). I had two coming of ages and maybe I am still a teenager figuring out what I am.
I remember wise words from pastor Flores Park, our youth pastor then, who told us to embrace our Chilean identity and Korean identity fully. #lotsinkoreandiasporaattendevangelicalchurches #manycomeforthefreefood She said that it's OK not to belong fully but to somehow love both of my heritages and consider myself 100% Chilean and 100% Korean. Or that it is fine to identify with a third identity: to be a Korean-Chilean who loves jote (Coke+wine) and empanada but still eats kimchi every single day. #shedidntsaythejotepart
But I've been in the US for 18 years now, since I was 18 years old. #crossroad #encrucijada. I am Asian Latino or whatever sociologists and other social scientists say I am or should be called. chinkleno? #notpcenough#toospanglishy
Asian? Latino? Asian Latino? Asian Latin American? Asian American Latino? Asian Latinx? Latin American Asian? Latin Asian? Latinx Asian? Lasian? Latinaxian? Laxian? Laxatixasiax? Korsian? ChicKorea? Chil-Korean? Chilax-Korean? Ko-chi-merican? #whynotjustperson #aw #weallarepeopleafterall #aw #isthatcolorblindness #kochimerican
I am a Korean heritage speaker but I cannot type these thoughts in Korean. I mean I could try, but my mom would go crazy with the editing. (My mom often sends me spelling corrections when I text her.) 그건, 임뽀시블레 (That’s impossible).
I share what many Latinos and Asian Americans feel when they have to express themselves in their “mother tongue” or “heart language.” A feeling of linguistic humility (closer to a feeling of timid shame) for not “keeping” the language at the same level as Spanish or English, the dominant languages. Plus, my Korean is so mixed with Spanish (English now) that my Korean is often full of vocab, spelling and grammar “mistakes.” It's Konglish or Coñol. But Coñol sounds like a bad word in Spain. Coreañol? #buthisainspain #coñol
El cumpleaños de su papa, Ki-Chul Park, 30, con su mama, Hae-Soon Kim, 30, y Moisés, 3, circa 1985.
Few know, but besides the frustrating separation at the airport from my wife and daughters when re-entering the country, it was conversations with a dear friend who loves García Marquez, Queen, and Prince, for six years in cold Massachusetts, that most likely made me want to be part of this mess: America. OK, calm down. The United States of America. I am a citizen of (The United States of) America. #notinarushtodefendamericaasacontinentnamedafterawhitedudewhofoundouttheotherwhitedudewasnotinIndia
Videos today at the oath ceremony featured Mt. Rushmore and Lincoln, lots of eagles and American flags, and lots of diverse faces smiling, and eagles, and the Golden Gate and eagles, and American flags. It looked like a car dealer commercial but with eagles and diverse faces smiling. That friend that gave me different versions of American pride once said Jimi Hendrix protesting the war while emulating bombs with his guitar was perhaps one of the most patriotic performances.
I was waiting for the video to show images of Jimi Hendrix, and Rosa Parks and MLK, Jr., who was killed 50 years ago today. And Richard Twiss. And James Baldwin. And César Chavez. And Carlos Bulosan. And Billie Holiday. And Marilyn Monroe. But it's OK. There are contradictions in every country and maybe, I am suffering from false nostalgia and pretentious wokeness. #iswokenessaword#millenialwannabeusinghashtags #iamtheoldestmillenial #notkidding #iturned18inyear2000
Siempre sufrí de un falso orgullo por Chile, por Bolivia, por Brasil. Como que sentía que no pertenecía, que no me dejaban pertenecer, o que es imposible pertenecer, o que era eternamente coreano. Pero cuando Chile destruyó a México el año pasado 7-0 (y cómo xuxa no están en el mundial!), celebré como chileno (porque soy/era/fui chileno?), con gritos de gol que duraban mucho y muchos “chucha!” (damn!) y “la cagó!” (OMG!) y “el Puch tiene buen pique” entre amigos y familiares también coreano-chilenos, pero que de coreano solo tenían hábitos culinarios y memorias o planes de viajes en Corea.
Es cierto, siempre fui “chino cochino” en Chile por más que gritara un chichichilelelé (National chant, mostly chanted in sports events) o fuera hincha del Colo-Colo (by far, the best Chilean soccer team). Pero ahora soy gringo? #copamundial #sicopaesfemeninoentoncesdeberiaserLAmundial #castellanochilensis #lamicrodeberiaserelmicro #microbusenchileeslamicro #daigual
No sé. Tal vez soy más Isabel Allende que García Márquez. El libro Mi país inventadode Allende lo terminé de una. Lo encontré muy muy muy bueno aunque todos los nerdos de la academia me pifian y se enojan. Pero han leído ese libro desde la perspectiva de un cochino (COreanoCHIleNO)? Eso de inventarse más y más el país en el que un@ se crió, entre más años se pasa fuera. No todo es realismo mágico. A veces es más fome (boring, or lame), aun en “plena dictadura.”
Viví en dictadura más o menos (mucho menos que más) pero no cachaba (understood) realmente lo que estaba pasando. #lospendexchinosnocachabamosqueonda Tal vez nunca fui chileno, porque ni tuve idea de quién era Pinochet por muchos años, ni por qué el Superman y el Sting salían en la tele hablándole a los chilenos. (Christopher Reeve (Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980)) and Sting were among many foreign stars who advocated for the end of Pinochet’s regime in 1988’s plebiscite political campaign). Pero tengo memorias de amigos que se enojaban cuando uno coreaba el “Chile, la alegría ya viene” (Jingle for the 1988 TV plebiscite campaign) y daban un chócale cuando decía que iba a votar por el Sí en el plebiscito que decidía si Chile continuaba con el gobierno militar o la democracia. #memoriasdel88
Tal vez soy más Mistral que Neruda, y me las doy de súper poeta (cuando al final también hay mucho plagio y arrogancia en lo que escribo) y sinceramente prefiero cantarle rondas a mis niñitas que pensar en “los versos más tristes esta noche.” Tal vez Chile será siempre mi amor contrariado. A veces quise a Chile y Chile a veces me quiso. Tal vez me invento que soy chileno para parecer más exótico. Carechino con acento de Alexis Sánchez. Un Psy que canta “Bolsa de mareo” (qué buen tema ese...).
Igual trato de ser chileno. Soy mejor cuando pretendo ser coreano. Es que cuando hablo coreano nadie me pregunta: “Oye, y cómo chucha sabí hablar coreano?” Igual escucho Radio Cooperativa y veo TVN online o Chilevision o CÑÑ y los partidos de Chile y el Festival de Viña. #lanataliavaldebenitoesseca
Es suficientemente chileno eso? O los chilenos de verdad sólo escuchan Violeta Parra, Quilapayún y Faith No More? Mis clases igual son copia de mi profe de secundaria, el célebre Rodolfo Franco, un montón de Neruda y más Neruda y el Neruda es ídolo. (Igual nos faltó leer más a Mistral, no creen? Muy depre?). Apoyo (a full!) todo lo que es chileno en mis clases y mis estudiantes igual se han memorizado “Todo cambia” de Julio Numhauser y “Gracias a la vida” de la Violeta. Y vieron Machuca, Historia de un oso (#superchriste) y están enamorad@s del Marko Zaror, el Beto Cuevas, la Camila Gallardo, la Camila Moreno, la Camila Vallejo, la Anita Tijoux, y/o la Nicole #namedroppingpart2. #quelendaslaschilenas #todaslascamilassonlendas
Y les traigo manjar y jote a mis estudiantes y a mis niñas. No po, jote no po. Sería mucho. Qué creen shiquillos (kiddos)? Soy chileno todavía? O soy Moses Brandon Parker ahora? Igual no me debato mucho si soy coreano o no porque la carechino no se me borra nunca. #phenotypedictatessomuch
Que le pongo colooooooooooooooor (Chilean slang that means = I’m overthinking). Ya. Me callo. Soy gringo ahora. Eso quería decir.
Moisés Park is Assistant Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. His research interests are Latin American literature and film, masculinity studies, Otherness, Orientalism and popular culture. He is author of more than 10 articles and book chapters, as well as the literature and film criticism book, Figuraciones del deseo y coyunturas generacionales en literatura y cine postdictatorial (2014). His first poetry book, El verso cae al aula, was published in 2017.
Rinconcito is a special “little corner” in Somos en escrito for short writings: single poems, short stories, memoirs, flash fiction and the like.
By Carmen Baca
Rosa was a cherished child. The only daughter of three children, she enjoyed all the attention her parents gave her. Her mother, Yolanda, quit her job at the local parachute factory to be a stay-at-home mother to her little girl. So by the time Rosa was five years old, she knew how to read and write in both English and Spanish. Back in the sixties there was no such grade level as kindergarten or head start, only pre-primer and first grade. Since Rosa’s skills were honed by her mother, she went directly into first grade. That first day of school, her mother and she walked the four short blocks to the institution and stood in one of two lines of pupils and mothers waiting for entry. One boy with the same name as the news anchor on the television program her parents watched nightly caught Rosa’s attention as he just wouldn’t or couldn’t stop clinging to his mother’s skirts and crying softly as though his life were over. Rosa stared until her mother pressed her hand and shook her head slightly. That’s all it took for Rosa to obey and look about at the rest of the children around her. She frowned as her eyes went from this child to that to the next: blondes, auburns, and redheads with green, blue, and hazel eyes abounded. There were perhaps only two or three who had dark hair and brown eyes like hers. Before she could ask her mother about such diversity in the appearances of her classmates, the teachers opened the front double doors and with wide smiles, they welcomed her and the rest of the children into the building. Waving one last goodbye at her mother, Rosa walked parallel to the little boy with the television man’s name. He was still sniffling but walked robotically away from his mother in quiet obedience. Directing the grades to different rooms, las maestras moved the two lines along smoothly until all the children were deposited in the rooms of their respective grades. Rosa found herself almost at the middle of the classroom, welcomed by a short but lovely Hispanic woman with black hair done up in a neat bun at the back of her neck. She must’ve worn multiple hoop slips under her flowered dress which flared out so beautifully from her tapered waist, giving her the hourglass figure worthy of June Cleaver and other television personalities of her day. The teacher told them about herself and welcomed her new class, asking the students to introduce themselves. One tall blond boy behind her stood at attention and addressed the lady as M’am when he spoke, and Rosa wondered why he’d been trained to do that. When the children finished, Miss Bustamante gave them their first assignment and moved about the room to look over her charges’ shoulders as they all worked quietly. Rosa found the worksheet very easy and finishing quickly, she looked around at her peers once more, wondering how she was going to make any friends. Clack clack went the lady’s tiny high heels as she stepped closer, and Rosa was overwhelmed by the flowery perfume her new teacher wore as she walked past. The day passed uneventfully and at the end of the afternoon, her mother was standing right where she’d been that morning. The next day was a repeat of the first, only the little boy with the famous name didn’t cry anymore. Rosa was content her school days had begun and were so far all that she’d hoped. She had a beautiful teacher, a classroom full of potential amigos, and so much to learn. Miss Bustamante selected a little blonde girl to pass out the papers from the day before. So Rosa sat quietly at her desk like all the others and waited for hers. She noticed when the little girl frowned at a paper in her hands and walked directly to the teacher. “Miss Bustamante, I can’t read this,” she explained. The teacher, who was still taking roll, replied so softly Rosa didn’t hear. The little blonde girl walked importantly down the aisle and thrust the worksheet onto Rosa’s desk and tapped it hard with her finger. She hissed with a loud whisper, “Miss Bustamante says you can’t write like this. You have to write like I do.” And she showed her own paper to Rosa with a proud shake of her curls. Rosa was crushed. Her own mother had told her how beautiful her cursive handwriting was, so why did Miss Bustamante forbid her to use it? Why did she have to go back to using print like a baby? After school that day after having conferred with the teacher, Yolanda did her best to explain that the rest of the class couldn’t read cursive yet. She tried to convey that Rosa was more advanced in her writing than her peers, and she could still write in cursive at home, just not in school until her teacher said it was okay. As the days in school began to take on a routine, Rosa became aware of a few things which made her feel inferior, as though she lacked something her classmates had, and she didn’t know what it was. Miss Bustamante hardly ever called on her, even when she raised her hand like a good girl. The little blonde girl and her friends quickly became the favorites, called upon to pass out papers, to paste the stars on the reading board, to be the leaders when they formed lines to go to the cafeteria or the library or where ever. Whereas Miss Bustamante shared her good morning and good bye hugs with the blondes, the auburns, and the redheads, she only offered a pat on the head to the morenas like Rosa. She felt like a puppy, not like a human; and again those feelings of being less, of being not-as-good as the lighter-skinned kids took hold. She didn’t understand that this was only the first of the many life’s lessons to come. And they would only serve to confirm that she would never be good enough to earn a hug from her first woman role model. With first grade behind her, Rosa went into second grade somewhat jaded—at age six, mind you. She’d made only two friends in first grade, Eunice and Doris; and all three were almost exactly the same: Hispanic, introverted, and meek. Mrs. Mason, their teacher, was a plump white-haired older woman who didn’t smile. She exuded authority, and she wielded her power over her charges as though she enjoyed every moment of their discomfort. At least it seemed that way to Rosa, Eunice, and Doris, who were her “victims” at any given time, day, or moment. Of course, they were separated by the teacher’s seating chart, so when one became the target of the teacher’s negative attention, the other two weren’t in close proximity to offer even a supporting smile. Rosa found herself seated at the front of the class, right smack in front of the teacher’s desk, as if the lady knew inherently that she would need a close watch, as if she’d been pegged as a trouble maker just by being there. The abuse began almost immediately. First, Mrs. Mason insisted that Rosa didn’t give her the two dollars for her month’s supply of one milk bottle per day. Rosa ran home that day in tears, and her mother went back to school with her the following morning. Yolanda insisted her daughter didn’t lie; she reiterated how she’d handed the two dollars to Rosa in a white envelope the previous morning with instructions to give it over to the teacher immediately, which she had. But the stern-faced woman insisted she’d never received the money, and with no proof, Yolanda had to dish over another two dollars right there in front of Rosa and the rest of the class. Rosa could see the defeated look on her mother’s face, and she disliked her teacher so much more for making Yolanda feel that way. Days, weeks, and months passed with Rosa, Doris, and Eunice trying to keep low profiles and hoping not to anger their teacher. Mrs. Mason ruled her class with an iron hand, literally, and both Doris and Eunice had felt the slaps of that palm on their behinds before Rosa did. The teacher’d told the children they could sit quietly and entertain themselves when they were finished with their work until all the others were finished with theirs, and because all were cowed by what they’d seen her do when she’d spanked the two girls, they always behaved accordingly. So one day when Rosa finished her work and began to draw quietly, waiting for the rest of the class to complete their worksheets, she had no idea she was about to be the subject of her teacher’s wrath. One of the other students called for assistance, and as Mrs. Mason passed Rosa’s desk she stopped cold and yanked the Big Chief tablet from her desk. “What’re you doing?” she asked abruptly and loudly. “Drawing,” Rosa replied quietly and lowered her face as though she should be ashamed of her art. Rosa loved playing with her dolls, and she also enjoyed drawing girls with different styles of dresses and hair styles so she could show her ideas to her mother. Yolanda was a skilled seamstress, and she always made matching outfits for herself and Rosa. And she also made clothes for her daughter’s dolls. Rosa loved when her mother curled her long, dark hair into caracoles, perfectly-formed ringlets that framed her face and cascaded down her back. She did the same with her dolls, only using her finger as a curler instead of the iron wand her mother heated on the flames of the gas stovetop. She’d been concentrating on drawing curls on the girl she’d outlined when the teacher chose her as a lesson to her peers. She jumped when Mrs. Mason threw the tablet down on Rosa’s desk so hard the slapping noise echoed in the silence. But what happened next Rosa didn’t expect and never did understand why she’d brought such anger down upon herself. Mrs. Mason pulled Rosa’s chair back from under her, holding her up with a tight, painful grip on her upper arm. Then she grabbed Rosa from the back of the neck and forced her face forward over the desktop before throwing her dress up over her nalgas so everyone around could see her ruffled panties. The slap of the woman’s large hand cracked on both cheeks and the smarting pain made tears flow from Rosa’s eyes, but it wasn’t quite over as the woman again gripped Rosa’s arm and forced her down onto the chair again. With one harsh look and a stern warning spoken through clenched teeth, “Don’t ever do that again,” the teacher walked away, leaving Rosa shattered as she fought to stop crying. The humiliation mortified her; everyone saw her underpants, everyone saw the teacher spank her, and she had no idea what she’d done to avoid doing it again. And Yolanda, already having dealt with the teacher and seen for herself the type of person she was, didn’t go back to confront her during class time like she had with the milk money. She merely went into the woman’s classroom after school that afternoon after finding Rosa red-eyed and still fighting tears. She laid down the law about the woman laying her hands on her only hija ever again, and for the remaining months of that school year, Rosa didn’t have to fear physical abuse again although the emotional and mental abuse was sufficient to add to her feelings of worthlessness. So cowed were Rosa and the rest of the class by their austere teacher that they behaved like model students, so quietly and so quick to move at only one narrow-eyed glance from the woman that the rest of the teachers envied her classroom management. Closer to the end of the school year Rosa got her revenge, but it wasn’t intentional, it wasn’t something she was proud of, but it was memorable. She was sick, something from breakfast perhaps or the beginning of a virus, but Rosa sat in her desk right in front of the teacher and tried her best to push the sickness back down. She rose and stepped quietly up to the woman’s desk and whispered she needed to go to the bathroom. Mrs. Mason shook her head no. Rosa tried once more, pleading she was going to throw up. Mrs. Mason told her to go back to her seat. Rosa did as she was told. And she sat there, knowing any moment the vomito was going to come up and there was nothing she could do about it. She didn’t even think of defying her teacher by making a dash to the bathroom, her fear of the woman was so great. So when the first heave began and the teacher looked right at her with those narrowed eyes and that expression which seemed to say “don’t you dare,” Rosa’s mouth opened and her liquified breakfast spewed all over the top of her desk and ran down…well, everywhere. “Why didn’t you run to the restroom? How can you be so stupid to just sit there?” The woman’s remarks caused snickers and giggles among the classmates behind her and gulps and dry heaves from those near enough to see and smell her degradation. Tears filled Rosa’s eyes. She sat motionless as Mrs. Mason got up with the roll of brown paper towels and the trash can and knelt beside her desk to clean it up. The woman muttered and mumbled and grumbled and coughed the entire time, but she was the one stuck cleaning up the disgusting and smelly mess. It was only years later that Rosa felt a kind of satisfaction that the odious teacher got her comeuppance even if Rosa didn’t mean for it to happen in such a way that it traumatized herself. Grade three brought a disconcerting change to Rosa’s situation: Doris and Eunice both moved away and she was left to herself. None of the blonde, blue-eyed girls seemed to notice her, much less befriend her; and she became invisible. She concentrated on her school work and dedicated herself to her education. This was how the rest of her elementary years passed: unremarkable and soon forgotten. Middle school wasn’t all that much different other than the fact that feeder elementary schools throughout the district sent all their students to the school, so there were several hundred rather than just a hundred kids. Rosa finally found a group of girls like herself to call friends, and she was finally finding acceptance. The only issue still puzzling her was the fact that once more, she and her friends were still in the minority. The Anglo students seemed to be more self-confident, more outgoing, and as a consequence, more popular. They were the cheerleaders, the student council officers, the members of every club, and once more—the ones who seemed to be more appreciated by the teachers, most of whom were also Anglos. So it was no surprise that one day on her way to class with a couple of her friends as they spoke in Spanish, the vice principal stopped them—right smack in the middle of the stairway as the rest of the students came and went all around them to their classes. Having grabbed her arm above the elbow, he reprimanded her in a loud voice, saying, “Don’t speak Spanish in the halls; Spanish is spoken only in the Spanish classes.” Now, not only did Rosa feel inferior to these more confident, more authoritative adults, but now she also felt that her culture was somehow to blame for her low esteem. The days of celebrating bilingualism were still years ahead. During the ’60s and the’70s, Rosa did what many Hispanics did: she focused on learning English and let her Spanish slowly slip away. Over the course of the next four years, she lost her ability to speak fluent Spanish, and she also lost her identity.
Little Rosa’s experience mirrors those of many baby boomers today. As adults, we are capable of seeing how individuals’ perspectives color their behavior toward their fellow humans. We now realize why and how our early childhood interactions with grown ups influenced our attitudes about ourselves. They may have never even given a thought to how their treatment of Hispanic children like Rosa affected us so profoundly; they certainly never realized how they affected these youngsters’ adult lives because of their thoughtlessness. Much of our sense of worthlessness, inferiority, and self-loathing stemmed from others’ treatments of us, whether because of prejudice or because of their own personal issues. As an adult, Rosa now knows that Miss Bustamante suffered injustices of her own as the only Hispanic teacher of a predominantly Anglo school. Her colleagues and her students’ parents didn’t see her as their equals either, and though she strove to be the best educator she could, she felt she would never be good enough. She knew that she must favor the white kids to keep her position since their parents were the ones with power in their small town: the mayor, the councilmen, the school board and administration among them. In her experience the Hispanic mothers were meek and listened to her observations, comments, and recommendations about their children with deference. The Anglo mothers were more demanding of her, questioning her observations and her suggestions as though they were better equipped than she to know how to teach their children. But little Rosa knew none of this and didn’t realize for decades that her lovely teacher didn’t dislike her and didn’t find her lacking. On the other hand, Rosa never did discover what was behind Mrs. Mason’s victimization of her and her Hispanic friends. Because her detrimental actions were directed toward them, she can only conclude that it was mean-spirited prejudice which guided her. Since she’s long gone by now, Rosa can only hope that at some point in her life, the woman’s perspective changed for the better. In any event, we who are baby boomers today learned some harsh lessons at a very young age, and those experiences affected our self-esteem and our own perspective toward our culture. Rosa learned to like herself eventually; she learned that there would always be those who thought themselves better than she because of their color, their race, their upbringing or some other factor. Where there are people, there will always be prejudice against all sorts of others for diverse reasons. As individuals we need to discover how special we are because of our uniqueness. Even if some of us, like Rosa, still find ourselves feeling inferior deep inside where we never let others see.
Carmen Bacataught a variety of English and history courses, mostly at the high school and college levels in northern New Mexico where she lives, over the course of 36 years before retiring in 2014. She published her first novel in May 2017, El Hermano,a historical fiction based on herfather’s induction into the Penitente society and rise to El Hermano Mayor. The book is available from online booksellers. She has also published eight short pieces in online literary magazines and women’s blogs.
Three related commentaries by a contributor follow.
Discourse on the issue of finding a mutually acceptable label for all peoples of indigenous-hispanic origin or affinity now extant in the territory known as the U.S.A.
For too long, the indigenous-hispanic origin people in the U.S. have by default permitted institutions and individuals outside our community to impose their will as to what we are supposed to be called. The terms, Hispanic and Latino, were conjured up by federal agencies, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Office of Budget Management, back in the 1970s and 1980s. For some four decades, we have groused and prattled about how unjust it was to have these labels foisted on such a diverse population as ours, multiethnic, multicultural and multi-politicized. But no one did anything about it, including myself. I just complained and had a lurch in my stomach when someone used the word, hispanic, as a noun. (N.B.: I no longer capitalize hispanic to emphasize its sole use as an adjective.) Comes now a segment of our community seeking a gender neutral and yet inclusive term for what I call indigenous-hispanic Americans—not exactly a phrase that rolls off the tongue easily and quickly. What I’ve concluded is that all of us have to get together to evolve a term that is ours, that meets the criteria I’ve loosely set out above, and arrive at a consensus, by coming to our combined senses. In an earlier piece (To_X_or_Not_To_X − Part I), I argued for assembling one or more conclaves throughout the U.S.A. where we would have full discussions about the issue, and agree on a term that would describe/nickname/label who we are: the term would signify our identity, but it must be organic, that is, deriving from our own reality and worldview. We are essentially mestizaje, a people evolved from the blending of different cultures into one: the Hispanic or Spanish which is of European origin, and the indigenous which is our peculiar bond to the land now known as the Americas. Hence, my use of the term, indigenous Hispanic American. I object and, I believe, many others who care about such things also object, that the term, LatinX, was decided upon, given the trappings of an otherwise deliberated notion and then accepted sin más in knee-jerk fashion by organizations and institutions who were reacting most likely to the underlying pursuit of a self-identifying term that would be gender neutral. I assert that the Latinate or Hispanican community should address that concern but approach its resolution using an organic and inclusive-democratic process. Otherwise, we are merely re-enforcing the damage done by bureaucrats in D.C. who knew nothing of nuance let alone the history and culture of the Latinan people in the U.S. and rather than a unifying term, foisted a divisive title upon us, which some advocates seek to supplant by foisting a really eXotic term on all indigenous-hispanic origin peoples in the U.S. One other criteria, which has been generally accepted though not articulated, is that the designation be derived from the Spanish language rather than English. While the reasons may be obvious, it would be worth our time to make them specific. Spanish is the lengua franca of the indigenous-hispanic Americans along with another 500 million people worldwide, which makes it the second most widely spoken language by native speakers. Our lineage does not derive from the Anglo Saxon world; in fact, our Spanish blood is directly affiliated through war, occupation and trade with the African, Arab, Hebrew and other cultures around the Mediterranean Sea. Yesenia Padilla, the writer of an article in compleX.com, a website, titled, “What does ‘LatinX’ mean? A look at the term that's challenging gender norms,” says, “By dismantling some of the gendering (my emphasis) within Spanish, LatinX helped modernize the idea of a pan-Latin American eXperience—or Latinidad--one that reflects what it means to be of Latin American descent in today’s world. The term also better reflects Latin America's diversity, which is more in line with intersectionality, the study of the ways that different forms of oppression (e.g. seXism, racism, classism, and heteroseXism) intersect.” What proponents of the X don’t seem to realize or ignore is that the U.S. experience for Latinidad is totally different from any other Latin American population. The only demonym I know of in the U.S. that evolved from within is the word Chicano, which conveys an origin of indigenous Mexican and Spanish European descent. The intersectionalities Padilla clicks off go far beyond what the simple replacement of vowels with an X can resolve; it may even cloud the underlying issues. She goes on to quote Professors María R. Scharrón-del Río and Alan A. Aja, who defend the term, arguing that it should replace "Latino" when referring to people of Latin American descent. They say moving towards non-gendered language is a way to escape the ghost of colonialism that still haunts Latin American culture. What “ghost?” Latinians face a neocolonialism right now! We are still being labelled from outside our communities; we are still treated as second-class residents of a country of which our forebears, native and colonialist, were its earliest civilizers; we are labelled as “an immigrant people” in order to keep us subordinated to the majority population even though we, as indigenous and early colonizers, were here hundreds and even thousands of years before the non-hispanic Europeans. Substituting a gender ending with an X re-enforces two socio-psychological realities: the neocolonialism we have had to endure for centuries and the Black Legend effect, which originated in the era of exploration when adventurers likes Columbus bumbled their way across oceans to “discover” new lands, ushering a new era of eXploitation. The latter has persisted for centuries and undergirds the racist stereotyping of indigenous-hispanic origin peoples in the U.S. and the Americas. In other words, our community is adversely affected for being indigenous and of hispanic origin. Scharrón-del Río and Aja write, according to Padilla, that, "LatinX" actually represents the people the term is supposed to represent, so it's "a concerted attempt at inclusivity" that "fosters solidarity with all of our LatinX community." What the original proponents of the X factor failed to realize or chose to ignore was that they were attacking a language that is not theirs to manipulate unilaterally, and introduced a factor, the X, which supposedly addresses a pan-American concern with a binary idiom. In effect, they seek to address a social dynamic, gender disambiguation, which has nothing to do with noun endings, by seeking to turn an entire language upside down. I propose we eXplore the language to find a term which we can all agree is gender neutral, organic, logical and does not do violence to the language of Cervantes, de la Cruz, Lorca, García Marquez, Neruda (some of my favorite masters of the Spanish idiom). We should address the concern for a gender neutral term which could resolve the demand for inclusivity, through a process that is organic, arising from the nature of the language and its cultural foundation, which dates back to al-Andalus of 13th century Spain. As another contributor to Somos en escrito, Sonny Boy Arias, put it so subtly, “I don’t need no stinkin’ X factor to tell me who I am or what I stand for. I got 500 years of X factor and all it got me was new forms of X factor, bato!” Let’s not fall into the trap that Alexis de Tocqueville cautioned against in Democracy in America,that we may reach a point where we over-democratize, even in our words, and it will affect all symbolic meanings in everything we do—to the point of absurdity. Armando Rendón −Editor
Three commentaries on the power of X by Ray Padilla, a retired professor of education, posit a candidate for how to label people of Chicanan ancestry, that is, the mestizo of Mexican-U.S. evolution, based on shared biological, political and ethnocentric values. Although Padilla focuses on Chicanada, his principles are applicable to the broader and greater discourse we must have to arrive at a label that works for everyone born or living in the U.S. of mixed indo-hispano ancestry. I recognize some readers out there might object to the idea they might be lumped in as either indo or hispano, but the term is a construct offered for the sake of argument—work with me.
Commentary I, first put forth on October 18, 2016, in LaRed Latina, a listserv
By Ray Padilla
There is a simple yet important concept in the academic world that goes a long way toward reducing confusion in thought. It is the concept of "unit of analysis". When considering any phenomenon, it is critical that we know what we are talking about. Therefore, knowing the unit of analysis is critical. Here is an example from education. Suppose that we are interested in the topic of educational attainment. The question is: What is the unit of analysis? Is it the individual student? The classroom? The school? The school district? The state? The nation? Comparisons in educational attainment can be made across all these units of analysis. So it is necessary to be clear as to which unit of analysis we are discussing. The unit of analysis will determine what evidence we can bring into the discussion and how we make our comparisons. Note this: Standing alone, no unit of analysis is more or less important than any of the others. However, for whatever reason, we may choose to focus on one unit of analysis as opposed to another in any particular discussion. Yet, in a different discussion some other unit of analysis could come to the foreground. Now switch topics. Say we are discussing the universe of peoples that we might label collectively as "Indo-Hispanic". These are the people that resulted from the Spanish conquest of the two American continents. In Spanish, the term used historically is "Indo-Hispano." It is related to the term "Hispano Americano," which historically was used to designate the peoples of the Americas that populated the Spanish empire in the place called "Hispano America." The term "mestizo" is equivalent to Indo-Hispano with the direct reference to ethnicity eliminated. Mestizo power began to emerge after the wars of independence from the hegemony of Spain. In the twentieth century, the concept of mestizaje has bifurcated so that it has taken somewhat different paths on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Some authors think that mestizaje south of the border still privileges Europeans while the sameconcept north of the border is used as a way to resist the racialized ways in which mestizos have beentreated in the U.S. But here is the central issue: If we want to refer to the collectivity of Indo-Hispanos or mestizos, what term should we use? Of course, we could use either of these terms but these terms seem to be outdated in the context of U.S. ethnic and racial diversity. In the last 50 years or so two terms emerged as favored candidates for a proper name: Latinos and Hispanics. Of course, there were others, but these two seem to have the most sticking power. In spite of their favored status, these two terms have generated much heat and controversy. The uproar is related to ideology, politics, tribalism, and plain old misunderstanding (especially about the unit of analysis). No need to rehash here the controversy because lots of keystrokes have been devoted to this controversy on this forum. Yet, anyone with even an ounce of political savvy knows that keeping the mestizos apart in little tribes is no way to gain political power and all that it entails. Ways must be sought to bring together the great mestizo people into one population that can act to promote its own interests. But how can that be done if we can't even agree on what to name the collectivity? So here is a modest proposal: Let's invent a new name. All people go through different name changes until they hit upon the one that best suits them. Look at this sequence: Negro, Black, Afro, Afro-American, African American. Never mind that negro means exactly black. What is the name? Xkanx. Either X is pronounced "shi". So the word is pronounced shi-kan'-shi. Some features: The word is both male and female; it is both singular and plural; it refers both to the people and the land they inhabit; it replaces mestizo. So we are the Xkanx people. Under this large unit of analysis there are many nationality groups, ethnic groups, racial groups, etc. The term does not require that, for example, Puertorriqueños, Cubanos, Chicanos, etc. stop being themselves. It all depends on the unit of analysis. And when we discuss a relevant topic we must keep in mind the unit of analysis. So Latino-phobes rejoice! Hispano-phobes rejoice! You are a Xkanx and that is that. Underneath that general rubric you can be whatever you wish to be at a different level of analysis. But remember this: Tribalism only works if it is open to transactions across tribes. So OPEN tribalism is the order of the day. CLOSED tribalism is self-extinguishing. And for those who are wide awake: Xkanx is, like mestizo, biologically driven. Developing a Xkanx culture and consciousness is a matter of socialization.
Commentary II, on XikanX, also on LaRed Latina
By Ray Padilla
As evident from various past postings that I made to LaRed Latina, I consider the Chicano identity (really identities) and correlative labels to be a quintessentially postmodern identity, by which I mean that the identity is conditional, circumstantial, dynamically changing, uncertain, provocative, trans-racial, historically evolving, politically laden, etc. Much the same can be said about the Latino identity. The Newtonian universe of absolute categories went out over a hundred years ago with the advances in physics made by Albert Einstein. After that, philosophy became a free for all. We Chicanada were ahead of our time, but not necessarily by choice. We became a postmodern people early on due to the vicissitudes of history, including the Columbian incursion into the Americas and the big stick of Uncle Sam, not to mention our own Mexican penchant for government of the few, for the few, by the few (fuchi government). As La Raza evolves historically, there will be a natural tendency to form ever larger groupings. This will entail shifts in identities to enclose more diversity while maintaining some common ground as the basis for coming together. What is important is to look beyond the labels and identities to ascertain whether or not we are moving forward in increasing our economic and political power. Also, and this is important, whether or not we are moving in a more democratic direction. The U.S. as a whole, and other nations worldwide, are now catching up with La Raza in terms of becoming postmodern peoples. But the first thing that the postmodern people of the U.S. did was to elect a postmodern president. How will our democracy fare? Postmodernity by definition is highly relativized and we have to wonder whether our classical ideas about democracy can stand the chaos. Keeping these points in mind, earlier I proposed a new movement of La Raza that includes a new identity and grouping. I proposed the term "XikanX" (pronounced Shi-Kan-Shi, with stress on the last syllable). The term includes all the people who resulted from the intermingling of Native Americans with the various peoples who invaded or were brought to the American continents. oo0oo
Commentary Part III, first presented on November 11, 2016 in LaRed Latina, a listserv
For some time now, I have been trying to introduce Raza and Chicanada to new political thinking. Chicanada seem to be stuck politically somewhere between the old corrupt politics of Mexico and Latin America and the great U.S. experiment in democracy. The former is seen by Chicanada as something to avoid like the plague and the latter is seen as irrelevant and inscrutable. Thus, we are dubbed the "sleeping giant." The great principle of U.S. politics is that individuals will rationally pursue their self-interest (NOTE: self-interest is not necessarily equal to selfish-interest). A corollary to this principle is that it is legitimate for individuals to use the power of government to pursue their self-interest (self-interest does not include corruption or illegal activity). Following this principle, it was quickly realized by the U.S. electorate that a way to gain political empowerment was to ban together with people who shared similar interests and to vote as a block. That behavior quickly led to the organization of political parties. A second consequence of the great principle is that individuals and interest groups quickly realized that to gain political power it was necessary to form coalitions. People don't have to agree on everything. If they can agree on something then they form a coalition with others to gain enough political power to achieve a specific goal. When interests diverge the coalitions fall apart and other coalitions form. So for Chicanada and Raza to gain political power we need to understand the underlying principles of U.S. politics. What counts politically in the U.S. is amassing a large volume of votes in order to prevail. This means that Chicanada and Raza must assemble large voting blocs through groupings that share ideology and through coalitions that are ad hoc. This approach means that we need to expand our notions of who we are and that we are not isolating ourselves into some kind of purist notion of ethnicity. The Chicano identity, as espoused by El Movimiento, turns out to be too restrictive to achieve a wide political base. Moreover, a narrow, ethnically based identity tends to restrict our ability to create coalitions of similar interests because we become absorbed by our own ethnocentricity. As a result of all this (and a great deal more that could be added), I have advocated that we move to a biologically based identity. You may recall my proposal for an AmerEEcan identity. The most recent proposal that I made calls for full recognition of our enormous genetic diversity. The label that I proposed to recognize our biologically based diversity is “Xkanx.” The Xkanx people will include millions of individuals that have resulted from the epic encounter between the peoples of the American continents and the rest of the world. It is this mestizo group, in the context of U.S. politics that can have a huge impact on the course of U.S. and world history. In short, I no longer see Chicanada as a marginalized ethnic group that seems to have nowhere to go. I see Chicanada as the potential avant garde of the Xkanx. But we need to stop thinking naively about U.S. politics and base our political behavior on a sophisticated understanding of the U.S. political system. And we need to be clear as to who we are and who we can become.
Ray Padilla, El Vato de Sananto, earned a doctorate in Higher Education Administration at UC Berkeley in the early 1970s, taught at Arizona State University for 19 years before joining the UT San Antonio faculty in 2001 where he retired in 2009. He has deep roots in San Antonio, he says, as his grandparents worked their way through there more than a hundred years ago on their way to Chicago.