Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte Incident: “I’m not white!”

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So the other afternoon my daughter and I were at Price Rite [a knock-off version of Smith’s located in the South Valley that doesn’t look at all like any of the other Smith’s around town]. As we were walking down the aisle she pointed out that the Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte was on sale for $2.99. I hesitated for a moment thinking – “hmmm… pumpkin spice? I don’t know about that,” but I went ahead and placed it in the cart after seeing her excitement. I’ve always liked chai tea and so the decision to buy it was made in seconds.

It was a quick one-item trip that always ends up in 5 or 6 but we made our way to check out in less than 10 minutes. There we were minding our own business trying to make it out of the store in less than 15 minutes when the chamako that was packing our groceries muttered something to us as we were waiting for him to finish – “Pumpkin Spice Latte, I don’t know about that.” I was like “What?” and then he says, “Well I guess for you white people.” Oh hell no did that mocoso just call me white! If you know me at all, you know that I definitely didn’t stay quiet. I suddenly found myself yelling out on instinct and defense – “I’m not white! Do I look white to you?! I’m Mexican [you fool!]! Que viva Mexico!”

Yup I managed to get all of that out and didn’t even think twice as I managed to make a scene at the front of the store with the majority of folks looking our way and laughing. The chamako now looking at me wide-eyed, surprised and laughing as well.

This leads me to my next thought – what up with ASSuming a person is white just because they happen to buy Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte? Did I need to explain as the cashier rang me up that I was buying it only because it was on sale? Did I need to justify my actual liking of chai spices? Last time I checked chai spices and chai tea emerged from India, not the US. No people, Chai Latte does not belong to Starbucks or some other US corporation. That’s another problematic issue to address – the cooptation of products that historically and traditionally are rooted in other countries. Like this – the cooptation of chai latte and the cooptation of yoga and Cinco de Mayo celebrated more by the party hardy frat boys on this side of the border than many Mexicanos themselves.

I was disturbed that I had to justify my Mexicana-ness to this lil’ cabron. Pero lo perdono because I know he doesn’t know any better than to associate Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte with the privileged whites and raza that have the luxury (yes luxury) of blowing $5 on a trendy seasonal drink.

So as I regained my composure and held my Mexican head up high, somewhere in the recesses of my mind I screamed – “Damn you Starbucks and Oprah and your corporatized version of Chai Latte!”

#lablogadora #pumpkinspicechailatte #notwhite #wtfchamako

Los Gatekeepers

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Many of you already know what gatekeeper refers to but just in case you forgot, here’s a refresher.

Gatekeepers are individuals who whether they like to admit it or not, decide whether you are worthy (or not) to receive what could be seen as a benefit to you such as a job promotion, a connection to a network, important information needed, etc.

Gatekeepers are people who have gained relative power in the system and now believe that they are entitled to evaluate your worthiness of receiving their help or better yet, their connection to something or someone that could possible benefit you in the long run.

What I have found through careful observation is that most gatekeepers will end up making sure you do NOT receive the possible beneficial connection or information. Gatekeepers end up functioning as exactly that – “keepers of the gate” – to systems and structures in place that are definitely not equitable or fair or just.

But what is most troubling in all of this is that the worst gatekeepers seem to be our own gente. Yeah you heard me – our own gente. It’s painful to even say it.

Logically you would think that once our gente get into positions of power or at least have more access to resources and information, that they would make sure the rest of us get at least a micro-slice of the privileged pie.

But what eventually happens is what most of us cannot escape (despite the indoctrination of religion, rigorous education, traditional upbringing, etc.) – human nature.

As you are out there walking in the world you will notice that los gatekeepers come in all shapes, sizes, and types (listed in no particular order of offensivity):

  • Non-Profit Industrial Complex Gatekeepers
  • Higher Education/Academia Gatekeepers
  • Religious Gatekeepers
  • Raza Gatekeepers
  • Patriarchal Gatekeepers
  • Wannabe Gatekeepers

The list can of course go on indefinitely.

Maybe what we should all do, especially as we move up the rungs of the deceptive ladder, is to put our feet to the fire and constantly question what our motives are when we consciously choose not to help our people. This is especially so for those who consider themselves allies to justicia and the cause.

Come on people don’t we already have it hard enough trying to ‘make it’ (whatever that means) in this lopsided society?

Chale with los gatekeepers!

#lablogadora #gatekeepers

Can’t we all just get along?

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I seriously had to just stop everything that I was doing to burn some sage in an attempt to ward off the cloud of bad mojo floating around me and write this. Writing is the way I process things or at least try to process them so I can be more rational-minded, whatever that means.

I keep asking myself the same question – are we in some type of astronomical funk o que? It seems that these last couple of weeks, especially this last week has been overfilled, I mean spilling feo, with misunderstandings, conflict, and straight-out unnecessary aggression directed at human beings. The planets must be in misalignment right now because I’ve noticed that it’s happening beyond my own personal space of locuras, the intense and ugly energia is everywhere.

These past days I went from someone aggressively asking me if I had a problem in a meeting to someone trying to school me via email to having to deal with the b.s. chisme related to someone’s insecurities about not being el mero mero.

When things get so bizarre like this I feel like withdrawing to cave-mode and just avoiding everything and everyone. But what good does that do, right? The power of el ojo will find you in whatever rincon you’re hiding at.

As I talked to my maestro this morning he reminded me of one of the four agreements – don’t take anything personally. I think I had to repeat that phrase muddled among some maldiciones at least a few dozen times before it started sinking in.

“Don’t take things personally…” “Don’t take things personally…” Repeat.

Can people cut me some slack here, por fa?

But like I said it’s everywhere so watch out or maybe you’ve been part of it and if you have been then maybe you should take a moment and give yourself one or two good swift kicks in the rear.

Let’s stop hating people, it doesn’t get us anywhere. Ugh.

#lablogadora #fullmoon #angrygentegohome #chicana

Tribute to a fallen Sundance brother.

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Last week one of our Sundance relatives passed on to the other side. He was only 5 years younger than I.

I can’t express in words the power, the beauty, the overwhelming emotions I felt as your lifeless body was carried into the arbor by your relatives for what would be your last dance.

I haven’t and will never witness a sight so moving, so loving, so intensely profound.

That sight reminding me that life holds no guarantees for any of us and that is why our abuelitas/os and maestras/os constantly remind us that on the Red Road you live every day as if it were your last. This is not to be misconstrued into Western notions of living irresponsibly and foolishly. What is meant is that every day that we awaken and walk on this Earth we are to be thankful to be alive, breathing. That we should take at least one moment to recognize this and to love those around us fully and completely.

Is it worth holding those petty feelings against tu hermana? tu mama? tu hija? tu vecina?

Even though I was not your blood relative I had a difficult time leaving your grave and as we finally drove away the tears fell again thinking that would be your first night below the ground.

I think about you E. A. and how the light of the Sun will never again touch your beautiful brown skin. It will miss you and so will the people, the drum, and the tree.

We are told that you are in a better place… Now with mi hermanita [32 years later and I still haven’t recovered], with mis abuelitos, with our carnal, and so many others that live on in our hearts and minds.

Life shows no favoritism people. Live it fully and love deeply. I write this because I am also trying to learn the lesson well.

May you rest in peace brother, forever hearing the beautiful drum and those Sundance songs wherever you may be…

#lablogadora  #chicana

The painful memory of colonization

Flying at 32,000 feet in the air and I find myself having a difficult time. Not because I feel as I have been thrown like a paper airplane through the air. No. It is because my brown body carries with it inherent memories of conquest and colonization.

The trigger? The majestic sight of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl creeping up on the horizon. And as I saw your outline out of the ridiculously small window from my economy class seat, an intense emotion rose from deep inside – intermixed with pride, sadness, and grief.

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As I gazed upon the valleys that surround you, I couldn’t hold back the steady flow of tears as my Mexican cells remembered what our Madre Tierra and our people experienced over 500 years ago.

The naysayers are quick to say that we are now far removed, that all is well. But if you think about the finite amount of time humans have existed, the memories are still fresh.

I’ve gotten into the debate so many times before and have countless times heard the glossing over and trivializing of the conquest by even those who claim to be aware. But I think that deep down every Mexicana/o there is that tiny seed of painful remembrance.

As I walked down your beautiful, bustling streets I was continuously reminded of the aftermath. I didn’t see one light-skinned Mexicana/o asking for a peso. It was our not so distant indigenous abuelitos who still bear the burden for the rest of us and suffer the consequences of an imposed and savage hierarchical system that dictates the worth and success of a human body.

Although I state without any hesitation que soy orgullosamente Mexicana, I know that we are not all regarded in the same manner. My cafe con leche skin color has afforded me privileges that you will never know or have.

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You are what this Xicana is most proud of, but yet you are the one the system relegates to the bottom.

Que hacemos? How can we begin to remedy the stronghold of the disease?

It has been said many times over that only a revolution could dismantle us from the grip of it. Pues que venga la revolución!

En tu rostro moreno veo mi reflejo. Y aunque te causa un chingo de dolor, me llevas dentro de tu ser y corazón.

#lablogadora #chicana #mexico #notconquered

Artwork by Dolores Guerrero-Cruz – http://www.warnockfinearts.com

Short-length as a possible reflection of society’s current state of consciousness

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Over the last year or maybe more I’ve noticed that the length of shorts women are wearing has significantly decreased, I mean seriously decreased. [Note: not all women of course.]

I, as many others including men, women, and children, can’t help but to take note of the hefty piece of cheek hanging out of cut-off denim shorts the loca is wearing as she passes by.

I wonder out loud as I look in horror – did she look at herself in the mirror and think that really looks good? And who is she thinking it looks good to?

Seriously people, what up with the exposed nalga look?

I was recently reminded of this obnoxious trend as I sat and had my afternoon cafecito in one of the plazas in Oaxaca.

I’ve been teaching here for almost 2 weeks and I have not seen one, I will repeat, not one of the Oaxacan women sporting nalga-shorts. But yesterday as I sat at the plaza enjoying Oaxaca captured in a cup of dark, rich coffee I was abruptly reminded of the ‘show-as-much-of-your-pale-butt’ trend as a group of young white women passed by. Every single one of them was wearing beyond short-shorts, some of their shorts practically up their rear ends and another with one cheek more exposed than the other.

I couldn’t help but notice the looks of disbelief and slight shock on the faces of the Oaxacan family and the abuelita walking behind the young women. It made me stop and remember a thought that had passed through my delirious brain before – is the condition of our society somehow reflected in the short-length worn by especially young women in the US?

Does the ‘show-me-as-much-of-your-nalgas-without-fully-showing-it’ look represent an utter lack of caring and responsibility to our society and people in general?

I mean the girl with more than half her left cheek must have cared very little about the children and elders that would be walking behind her when she decided to put them on and then actually walk out of her house with them.

Am I outdated? Am I showing my age? Are you thinking I’m acting like a traditional Mexicana [what does that mean anyway]? Is my disapproval of the trend not in line with 21st century freedom?

Well I don’t know about you all but in my head I can’t help but think that this ‘I-don’t-give-a-crap-I’ll-show-my-butt’ attitude is adding to the current state of messy affairs the US finds itself in.

It’s not that I think for a second that we should regulate the female body, heck no to that. But I do think that this ‘show-your-ass’ in public look is a reflection of an attitude reflecting disrespect and shallowness.

In conclusion, save the butt-show for home gente!

#lablogadora #chicana #xicana #nalgashorts

Proud to be Mexican

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Who cares what that idiota Trump said about los Mexicanos. As if we didn’t know that deep down every white person they’re thinking some garbage about us Brown and Black folk. That we’re lazy, sleazy, loud, inferior, or whatever other stereotype their mind is conjuring up.

But, people who think that way, including los vendidos y confudidos that walk among us, have probably never step foot in Mexico, nuestra madre tierra.

A couple of weeks ago I had the amazing opportunity to attend a festival in Oaxaca. There were so many times that I had to stop, breathe in deeply, observe my surroundings, and reflect upon the space I was in. From the buildings to the people to the food, everything so alive and thriving.

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That’s one of the distinct differences between los estados sufridos and Mexico – la vida social. In Mexico you feel and are suddenly alive. There’s so much activity all around. People moving about every which way, the architecture, the sculptures, el arte everywhere, and all of the micro-businesses that thrive.

Elotes… Paletas… Loud cumbia… Los tacos… Ojos morenos… Movimiento…

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And no I’m not such a naive pocha so as to paint it all rose-colored, for nuestro Mexico, as every other place, comes with it’s own sets of challenges. Crime. Poverty. Classism. Racism. Corrupt government. But, one thing you can’t deny is that every nook is teeming with life and activity.

So as I heard about what el tonto de Trump said in regards to our powerful, intelligent, and resilient Mexican clan I thought to myself – what an absolute ignorante. Ignorante like the rest of the bunch who have attributed such negativity to nosotros los mexicanos. I could hear my abue saying – “es que no saben mija.” Pues no saben y son una bola de ya sabes que.

The other day as I sat with one of the young woman from our leadership institute I made it a point to tell her at least a few times – “Be proud of who you are. Be proud to be a Mexicana. For those who say all of those negative things about us, es que no saben y son ignorantes. They don’t know the beautiful culture and traditions of our people who are filósofos, matemáticos, científicos, artistas, gente tan trabajadora. No saben. So walk with your head held high because you are MexiCAN!”

So next time your brain returns to the erroneous thought that all of us are narcotraficantes or criminales, ask the Mexican sitting next to you to give you a good cachetada so you can snap out of that absurd thought.

#trumpeltonto #proudmexican #lablogadora

Arte: Lourdes Villagómez: crucigramas del folklor mexicano