Toxic Raza

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Does the title need any explanation?

We know who you are and you especially know who you are.

You are the constant thorn in our side that reminds us that the greatest weight of oppression comes from our own.

Damn, it hurts to even write those words – our own.

You are the kind that nothing or no one will ever be good enough.

Nadie y nada.

If you step back and observe you notice there’s a pattern to it. God forbid anyone other than you and yours be noticed, be recognized, be thanked, or engage in anything.

“Who do you think you are? You’re not even from here.”

Those sharp words ringing loudly in my ears.

Always the same petty arguments used in their useless war. I ask myself – who are they fighting against? Who are they trying to pull down as they slip into the deep chasm of hate and self-loathing?

I think of the contradictions of it all. What happened to those hijos de la chingada who are from here but threw their gente under the bus to get trampled upon a long, long time ago?

My first breath of air was not taken on these lands but that does not prevent a being from growing roots. The naysayers forget that roots run deep and connect the people in ways that are stronger than what their narrow minds can understand.

Toxic raza so full of hate, spilling out and over, oozing into spaces that should be meant for only unity and change.

But the elders remind us that in spite of your poisonous words and thoughts, we have to move forward.

#toxicraza #chicana

#Santolina Nightmares

Santolina poster

I woke up with the same sick-to-my-stomach feeling I fell asleep with late last night. You know that horrible sensation you get in the pit of your pansa when you know you were wronged or when something really bad has happened or will happen? Yeah, that one. It seems as if my mind kept playing flashbacks of the hearing all night. Santolina has invaded my dreams the same way it stands to invade our backyards…

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I should just change my name to Santolina, not. My poor kids are probably sick of hearing the name. Poor plantita now associated with such stigma. It’s not you plantita, it’s the shameless developers, suits, and sellouts behind it all.

I couldn’t help myself again. I’ve been so ‘behaved’ throughout it all. I sat there and respectfully listened to all of it, every single misconstrued and distorted word that oozed out of the gaping hole they call mouth.

          Shame on you! Thank you for the falsity of the democratic process!

A long time ago many of us realized it was a game, a good for nothing show to be played out at the expense of the people. But yesterday’s commission-hearing-turned-telenovela, still managed to cause a burning sensation in my heart and mind.

I keep thinking about the 3 commissioners who continue to vote against the good of the community and the people. What are they thinking? What was it that led them to this point of no return? Is it power? Is it the perpetual 15-minutes of fame or shame syndrome? Is it some backdoor deal or barter in the works? Is it the lure of future political positions?

What do you tell a community when you know that there is absolutely nothing that you can say or do that will cause a shift in the thinking of these closed-minded politicos? What words can be offered to convince people not to lose complete hope in systems that continue to fail us?

Amidst the sinking feeling of hopelessness I was slapped back into place when I felt the little arms hug me from behind and whisper ‘I love you mami’ into my almost deafened ear. We do it for our children, their children, the seven generations to follow.

What these cabrones don’t understand is that it’s not about them, it’s about those to come. It’s about caring for the Madre Tierra that we walk on. It’s about ensuring our river continues to flow.

I had to remind myself last night as I shouted those words that I was not out of line. We have every right to voice our concerns. We know that we are on the right side of history and we will continue to fight for the wellbeing of our people, our tierra, and our sacred water.

Hasta la victoria!

The introvert and the contradictions


It always amazes me how much of an introvert I really am, especially when immersed in social spaces and places. Many of my gente y estudiantes wouldn’t believe this at all, but I am.

Familiar voice in the back of my mind fades in: “Are you serious Ms. ContraSantolina?” “Do you really feel nerviosa y con ansiedad?”

“Ay si!” Especially so in these enormous conferences featuring the so-called (and many self-proclaimed) academic giants and many of the groupies that closely follow and cater to them. [Serio, academics have groupies, I’m watching some run after one now. “Can you please, please sign my special edition hardbound copy of your so amazing book that has been reprinted 3 times?!!”]

Over the years while in attendance at these academic spaces I’ve often wondered (sometimes out loud but much more in my head) – “what’s wrong with me?”

A few years back I finally realized that it’s not me and that I’m actually okay. I had to make peace with the fact that my priority in life wasn’t and will not ever be to become part of some radical educator clicka. Yes I said it – clicka.

[Aside: for those of you who have not been ilustrad@s enough in life to know what clicka is, here’s the definition straight from el Urban Dictionary: A crew or set. It means the same thing as clique.]

Man I can’t help but feel the uncomfortable flashback come on that takes me head deep into the high school days when I often felt the same way.

Could academics be a reflection of some form of higher level trite popularity contest? And if it is, I’ll never fit in and at this point in my life, don’t really want to. [Question to self: have I ever really wanted to?]

When I feel the introvertic [yes just coined a new word!] wave come over me, I have to remind myself that as I uncomfortably share a table with a complete stranger who keeps mumbling under his breath, that the reason why I paid my own way to get over to the ‘windy city’ was so that I could learn a new trick or two to put up my ‘angry’ and critical educator sleeve.

But as I sit here in this big-time corporate hotel writing this piece, I also think about all of the contradictions floating about.  Yeah bien chingones talking all that about race, capitalism, and oppression but yet here we are playing under one of their roofs. Imagine if we all [or at least just the race radical chingones] refused to give one talk in spaces that were created and constructed without us in mind.  Oh, that is except for all of the cleaning crew and cooks they absolutely need to run the damned place.

As I sat in the back of the packed room full of academes listening to the keynote, I kept wondering what  could possibly be going through the minds of the older Latino and Black men who were invisible to many of those in attendance so ironically hearing a talk on justice.  These strong and weathered brown faces were the backdrop to it all and our social justice critique as they were tasked to pick up after every single one of us, including the race/class radicals.

Isn’t all of this a contradiction to what we are preaching and teaching? All of this just doesn’t make sense to me.  Maybe this is why I tend to enter the heavy duty introvert mode in these academic spaces.

Big sigh… Deep breath…

Recovering-from-academics-y-que [Wait a minute, I wasn’t ever officially one. Right?]

#lablogadora  #chicana  #recoveringacademic

Chale with the Confused Democratas…

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Thanks to the Creator the legislative is now over. It was a tough one for so many of our community groups and organizations who dedicate their time up there amidst the madness of the session.

In many of our platicas about these long, hard political battles someone would always end up making the comment about la Susana and the rest of her Republican crew. As soon as the comment was made, my body would react and out of my mouth would spew – “But it’s our own fault gente!” “Why are those fregad@s in their positions to begin with?” “Yeah that’s right, because many of our gente didn’t care enough to vote!” My short tirade would end with “It’s our own damned fault!”

Complete silence and discomfort until someone would carefully and cautiously move on to the next topic.

Before any of you go off, the other part of me also understands why many people flee from the political scene and why so many have become disengaged. Hard question: Have our Democrats proven to be any better? The answer I realize is not so straightforward.

Take our own battle with water rights as a prime example of why many people end up decepcionados and eventually disengage (except for the handful of locos that continue because of their own die-hard commitment, personality type, or their own political agendas). During this session we tried to pass a memorial that called for a temporary moratorium on large developments due to the uncertainties we continue to face because of severe drought conditions in our state and region. We managed to get it out of its first committee thanks to the support of our ally Democrats and the fact that a couple Republicans were awesome-ingly missing that day. During the second committee it was expected that all of the Republicans would vote in opposition of our memorial so we were counting on our Democrats to see us through. They are more rational right? They would understand our fight to preserve precious water rights and agricultural traditions right?

Well [NO] thanks to a Democrat from el Norte our memorial died a cruel death there in committee. Yes thanks to a Democrat and not any ole Democrat but one that looks and sounds like those of us who were present to support the memorial. Even more painful was knowing that this particular Democrat should have readily understood how this battle relates to the preservation of las acequias. Chale!

So our group can rightfully say that thanks to a Democrat, our legislation did not make it to the Senate floor. Repeat: a Democrat. Highlight: a Raza Democrat.

Yes I know not all of them are cut from the same cloth and I do want to honor los Democratas who did stand in firm support of the people. But all it takes is one to overturn the power of the others. Talk about the Republican wolf hiding in the Democratic sheep’s clothing, uh.

So I understand why my own mother hasn’t voted. Last time I was bugging her about it she said in a sharp tone signaling for me to drop it or else: “Pa que voy a votar? Que me gano? Todos son iguales!”

After our own let down last week I made sure to relay the story to la madre and for the first time in years she seemed to listen, understand, and not automatically react. She didn’t even say anything back when I said that next time I would take her to the polls even if it was by force.

So Mr. Democrat from el Norte check your mail because soon you will be receiving una notita from my soon to launch line of greeting cards called SCREW YOU Cards.

#lablogadora #chicana #confuseddemocrats #screwyoucards

Do lobbyists have souls?

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I can’t help to ponder this question especially after seeing the same faces at every hearing that we’ve gone into battle over the issue of our limited water resources. You would think that scientific reports, real climatic change, and major headlines would be enough to wake them up from their money-riddled stupor, but apparently not.

I can still visualize and hear that brown-faced tonto stand up to speak against the realities of the drought – business first, humanity later. If his abuelita only knew what he was really doing she’d probably head up to Santa Fe and give it to him good in front of everyone.

The other day I forced myself to spend some time carefully observing the opposition. I wanted to see if I could spot any sign of ‘remordimiento’ (remorse) or of ‘conciencia’ (conscience) but none was noted. I kept thinking to myself – do they hear any of our words? Do they hear any of the seriousness behind the points we are making? Do they understand that for us it is not about the sheer victory or the dollar bill? For us it is about our community and especially our children.

I mentioned this thought out loud to the small group of dedicated souls that have helped me to get through this battle.

“Do you think the lobbyists and developers care? Do you think they ever really think about anything that we say?”

To which one of my mentors quickly and sharply responded – “NO!!”

She then related the following story which surely set her on the path she currently walks as a defender of water.

She recounted how at the young age of 7 she had witnessed the developer’s bulldozers trample the beautiful orange orchard down below her family’s property. She painfully recalled how they didn’t even bother to save the fruit from the trees. Something so symbolic and profound to a person who understands the hard work and sacrifice of producing even a small crop from the land. The bulldozers trampled the trees… bleeding, damaged fruit covering the ground. The story unfortunately did not end there for her childhood home and precious lemon trees suffered the same fate.

As a human being I have always wanted to give others the benefit of the doubt but now I can answer my own question – lobbyists, developers, agents, and turned lawmakers DO NOT HAVE SOULS.

They sleep easy at night dreaming of their next big check at the expense of our communities and our children. They don’t care about the realities of drought. They don’t care about the long-term consequences. They don’t think about what stewardship to the land we walk on entails. All they care about is the quantity of bills in their greedy grubby hands.

Those cabrones sold their souls to el capitalistic diablo a long time ago.

But one day when the shit really hits the fan and water is no more they will be faced with the severity of what they did.

Esta noche reposamos porque manana sigue la batalla.
(Tonight we will rest because the battle continues tomorrow.)

#lablogadora #contrasantolina #contralobbyists #waterwars

Sometimes we win…

[Written after a committed group of community members were able to get a “Do Pass” on SM 80 – calling for discussion of a temporary moratorium on large development because of water uncertainties in our state.]

el agua

All of those hard-working activistas and organizers know exactly what I’m talking about and know the feeling.

Most of our work is a continuous uphill battle and too many times we have to endure defeat. Too many times we have to pass by their gloating distorted faces but never with our heads hung low.

How can we even begin to compare our $500 raised with so much effort to their limitless accounts? They get paid muchos elotes while many of us don’t even make a single centavo.

But the bucks are not what make us tick, it’s never what keeps us in the game. It is the love we have for our gente that guides us throughout and our obligations to los abuelitos that keep us in check. Some of us never forget who we are and where we came from because our roots run deep and will remain firmly grounded.

So today the universe aligned itself and we witnessed a victory despite the registered lobbyists who came out of the woodwork with the shiny $ branded on their foreheads.

Today was our turn to feel the rush the other side is so used to feeling.

Tonight we will savor the moment for tomorrow we return to the never ending battle against the system and all of its players.

#lablogadora #contrasantolina #chicana #contralobbyists

Whole Foods as a Symbol of White Supremacy

[My tribute to our gente that continue to face the harsh reality of food injustices across our state; today is Food & Farms Day at the legislature]

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First off, don’t start hating right away you Chicano-lites out there who have the privilege, yes privilege, of shopping at Whole Foods. Please at least read my educational rant in its entirety before you do. Second, Highspanics stop shaking your head and rolling your eyes because you too have the luxury of buying your limones and hippie tortillas there instead of at the fruteria down the street.

I won’t even hesitate to state that I (and I’m sure there are others who agree) believe that this market stands as a clear example of a white supremacist system that remains strong in society. And no white supremacist doesn’t refer to the diablos wearing the white hoods. It actually refers to a system that favors whites and most of those who consciously or unconsciously work to uphold a white system claim innocence or become defensive at its mere mention.

[I can almost hear the naysayer in the background heckling “well what about President Obama?” and “I ain’t got no privilege, I just worked hard!” as they drive to their segregated neighborhood in the North East Whites. Ugh.]

Here’s what happened before you make the assumption that I shop there too:

During the Christmas break (btw I didn’t have a break) I was up in Santa Fe trying to churn out the last chapters of my dissertation. I had made the tough decision to detach myself for a few days so that I could focus on finally finishing this soul-consuming degree. I needed to buy some leche for my chocolate abuelita and saw the Whole Foods sign and decided to quickly stop by to get what I needed. Man what a mistake.

It’s as if the world changed when I crossed the threshold into their food heaven. I was in awe staring at the beautiful displays of fresh bread, pastries, stacks of fresh ripe fruit, the deli, the wine, the variety, the decor, the salad bar, todo. As I was walking down the aisles I couldn’t help but to suddenly feel out of place because I realized I was one of maybe 3 other brown faces among the white mass. I continued to observe the surroundings and noticed the looks of glee and heard the laughter emanating from the pink mouths on the happy white faces. I kept thinking – “well who wouldn’t be happy having the privilege of buying their food at such an amazing market?” Of course these people are going to be ecstatic about all of the variety and the quality available within their reach.

I couldn’t help but to simultaneously feel a sickness in the pit of my pansa that began to spread until my whole body felt nauseous and my face became flushed. No I didn’t have a bad case of chorro, I was pissed! I was so mad at the fact that most of the people in my neighborhood would never ever be able to shop at Whole Foods or even pinche Sprouts or Trader Joe’s. They would never see these beautiful displays and would never be able to purchase a $15 meal from the “hot bar” that equaled the size of the typical $2 Banquet TV dinner. I kept thinking about the food we had available on a daily basis. We have what my dad calls ‘rastrojo,’ the word he used to describe all of the third or fourth-rate food that is usually given as feed.

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Last time I went to the Smith’s down the street from my house I noticed the berries were covered in mold and they were still selling at $3.99. A lot of the fruit and vegetables available to los pobres el el valle del sur are bruised, overripe, or straight out low quality. The ironic part of it all is that a lot of the food at our store sells for a heck of a lot more than at ‘nicer’ markets such as Whole Foods and especially Sprouts. How is it possible or even okay for an economically struggling family to pay double or triple the price per pound for low-quality fruit than the ricos on the other side? How is it justifiable to know that a struggling mom can’t afford to buy her kids those damned (moldy) berries even if she wanted to?

I know what some of you are thinking – “it’s about class, not race.” Well there is truth to the fact that part of this continued food injustice and food disparity is connected to class, but there is absolutely no denying that it is fundamentally racialized. In almost every instance in the game, race trumps class.

No I don’t believe that the white corporate owner is saying out loud to the rest of his board and staff – “okay well let’s send this third-rate food to the market on the south side to those poor Mexicans who just didn’t work hard and who just don’t care about what they eat and feed their children,” but the fact is that he doesn’t have to even say it or even think it because the system is already set up to function in this unfavorable manner.

So to those who can afford to shop at el Whole Foods, just remember that for every one of you, there are thousands (or more) of those on the other side who can’t and won’t ever have that privilege. And as you eat the food that you bought with all of your spare change maybe a few of you will recognize that you are working to uphold an unjust system that doles out its resources ever so unfairly and cruelly.

#lablogadora #foodandfarmsday #foodinjustice