Soft hands

i was once told that my hands were incredibly soft. the guy who told me this – a platonic friend – told the person next to him. The other guy touched my hands and supported the first guy’s exclamations.

“You’ve never done any hard work in your life have you?”

If you mean cleaning toilets, picking fruit, using a short handled hoe, operating heavy machinery, and sewing hundred of garments in a few hours, then no, I haven’t done any “hard work.”

The people who came before me — Grandpa, Grandma, Papá Chepe, Mamá Toni, mom and dad — already did it for me.

My work won’t make my hands rough.


Question of the week: On labels (no, not that kind)

If he looks weird, it's 'cause he had just pooped I felt annoyed when she said it.

Boston — a young white woman I had just met — tried to tell me how I was related to my relatives.

“No,” she said. “She’s not your niece. She’s your second cousin.”

Boston was talking about Desiree.

Desiree is my cousin Patty’s daughter.

So here’s the connection:

Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni have 8 kids. The first is my Madrina Chilo. The sixth is my mom, Luz.

Eventually, Madrina Chilo and my mom got married and began their own families. Madrina Chilo has four children, Bibi, Patty, Tony and Gonzalo. About 10 years later, my mom and dad started their own family. They copied my Madrina Chilo and Padrino José and have two boys and two girls. I’m one of those kids.

So, that makes me first cousins with Bibi, Patty, Tony and Gonzalo, right? Simple enough.

Now, when my Madrina Chilo’s kids started getting married and having families of their own, I was told by my aunts and Mamá Toni (grandmother) that Patty and Gonzalo’s kids were my nieces and nephews.

Okay. I believed them. I had no reason to doubt them. I was only 6 years old or so when Gonzalo’s first daughter was born. Since then, many other cousins have started families. Their kids have never called me tía Cindy even if they’re informed that I’m their aunt and not their cousin.

Now, back to Boston.

Back when I tried to explain the connection between Desiree and I, Boston insisted that Desiree and I were second cousins. Huh?

My second cousins were the children of my mom and dad’s first cousins. Sure, Boston had annoyed me, but I just brushed it off until I recounted the exchange with X. He had a similar experience.

Las Preguntas: The whole thing got me wondering if Mexicans (or raza in general) see family relationships and labels differently than white people. Who is a second cousin? Who can be called a niece or a nephew?

Photo: Anthony’s (cousin Tony’s son) first birthday party, April 2005.


Yo, lurkers! (’08 version)

These were made by the Zacatecas peoples
They think you should comment (artifacts at the Natural History Museum)

I missed National Delurking week, which is supposedly the second week of January. I have an excuse. My computer was broken.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a lurker is “a person who reads discussions on a message board, newsgroup, chatroom, file sharing or other interactive system, but rarely participates” (source: wikipedia).

If you’re a lurker*, leave a comment. You can write whatever you want, but if you need a prompt, here’s some ideas: recommend something (a book, film, song/album, website, blog, whatever); tell me about yourself (where are you from? what do you do?); tell me why you love/like/hate Lotería Chicana.

I promise I won’t bite or call you annoying (that was so last week).

*Of course, if you regularly comment you can chime in too.



Abridged timeline:

  • September 2003-February 2004: Apply to 5 graduate schools.
  • March 2004: Receive news that I was admitted to all 5 graduate schools.
  • April 2004: Decide to attend UCLA for graduate school.
  • September 2004: Begin first year of graduate school.
  • May 2005: Take doctoral screening exam, and pass.
  • June 2005: Earn MA in Education and decide to participate in graduation ceremony. Only my brothers attend, everyone else couldn’t make it.
  • September 2005: Begin second year of grad school (or year of engagement). I end up being more disengaged than actually engaged in my coursework and work.
  • Summer 2006: Grapple with the question, should I stay or should I go?
  • October 2006: Begin third year of graduate school and decide to stay.
  • June 2007: Complete coursework.
  • September 2007: Begin fourth year and start meeting with study group for qualifying exam.
  • November 2007: Take qualifying exam. Earn a passing grade on 2 of the 3 papers, so I have to retake the exam.
  • December 2007: Retake general question for the qualifying exam.
  • January 2008:

    Dear Cynthia,

    I am pleased to inform you that the faculty of the Department of Education has reported that you have passed your written qualifying examination leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Yay. My parents asked me yesterday what this means. Well, it means I’m eligible to start working on my dissertation proposal. The proposal will be the plan for my study on Latino science students in college.

For the unabridged version, complete with excerpts from blog posts from the last 4 years or so, click the link below.

Continue reading


Question of the week: Saving money

Denise and El Chavo got me thinking recently about all the things our families did/do to save a buck.

Denise discussed outfitting her five seven kids in hand-me-downs. El Chavo bravely reviewed the unappetizing huevos rancheros breakfast burrito and discussed Chicanos’ longtime reliance on the breakfast burrito. The breakfast (or lunch) burrito is a cheap alternative to fast food.

My mom used both of these methods. She’d find name brand baby clothes at yard sales in the “heights” of Hacienda Heights. Lori got my old dresses (even if she didn’t look as cute as I did). My mom would make dresses for me and Lori and any store bought clothes came from the sale rack. As for burritos, we’d eat them on road trips. Trips to Disneyland meant packing sandwiches in a cooler and stepping out to the car for lunch. We never ate lunch in the park (but I think we might have been treated to a churro, but we had to share). I’m sure our tortas were much better than overpriced burgers.

La Pregunta: What did your parents do to save a buck or two? Have you continued any of these practices?